In this digital age, consumers have limitless access to information. Modern consumers invest time and effort in researching and comparing options for the product or service they need. In fact, 81% of consumers do research before making a purchase which means organizations have to keep consumers engaged throughout their entire buying process.
Marketers need to constantly adapt their content and strategies to fit customer behavior. This helps your business avoid losing customers to competitors and ensure each buyer completes their journey towards conversion.
So how do you tailor your content for each stage of the buyer’s journey? You need to develop a complete understanding of your audience: how they think, what they are looking for, and the approach they take to find a solution. Once you have a good idea of what they are like at each stage of the buyer’s journey, you can prepare a content strategy that maps the best type of content and platform to use at each step.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: You are going about your day when you realize you have a problem or need something. With the exception of a few impulsive shoppers, your response is most likely to start researching and evaluating the options you have.
People rarely wake up one morning and decide to buy something specific within the day. Content marketing is about assuming that your customers aren’t ready to buy yet; they’re looking for answers and information relevant to their needs.
This is where content comes in. Instead of trying to sell right away and focus on why your customer needs you, it’s about helping them understand how you can help them. Tailored content gives you the ability to nurture prospects toward conversion.
Through content that matches each stage of the buyer’s journey, you can convince them that your business knows exactly what they need at the right time -- and that you are the most experienced in meeting these needs or solving their problems.
Another important benefit of matching content with your buyer’s journey is that marketing teams can qualify leads before turning them over to sales teams.
Nowadays, it’s not enough that you have content. It’s about getting in front of these leads, at the right time, with meaningful content satisfying their concerns.
Before you can craft content for your target audience, it’s important to understand what the buyer’s journey is. The buyer’s journey is the process that consumers go through to become aware of, assess, then finally purchase a new product or service. This journey happens in three stages:
The exploration stage (also known as the ‘awareness stage’) is when potential customers become aware of a problem. At this stage, they begin to explore solutions online, most likely by entering search terms on Google to learn more about what they need to resolve pain points.
Although they may have not heard of your company, you would be in a good position to convert if your awareness stage content can deliver the answers they need. Buyers will become more familiar with your brand as they continue to explore their options. One great way to craft content for this stage is to ask yourself where your buyers go to learn and what questions they usually ask.
The deliberation or consideration stage begins once your buyer has a clearly defined challenge and has committed to resolve it. They now face multiple options and want to narrow down their list, even if they aren’t going to make a purchase yet. The content in this stage should include critical, educational information to help your buyer make the best decision.
Your buyers are also evaluating you and your competitors during the consideration stage. They are deliberating on price, quality, and which solution is a better fit - so your content marketing has to differentiate itself from other businesses and build stronger relationships with potential customers.
The final stage is the decision stage, which is the most critical one because this is when a buyer chooses what to purchase. A customer has already decided on a solution category after the consideration stage, so they are now delving into more specific documentation, data, vendor reviews, and other materials to build confidence in their choice.
Your decision stage content should have a more action-oriented tone and target sales qualified leads who are ready to buy. It’s also important to note that even if you win or lose business at this step, you already laid a foundation during the exploration stage and consideration stage. If you have provided prospects with a potential solution in an educational and engaging way, then they may still consider you when they vote with their wallet.
Once you have every stage of the buyer’s journey mapped out, you can begin creating content. For effective content marketing, you have to make sure that the type of content you will publish matches the buyer’s journey as well.
It won’t make sense to create demonstration videos if your buyers don’t even know the problem they have to solve yet, or write long blog posts for a potential customer when they’re ready to see what your product can achieve. While there are some content types that can be shared by different stages, the key to creating effective marketing materials is learning how to adapt to your buyer’s mindset.
Exploration content should be able to address industry topics or answer questions your target audience frequently asks. Your goal is to introduce your brand’s personality, inform buyers, and make them excited for more content.
Publishing different content types on your website and multiple social media channels can help you establish your company as a credible thought leader. This will encourage more people to click and share your content on various platforms - which also boosts your search engine rankings.
Some content formats you can have for this stage in your buyer’s journey are:
When customers reach the deliberation stage, you can begin to differentiate your business from the competition by marketing the practical benefits of your service or product. You can design content around customer pain points and build relationships with a more defined group of potential customers.
Social proof like customer testimonials and product reviews can also go a long way at this point of the buyer’s journey. A great way to include these testimonies would be to create a review-rich landing page on your website. Content types that buyers in the middle of the funnel would like to see are:
By the decision stage, your content has to convince buyers that your business is offering the best available solution to address their pain point. Show prospects why they should choose to do business with you and how you are better than the rest. If possible, you can offer a demonstration or a free trial so they can experience what you have to offer.
Your content type will also depend on your unique business. For example, if you’re a B2C business selling a product like kitchen supplies, product reviews or return policies may persuade your buyer. On the other hand, B2B businesses selling software solutions may like to browse through case studies or spec and pricing sheets before deciding.
Customers making a choice would appreciate content like:
When you have already crafted the perfect content for your potential buyers, you need to find the best content distribution channels available. This means conducting research on your target audience and figuring out the platforms they engage with the most - email, blogs, social sites, search engines, and more.
You can also look into when they use which channels the most. Which day of the week do most people check their emails? At what time is everyone scrolling through their Facebook feed? You should also keep track of how they digest content around these channels. Many customers skim through too-long blog posts and skip through videos that bore them. By assessing customer behavior, you can better refine your content marketing strategy.
It’s never enough to post engaging content then calling it a day. Your marketing strategy should be aligned to each and every stage of a customer’s buying process. If potential buyers are going on a journey to find the solution to their problems, it’s your job to make sure they aren’t getting lost along the way. Here are some tips that can help you guide prospects as they travel down the sales funnel:
At this point, you should already have a customer persona who embodies your ideal buyer. While all businesses would enthusiastically welcome any customer who is willing to spend money, it’s more effective to have a target set of customers.
Maybe you’re operating a restaurant next to a college campus. Your target audience would most likely be the students from that college who need filling, delicious, and affordable food. You should aim to publish content on social networking sites where these students spend time on or have yourself featured on the school newspaper.
If your organization crafts content with a monotonous brand voice that’s devoid of personality, no customer will find it appealing. The key is to find your brand’s voice and keep it consistent - what are your company values? What is in your mission statement?
These questions will help you find the right tone to incorporate into your messaging.
Remember to take a buyer-centric approach. You want to reach out to your customers, not alienate them with difficult jargon or an inflexible tone (unless that’s really what you were going for).
Any organization, whether large of small, can easily fall into the trap of producing a lot of material to fuel their campaigns. However, using the strategy of churning out as much content as quickly as possible can lead to issues in quality and inefficiency. Your business should have a repeatable, scalable system for its content creation.
Spreadsheets fill up too quickly and aren’t always organized or clear enough to keep things running smoothly. You should consider investing in marketing automation software, so your team can be more effective as they coordinate, plan content, and meet deadlines. Marketing automation will also make it much simpler to distribute materials on multiple platforms and even measure content impact on target audiences.
It’s not a sin to repurpose old content, so don’t think that one report can only be used for one specific stage. You can actually repurpose materials to support multiple stages of the buying cycle. Keep in mind, reusing content doesn’t mean you repeat the same exact information for your audiences. It’s not creating an infographic for social media, then adding it to your email campaign.
When you repurpose, you have to choose successful materials and reframe it strategically. For example, you can compile successful blog posts in an eBook then add other materials like summary charts, check-lists, and to-do lists.
You’re missing a lot of opportunities if you aren’t actually talking to customers, prospects, or even teams like sales and customer support. These people are at the forefront and know exactly what consumers are looking for. You can’t make relevant, engaging content if you don’t know what customers are thinking.
Always take into consideration what your buyers see, respond to, and find interesting to deliver a positive customer experience. Otherwise, you’re just creating additional noise.
Buyers don’t always buy based on simple logic. Facts aren’t always enough to sway people and their wallets. An emotional component can go far in reducing a buyer’s resistance to making a purchase. You can tap into their feelings of fear, trust, or belonging.
Everyone wants to publish high-quality material all the time, but the pursuit of greatness can sometimes stand in the way of delivering consistently good material. It’s not wise to spend so much time perfecting everything, when you still have to plan, create, and analyze so many other things. You have to move quickly and accept that even imperfect content can thrive.
Digestible and genuine content can be done in limited time, even if they aren’t flawlessly executed. It’s also good to accommodate less-than-perfect materials because you have to prepare to grow - which doesn’t leave a lot of room for very high quality standards.