Understanding the Buyer’s Journey (aka ‘How to Sell a Horse’)

Don’t make copywriting harder than it needs to be. Hitch a ride with your prospects on their mental journey.

What You Will Learn

  • The importance of understanding the buyer’s journey
  • The key stages in this journey
  • How to deliver exactly what prospects are looking for

Getting to the Point

Legendary marketer Jay Abraham once said: “Sometimes the best copy to sell a horse is ‘Horse for Sale,” and he’s right!

I know this is true because it’s how my daughter became the proud owner of a pony. We were driving down a rural road close to our home when she called out, “look, Daddy - a horse for sale! Will you buy it for me….please!”

At that point, the sale was as good as complete. All we had to do was haggle over the price. The seller didn’t have to explain what a horse was, or the benefits of owning one. There was no need for an emotional story to engage me, social proof to persuade me or a risk-free guarantee for reassurance.

I already knew what the benefit of horse ownership would be for me - a happy daughter! The seller had the ‘product’ I needed, and there was a pressing need to buy now (“please, Daddy...pleeease!”)

I was already a long way through the ‘buyer’s journey,’ primed and ready to buy. All I needed was the right deal. So all the seller had to do was get to the point.

Join Your Prospects on their Journey

Copywriters and marketers often misunderstand where their prospects in the buyer’s journey, and their campaigns fail as a result. Copywriting courses typically focus on selling to cold traffic. This is a great skill to have, of course, but it’s not always what is required.

Rookie copywriters may end up doing as they have been taught, treating all prospects in the same way. As a result, they may attack the sales problem in completely the wrong way, with a message that fails to resonate.

In Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz famously broke the buyer’s journey down into five stages of awareness. Your prospects may be:

  • Completely Unaware: no knowledge of anything about the niche, problem or product
  • Problem-Aware: has a sense that there is a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution
  • Solution-Aware: knows the required result, but not that your product provides it
  • Product-Aware: understands what you sell, but is not sure if it’s the right choice
  • Most Aware: likes your product, and simply needs to know “the deal.”

You need to identify exactly where your buyers are in this journey. If you are running Facebook ads to cold traffic, they are probably at the ‘completely unaware’ stage. 

But if they are already on your list, they are mostly likely ‘problem aware,’ and may be solution aware, too. And if you are sending Black Friday deal offers, you are targeting people who are ‘most aware’ and just need to know the price.

Another way to look at the buyer’s journey is to consider the prospects ‘temperature’ - measuring their readiness to buy. They may be:

  • Ice-cold: they have zero interest or awareness
  • Cool: they have some awareness, but little interest
  • Warm: they may be in the market for the right product
  • Hot: they are aware and ready to buy
  • Red-hot: they will buy everything you have to offer

Having the Right Conversation

Connecting with prospects is all about joining the conversation they are already having in their heads. Most marketers understand this, and are reasonably good at addressing the pain points prospects are feeling, and offering relevant benefits.

But you also need to have the right level of conversation. If prospects are completely unaware, then you actually need to initiate the conversation. You are bringing an issue to their attention, and making them think about it.

If they are in the middle of the buyer’s journey, they are already aware of the problem and possible solutions. They are considering which product to buy, and you need to convince them that yours is the right choice.

When they reach the final stage of the journey, your job is to persuade them the best time to buy is right now. You need to answer final objections and offer a deal that makes purchasing a no-brainer decision.

The Long Copy vs Short Copy Debate

Copywriters frequently debate whether long copy is better than short copy. As always, the definitive answer is always to test both and see what works.

But in general, long copy typically works better on cold traffic. The colder the audience is, the more persuasion that’s required. That’s why 10,000 word sales letters and 12,000 VSLs can perform so well.

Yet when prospects are ready to buy, all of that copy just gets in the way, and will usually kill more sales than it creates. If your customers are red hot, you just need to get them to the checkout as quickly as possible. 

As we have already seen, ‘Horse for Sale’ may well be all the copy you need. Sale made, job done...congratulations!

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