In recent years, content marketing has grown explosively in importance, and as a marketer, it’s crucial that you understand the buyer’s journey and how you can use it to guide your content strategy and development.
The only way you’ll be able to win the battle for shoppers online is by providing them with relevant content at the right time.
This means that your content should match the stage of the customer experience that they’re in when they convert into a lead or a sale.
We hear these buzzwords every year:
- Customer journey
- Buyer’s journey
- Marketing funnel
- Sales funnel
But whatever term you decide to call it, it’s important that you understand the specific process so that you can create a successful content marketing strategy that caters to each stage and helps push customers along to the next one.
Without a firm understanding of this journey, it will be very hard for you to create the right type of content for your readers – let alone map it to each stage of the journey correctly.
What Exactly is The Customer Journey?
Although many marketers have different variations of this process, there are four benchmarks that remain similar across all of them:
Stage 1 in the Customer Journey: Awareness
This is when someone initially discovers your brand, product, or service.
It’s the top of the funnel and where the vast majority of your content should be centered. Your focus should be to capture their attention and convince them to return to your website.
At this particular stage, your prospects realize that they have a problem, and they are open to possible solutions. This is where they start to perform research so that they can have a clearer understanding of the issue.
Right now the buyers are not likely to be aware of your business or product, which means that you need to show them how you can help them solve their problem with your product or service.
Your content has to be focused on their pain points and it needs to represent your company as an expert in the field.
The types of content that are ideal for this stage include:
- Blog posts
- Social posts
- Research studies
- Educational content
Stage 2 in the Customer Journey: Consideration
At the consideration stage, you need to ensure that your content goes more in-depth into answering your audience’s questions and helping them solve their problems.
Whenever appropriate, mention how your product or service helps to solve those issues as well.
At this point, buyers now have a clearly defined problem or need, and they are considering the options that are available to them.
While they may, by now, be aware that you, your business, or product offers a solution, it doesn’t mean that they are ready to make a commitment yet.
For them, this stage is all about evaluating their potential options, comparing the different prices, and finding out which ones are most likely to solve their problems and fulfill their needs.
The types of content that are most relevant at the consideration stage include:
- Comparison posts
- Analytics reports
- Expert guides
- Case studies
Stage 3 in the Customer Journey: Decision
Here, your lead has come to a decision concerning which product or service they will go with, and it’s the perfect time to make your sales pitch.
You need to relinquish any doubts that they might have about spending their money on your offerings by using targeted content that dispels those fears.
Your content at this stage needs to be brand-specific as they may still be gathering more information to help reinforce their preferred option. You need to ensure that you highlight your unique value proposition as well as your competitive advantages.
Typical content at the Decision stage includes the following:
- Product reviews
- Product comparisons
- Vendor comparisons
- Product demonstrations
- Case studies
Stage 4 in the Customer Journey: Loyalty
This is the fourth and final stage of your customer journey.
It’s where your customers have finally made a purchase from you, but if you hope to grow your business, then you cannot let this be where your content marketing ends.
A lot of customers will be interested in guides and best practices to ensure that they get the most out of your product or service.
Creating content for this stage of the buyer’s journey ensures that you not only develop and improve your relationship with your customer, but that you also encourage brand loyalty and generate more advocates for your product.
The content that you create for this stage will continually demonstrate your expertise, helping you remain top-of-mind long after your customer’s purchase.
By the way, customer advocates (you know, those people who have great things to say about you, your business, and your product, even though you don’t pay them…) are arguably the most powerful marketing resource you can acquire.
If you want to increase their numbers, then you have to make sure that your content builds trust as well as a strong sense of community.
The best types of content that keep your customers engaged are:
- User guides
- Articles focused on products
- Product updates
- Newsletters for customers
- Promotions and contests
- Loyalty programs
- Details of news and events
Understanding Your Audience’s Needs
Your content will never make an impact if no one can actually find it (or if they find it at the wrong time…)
The vast majority of buyers start their journey on Google, and most of those queries are non-branded searches, which means that your prospects are looking to answer their everyday questions and solve problems.
But, they aren’t looking for your particular product yet because they don’t know your brand… yet.
The first thing you must do in the quest to create the best content for each stage of the journey is to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes, instead of thinking from the point of view of your business brand.
You have to treat your target buyer persona as if it’s an actual person, as opposed to a mere sale.
Consider the following:
- What questions do they have?
- What are their pain points?
- What are their needs?
- What are their main interests?
- What other interests do they have that may not be related to your specific product?
If you find yourself shrugging your shoulders at this moment, then it’s time to go back and start working on developing your buyer persona(s).
It’s going to be impossible to create content that speaks to your audience if you don’t understand them fully.
Creating The Right Type Of Content
Now that you have a firm grasp on what your audience has in common, you can now work on developing the type of content that they are actually searching for online.
But keep in mind that not every piece of content that you create has to directly tie back to the products or services that you offer.
Your readers will appreciate any helpful information that you provide them, but more importantly, they will quickly grow to embrace a relationship with your brand, which means that when the time comes for them to make a purchase, your brand will be the first one they think of as a trusted partner.
Now it’s time to take a closer look at the progression of the customer journey.
Here are some examples of the types of content you can create:
- Awareness – ‘Fun and Playful Car Games For Kids’
- Consideration – ‘Best New Tech Features in 2019 SUV’
- Decision – ‘5 Reasons Why The BMW X5 Is The Best Car For Your Family’
- Loyalty – ‘3 Simple Hacks To Keep A Black Car Shiny’
Can you see how each of these topics is a great fit for the corresponding stage of the customer’s journey?
If you were to present a customer at the awareness stage with the article titled ‘Best New Technology in the 2019 SUV’, it wouldn’t have the desired impact.
It’s vital to get this right because your audience has different needs at the different stages of the journey. Using the above example, they aren’t likely to be interested in any specific car model if they are at the awareness stage.
Instead, they want to find answers to typical, everyday questions and purchasing a car might not be on the radar yet.
However, as they continue their journey, they see content from your brand which establishes a trusting relationship moving forward.
No matter what industry you’re in, your readers have an endless list of questions that are scattered throughout the entire customer journey, and if they’re looking for answers but cannot find them on your site, they will leave and find a website that has them.
It’s that simple.
How To Eliminate Content Gaps On Your Blog
If you already have tons of posts on your blog, and you’re not sure if you’ve covered all the important aspects then you have to take steps to fill all those gaps.
You cannot afford to leave any questions unanswered in the customer’s journey, otherwise, prospects will have no option but to leave your site to find the solutions to their problems somewhere else.
So, let’s assume that you’ve started a content marketing strategy of your own. You have lots of traffic flowing to your site and a few leads coming in.
However, you just can’t seem to be able to close the sale. This is something that a lot of marketers struggle within their businesses, and there is a simple solution to this issue.
If you’re not making any conversions from leads to customers, it simply means that there is a misalignment between the content that you have available, and the progression of your customer’s journey.
What you need to do in order to achieve success in your content marketing campaign is to properly map your content to your customers.
Gaps can easily be identified by the search engines.
All search engines have one goal, and that is to serve up results that completely and fully answer the user’s search query.
This means that as a marketer, there isn’t a better way to get this done than by being very clear about what your various audience personas think and ask about during each and every stage of the buyer’s journey.
This will help you get the right content (that answers those queries) in front of the right personas (who are asking the questions), at the right time in their customer journey – and that’s the holy grail of search engine optimization.
It’s understandable that the salesperson in you wants to immediately focus on getting people to shop on your site, and that it can be really hard to spend time, money, and effort on stuff that doesn’t sell your products or services directly.
But, if you only ever publish ‘deal-closing’ types of content, then you will actually lessen your chances of getting visitors to convert on your site, as most of them simply won’t be ready to make a purchasing decision.
While it’s not set in stone, a general rule of thumb is for you to allocate 80% of all the content that you create to the first two stages of the customer journey: awareness and consideration.
You can then use the other 20% to help your audience make a buying decision as well as for crafting loyalty-boosting content.
Remember, not all journeys are completed at the same speed.
Some are fast, and others are slow. Depending on which industry you’re in, and how your customer journey is mapped, the time your audience takes to get from awareness to loyalty may vary.
Other factors that are going to influence each journey include the type of content that you have available for your audience, as well as how you promote that content (whether you do so traditionally or digitally).
This blog focuses more on the digital aspect of marketing, and I cannot state enough times just how vital it is that you establish an effective digital marketing strategy and back it up with the measurement of key metrics at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
So get started right now!
Take a look at the content that you currently have on your blog and create a plan for how you can fill in the gaps with content that drives conversions.
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Updated: Originally published December 18th 2018