Content to Nurture and Convert at Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey isn’t nearly as straightforward as it used to be. With the ability to research on the spot, from any device, a potential customer is now unlikely to follow a linear path to conversion. Nevertheless, you must still have appropriate content for users at various stages in the buyer’s journey, regardless of the order in which they engage with you.
Traditionally, there are three stops along the buyer’s journey, and if you aren’t prepared with content to fit each stop, potential customers will drive right past you (perhaps in a circuitous route).
You can think of the three stages as corresponding to the marketing funnel, which will help you determine the types of content you should produce for buyers at each stage.
Buyer Stage 1: Awareness / Top of the Funnel
The first stage of the buyer’s journey is awareness, and this takes up the upper portion of the funnel. This is the time when a potential lead might not even know about your company or services. Additionally, the buyer might not know he or she even has a problem. This is the stop where it is up to you to both introduce your brand and the problem to the buyer.
You can do this through content that is helpful, valuable, informative and educational. This is when you want to assert your brand as a trustworthy source of credible industry information. This is not the time to push your product, services or an unsolicited sales pitch.
Think of this stage in terms of meeting a total stranger for the first time. You want to be the person (i.e., company) that learns about this person, what pains he or she has, what the individual is interested in, etc. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and immediately say, “Hey, I am amazing, and wouldn’t you like to write me a recommendation and tell the world how great I am?” Likewise, as a company, you don’t want to approach a potential lead with, “We have a fabulous product, just listen to us talk about it at length and then write us a big, fat check.”
Your buyers are human, and your company and content must treat them as such. By creating trust and credibility, you’re going to be able to lead these humans down the funnel to conversion. But until then, build awareness and nurture them with these types of vendor-neutral content:
- Research and white papers
- Analyst reports
- Editorial content
- Short form content
When brainstorming what topics to write about, remember that you have to make the reader aware of the need. To do this, you can use words such as risks, upgrade, improve and prevent. Every business or consumer knows to adopt practices that will improve and prevent issues from arising, so play to that. Please note, don’t let these words limit you — they can simply give you a starting place for brainstorming.
Real world examples:
- If your company is a CPA firm, consider writing about how to avoid the most common pitfalls of doing your own taxes.
- If you’re running a pug adoption center, you might write about how to prevent and treat common pug breathing issues.
Whatever you’re doing, don’t plug your own company. Simply provide the insight that will be helpful to readers.
Once buyers realize they need help, they’ll move on to the research component of the awareness phase, which means Google, reviews and testimonials will come into play. This means you need to have content that is optimized for search engine queries, and it’s helpful to also have positive word-of-mouth and online reviews. Here’s why:
If your content is optimized for pertinent keywords, your content is going to rank for your potential buyer’s query. At this phase, the buyer’s searches will be more general. Later in the journey, the buyer will begin to use more specific, long-tail keywords. If you are consistently ranking and answering your buyer’s queries thoughtfully and without bias, you are creating trust.
Speaking of trust, word-of-mouth and online reviews are exceptionally strong ways to build it. Just consider these stats:
- According to BrightLocal and their annual Local Consumer Review Survey, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth recommendations.
- According to a survey by Dimensional Research, 90% of customers were influenced by positive online reviews before making a purchase.
By the end of the awareness stage, you’ve caught the buyer’s attention, you’ve alerted the buyer to the fact that he or she might have a problem and the buyer is not in denial about it. Move the buyer further down the funnel and into the second stage of the journey — consideration — by nurturing him or her. You can do this in a simple, non-invasive way by sending timely and relevant information to those who have completed a form submission.
The key to maintaining trust with these leads is not to abuse the fact that they’ve been kind enough to give you their information. No badgering allowed!
Buyer Stage 2: Consideration / Middle of the Funnel
Consideration is the stage where the more in-depth research takes place. Your leads are going to compare your products and services to others. They need to fully explore all of their options, and Google will come into play again. According to Pardot’s State of Demand Generation report, 70% of potential customers will return to Google an additional two or three times during the consideration state. This is the point where leads will begin using more specific, long-tail queries to identify and compare the solutions available.
To that end, you should use terminology such as solution, tool, service or product. The terminology really depends on what exactly your company offers, but know that the buyer is looking for the answer to the problem, and you should use the proper wording accordingly.
The following types of content will help you capture your audience during the consideration stage:
- Vendor/product/service comparison white papers
- Streaming media (webcasts, podcasts, video)
- Expert/editorial eGuides
The content buyers find during this stage will help them define a few options that will work for their needs and budget, and buyers will likely contact your company for a product demo or consultation to further vet your services.
This is where monetary discussions will take place as well. Particularly with business purchases, C-level management will need to give approval, which can be a hurdle for any business. You should have content prepared to answer the bigger picture questions like ROI, pricing, how your product helps mitigate risks, thereby saving money, or how your services save time and increase productivity. With this content, you can focus more on the cut-and-dry answers to some of the hardest questions you’ll face.
Buyer Stage 3: Decision / Bottom of the Funnel
You’re just moments away from sealing the deal with the buyer at this point. The buyer will have the vendor options down to a short list, and you’ll need content that pushes him or her over the edge — in a good way! ROI will come into play again, as will testimonials and reviews, both of which you should have easily accessible on your site.
This final stage allows you to talk about your company and products. This is your chance to brag and wave statistics in the air and show your love for your product and services. You’ve waited long enough, you know the buyer and the need, and now you can show off exactly how you are the one and only solution that can adequately solve the problem.
The information provided in these pieces of content will help your leads do their final bit of research before becoming customers:
- Case studies
- Videos and webcasts
- Product literature
- Trial software downloads
- Live demo
Keep in mind that the final buyer’s stage is decision, but it’s also the first stage of the customer’s journey. Content isn’t just for the potential customers, it’s for existing customers, too. Ensure your customers succeed by providing them with everything they need, including documents on implementation, tutorials, best practices and getting started guides.
The worst thing you can do is spend lots of time, money and effort attracting and converting a customer and then disappoint him or her. So set yourself and your customers up for success from the beginning. Doing so will help turn an average customer into an evangelist, and evangelists are more likely to spread positive word-of-mouth and online reviews.
Don’t Forget Personas and Your Content Library
You know the different stages of the buyer’s journey, and you know the different types of content you need. Now you just have to create them. Executing on that can be an overwhelming undertaking. To make it easier, remember these two important parts.
Every company should have well-defined personas. After all, in order to reach your audience, you must know your audience. HubSpot provides a good guide for researching and generating these personas.
Once you’ve identified your personas, make sure you’re creating content that is relevant to them. You don’t want to use examples that don’t work or hit on pain points that are irrelevant.
A simple spreadsheet can help you identify the content you have and areas where you need to fill in the gaps. Start by listing all of your current content, identifying which persona(s) it addresses and where it falls along the buyer’s journey. You may have to tweak existing content if it any of the following apply:
- The content doesn’t clearly align with a stage.
- The content tries to do too much for the type of content.
- The content addresses the wrong audience.
Once you have a list of your current content by stage and persona, you can easily see in a spreadsheet format where you are lacking. During this process, don’t sell your current content short. If you have good content, you can strategically repurpose it to make your efforts go further. It may be as simple as reworking a white paper to address multiple audiences, or taking a webinar and using the subject matter across several blog posts.
Content for the Right People in the Right Place at the Right Time
Content marketing and the buyer’s journey comes down to ensuring that you have the right content available at the right time to the right people. (Tweet this!)
There are no coincidences in content marketing. If you’ve done your persona and keyword research and have aligned your content with the buyer’s journey and marketing funnel, then you’ll never be surprised when a visitor converts to a lead and a lead to an opportunity and an opportunity to a customer and a customer to an evangelist.
About The Author, Kathryn Sloop
Kathryn is a Client Content Editor, and she’s responsible for ensuring both clients and grammar are happy. She’s passionate about pugs, pigs and orcas, the proper use of “I” and “me” and her dog, Newman. You can follow Kathryn and Newman on Instagram at @NewmanSays.