How to Align Content Marketing With the Buyer's Journey
Everywhere you look, content marketing is present. You can't go anywhere online without touching at least some aspect of it. In fact, 88 percent of B2B marketers and 76 percent of B2C marketers plan on using some form of a content strategy in 2016.
Assuming you're a part of this percentage, it's important that we examine content marketing's role in the buyer's journey, so you can get a better idea of how to develop a strategy that's conducive to high conversions.
Content marketing's purpose.
We're all familiar with content marketing by now, but few of us have a concise understanding of what it really encompasses. Do you know what exactly content marketing is? Could you explain it?
By one definition, "Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience -- and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
Simply publishing content doesn't mean you have a content marketing strategy. In order to go from content publishing to content marketing, you need a relevant plan that "drives profitable customer action." In order to do this, you need to understand the buyer's journey.
The buyer's journey.
While different marketers have their own detailed versions of the buyer's journey, the most commonly used one includes three basic stages: Discovery, Consideration and Decision. Each of these stages consists of a handful of different steps.
- Discovery. The discovery stage is the very beginning of the journey. This is when the buyer recognizes they have an issue or pain point that needs to be solved and they begin to search for a solution. The discovery stage can either happen very quickly or it may take a very long time. It all depends on how fast the buyer acts and how much of a priority the issue is in their life.
- Consideration. Next comes the consideration stage of the journey. This is when the buyer explores different solutions and hones in on the one that they feel best solves their pain point. Again, this phase can be prolonged or short.
- Decision. Finally, there's the decision phase of the journey. During this phase, the buyer examines the solution they've identified and tries to justify a purchase decision. If all goes well, they end up making the selection. If they decide the solution isn't right for them, they revert back to the consideration stage to look at alternatives.
It should also be noted that properly mapping content to buyers has direct implications on your success with search engine optimization. John Bertino, founder of The Agency Guy, Inc. says "Google and other search engines want nothing more than to serve up results that fully and completely answer user search queries. There is arguably no better way for marketers to achieve this than by being crystal clear about what our various audience personas are thinking about and asking about during each stage of the buyer's journey. Effectively answering those queries by getting the right content in front of the right persona at the right time is essentially the holy grail of SEO."
With a clear understanding of the buyer's journey, you should be able to develop targeted marketing strategies that push people through this journey or funnel until they become paying customers.
Content marketing and the buyer's journey.
If you've never looked at content marketing through the lens of the buyer's journey, prepare to be amazed. This new vision will fundamentally change your approach to content marketing. Let's take a look:
1. The discovery stage.
During the discovery stage of the buyer's journey, the goal of content marketing is to create awareness of a specific problem and then align that problem with various issues that are related to business. The particular steps involved in this stage are "loosening of the status quo" and "committing to change."
In order to help customers rid themselves of the status quo and make a decision to change something, it's up to the marketer to create content that promotes awareness and drives urgency.
For example, let's consider a business that provides CMR software. During the discovery stage, their content revolves around identifying the pain points of businesses who are currently doing customer service manually, but no longer have the time or motivation to keep doing it. In other words, the content strategy is designed to help potential customers recognize the problem in front of them.
Recommended Content: During the discovery stage, there's a considerable amount of flexibility in terms of content formats. The most common types include research reports, editorial content, whitepapers, and statistical reports that support the pain points the buyer is experiencing.
2. The consideration stage.
During the consideration stage, the goal of content marketing is to help the buyer identify specific needs for solving the problem they identified in the discovery stage. The second goal is to then align that solution with specific business needs the individual buyer faces.
Using our previous example, the CRM software provider would begin to highlight their solution and how it satisfies the relevant pain points and needs. This is the point where the content marketing approach begins to tout the features of the product.
Recommended Content: During this stage, recommended content includes things like recorded product demonstrations, guides and case studies, comparison posts, and even podcasts.
3. The decision stage.
Now we come to the decision stage. If you've done a good job of guiding buyers through the discovery and consideration stages, you'll have convinced them to consider your solution as the one that will satisfy their pain point. Now you just have to close the deal.
During this stage, the focus is to validate why the product or solution is worth purchasing. This can be difficult when there are many alternatives, but remember that you've already survived the consideration stage.
Using our example, the CRM provider would now begin talking about value and how much the buyer would save in lost productivity time and excess wages.
Recommended Content: Depending on the industry you operate in and which type of product or service you're pushing, recommended content for this stage includes product comparison content, trial downloads, in-depth case studies, and live demos.
Lead the customer with appropriate content.
If there's one thing that sets an average content marketing strategy apart from an outstanding content marketing strategy, it's that the latter one understands the importance of developing content that's appropriate for the situation.
In terms of this article, this means posting content that's right for the stage your customers are currently in. Keep these tips in mind and you'll be able to develop a one-of-a-kind strategy that leads to high engagement and maximum conversions.
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