With the ever-increasing volume of new digital touchpoints increasing every year, marketers across sectors are grappling with how to reach audiences with the right content in the right place at the right time.
The customer journey
The customer journey is the path travelled by a customer from the point of first awareness through the multitude of interactions had with your brand en route to conversion and beyond. It represents a person’s complete personal experience of being your customer.
Every customer takes a slightly different route, but all encounter the same basic stages:
Awareness: The buyer learns about your brand but may not be aware of why they need your services.
Consideration: The buyer considers their options but is still researching other choices and discovering their pain points.
Decision: The buyer is ready to make a purchase but needs to be convinced that you’re the best option.
Retention: The buyer has made a purchase but might not be ready to make repeat purchases.
The opportunities of a marketing strategy based on a clear understanding of customer journey are manifold:
- Improved brand experience
- Better lead nurturing
- More targeted content marketing
- Better customer service
- Increased retention
- Brand advocacy
And so forth.
Getting to grips with your company’s customer journey requires the collection, application and organisation of data and experience.
The goal is to develop an inbound marketing strategy—to make content that makes customers want to visit your website, no matter what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in.
Why Content Marketing is Key
In this day and age, the buyer’s journey is more like a sieve than a funnel. It’s still useful for analysing buying trends, but it’s naive to assume that you’ll retain a customer’s attention throughout the entire buying process.
You’ll lose some customers midway through the journey and you might pick up others on the cusp of their decision-making; 60% of your customers are already at the consideration stage before they make contact with your sales team.
That’s where content comes in.
Content is the new sales pitch. It’s how you reach your audience, even when they’re not approaching you for a consultation. Carefully crafted content should act as a guide, leading customers deeper into the buyer’s journey without them even realising it…
Where to find the right insight
To create a detailed customer journey, you will need clear audience personas to work from – an understanding of who your audience is, their motivations, interests and pain points. A starting point is to speak to your internal teams – from sales to social. What are the common motivations behind a customer’s interaction with them? What questions or problems do they have?
In addition to personas, data is considered fundamental to building an understanding of the customer journey and can be collected through the use of CRM systems, analytics platforms and social listening tools.
Mapping Content to the Buyer’s Journey
There are myriad types of content nowadays. Some types of content work at certain stages, but other types are ubiquitous.
For example, the trusted blog post works well at any stage of the buyer’s journey. Short, topical blog posts are great at ushering new leads into the top of the funnel. Long-form, in-depth posts might appeal to users in the consideration or decision-making stages. A consistently updated blog with relevant industry news will entice your audience to check in regularly, ensuring retention.
Other mediums (e.g. videos and interactive content) are similarly flexible and can be applied to practically any stage.
Note: while the following list aims to be comprehensive, there will be a lot of unmentioned cross-over; many types of content can be crafted for more than one stage of the buyer’s journey.
Content aimed at potential customers in the awareness stage should make a loud and positive first impression. Oftentimes, you’re crafting content for total strangers, which means that it has to grab their attention quickly, and then entice them to keep reading, watching, or listening.
We’re no longer reliant on TV adverts and bricks-and-mortar stores to make our consumers aware of a product or service. Thanks to the internet, awareness can come from any device to anyone with an internet connection. This is both a help and a hindrance, as with the advent of the internet has come a surge in every brand vying for the attention of their audience along with a slew of others, making gaining awareness that much harder.
In this case, awareness content should aim to entertain or inform your audience (or both, ideally). Highly visual, succinct, and interactive content tends to win the most awareness. If possible, this is also the time to reveal some pain points of theirs that you can help alleviate.
Awareness stage content includes:
- Blog posts (short)
- Curated lists
- Editorial content
- Facebook or Youtube videos
- Guest blog posts
- Instagram posts/Tweets/Reddit posts
- Promoted posts
- Interactive lookbooks
- Live events
- Media coverage
Customers in this middle stage understand their pain points and they’re looking for solutions. You want to create content that gets your leads thinking about the next step, which means producing deeper content than the awareness stage content. This content might be entertaining, informative, persuasive, or convincing, or it might combine any number of these elements.
For example, demo videos and how-to guides provide both educational facts and convincing arguments, whereas case studies make for powerfully persuasive and convincing pieces of social proof.
Your goal here should be to answer questions, overcome objections, and equip your audience with all the information they need to make a purchase. You also want to build confidence in your brand, so that your solution remains a contender when your customer is ready to buy.
Consideration stage content includes:
- Analyst reports
- Blog posts (long-form)
- Case studies
- Company/industry news
- Data sheets
- Demo videos
- Expert guides
- Free samples
- How-to guides
- Interactive demos
- Photo galleries
- Product reviews
- Resource pages
- White papers
This is your last chance to swing a sale your way, after a buyer has educated themselves and sits poised to make a purchase. Content in this stage aims to persuade or convince your audience. You already know they’re interested—you just want to set their mind at ease.
Social proof, such as user ratings and customer testimonials, goes a long way in this stage. Content that lets your customers calculate exact costs and ROI is also powerful, which is where interactive solution planners and calculators come in handy.
Your goal here is to overcome any final objections and resolve lingering feelings of risk. You want to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that your solution will solve their problem and showcase why it outstrips your competitors’ solutions.
Decision stage content includes:
- Blog posts (in-depth)
- Celebrity/influencer endorsements
- Customer testimonials
- Estimates and quotes
- Feature guides
- Free trials
- Instructional videos
- Performance reports
- Pricing guides
- Product comparisons
- Reference checklists
- ROI calculators
- Solution planners
- Trend reports
Finally, one of the most overlooked stages in content marketing is the stage that happens after you land a sale. If your customers had a positive experience, they should no longer need very much convincing—but you need to provide enough value to make them want to return. This means maintaining a consistently valuable content experience.
Retention stage content includes:
- Community forums
- Company/industry news
- Loyalty discounts
- Plug ins
- Scheduled blog posts
- User-generated content
How to Use Your Content
Now that you have some ideas of what types of content are out there, don’t let them be a “one then done” deal. Take your long-form assets and repurpose them into material that will reach a wider audience, and span more than one stage of the buyer’s journey.
For example, you can take an e-book or white paper and:
- Block out the content sections for a series of blog posts.
- Turn the stats into an infographic.
- Stick the most eye-catching information into a quiz.
Or you might repurpose your webinars, if you…
- Approach the same topic from a different angle in a video or podcast series.
- Turn your main points into an interactive assessment.
- Build a comprehensive Q&A section, addressing your audience’s concerns.
And with your product specs and price sheets, you can always…
- Offer comprehensive calculators.
- Create customer checklists.
- Transform the information into a comparative review or blog post.
With so many options available and so many ways to repurpose, content marketing should never be boring. But, to be clear, not just any content will do…
You need well-produced, high-value content that purposefully appeals to your customers and encourages them to move to the next stage of the decision funnel. High-value content is content that fills a gap in your industry, satisfies a need and addresses your customers’ pain points. No matter what kind of content you choose, make sure that quality is your top priority.