Matching writing with the Decision Making Cycle

In this article, I’m going to explore the Prospect Decision Making Cycle, and how writing style and topics can lead businesses to lose potential business by failing to meet the needs of visitors.

Earlier this year, I started a job as Marketing Executive for WHISHWORKS – a global IT services company with lots of skill in IT, but who had fallen into the trap of confused business writing. When I was asked for my opinion on their website, I felt confident enough to tell them that I thought their website was confusing and lacking in focus – an approach some might consider overly bold in an interview, but which landed me the job.

After two months, I’ve discovered that whilst there is no dearth of experienced, talented, and hard-working business architects working for the company, most of the marketing work that has been produced is about as far away from plain English as it’s possible to get. My job is to refine our message from the current mash-up of business buzzwords and meaningless platitudes to an easy to understand set of benefits the company can deliver to a reader.

This got me thinking about the ability to write clearly, and why it is that so many businesses seem to fail to achieve this simple goal. If you look at the websites of Deloitte, KPMG, Capgemini and McKinsey – are you able to tell the difference between them? How about the horde of SMALLER consulting firms underneath them?

In my opinion, copywriting for a website has two criteria; most obviously it should be easy to understand, but it should also serve the purpose of your reader. If you imagine a typical sales funnel, most prospects will be at one of four stages of the Prospect Decision Making Cycle;

  1. Research

Here, the prospect is unsure about the options available to them. They might not be sure what they’re looking for, or why it matters, or how to fix the problem they might have (if they even know what it is). Your goal here is to provide easy to digest information to help them understand their problem and discover potential solutions.

  1. Choosing a solution

Once the prospect has identified what the problem is, they will have to choose an appropriate solution. In my experience, solutions fall on a sliding scale from expensive and comprehensive, to low cost lacking features. The prospect’s job is now to determine which features of the solution they deem to be ‘essential’ to solving the problem, and which are superfluous.

  1. Selecting a vendor

Once an appropriate solution has been identified, it is then the job of the prospect to select a vendor. In some instances, this will be an easy decision, as there may only be a single supplier of the chosen solution, but in most cases a decision will have to be made who the prospect wishes to do business with.

  1. Engaging in a deal

Once the prospect is satisfied that they have selected a suitable vendor of their chosen solution, they must then take the steps required to either engage their services or buy the product in question.

In many cases, businesses skip to the final two stages of the Prospect Decision Making Cycle, ignoring the range of solutions available (who wants to advertise the competition?), and ignoring the desire of the prospect to educate themselves sufficiently to identify an issue. If this occurs, leads are dropping out of the funnel, as a marketer is not engaging prospects at the correct part of their decision making cycle. In order to avoid this – marketers should ensure that content is available for consumption at all levels of the decision making cycle.

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