As a business owner, creating demand is always on your mind. One of the most efficient ways to do that is to understand who your customer is and what their thought process is when making a purchase decision. Once you understand this, you can provide the information your customer looks for at exactly the right time. In other words, you will be able to align your content marketing strategy with your customer's journey.
What Is a Customer Journey?
A customer journey, also known as a buyer's journey (in B2B contexts) describes the decision-making process of a customer from the moment they realize they have a problem, to the moment they purchase a solution. This path can consist of many stages, depending on the type of business and the target audience. However, in general, there are three stages:
- Awareness stage – the customer becomes aware of their problem
- Consideration stage – they consider various types of potential solutions for their problem
- Decision stage – they decide on the type of solution, and now they are looking for the right provider of the solution
Creating a customer journey map provides some crucial insights. In each stage, your customer is interested in different things. In the awareness stage, they want to define and describe their problem. At this point, they google things such as "Why are my plants dying?", "What causes back pain?", "My cat's fur is falling off", etc.
They intend to get to know their problem, so they could tackle it correctly in the next stage when they are searching for options. Their questions dramatically change once they know what the problem is. Now they are looking for the most suitable solution type, what works the best for their particular problem, researching the pros and cons of each, etc.
In the final stage, when they know the type of solution they are after, they want to know where to get it, the costs, ease of use, etc. to decide which company is the best for them.
Once you know these questions, it's time to look at your content marketing strategies for various channels and audit your content to cater to your potential customers.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves strategic and structured creation of various types and forms of content for different marketing channels. It entails creating a marketing plan with a focus on the target audience, their needs, challenges, pain points, and goals, as well as the overall business goals.
As you can see, when creating content for promoting your product or service, it's important to keep in mind your buyer persona. Topics to cover are not chosen randomly, but based on the unique needs of your persona. The goal of content marketing should be to provide the right information at a time when your customer is looking for it.
Why Should You Align Your Content Marketing Strategy with a Buyer's Journey?
As you can see, attracting and engaging your potential customers is not as simple as putting out blog content and hoping for the best. The content you provide should be high-quality and timed correctly – shown to your customers when they require it. This is why combining your understanding of the buyer's journey and content marketing is essential. You'll be able to achieve the following:
- Answer different questions a buyer has in each stage – once you create the buyer's journey map, you'll know the exact questions your buyer has in each stage. This allows you to plan your content around these questions and give answers in appropriate formats
- Provide the type of value they’re looking for in each stage – if your buyer gets useful information every time they visit your website or social media channels, they will start to see you as a reliable and relevant source of information. Providing value means being useful and helpful. Studies have shown that if customers perceive your information as helpful, the degree of purchase ease is 2.8x higher.
- Being helpful and providing relevant info helps you build connections with your audience – providing value will facilitate the creation of a high-quality brand relationship. Building trust with audience members is not an easy task, especially in highly competitive market environments. If you're not just trying to sell something to them every chance you get, but instead provide help, this will help you develop more stable and permanent connections.
- Maximize efficiency in the short amount of time you get with your customers – sales reps have only 5% of their customer's time in the B2B buyer's journey. The rest of the time they spend identifying the problem, exploring solutions, selecting suppliers, etc. so you need to be present and helpful during these stages as well.
How to Align Content Marketing Strategy with Buyer's Journey?
If you are just starting out with your website, and don't have content yet, you can make sure you're marketing content in relation to the buyer's journey from the start. However, if you already have a lot of content out there, don't fret. You will need to do a bit more work, but a comprehensive content audit will get you on the right path. So let's look at the steps to take.
1 - Map Out the Buyer's Journey
The first step is mapping out the customer's or buyer's journey. It begins with defining the buyer persona. This will give you a lot of information. Who they are, what they need, what their pain point is, their goal, what they do, read, where they find the information they're after, etc.
Next is working on each stage of the journey and discovering questions they ask. This will tell you what they want to learn, which will lead you to the topics you need to cover to provide value in each stage.
2 - Marketing Channels for Each Stage of the Buyer's Journey
Content marketing isn't just about providing high-quality content at the right time. It's also important where this content is published. This is why you should define the digital marketing channels you will use, and plan which channel will be suitable in which stage.
The choice of marketing channels will depend on multiple factors: your buyer persona, your resources (time and money you can spend on building and managing multiple channels), your business, and of course, the phases of the journey. Here are some channels you can consider in every stage
- Awareness stage: blog, social media, search engines
- Consideration stage: email, social media, remarketing/retargeting
- Decision stage: email, paid search
Of course, you can reuse different channels in various stages. There's no one right template to follow. Once you determine where you find your buyers and what channels work the best for your business, stick to them and discover content types that work best there.
3 - Create Content for Each Stage of the Buyer's Journey
Now that you are familiar with your buyer persona, their buying process, and the channels that will work best for your company, you can start working on content creation. To determine which content types and formats will work, you need to know the high-level goals your customers have in each stage
Content for the Awareness stage
At the top of the sales funnel, your customer is seeking information, education, and answers about their problem.
Here are some ideas for the content formats to use in this stage: blog posts, social media posts, e-books, videos, webinars, checklists, and tip sheets.
Your goal should be to provide as much value in the form of educational posts. Answer the questions your customers have about their problem, provide high-quality information, and establish yourself as a reliable source. At the top of the funnel, there are no guarantees that the reader will actually become your customer. However, if your content reaches your target audience, those who do find value in it will likely move into the next stage.
Content for the Consideration stage
In the middle, the customer is looking for an overview of all the options, comparisons, best for articles, use cases, etc.
As for the content format, in this stage, you can use comparison guides, comparison videos, case studies, etc.
When your customer reaches the middle of the funnel, it means you managed to get their attention. Your content should leverage that to move them forward in the buyer's journey. By displaying your solution in various ways, you're allowing your customer to get an in-depth understanding of all the options, and ultimately make the best decision for themselves.
Some of them will decide that your solution is not for them, which is also good for your business. This means that only those who can benefit from your offer (and who will potentially become your promoters) will move on to the next stage, avoiding excessive customer churn.
Content for the decision stage
Once they are ready to make a purchasing decision, they are interested in what is necessary to become a customer. This entails everything from where they need to go to make a purchase, what they need to do, if they need anything additional to use the product or service, etc.
At the bottom of the funnel, you should offer demos, trials, consultations, coupons, etc. You want to provide additional value that will tip the scales in your favor and get the customer to choose you instead of your competitor. Remember, the purchase is not done yet, so don't forget to provide this final incentive in a form of a good offer or strategically placed piece of content to get the customer to buy from you.
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines. Your funnel can and probably will look different since it's created based on your target audience, business model, offer, etc. This is why learning about your buyer persona is crucial. Only when you understand their unique purchase decision process, will you be able to create effective, targeted content that will address your customer and their pain points in every stage.
Content marketing is a great tool to use to reach your audience during various stages of the customer journey. To achieve the best results, your content should follow the customer journey map. This is essential for an effective inbound marketing strategy. Finding a message that resonates with your customers, and delivering it in the right format and via the most effective channels, ultimately creates demand and allows you to build quality, lasting relationships with your audience members. Customer satisfaction comes first, and this is the recipe for providing value!