From awareness to post-purchase, no two buyer’s journey stages are the same.
Creating effective marketing content for your organization or business requires more than sharp writing skills or a keen eye for video. That’s because the best content isn’t simply a good read or well produced, it’s also highly strategic in terms of how it plays into the buyer’s journey of your potential customers.
When devising a content strategy, you’ll want to be sure to tailor content for each stage of that journey to expertly nurture and guide those prospects directly to a sale. It’s no easy task, but it makes closing deals a heck of a lot easier (and usually quite a bit faster). Your sales team will thank you, and so will your bottom line. Here’s how you do it.
Understanding the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey is a marketing framework defined as the multistage psychological process people go through on their way to making a purchasing decision. It’s similar to a sales funnel. The important difference is that, while the sales funnel framework approaches the process from the seller’s perspective, the buyer’s journey approaches it from the customer’s point of view. And that perspective is critical to communicating the sales messages that meet a person exactly where they are, so you can drive them to a purchase.
In general, there are four stages in every buyer’s journey that you need to keep in mind when creating content:
It’s likely that your business or organization has potential customers in every stage of the buyer’s journey at any moment. Your job is to help them along from one stage to the next. That means empathizing with their stage-specific wants and needs and offering them content that resonates accordingly. To get there, let’s take a look at how needs and wants change from stage to stage as well as the types of content that best address them.
People in the awareness stage are casually seeking high-level information. They may realize they have some ambiguous problem, that something isn’t quite right, or that there is room for change or growth, but they can’t clearly articulate what they want or need.
Content Objective: Help them concretely identify their opportunity to address a problem or achieve a goal; nurture them toward committing to making a change.
Content Mandatories: Your content at this stage should provide information on topics related to but not directly tied to your products or services. Think about your potential customers’ pain points at this stage. What high-level questions do they have about your industry and the type of work you do? Your content should provide answers.
You want to avoid pushing your products or services, because that can be off-putting to people in the awareness stage. Instead, use your awareness stage content to position your business or organization as a trustworthy source of information so that you don’t come across as sales hungry. By the same token, your call to action shouldn’t necessarily ask people to make a purchase just yet. Instead, you should direct people to additional pieces of your content for more information, some of which should be consideration stage content, or to reach out to you with questions. That will help nurture them along their journey toward a sale.
Content Types: The awareness stage lends itself to research reports, white papers, ebooks, checklists, written and video how-to guides, webinars, educational courses, infographics, and lighter, interactive content like quizzes. Whatever you create, you’ll want to be mindful of SEO and social media distribution. People in the awareness stage are, by definition, unaware of or less familiar with your organization or business, so it is unlikely that they will navigate to your content organically. Pay-per-click and social media ads targeted at your audience(s) will direct them to your content.
By the end of the awareness stage, potential customers are capable of describing their opportunity or problem and begin the process of finding possible solutions and weighing their options. They see potential for a purchase in their future but could just as easily back out if they aren’t won over by the options they find.
Content Objective: Present your product or service as a solution; demonstrate its merits to convince potential customers that it is the best option.
Content Mandatories: During this stage, you are building on your relationship with your potential customers. Compared to the awareness stage, they are more knowledgeable about their problems and goals, so you’ll want your content to dive deeper, either by providing more sophisticated information, being more actionable, or both. It is also key in this stage to explicitly tie your content to specific products or services that you offer. Your potential customers are officially shopping at this point, so you want to showcase what it is you can do for them. For your call to action, you can begin asking them to contact your sales team directly for a consultation or quote, or you can push them toward a product page.
Content Types: You can continue offering white papers, ebooks, and how-to guides as long as they talk about your product or services in addition to providing in-depth industry-level information. At this stage, you can also add demos, product data sheets and other product literature, charts that compare you to the competition, and product- and service-specific webinars.
At this point, your potential customers have gathered most of the information they need to make a decision and are ready to finalize their assessment and buy a solution—hopefully, yours.
Content Objective: Lock them in. Potential customers are close to committing and just need a push to see it through.
Content Mandatories: Decision-stage content is your hardest-sell content, and it’s often delivered by the sales team but not always. In some instances, you are making a final case to persuade your potential customers to buy your product or service. In other cases, they may already be convinced but need help justifying the purchase. Either way, your call to action can explicitly ask them to buy or redeem an offer.
Content Types: Robust case studies and glowing testimonials can help tip things in your favor. This is also the stage to offer detailed product literature, FAQs, and pricing information; and to make enticing offers like coupons, free consultations, free trials, free quotes, free diagnostic tools, and cost calculators.
Once buyers try your product or service, they either feel good about their purchase and become brand advocates (or at least stay brand neutral), or they could have an unpleasant experience and become brand adversaries.
Content Objective: Delight your customers with content that supports their purchase, so they are more likely to buy again and recommend your product or service to others.
Content Mandatories: Show gratitude and be supportive and coax them to an additional sale or future purchase, if appropriate. You want your customers to continually believe that they made the right decision purchasing from you, and you want their experience with you to stand out from the competition. That means adding special, branded touches wherever you can.
Content Types: If you’re an online retailer, order confirmations and thank-you emails are always a good idea. If you’re a product-focused company, package inserts, product instructions, manuals, and user guides are appropriate here. If you’re service oriented, a welcoming, meet-your-team email is a nice touch, as is content geared to explaining your processes, next steps, and what they can expect from your relationship in the coming days, weeks, and months. You could create content asking your customers for feedback and reviews. You could also send thought leadership pieces designed to keep your customers knowledgeable about industry trends. For promotional purposes, content designed to expose your customers to your other products and services is also appropriate. And while it may not be terribly sexy, never underestimate the power of an old-fashioned, post-purchase thank you note.
Now that you understand the needs and wants of each stage of the buyer’s journey, you’re ready to map your content accordingly. But before you go and create everything from scratch, audit the content you already have to see which stage it fits and if it can be repurposed for your new strategy. In some cases, slight tweaking or reformatting might be all it takes to make something old new again.