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Finance's Role in The Buyer's Journey

The topic of the Buyer's Journey is well covered online. Initially, and only until recently, it was considered to contain 3 stages. For some reason, which I suspect is more related to selling software tools to marketing and sales professionals than to truly addressing that journey, it ended with a Buyer making a purchase decision. Those stages are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Purchase

5 Stages of A Buyers Journey

Once the tools being sold gained traction and a competitive environment among solution providers ensued, the obvious missing stages of the journey that we, as consumers of goods and services, all travel, have since been added. In addition, the definition of "Buyer" has expanded beyond simply a customer, to include all stakeholders. These include (potential or existing) customers, suppliers, referral sources, team members, even regulatory bodies.

For an ambitious business, the journey doesn't end when a Buyer makes a purchase. Academics and business strategists alike have researched and determined that, to grow (and maybe even sustain) a business profitably, every business needs to address 2 more stages, Retention; and then, the holy grail, Advocacy.


This article isn't about explaining this journey, it's about your Finance Department's role in it, and it's not trivial.

I have one more piece to add to this before I get into the details. In another article I refer to The Three Core Functions of a successful business. Clearly, to succeed, all 3 of these core functional areas need to deliver a stellar level of service to its buyers.

Finance's Role in the Final 3 Stages of a Buyer's Journey

While Finance's role in the journey doesn't live exclusively in the last 3 stages (Purchase, Retention, and Advocacy), this is where its impact relative to the other functions of a business has the highest impact. I'll address these first.

The Purchase Stage

First, let's address the "Purchase" Stage. Obviously Finance plays an important, "behind the scenes", role here.

As a member of the leadership team, the business' finance professionals, by providing their analytical skills and experience, should participate in all pricing decisions.

They should also play a sound second source for how the "offer" to purchase is presented to the Buyer.

We've already advocated in other articles that an ambitious business owner should seriously consider assigning the business systems responsibility to Finance. Of course, that means that the people in Finance must be both business-savvy and tech-savvy. In today's business environment, this is a must, no longer a "nice-to-have".

Retention and Advocacy Stages

A  quote that we're all very familiar with sets the tone here.

"We know you have many choices when choosing carriers and thank you for choosing XXX Airlines. On behalf of your XXX-based in-flight service crew, we welcome you to XXX. Enjoy your stay in XXX or wherever your final destination may be."

Here is where Finance plays a very important role.

One of my favorite go-to sources, Harvard Business Review, states in their article The Value of Keeping the Right Customers, they say:

"Depending on which study you believe, and what industry you’re in, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one."

In fulfilling its mandates to any business, Finance spends more of its time having "after purchase" interactions with customers.

It all starts with accuracy, all interactions with customers must be accurate. Easily said, often ignored. Then there's the tone and level of responsiveness to questions, collections, and anything to do with financial interactions with them.

Finance Customer-1Whether direct or indirect, like everyone else in the organization, Finance must think with the Customer in mind. Finance is a huge part of the Customer experience post-purchase. In today's transparent, competitive environment, a frustrating financial experience with your business can be very costly, even undoing all the work that's been achieved up to and including the purchase stage. There are tools readily available to ensure an accurate friendly, responsive relationship can be maintained with the customer, eliminating this as a valid excuse, and they know it.

The Finance team, like all other functions in the business, should also have an "extra mile" mindset, with a plan on how to deliver it to each and every customer that is integral to a business's Buyer's Journey Plan.

Lastly, Finance's role in Reporting is no longer simply limited to financial results.

We advocate that, because finance professionals have extensive experience in the science (and art) of reporting and analysis,  those who also have competency in systems, should play a vital role in all performance reporting, not just finance. They can assist in setting up the internal processes for accurately measuring, and then validating, KPIs that focus on each of the 5 stages of the Buyer's Journey. These KPIs will assist in addressing things that are (and aren't) working. Then, to top it all off, there's the ultimate KPI, which we've mentioned in other articles - the Net Promoter Score.

Finance's Role in the First 2 Stages of a Buyer's Journey

While somewhat less important than the last 3 stages, Finance isn't entirely shut out from having a role in the Awareness and Consideration stages.

By a large measure, this involves the reporting responsibility being one of the items in Finance's mandate. It includes assistance in the establishment, then the measuring, validating, and reporting of KPIs relating to these stages as well as those related to the last 3.

Summary and Conclusions

In summary, first and foremost, Finance must be Buyer conscious, and aware that its actions impact the Buyer's journey, which done well, contributes to growth and success. The opposite does not.

Secondly, a finance professional who is both business and tech-savvy will contribute directly to the Buyer's journey resulting in a measurable contribution to the business's success.