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The 5 Steps of the Consumer Decision Making Process

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One of the most overlooked secret weapons of marketing is understanding the consumer decision making process and meeting people where they are on that journey.

It’s natural to want people to sign up the instant they see what we have to offer (because it’s amazing, right?)…  but the truth, that’s expecting them to make a commitment they’re just not ready for. Kinda like asking for their hand in marriage on the first date.

Unless what you’re offering is very low friction — meaning it’s under $50 and solves a painful problem your dream clients know they need help with, “impulse purchases” are unlikely to happen. Spending money is always a risk…

“Do I need this?”
“Is this the right choice?”
“Is there something else that might work better?”

Marketing is just the way we remove that uncertainty for people so they feel confident making a purchase from us, it’s not a magic bullet.

Having a bit of longevity in business (over 17 years now!) even I have to remind myself that everything comes down to timing. Most of the people in your audience are not a “yes” today, but they’re not a “no” either… they’re a “hmmm, maybe someday!”

And yet, we often give them a binary choice: “Yes or no! What’s it gonna be?” when we should be building relationships, staying top of mind, and doing what we can to remove that uncertainty.

Let’s dig into the five steps of the consumer decision making process and instead, meet them where they are so you can nurture that relationship at every step. It looks like this…

Consumer Decision Making Process

The Five Steps of the Consumer Decision Making Process

Step 1: Awareness

In the awareness stage of the consumer decision-making process, your dream clients are just becoming aware they have a problem. They’re nowhere near ready to buy, but they are open to hearing information that’s relevant to this problem… so your job is to be visible and demonstrate you understand.

Right now, they’re not ready to spend any money — so you need a FREE offer to meet them where they are in their level of commitment. A free offer takes the form of…

  • Valuable social media posts that offer a quick tip
  • Blog posts that help them better understand their problem and how to take the next steps
  • An opt-in freebie (which you give them in exchange for signing up your email list) that solves their problem a little bit of the way
  • Nurturing emails to stay top of mind
  • Free courses or workshops
  • Really, any content you create — written, video, audio — that shows you understand their problem

When you show you understand the problem, they automatically perceive you to be a resource that can help them. And off we go building that relationship with a “maybe someday” peep!

Step 2: Research

The next step in the process is research. Now they’re getting serious… they’re typing questions into search engines — Google, Pinterest, Amazon, etc. — to get information about this problem. They aren’t sure what their options are at this stage, but they are gathering up all the information they can about how to solve it.

To meet them where they are at this stage, you’ll want to be “discoverable” — that means search engine optimized content and having a presence on social media channels where you’re chatting about this problem and how to go about solving it.

They may be willing to spend a little bit of money at this stage — most likely not a high-ticket offer or premium service — but maybe a book or a course. That’s why it’s helpful to have a low-price offer that’s not tied to your time (something I discuss in more detail in my free masterclass,  How to Create A Client Attraction System).

A low price offer changes the relationship you have with a member of your audience — now they’re a customer and there’s been an exchange of value, so if you helped them solve that problem a little bit of the way, you’re earning their trust and guiding them naturally toward your more premium offers.

Step 3: Consideration

At this stage in the consumer decision-making process, your dream clients have spent a fair amount of time researching the possible ways they can get their problem resolved. They’ve got several ways they can go — maybe they’ll do it themselves? Maybe they’ll hire you? Maybe they’ll go with one of your competitors?

Here, they’re actively considering hiring you but they’re not quite ready to go “all in.” Your job at this stage is to make sure your services or “work with me” page isn’t letting you down in some big way (check out this free lesson as part of my Bullseye Offer Formula where I go into this in much more detail).

I also recommend creating a “lead service” — this is a service that’s priced low enough to get people in the door working with you so you can begin solving that problem without asking for a huge commitment in time or money. Not only are you removing some of the friction to make that final decision to hire you, but you’re building trust.

When people raise their hand to work with you in a lower-risk way, it’s a no-brainer for them to choose you for a more premium service rather than going with an “unknown” (your competition).

Step 4: Decision

Now they’re ready to solve their problem, hurray! But wait, not so fast… they’ve got some objections now, some lingering doubts and questions. What to do?

Well, for one thing, your website needs to work really hard for you at this stage to reassure them. Answer questions in an FAQ, provide a guarantee and give them lots of proof that you’re the right choice.

That means things like…

  • Credible client testimonials
  • Results expressed as data
  • High profile client logos
  • Case studies

A lead service can be helpful in this stage too, but you’ll also want to be available to answer any last questions they have…

Provide a way for them to get in touch (this is low-hanging fruit but so many freelancers and service providers make it hard for people to contact them) and respond as quickly as possible.

You can also offer a free 15-minute call — this is all it takes to wrap up the sale if you have a lead service, you’re just answering questions about how it works and whether it’s right for them.

Oh hey, I almost forgot… guess what? NOW they’re ready to make that final decision to purchase and you’ve got yourself a new client. Hurray!

Step 5: Evaluation

Now the first four steps are what I teach in How To Create A Client Attraction System, but there’s a 5th (bonus!) step that you’ll want to think about too. Think about the times you’ve made a big purchase… usually, right afterward you second-guess yourself, “Ugh, is this going to work? Is this going to be a waste of money?”

It can be stressful. Remember your clients are experiencing that too, so you want to reassure them. Guide them through your process every step of the way, make communication your #1 priority (good communication and service is just as important as the actual solution you provide!), and make sure you wrap up client engagements in a friendly and supportive way. Show that you’re interested that you’ve set them up for success and follow up to make sure they feel confident.

You’ll also want to be sure to ask for feedback at this stage… send a survey to ask them how it was to work with you, whether there were any surprises or value they didn’t expect, whether they’ll be likely to recommend you to others, and of course — ask them for a testimonial.

Understanding the Consumer Decision Making Process is what “makes marketing make sense”

It’s important to understand the consumer decision making process if you want to make marketing work for you. Remember that things take time, and you’re making an impact when you show up consistently (whether it feels that way or not). Keep showing up for your “maybe someday” peeps and they’ll turn into “yes, sign me up!” peeps before you know it.

Have any questions? Hit me up in comments!