What Is The Buying Cycle? A Quick Overview

The buying cycle is a step-by-step journey your customer will make before they finally buy your product. Your job as a company is to deliver the right information, at the right place, and at the right time, to make the process easier for customers. One excellent and effective way to do so is through your website.

The buying cycle is made of 5 steps:

Awareness – In the first step, possible customers become aware of an unfulfilled need.

Research – Your audience’s attention is captured. They conduct research about available options to fulfill their need.

Alleviation of Risks – Be aware that prospects perceive a certain level of risk when considering to buy a new product. Thus, within the third step prospects are looking for risk alleviating factors. They gather evidence on why it is “safer” to buy the product from you and not from your competitor.

Decision – In stage four, the actual decision to make a purchase happens. Now you have a new customer – congratulations! But, the work isn’t finished yet.

Achievement of Results – The goal of the fifth stage is to make the new client a happy client! This ensures that they will repeat their purchase, and in the best case they will promote your products to others! Customer satisfaction is crucial!

And the best news? Your website helps already with all of those steps. You are not the only seller in the market. To set your company apart from your competition, use your website to talk about why you are different.

For more on the buying cycle, visit Kissmetrics blog, and their article on the buying cycle.

How To Create A Great Marketing Plan

Every business needs a marketing plan. It’s necessary for success and growth in a company, and chances are, every business has one, whether they know it or not.

In plain words, a marketing plan is a blueprint of ideas that outline a company’s long term goals for productivity and progression. It’s a way for a company to know exactly what they need to do to accomplish a goal, and how they’re going to do it.

So, where do you start when you decide that your company needs a clearly defined marketing plan? Check out these great tips!


Before you even start planning your marketing plan, you need to pre-plan the planning of your plan. Have I confused you yet? It’s actually a lot simpler than you think.

  • First, outline a completion date for your marketing plan. This will be the date or time frame in which you’d like to complete your goals. It can be anywhere from a few months, to a few years, depending on the scope of the goals you have in mind.

  • Next, figure out your budget for the plan. Money is always a factor when coming up with a rebranding strategy or the launching of a new product, and the same goes for a marketing plan. You don’t want to get halfway through the implementation of your new plan and then realize you’re out of money!

  • Finally, designate the responsibilities of each team member involved with your marketing plan. That means deciding who’s in charge of the finances, who should be keeping people on task, and any other positions on the project.

Set Objectives

Once you’ve gotten the pre-planning out of the way, it’s time to get down to the meat of your marketing plan.

The first step is to set clear objectives for your plan. Once you know your objectives, you’ll know what you need to do to accomplish goals.

For example, if your marketing plan is to increase your company’s revenue, then your objective could be to add more customers. Or, it could be to keep current customers coming back for more. Whatever your marketing plan is, objectives help you define clearly what you need to do.


Remember when you had to write research papers in grade school and college? You were usually given a topic by your teacher, and were required to research your topic to fully analyze the writing prompt.

Most of us wouldn’t just jump into writing about the subject without doing research first (hopefully).

In the same vein, you need to research your market, and customers wants, to understand how to get your plan to succeed once you start putting it into practice. Utilizing market research and market analysis tools are great ways to conduct necessary research.


Every plan needs a strategy in order to succeed. The greatest generals and wartime leaders didn’t just charge into battle, weapons drawn, without first adopting a cunning strategy in order to conquer their goals.

Running a business isn’t quite like leading an army to battle (although at times it can feel like it), but a good strategy is still necessary.

The strategy is basically the “how” of your marketing plan, and can include “building brand awareness” or “delivering unmatched customer service.” Think about what strategies would work best with your plan’s goals, and then implement them.

Stick To the Plan

What’s the point of a plan if you bail halfway through it? Once you figure out your objectives, research your market, and strategize a plan, make sure you stick to that plan.

There’s nothing more defeatist than jumping ship halfway through because something’s not working out the way you imagined.

But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to fix a problem. If something isn’t working out the way you expected, there are ways to steer your business back in a positive direction. The best way to do this is to be flexible, and realize that sometimes a certain strategy that you and your team come up with isn’t going to work perfectly as planned.

Just remember, don’t completely give up on it and toss it in the garbage. Learn to be flexible in your marketing plan.

Following these simple steps can help you and your team create the best marketing plan. Marketing plans take a lot of thought, but the time spent coming up with an idea will ultimately optimize your business and save time in the long run!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Keep It Positive

When creating marketing content, you want to leave your customer with a good impression of you and your business. After all, a customer who respects the business is a customer ready to buy from that business.

You may believe achieving that result will take some special writing wizadry, but in actuality it’s a simple effect to achieve. Just maintain a positive tone!

The Power of Positive

Customers tend to be more receptive to positive content. Successful content marketers will tell you that negative images, even if directed at the competition, can still cause an association in the customer’s mind with your business. Conversely, positive images also form an association with your business.

That’s why a funny .gif or video is never remiss on your Facebook page or blog. It may not be talking about your company, but the positive feelings it generates will still be associated with your business.

But what about your writing? How do you write content that shows all the ways your business is better than the one down the street without making an explicit comparison?

Keep The Focus On What You Do Well

Write about all the things that you do well. For example: a local florist knows that big online flower stores require customers choose from a set of preselected floral arrangements. But rather than call out the impersonal nature of such a selection, she can comment on how her services allow for personalized customization.

By showing that she can make arrangements which speak directly to the customer’s need or the intended recipient’s tastes, she has effectively set herself apart from the online store without appearing to say anything negative about them in the process.

Staying positive isn’t hard. It just takes a little thought organization. Just remember that for everything negative you want to convey about your competition, it can better be said by focusing on something positive about yourself!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Keep Your Audience On The Hook

Valuable content marketing isn’t just about getting a customer to view one article or social media post. Single views might be great for whatever you’re promoting at that moment, but to build a successful business, you’ll need to keep those viewers coming back for more!

Setting The Hook

The secret to repeat views is setting the hook. That means never giving all the information in one post. The customer must always be left wanting more so they’ll return to get even more information. This can be accomplished most easily by placing a sentence or paragraph advertising your next post at the bottom of each new one. It may require some thinking ahead as you have to plan each article in advance, but it’s sure to keep your viewers thirsty for more!

For social media, teasers are definitely the way to go. Give your viewers a small tidbit of information, and then include a link that takes them to a larger post with even more information. If you place a teaser at the bottom of that piece, you can keep them coming back again and again!

Reeling Them In

Once you’ve given your viewers a reason to come back, you need to continue feeding them quality information. Hooks are great, but if you aren’t giving them value for their time, customers will find somewhere else to go for the knowledge they need. As a business owner, you are a specialist. Present your advice from that angle, and you’re sure to build even more repeat business!

Building and keeping an audience isn’t as hard as it sounds. It merely involves providing quality information and presenting it so that your viewer always has a reason to come back!

Have any tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below, and don’t forget to come back next week for another great marketing tip!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Beating those Post-Holiday Blues

Small businesses normally carry the chorus of the post-holiday blues. Sure big box stores may sing a verse or two as their sales dip, but they have high-paid marketers whose sole job is to make that dip as slight as possible. But how do small businesses ease their own blues burden?

It’s Okay To Borrow

All great blues singers borrow what works from the greats who’ve gone before, and you can do the same. First, you need to look at the big boys who have a business model similar to your own. What are they doing to keep sales going during the seasonal dip? Are they running a sale to get rid of excess holiday material? Are they focusing on the after-Christmas shoppers, advertising deals for the super thrifty? Maybe they are targeting customers who’ve received an early tax return.

Whatever their method, feel free to borrow from it heavily!

Personalize Your Story

So you’ve found a great tune from a successful business you can emulate. That’s great, but you don’t want to follow it note for note. First you’ll need to personalize the lyrics, and add a few notes of your own to truly make their tune your tune.

It doesn’t require an entire revamp, nor should you try to do one. They’ve done the legwork for you, just riff off their idea and change what’s necessary to make it fit your business.

Don’t settle for the blues this January. Use your resources and let the good times roll!

Marketing Tip of the Week: It’s Okay To Alter The Plan

You’ve put together a marketing plan, and you begin implementing your strategy. Before long you realize things aren’t going as you expected. You look at the data and evaluate the situation. You spot the problem, but changing it would result in revising everything. There’s still a chance your original plan will work, just perhaps not as well as you hoped. What do you do?

It’s Up To You

That’s a tough call and not one that anyone else can make. But if you choose to stay the course, make sure you’re not making that decision out of fear. Changing the plan isn’t always the best course of action, but there are plenty of times where it can be. Here are some guidelines to help you decide:

  1. How Far Off Course Are You? – The numbers being below your expectations is not an immediate call to change everything. How off are they? If you’re off by 10-15%, you may be able to make up the difference on another stage of the path. If you’re off by 35-40%, it might be time to revise.
  2. Is It Too Late – Sometimes the faux pas in a marketing strategy can’t be fixed. It’s been done, it’s out there and there’s no taking it back. If you’ve already made the misstep, it doesn’t mean that the rest of your plan is bad. Stick with it if you think there’s a chance of pulling things out. But if the rest of your strategy follows in that same vein, it’s time to pull the plug.
  3. How Critical Was The Error? – Is it the linchpin holding the rest of your strategy together? If so, it’s time for a new course. If not, evaluate the remaining steps and see if there’s a way to pull this thing out.

A marketing strategy gone awry is no reason to panic. In fact, it’s the worst possible time to do so. Keeping a clear head and evaluating the situation thoroughly is always your best chance to pull success from failure!

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 5: Build Trust With Reviews

Welcome to Part 5 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

Last week, we discussed how to utilize social media to get great digital word of mouth.

Today, we’ll show you how engaging in online reviews can help show your business in its best light!

Build Trust With Reviews

Reviews about your business can be the key to new customers selecting your services over a competitor. Check to see what sites you could potentially be reviewed on.  Yelp, Google Reviews, Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay, Angie’s List, etc.

If you aren’t currently listed, ask a regular customer to get you started. Of course, it is not okay to offer payment to a reviewer! But asking someone you know who is already a patron, and likely has good things to say, is an easy and positive way to get reviews going. It usually only takes a few minutes of someone’s time. And once you are listed and easy to find, other reviewers you don’t know will jump on board.

Stay active on social media outlets like Facebook. Occasionally remind your followers that you are available for review on different sites. If someone makes a great comment about your business, respond quickly with a big thank you. And be sure to save their quote for use later on your website or for a status update.

Don’t Be Afraid

It is easy to be leery of opening your company up for reviews. You might be thinking “What if someone has a negative comment? What if they point out a shortcoming that I don’t want to broadcast to the whole world?”

But something to keep in mind is no business can serve all their customers perfectly and to each individual’s standards 100% of the time.

Look at a negative comment as an opportunity to engage with your customers – Both the negative reviewer and potential customers reading the dialogue online.

Respond to negative comments as quickly as you can.

Don’t ignore the comments even if you don’t understand how they could have happened or if the specifics are inaccurate. You can save face simply by being polite and apologizing for any inconvenience.

Showing yourself as a business that is engaged in the community, online and off, gives validity to your brand. This exchange that happens in public makes trusting your company easier for a new customer Continue reading “How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 5: Build Trust With Reviews” »

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 4: Social Media

Welcome to Part 4 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

Last week, we talked about how to reach out to your community to build trust and get your business noticed.

Today, we’ll discuss how utilizing social media is your online word of mouth jackpot!

Social Media = Electronic Word Of Mouth

If you haven’t noticed, social media means far more than baby pictures and cat videos. It is time to dust off your username and password. Not only should your company have an online presence on social media, it should stay current and active.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter exist to keep people connected, and when people are connected, they talk about things – surprise! Sure, some of those things are baby pictures and cat videos, but when logging in they also talk about where they are going, what they are buying and why.

For this reason, social media can be even more potent that traditional word of mouth because one click on a photo can lead a potential customer right to you. That doesn’t happen in person so take advantage!

Make Your Online Presence Known

You can decide how simple or complex your website needs to be. And you should select which social media platforms to utilize. Because honestly, you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew. If you can’t spare the time to maintain both a Youtube channel and a Twitter account then don’t.

Just make sure that you get involved somewhere and make it work for your shop.

Make sure you have your business’s info page complete. Keep the phone and email listing up-to-date. Be sure to have a relevant profile picture like your company logo, a nice headshot or a photo of your products or storefront. No kids, no cats. Save that for your personal page.

Then work to get likes, followers and subscribers. Seek out friends, family, and regulars to get things started. Be sure to ask customers in the store to “like” your shop to get all updates on sales and promotions. Don’t forget to post signs in your store letting customers know where they can find you online.

Stay Current. Stay Hot.

Nothing looks worse to a customer visiting your website or profile page than seeing that nothing has changed for months! A lot happens at your business everyday so show it. Add photographs of your store and your products so new visitors can get a sense of what shopping with you is like. When you get a cool new product in, post about it & share a photo.

Learn about #hashtags and use them! Ask fun questions in your status updates and respond to the answers. There are so many ways to stay engaged. Figure out what works for you and do it often.

All of this activity does take time. But if you spend just a little time each day, every other day, even once a week that is better than nothing for months at a time. There is much that can be accomplished by Continue reading “How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 4: Social Media” »

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 3: Reach Out To The Community

Welcome to Part 3 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

To start the series we introduced a company that utilizes word of mouth advertising. Last week, we discussed why it is important to find your business’s niche to offer your customers something no one else has.

Today, we’ll talk about reaching out to your community to make an impression worth talking about.

Reach Out To The Community

The best way to get people to recommend your business is to make them remember you! Smart branding, clever ads, and big sales help but nothing beats the one-on-one approach with a local customer.

This is one way to make sure you stick fast in the minds of your customers is draw them into your shop for an enjoyable reason. Offer your community a moment of beauty, art or leisure. This in turn becomes an opportunity to let your customers get to know you, the business owner, as well as your key employees.

You are the face of your business and customers will remember meeting you way more than your shop logo.

What Works?

Take a look at our example company, Arclight Theater. They partner with the vibrant film community in Los Angeles and have constantly changing art galleries that feature movie props and artwork from current films. These are open to the public and encourage movie-goers as well as the causal passerby to take a look and ask questions.

Reach out to your community in a way that makes sense for your business.

How To Start

Do you have room to offer a gallery wall for local artists? Can you give a one-day workshop demonstration?

Consider hosting a one-day open house event. Play some music, offer some simple refreshments like lemon water and cookies or nuts and walk around talking to people. Seasonal events can bring you even more foot traffic so think about what holiday coming up would lend itself to a cool reason for your store to get friendly.

Don’t be tempted to act purely as a salesman in this situation just because new customers are in your shop. Answer any questions, sure, but this event is about meeting people face to face as a member of the community.

Just a short “Hello. Thanks for coming to visit us!” makes customers comfortable and can make an impression they will remember.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to increase your online word of mouth exposure by taking advantage of social media!

Read How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 1: What’s The Buzz?
Read How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 2: Find Your Niche!

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 2: Find Your Niche!

Thanks for checking out Part 2 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

Last week, we introduced a Los Angeles based company that only uses word of mouth advertising to build a successful business in a highly competitive city.  This week we’ll break down what they are doing right and how you can apply these important concepts to your business to get customers to refer others straight to your door.

Find Your Niche!

While this is common advice in basic business planning, in order to to make your business speak to people, you might need to consider what your shop offers to the public as well as what your competitors’ offer.

Customers always have options, even if that option is just to shop online. So if your products are incredible, but your shop takes a lackluster approach to selling it, you might need to revisit your business plan.

It takes a break from the norm to make an impression on someone that in turn leads to them recommending your business. Offer something that one else else does!

How One Company Found A Sweet Spot

Going back to our example company, Arclight decided that watching movies in sub-par theaters with boring ads before the show, lame snacks, and tons of disruptions was not the way they wanted to run their theater.

So their property features unique “black box” theaters with state of the art sound and projection. They choose not to sell advertising space before the main feature and only show 5 minutes of movie trailers before each film. Most chain theaters have 20 minutes of advertising before the previews even start!

Arclight’s concession stand, the actual money-maker of every theater, offers more than huge sodas and popcorn. They have gourmet hot dogs with unique toppings, real butter for the popcorn, premium ice cream bars, and fresh caramel corn that is made every day in-house!

Ushers are trained to not allow seating after 5 minutes into a showtime so an audience isn’t inconvenienced with latecomers. Try getting that type of service at your local theater.

By creating a high standard of quality, this company fulfilled a niche that was missing in the most film-centric city on the planet.  Whatever special touch you can add to your business is completely up to you, the owner, but that difference is crucial in setting you apart.

Start Examining Your Marketing Strengths

Think about what your business does best. Is there a way to expand on your existing structure that might get you noticed? Finding a good niche can be challenging so start small and be consistent. Always offer that product or service so your customers, new and old, can rely on it.

Is there a line of popular products that aren’t currently offered in your area? Stock up! What about a year-round personalized wrapping service? Walking out of a shop with a pretty wrapped package makes it a fun and memorable gift shopping experience.

Ask yourself where are other shops falling short and how can you pick up the slack. This will lead you to getting noticed.

In Retail Marketing – No Apologies Necessary

If you are offering the best of the best, don’t apologize for the high ticket price. Remember there will be customers that complain about prices no matter what. You should be focusing on a quality and service standard you strongly believe in. Prepare yourself and your employees with a list of easy to understand reasons as to why your prices are set.  If you are the best, you should charge for it.

Of course freebies never hurt and people love to feel like they got something for nothing. Even if that something is very small. (Arclight offered free parking with validation which in downtown LA is a huge deal) Can you offer free samples of gourmet foods, coffee, or tea? Big perks for regulars? Continue reading “How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 2: Find Your Niche!” »