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What Is a Buying Cycle?

Jim B.
Jim B.

The buying cycle is a process which most consumers go through when deciding whether or not they need new products and determining what those products should be. This is a process which marketers must exploit, making contact at each phase of the cycle and tailoring the messages sent to the stage of the cycle the consumers may have reached. In general, the buying cycle consists of a number of rough stages. First, a consumer realizes a need or lack, which leads them to gather information about alternatives for filling this need. After deciding between alternatives, the consumer makes his or her decision, and then makes sure that the product or service delivers on its promise.

Many people consider marketing to be all about the products and services that different firms have to offer. While making sure that these products and services are of the highest quality is certainly important, marketers must always remember that their buying decisions are ultimately subjective. People go through a process to make decisions, and marketers must tap into that process to achieve optimum results. This process is known as the buying cycle, and those firms that understand the cycle have an advantage in their sales.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

In general, the beginning of the buying cycle comes when the consumer or buyer realizes that they are missing something that constitutes a need. This could happen because their old products no longer meet their needs, or because the consumers' own situations have changed to create new necessities. At this stage, the marketers must make contact to portray their products or services as the answer to these needs.

If a consumer simply decides that he or she needs a product but hasn't yet decided upon a specific brand, the buying cycle continues with the consideration of alternatives. At this point, marketers have to send messages making it clear that whatever they are offering is superior to the offerings of competitors. Consumers often perceive their potential purchases as risky, and marketers must send out messages that alleviate these concerns.

Once the alternatives are considered, the consumer will complete the buying cycle by choosing and purchasing a product. Marketers must realize that their job isn't finished at this point, however, especially if they have an existing, long-running relationship with a client. There should be some sort of confirmation received that the products sold satisfied the needs of the customers. A that point, the cycle begins anew, meaning that marketers and sellers must stay vigilant in their approach to their customers.

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