Your potential customers don't land on your website and make the purchase right away. They go through different stages - the buyer's journey - to make a purchase decision. At every stage, they have different questions which require different answers. You can give these answers in various formats, but not all are equally effective. If you want to improve your content marketing efforts, learn about which types of content work for different customer journey stages.
Why Align Content with Customer Journey Stages
How do you come up with topics to promote your business? Are you doing keyword research and looking at difficulty and volume? Are you monitoring your competition and covering the same topics they are? Or do you look for content gaps to try your luck?
All these are good ways to come up with content topics. But they are leaving out one crucial thing - your customer. Your customers have unique problems, challenges, questions, and goals, and your priority should be addressing them, not the ranking algorithm or your competition.
Once you align the information you provide with what your customers want to learn, they will recognize your value. If your goal is to build a loyal customer base, creating a content strategy aligned with their journey is the best way.
Types of Content for Each Stage of the Funnel
You should view the customer journey as a funnel. In general, there are three main parts of the funnel:
- Top of the funnel (TOFU) or the awareness stage
- Middle of the funnel (MOFU) or the consideration stage
- Bottom of the funnel (BOFU) or the decision stage
At the top of the funnel, customers seek answers to their problems. Your goal is to attract their attention and provide value through your content. This is how they will discover your company.
In the middle, they are exploring solutions and looking for the right one. Your goal is to provide as much information as possible to help them make the right decision, whether that includes your offer or not.
Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, the customers decide on the solution provider. They're gathering the final pieces of information necessary for them to make a purchase. Your goal is to tip the scales in your favor and get them to choose your offer.
Now that you know what your customer's goals are in each stage, it's time to create a content marketing strategy. High-quality content drives success in each stage. However, you need to choose the appropriate format to deliver this high-quality information. Certain types of content formats work better in a particular stage. Let's look at each stage individually and discuss content formats that are proven to work.
Content for the Awareness stage
Blogs are a great way to provide all necessary, in-depth information about a particular topic and truly bring value and help your customers. Furthermore, posting a blog on your website puts your content out there to be crawled by search engines and become findable for your target audience. SEO should be a priority for driving traffic if you're playing the long game. Blogs are highly effective in the awareness stage (move leads to the next stage in 72% of cases). "How To" guides specifically showed success in attracting traffic at this stage.
The video format proved to be effective as well. You can create video tutorials (move leads to the next stage in 23% of cases) to explain step-by-step how to achieve something, do interviews (with experts on the topic or people who have relevant experience to share), etc. Visual video content requires more resources, but it pays off in the long run since they bring leads to the next stage in 66% of cases.
Podcasts are a great way to gather a community of people interested in a particular topic and build trust. Podcasts can cover issues in various ways - through stories, interviews, or just dialogs. They are effective (60%) in capturing attention and making your lead interested in taking the next step.
In 50% of cases, interactive content gets your audience to the next stage. Creating quizzes they can take part in, polls, and asking for thoughts and opinions on various topics will engage your audience and develop a relationship with them. This is especially true on social media, where engagement is one of the essential factors that influence your channel's reach. All social media platforms offer various ways to engage with your customers and entice them to participate.
Infographics are another visual way to represent information. One significant benefit of infographics is that a high-quality, helpful infographic will get shared around and used by others. Make sure you always brand the visuals you use so you can reap the benefits of them being reused and shared.
Email newsletters are something your customers choose to subscribe to and are already a great sign since they are interested in what you have to say. They allow you access to their inboxes, which is one of the most important steps you want to achieve to stay in contact with your audience. Sending them the latest news about your company, product, or service will help you move them through the funnel.
Webinars are a great way to share information and interact with viewers. Of course, webinars can be pre-filmed and played, but you can also host them on platforms where viewers can ask questions and participate in a conversation. Social media has also made this more accessible; many use the "live" feature on various social media platforms to host webinars. They are efficient in the awareness stage, but they show significantly more results in the consideration stage when customers start learning about solutions and finding the best one for themselves.
E-books have shown to be very effective in both the awareness and the consideration stages, with slightly more success in the latter. They are a great way to cover all aspects of a topic and are often used as downloadable content. A free ebook can provide you with something valuable - an email address.
Virtual or in-person events are a great way to reach your prospects and communicate with them. A piece of content can do a lot, but meaningful connections are easier when communicating with people in real life. A text or a video can evoke emotions, but actual experiences can be more impactful. In 45% of cases, events are efficient when the goal is to make a purchase.
A whitepaper is an opportunity to offer something unique to your audience. The unique content you provide is usually a report or a guide based on the research/work your company did. It should contain information that you can't find anywhere else to be valuable. This content type will require more effort and resources from your company, but it contributes to positioning yourself as an authority on the topic.
A case study allows you to present qualitative and quantitative data on the solution you offer, which will serve as an overview of the solution and proof that it works. Case studies work equally well in the middle and bottom of the funnel, showing results crucial to making a decision.
Pro tip: Take advantage of content repurposing. You can use pieces of content from the consideration stage, such as snippets from webinars posted on social media, in the awareness stage. You can repurpose blog posts into social media posts or write video scripts based on them. Not every piece of content is created out of thin air. Use one piece of content on multiple channels and in various formats. Just make sure to optimize repurposed content for your posting platform. For example, post short snippets from a webinar on social media instead of 60 minutes of recording.
Try before you buy! Plenty of prospects think like this. Whether it's a test drive of a car, or tasting cheese before you commit to the entire piece, trying will ensure that the customers who make a purchase will be satisfied. If you're selling software, you can offer a free version with limited features; if it's a service, you can do a demo.
Offering a no-cost consultation may be a nudge that a prospect needs to make the final decision. With all their questions answered, there will be less anxiety and increased chances of closing a sale.
Testimonials are another way to show results. People tend to believe others, so recommendations and authentic testimonials will go a long way in showing that your existing customers made the right decision. Use customer-generated content as the ultimate proof that your solution work.
Pro tip: Remember to include a solid call to action in your content. Tell your customers what to do next!
Although we talked about three main stages of every customer journey, most funnels will have additional stages depending on the company, business model, type of offer, buyer personas, etc. A stage commonly used in the buyer's journey is the stage after the purchase decision. Once a prospect becomes a customer, the work is not done. Your existing customers are the easiest to sell to again, so you should remember them.
Your customers will become loyal advocates of your company if the decision they initially made is the right one. For that to happen, they need to use the product in the best way possible. Here are some content types to activate your customers after they make a purchase.
Email is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and ensure they are using the product and doing it correctly. You can use email to send product guides, helpful tips, and best practices, answer any questions, send notifications, and other offers. Via email, you can develop and maintain a relationship with your customers. Once a new offer may suit them, they will be more open to it if you build a quality connection.
Social media facilitates creating and engaging with a community. You can use it to connect with your customer base, but they can also communicate with each other.
FAQ and Product Guides
It's vital that your customers understand every aspect of your product and how to use it to their advantage. Pages such as How-tos, guides, and FAQs will ensure they can easily find instructions on how to reach their goals.
Besides instructional pages, you must always have an open line of communication with your customers. They need to be able to reach you via live chat, email support, or social media. Customer support will usually have answers ready, and all questions that keep repeating can also be answered in the FAQ and guides sections.
Putting It All Together - How to Connect the Content Through the Funnel
Creating content for each funnel stage will bring results only if it all makes sense and flows naturally. Your customers need to be guided through the content in a logical way that's useful for them. Here are some ways to do this:
- Internal linking is crucial for SEO, but you should develop an internal linking strategy that will guide prospects from one piece of content to another relevant piece. It's all about the value you can provide.
- Suggested content – don't forget to suggest blog content in other ways besides internal linking. You can use post widgets or summary blocks to suggest posts to your audience.
- Videos in blogs – create videos based on blogs, and don't forget to add them to the blogs. Some people prefer visual content, and you can carefully place your product or service into the video to guide them to the next stage.
- Email follow-ups – 77% of marketers surveyed by SEMrush said personalized emails with relevant content and offers effectively get prospects to the next stage.
Provide your customers with what they need when they need it. That's the entire philosophy behind content marketing aligned with the customer journey. Keep in mind that the content formats we recommend for each stage are just that - recommendations. Once you create your buyer persona and map their journey, you will discover what works for your unique customers. Don't stick to guidelines blindly without considering your data. Use this guide as a starting point to find out what works best for your business.