How to Create Content for Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
No one wakes up in the morning to the thought of “I’m going to buy something today.” Instead, they go through a path to purchase that includes research and evaluation before committing to a sales call.
That path is called the buyer’s journey because consumers are more informed and more empowered than ever before, it’s important to deeply understand your buyer persona and the journey they make in order to create content that moves them forward along that path.
Understanding the Buyer’s Journey in Content Marketing.
In most cases, with the exception of impulse buys, an individual begins their buyer’s journey in an “unaware stage.” They likely fit the demographics of your ideal client (your target audience), but they are not aware of your product or in need of it.
However, they may experience a triggering event that changes their situation or a pain that needs to be solved. This kicks off their buyer’s journey.
When you don’t have a complete understanding of your audience, a disconnect exists between your business and your potential customers. For content marketers, this usually means you’re putting out content that does not address the informational needs of your target audience.
To serve the right content, it’s is important to understand target audience in and out: how they think, the answers they seek, and the path they tend to take to find a solution. Once you have a solid idea of your target audience’s informational needs, you can begin developing your content strategy by mapping your content onto the various stages of the buyer’s journey.
Developing the buyer’s journey for your business is the first step to creating content that resonates with your buyer at each stage of your sales funnel.
What is a Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel (also known as marketing funnel) describes the different stages a customer goes through leading up to their purchase, from landing at your website for the first time to subscribing to your email list and talking to your sales associate.
The idea is simple. The top of the funnel represents the customer in their information-gathering stage; they are only beginning to research your product or service. The ‘colder’ they are, the more likely you are to lose them as prospects unless they are persuaded to move further down the funnel.
Typically, it’s a marketer’s job to attract the buyer persona in the early stages of their journey and then hand off qualified prospects to your sales team to move them towards the purchasing decision and finalize the sales call. Once they become a customer, it is the job of the sales team to delight and retain them.
The funnel is a useful tool when used in the context of the buyer’s journey. However, keep in mind that the funnel has one issue: it conceptualizes the customer as the output. As a result, the path to purchase is conceptualized as fragmented and linear, with distinct events happening at each stage. In reality, however, that is not the case.
Marketing Funnel Stages.
Whether you subscribe to the funnel or the flywheel methodology, earning business from your prospects happens in three stages:
- Attracting strangers
- Engaging prospects
- Delighting customers
To ‘process’ the buyer at each stage of their journey, you should create content that performs all these functions and put it out on the appropriate channels for each stage.
The internet has made it easier for marketers (and salespeople) to engage customers at the various stages of their journey using content marketing. That’s one of the main reasons that 60% of marketers consider content as ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ to their overall strategy.
However, it can be challenging to create the right content, for the right people, at the right time.
Marketing Channels for Each Stage of the Funnel.
Building an effective content strategy starts with identifying the channels which will be most appropriate for each stage of the sales funnel.
Marketing Channels for the Attract Stage.
Remember, a large majority of your prospects may even be in the awareness stage of their buyer’s journey when you begin to attract them. That means your goal is to solve for their pains/problems by creating content they can easily discover and consume.
At this point, a buyer is trying to solve problems, get an answer, or meet a need. They’re looking for top-level educational content to help direct them to a solution, like blog posts, social content, and ebooks. Their value as a lead is low because there’s no guarantee that they’ll buy from you. But those who find your content helpful and interesting may journey on to the middle of the funnel.
The ideal channels for your attract stage may include:
- Search Engine Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
Marketing Channels for the Engage Stage.
When someone moves into the middle of your funnel, it means you’ve captured their attention. They know they have a problem that has to be solved, and now they’re trying to discover the best solution. The need for a future purchase commitment creeps up as they’re evaluation their options.
While the top of the funnel is designed to educate a prospect, this is the stage where you want to show why your solutions in particular are the best fit.
(You also want to help people determine if they’re not a good fit, which will be very important later for healthy customer retention. If you convince customers to buy who aren’t a good fit for your business in the long run, you could be shooting yourself in the foot in the form of high churn rate later.)
The middle of the funnel is typically a point of extended engagement where you’re nurturing a lead, building a relationship, and establishing trust between the audience and your brand.
The ideal channels for your engage stage may include:
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
You also need to engage prospects at the bottom of your funnel.
The bottom of the funnel is where someone is making the actual purchase decision. They’re ready to buy, but that still doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to buy from you. That’s the last choice they have to make: Where do they get the solution they’re seeking?
In most cases, leads at the bottom of your funnel just need that final nudge and that compelling call-to-action to get them to make a purchase decision. The right offer and content at this stage can have a dramatic impact on lifting your conversions.
You might also consider sales outreach to engage qualified prospects and continue to engage them through personalization and contextual marketing.
Marketing Channels for the Delight Stage.
Marketing shouldn’t stop once someone becomes a customer. Cultivating a relationship with your customer beyond the sale can lead to higher customer lifetime value as well as word-of-mouth referrals and more.
The key here is to go above and beyond their expectations and provide a customer experience that’s easy and frictionless.
The ideal channels for your delight stage may include:
- Email Marketing
- Self-Service Channels Such as Knowledge Bases
- Live Chat and Chatbots for Service
- Loyalty Programs
On the surface, this process seems really linear, but you can also target multiple stages of the buyer’s journey across channels.
For example, you may still be able to attract someone in the consideration stage or delight someone who isn’t a customer yet. Your knowledge base might convince someone in the consideration stage to buy since they perceive that you have great service, or someone in the awareness stage could engage your chatbot to find the content they need.
One of the joys of content marketing is thinking outside the box.
Creating Content for Each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey
Once you have an idea of who your buyer persona is and what channels will work best for your business, you can begin creating content for your buyer at different stages and tailor that content per channel.
Doing so can help you map your content to the relevant stages of the buyer’s journey to make your funnel.
- Top of the Funnel: The “awareness” stage, where people looking for answers, resources, education, research data, opinions, and insight.
- Middle of the Funnel: The “evaluation” stage, where people are doing heavy research on whether or not your product or service is a good fit for them.
- Bottom of the Funnel: The “purchase” stage, where people are figuring out exactly what it would take to become a customer.
Your funnel may look very different depending on factors like your industry, business model, product, pricing, and audience. Some B2C customers, for example, spend very little time in the middle of the funnel compared to B2B customers that require far more nurturing, engagement, and relationship development before a purchase is made. A $50 pair of sneakers, for instance, requires a lot less handholding when it comes to making purchase decisions than a $10,000 business software investment.
Every business has a unique sales funnel, sculpted and designed around their buyer’s journey. It’s a recipe that can’t necessarily be replicated from one business to another.
That said, the general approach remains the same: Understand your audience, develop your funnel around your industry and audience intent, and create a documented content marketing strategy that maps custom content specifically to each phase of their journey through the funnel.
Do it well, and this process will have the greatest possible impact on your customer relationships, as well as the greatest possible lift in your overall conversions.
Darya is a professional content writer, blogger, and content strategist. Her specialties include all things digital marketing such as SEO, content marketing, and social media strategy. When she is not keeping up to speed with the latest digital marketing trends, you can find her perusing Thesaurus to explore new avenues of verbal expression.