Ep #3: The Buying Cycle & Understanding Prospect Psychology

As SEO consultants we tend to spend the majority of our time thinking about the sales cycle. That being of course positioning in the market, our offer, our value proposition, pricing, our sales process, pre-qualifying, pitching and of course closing.

But what about the buying cycle?

That being what’s happening at the other end, with the steps that prospects go through when trying to figure out who to hire and work with.

It’s a good question to ask.

What you will discover

In this episode I talk about customer journey, or the buying cycle. The decision making process and steps that prospects go through when trying to figure out which SEO consultant or agency to work with. In particular I cover  –

  • Thoughts and emotions that drive actions and outcomes
  • The conversation that’s going on inside a prospects head
  • Why its essential that you stop to consider and understand the buying cycle
  • How you can improve alignment between both cycles in order to increase sales

Featured on the show


Click below to read the transcript of this episode.

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Hey guys. John here from Bring the SEO. In today’s episode, I want to talk about the buying cycle. Now, what do I mean by the buying cycle? Well, I’m referring simply to the process of which prospects go through potential clients, the process that they go through, the steps they take, the actions they perform, their thoughts, their processes, everything that leads them to the desired end result. And that is, of course, making the decision around who it is they choose to work with. Now, this is all part of due diligence. Everyone wants to make the right decision. They don’t want to lose their money, they don’t want to be ripped off, they don’t want to be scammed. And this is exactly why prospects move through what we often refer to as the buyer’s journey or buying cycle.

For most SEO agencies, however, they spend the majority of their time thinking and focusing on the sales cycle. And for good reason. Because we want to maximise our marketing spend. But the problem with doing that is we’re thinking about us and we are not thinking about the prospect. We’re thinking about positioning in the market, our offer, our value proposition, our pricing, our sales process, pre-qualifying, pitching, closing. We’re thinking about all of those things. And as a result, we’re probably neglecting the processes that are happening at the other end. And this matters of course, because when the sales cycle and the buying cycle, when there’s a disconnect, that’s when it can affect your sales, your ability to sell. And I think this makes for a healthy conversation, and for everyone that’s providing SEO services, I think this is something that you need to give more thought towards because when you have a better understanding of what’s going on at the buyer’s end and the journey that they’re moving through, the decisions they’re making, the psychology behind it, all of those things come into play.

Now, just recently, I was in the process of trying to find a Facebook Ads consultant. Now, before I started this process, in fact, I was only a couple of minutes into looking, I stopped and I took a moment to become a little bit more self-aware around what I was actually thinking, feeling, my actions and what I was actually doing. Because I found myself, I was actually in the buyer’s cycle. I was actually in the buying cycle because I was looking for a Facebook Ads consultant. Now, this of course meant that I stopped for a moment and thought, “Okay, what am I actually doing here? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What am I looking for? What’s giving me high anxiety? What’s going to help reduce that anxiety? Is this something that’s going to trigger me and think to the point where I’m going to think, okay, I’m going to work with this person absolutely?” These are all things that I raise my self-awareness around because by doing so, I can get a better understanding of potentially what other prospects are thinking and doing at their end.

So I’m going to share with you a few things that I was thinking and actually doing when looking for a Facebook Ads consultant. Now, I was sent a list of referrals from someone who is fairly reputable, and I was going through the list of names, and there was a few things that I found myself looking at. Some of these things were actually quite interesting, and I thought to myself, “Wow, you don’t even really think about these things when you are selling a service.” But when you’re looking at buying a service, it changes a perspective big time. So the first thing I was looking at was I was asking the question, “Who is this person?” Because I’m looking at a list of strangers. I’m going to their website, I’m seeing a photo. “Okay, this looks great. I don’t know this person.” And for me, I’m sure that many people when they land on Bring the SEO, they’re probably thinking the same thing. “Who’s this John Romaine guy? I don’t know who this is.” Anyone can slap up a website, let’s face it, and say that they’re an expert and be selling a product or service.

But yeah, I was looking at the photo of this particular woman and I was thinking, “I don’t know this woman. Who is she? Is she any good? Is she really who she says she is?” So I found myself copying her name and going to Google and pasting her name, followed by her service offering. And then of course, I was presented with a list of her website, her LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, and a whole bunch of other things that sort of made me feel a little bit better about potentially working with this person. And it’s actually really interesting that I say it made me feel a little bit better because to begin with, I’ve got high anxiety, right? I’m anxious, I’m cautious, I’m sceptical, and I’m maybe even a little bit worried because I’m looking at potentially $7,500 a month investment. And of course, nobody wants to lose that sort of money.

And that thought was in the back of my mind, “I don’t want to lose my money. What happens if this doesn’t work? Am I going to be worse off?” These are all things that prospects are potentially thinking, “What happens if I lose my money? I can’t afford to lose this money, this needs to work. How long is it going to take for me to get results? Might be able to do this for two or three months, but if I’m not getting a positive ROI, I’m out. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I don’t want to be a nuisance client that does one month and pulls the pen because they’re not getting a return on investment.”

So I’ve got all of these questions going through my head, which is giving me high anxiety. And as I’m working my way through a list of, perhaps subconscious, thoughts, I’m trying desperately hard to reduce that anxiety so that I can get to a place where I’m confident and comfortable. Now, admittedly, businesses, or prospects rather, at different stages, you can have prospects that are operating $10 million a year businesses, their buying cycle and decision-making process and thoughts and actions and everything else are going to be a lot different from small organisations or small companies where it’d mainly be two or three staff, and that’s something that you’ll need to be mindful of. But I think generally speaking, most people will be having very similar thoughts. I think we could all agree upon that. And I think at the end of the day, everybody just wants to make the right decision. So that was my first thought, “Who is this person?”

I did a little bit of digging around. I found some Google search results that made me feel a little bit better. The next thing I was asking, where is this person? Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I have a tendency, for whatever reason, to copy the address, whether it be in the footer or on the contact page. I will copy the address and I’ll paste it into Google and I’ll go to street view. I’m going to look and see is what I’m presented with, does that make me feel comfortable about potentially working with a person? Am I presented with a nice, neat professional looking office, or am I dumped in a backstreet somewhere where the lawn’s not mowed and there’s rubbish bins tipped over? That’s not a good look, and it certainly doesn’t give me any confidence. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go and hire a big fancy office or put up a fake address, but at least be mindful of this because this is what, if I’m doing it, then chances are potential customers or prospects are doing it too.

My next point here is, “Can I trust them?” And this was a thought that was in my head the whole time through each and every step that I performed. “Can I trust this person?” There’s really no way of knowing whether or not you can trust someone until you start working together. But in and amongst my research was looking at photos, and I also found, in this case, I found the woman’s YouTube channel, and I was able to watch a couple of YouTube videos. And this is probably just the basic fundamentals of human nature. Typically speaking, you can use your gut instincts to get a feel for what someone might be like. Do they sound trustworthy? Do they present themselves well? Are they well spoken? Do they sound like an expert? Do they really know what they’re talking about? Do they speak with confidence? All of these things come into play, which can help you establish that know, like and trust, which is essential in terms of marketing and sales. Because when you’ve got that trust, well then prospects come to you pre-positioned to buy, and that’s exactly what you want.

The other thing that I found myself looking at was, “What does their website look like?” It’s 2023, and there’s really no excuse for anyone to have a shit looking site, especially if you are working in the online marketing space. There should be absolutely no excuse for that. That’s an absolute deal-breaker for me. I’m not interested in working with someone who is telling me that they can have a positive impact on my online business when their own online business looks like rubbish. So invest the money, spend the time, invest the money, and build a site that invokes that sense of trust and gives a sense of professionalism because that in itself can help drive sales. Next thing I found myself thinking about was, “What’s their sales process look like?” And this particular woman that I was interested in on her contact page had a booking form so I could choose a date and a time to speak, which I quite liked, as well as a series of questions. Now this is all part of pre-qualifying, and it’s obvious to me that she knows what she’s doing because she didn’t just have a contact form.

If you’ve just got a contact form on your page, on your site, then all sorts of nonsense are going to come through. Look, there’s nothing wrong with having a simple contact form, and it could be argued either way, the longer the forms and more difficult they are to fill out the lower your conversion rates are going to be. I understand all of that. But for me at least, and perhaps my decision-making process is a little bit different given that I work in the online marketing space, but for me at least, it told me something. It told me that she was selective. She was being selective about who she works with, and she makes no apologies for the rates that she charges. That gives me a great deal of confidence because people that operate like that typically know what they’re doing and they value their time and they don’t want to be mucked around, they’re not out to have their time wasted. So that was a big tick for me.

The next thing that I looked at was their service offerings. I talk about this at length within the SEO Accelerator Programme. Have a think about the number of services you provide, because I was given a list of about half a dozen different service providers, and probably half of them, actually, it was probably closer to 10, and probably about six out of 10 did more than one thing. There was some in there that did Facebook Ads, website design, email marketing, logos, graphic design, hosting, all of this other nonsense. They were immediately scrubbed off the list because I’m not interested in working with someone who can kind of do a lot of things reasonably well. I would much prefer to work with someone who does one thing, is an absolute expert at it.

One other thing that reinforced that was I had a look at her blog. I looked at her blog and every single blog post in there, she was talking about Facebook Ads in one way or another. And this is something that I feel strongly about. For all of the students that work with me, I’d say to them, “Okay, let’s have a look at your blog.” Most SEO consultants, when they start an agency, and this goes for large scale agencies too, not just freelancers, they start an agency, they don’t know who they’re talking to, and you read their blog posts and they’ll be How to Set Up Schema. How Much Does SEO Cost for Plumbers? How to Write Great Product Descriptions for E-Commerce. It’s like, what? None of this makes any sense. I want consistency across your identity. I want to know exactly what you do, who you do it for, the service you provide. And all of those things need to line up. If you’re doing a million and one different things, I’m out of there. Now, that might be true for the way in which prospects think also. There’ll usually always be exceptions. “Okay, we want a holistic agency.” Good luck with that. It’s not for me.

But that was an immediate green light for me. She’s doing one thing, and it seems to me she’s been doing it a long time. That was my next point. I don’t want to work with someone who’s been operating for six months, and that’s not to dismiss people who are just starting out. Everyone starts somewhere. But at this point, I want to work with someone who’s been established. And this particular woman has been working in Facebook Ads for seven years, which is great. And just circling back to the blog, and this is a note that I noted this down towards the end here, I want to see signs of life. I want to see recent activity.

Now by this I’m talking about when was the last time they posted in their blog? When was the last time they posted on their Facebook page? When was the last time they uploaded a YouTube video? When was the last time that they were active in a group or a forum, a Facebook group, or posted on Instagram or did something? If I’m looking to work with an agency or an SEO consultant and they haven’t updated their blog, or there’s no sign of life and I haven’t seen any activity for the last two years, I’m out of there. And chances are, prospects are thinking the very same thing. “Okay, well, this guy obviously doesn’t care. He’s given up on his business, hasn’t uploaded a video in three years, hasn’t published a blog since 2019.” No thanks. So definitely be mindful of that as well.

And I want to finish up by saying, what’s their online presence look like? All of these things combined, do they have positive reviews? Are there a whole bunch of negative reviews? Do they have social media profiles set up, LinkedIn profiles? I was looking at all of these things combined. And again, I was working towards reducing the level of anxiety. And in some cases, I found myself trying to justify potentially working with them, “Okay, this is good. Yeah, okay, I’m making the right decision.” It was more about me making the right decision than it was anything else. But I wanted to share that with you because I think it’s tremendously important for all of us providing SEO services.

Have a think about the buying cycle. Again, we place a lot of emphasis on the sales cycle and what we can do at our end to sell, but unless you take time out to think about what’s going on inside the prospect’s head, the conversation that they’re having with themselves, then you stand the chance of potentially missing the mark.So spend some time thinking about the buying cycle and customer journey, that process that the prospect goes through in order to make their decision-making process. That’s it for today. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll see you in the next episode.

Hey, if you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’d like to learn more, you have to come check out the SEO Accelerator Programme. It’s my monthly coaching programme where we take all of this material and we apply it. We take it to the next level, and we study it. Join me over at the bringtheseo.com. I’d love to have you join me inside the SEO Accelerator Programme. I’ll see you there.

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