Content marketing is fast becoming a top priority for many business owners.
And for good reason.
When you do content marketing well, it’s possible to…
- Generate more inquiries at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing
- 6x your conversation rate
- Experience 7.8 times more traffic
…and that’s just the beginning.
But effective content marketing isn’t just about improving your bottom line—it’s about building and nurturing trust with your prospects.
According to a report by Marketbridge, 95% of buyers prefer brands that provide content throughout the buying process.
With numbers as high as that, it’s easy to appreciate why 93% of business owners use content marketing to establish their brand and generate inquiries.
But creating original, high-quality content isn’t always enough.
To yield enviable outcomes like the bullets above, you need to create the right type of content and market it to the right prospect at the right time.
How do you do that?
By understanding your buyer’s journey.
With 67% of the buyer’s journey now completed digitally, it’s become more important than ever to create content that educates, informs and most important, nudges your prospects into taking action (read: making inquiries).
In a recent survey by DemandGen, 61% B2B business owners cited “Developing targeted content by buyer stage/interest” as one of their greatest challenges in nurturing inquiries.
If that’s you, too, don’t worry.
In this article, I’m going to show you what the buyer’s journey is, why it matters and how you can map your content around it to generate more traffic and targeted inquiries.
What is The Buyer’s Journey?
According to HubSpot, the buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service.
This journey ranges from three to fifteen stages, depending on who you ask. In this article, we’re going to focus on the three most important stages:
The buyer’s journey is often represented as a funnel-shaped process which is comprised of the above stages, from lowest purchase intent (Awareness) to highest (Decision).
In the image below, it’s further expanded into six stages, with the first (Awareness), third (Consideration) and sixth (Purchase) corresponding with the three in the image above.
To illustrate this further, consider the following example…
Imagine you’re experiencing cloudy vision. Unaware of what’s causing the problem, you turn to Google and type in a search query like, “Why do I have cloudy vision?”, or even, “cloudy vision.” Your goal, at this stage, is to educate yourself as much as possible and put a name to your ailment.
After reading a few articles online and confirming with a specialist, you might discover that your cloudy vision is actually a symptom of having eye cataracts. At this stage, you’re aware you have a problem and begin actively searching for a solution.
With this new information, you might Google, “What are the risks of cataract surgery” or, “How much does cataract surgery cost?” At this stage, you’re considering all your options, whilst continuing to educate yourself on the subject.
Finally, you might decide cataract surgery is for you and begin looking for an optometrist in your area. You compile a list of potential vendors based on your research, before finally whittling them down and making a decision.
It’s important to mention here that the way you communicate to your prospects will change depending on which stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in.
If they’re at the beginning of their journey, you will need to build goodwill through free content, eBooks, whitepapers, etc. whereas if they’re further along and are ready to make a decision, you will need to demonstrate your credibility through case studies, social proof, testimonials, etc.
Depending on the market you’re in and how far along a prospect is in your funnel, a potential buyer’s journey can last anywhere from three months to longer than a year.
Mapping out your content correctly, then, is a crucial part of the content creation process.
Let’s discuss how to do that.
Also known as the discovery stage, the awareness stage describes prospects who are experiencing symptoms of a problem, and are educating themselves to more clearly understand and give a name to their pain point.
At this stage, they know nothing about you, your company, what it is you offer, or how you can solve their problem. All they care about is educating themselves about the problem at hand, whether that’s how to repair a leaky tap or how to get more inquiries on their website.
To create content for the awareness stage, you need to think like your potential buyer.
- Create a customer avatar
A customer avatar is a fictional character that represents your ideal prospect.
When you know your prospects’ goals and challenges, it’s easier to create content you know they’re searching for (more on that in a moment).
And that’s not all…
To learn more about creating customer avatars, read Jennifer Havice’s article on the subject.
- Analyze your competitors
Reviewing your competitors’ content will give you insight into how well they’re addressing your customer avatar’s goals and challenges.
If they’re missing something, readers are often first to let them know:
To analyze a competitor’s content, go to BuzzSumo and type in a competitor’s website or your industry keyword. The results will show their most popular content based on how well it performed on social:
Read a few articles and look for gaps between what they’ve written and what your customer avatar is looking for.
This will help you complete Step 3…
- Write original, high-quality content
According to a recent survey by Adweek, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying.
The majority of that research comes from reading content.
And it’s exactly why carving out time for content creation is essential in today’s online research-driven world.
I’ve written about previously about how Marcus Sheridan from River Pools and Spas was able to build a multi-million dollar business—during a recession, no less—by answering his audience’s most pressing questions.
Swimming pool construction.
By creating content in the awareness stage, Marcus was able to address his prospects’ questions and position himself as the go-to expert in his industry.
At the awareness stage, it’s important your content is informational rather than promotional.
If you’re too “salesy” early on, you’ll annoy your prospects before you’ve had time to educate them about who you are and what makes your company different.
Make sure you’re capturing email addresses with content upgrades and non-obtrusive popups. This will make moving your prospects through the further stages of the funnel much easier.
Also known as the evaluation stage, the consideration stage occurs when your prospect has clearly defined and given a name to their problem and is committed to researching and understanding all of the available methods (and services) for solving it.
They might search “[YOUR COMPANY] reviews” or “[YOUR COMPANY] vs [YOUR COMPETITOR]” to better familiarize themselves with what their options are.
Your goal, at this stage, is to convince your prospects they have a problem and your company has the best solution for them.
And while you’re not trying to turn them into customers (yet), you are trying to move the relationship forward (i.e. getting them to schedule a no-obligation call, etc.)
The type of content you create at this stage will vary from industry to industry but typically will include comparison white papers, expert guides, live interactions, etc.
At the decision stage, your prospect has defined their solution and is whittling down a long list of potential services in their given solution strategy.
They’re looking for information on how your service works, how others like them have been successful, and how their experience might be if they decide to go forward with your company.
What they opted in for and where on your site, will often tell you a lot about where they are in their journey. With this information, you can tailor your marketing to nudge them into becoming a customer.
Get this right and it’s possible to make an average of $38 in revenue for every $1 you spend (if not more). If you’re playing along at home, that’s a 3,800% return on investment (ROI).
Bryan Harris from Videofruit is another business owner who’s especially good at showcasing his customers’ successes with his products and services.
Going beyond a generic testimonial page, Bryans features his top customers on a dedicated page on his site:
While it’s tempting to believe the buyer’s journey ends when a prospect becomes a customer, the truth is you need to continue delivering value after they purchase.
Aside from reducing churn and improving customer satisfaction, consistently offering value after purchase helps turn customers into evangelists for your business.
Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend.
According to a recent survey by Ogilvy and Google, 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.
Build a customer base of raving fans and you’ll never have to worry about lead generation again.
Many business owners have embraced content marketing.
But few are doing it effectively.
The goal, remember, is not to create content for content’s sake. The goal is to get the right content in front of the right prospects at the right time.
Because when you do…
Everything becomes easier, both for you, and your customers.
What have your experiences been with your buyer’s journey? Leave a comment below.