Every potential customer goes on a buyer’s journey before becoming a customer. From their first brushes with your business until their ultimate decision to become a client, quality content is the fuel that keeps the journey moving. Even traditional ad campaigns use content to ferry curious consumers along their buying journey.
However, where traditional ad campaigns functioned as signposts randomly scattered across the landscape, modern content marketing acts as a moving sidewalk, carrying your future clients on a smooth, effortless buying journey. With quality content to guide the way, you can decrease your marketing costs by 62 percent while tripling the number of leads generated, helping more customers arrive at your promised land.
Finding the Sidewalk: Awareness
Before a potential customer decides to turn to your business, they must first be aware of their problems. All sales are inherently problem-driven; in starting the buyer’s journey, each customer is trying to solve a problem. In the first stage of the journey, the Awareness stage, your buyers will gradually become aware that they have a problem and will begin taking steps to solve it.
Your content marketing strategy for customers in the Awareness stage of the buyer’s journey needs to reflect the mindset of these customers. You’re unlikely to close any sales with a customer in this stage of the journey, but your content can help them decide to start the journey that may ultimately end with them becoming a client. Focus on creating content that can reach a broad audience while addressing the types of problems that your company solves.
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Blog posts, eBooks, editorials and white papers are some of the most effective digital marketing tools to reach customers at this stage of their journey. When creating these materials, avoid overly sales-focused language. More than 70 percent of readers identify sales language as off-putting, so rather than trying to convert customers right away, focus on creating quality content. You need to offer potential customers real value with these materials, sharing useful research or unique insights that your company has discovered. A company that provides cloud computing services could share a blog post about novel uses for cloud computing, for example.
When preparing your digital marketing materials, make sure that your company is mentioned, but don’t spend a lot of time positioning your company as the best solution. Simply producing content is enough to get your company’s name out there; companies that invest in content creation have more than 400 percent more search results linked to them.
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Stepping onto the Sidewalk: Consideration
By the end of the Awareness stage, potential customers will define their problem and have a rough idea of the shape of their solution. If your Awareness content has done its job, you’ll have delivered the customer to the start of your content sidewalk with the intention to buy. By helping the customer define their problem, you’ve already given some value to them and will have earned the right to ride along with the customer in the Consideration stage.
Customers in this stage of the buyer’s journey search for content that will help them consider all of their options and decide upon the shape of their solution. To nurture these customers along their journey, provide content that dives into the details of your products and solutions. White papers and expert opinions continue to deliver excellent value to customers at this stage, but you should also provide an in-depth product description, video presentations, and other long-form content. Case studies are especially compelling; 78 percent of buyers read case studies before making a purchasing decision.
You may begin nudging customers towards buying in this stage of the journey but keep to a light touch. Although these customers are closer to making a decision, they’re still in an analytical mood and will appreciate freely given knowledge without heavy pressure to buy.
Reaching a Destination: Decision
As customers finish acquiring the knowledge they need to make their purchasing decision, they move to the final stage of their journey, the Decision stage. These buyers don’t need someone to help them decide on the best solution; they’ve decided on their ideal solution during the Consideration phase. Instead, buyers in the Decision stage attempt to eliminate solutions that aren’t a good match with their ultimate desires.
Content for the Decision stage needs to reflect this impetus. It’s not only acceptable to take a hard stance about the merits of your solutions in this content, but it’s also encouraged. By the time they reach this stage of their journey, a whopping 97 percent of buyers prefer content that offers hard data and prescriptive solutions. These buyers want to eliminate wrong choices, and putting the benefits of your products and services front and center helps these buyers quickly decide if your company is right for them.
Case studies, vendor comparisons, product comparisons, and reviews are all useful types of content to commission for these buyers. Live demonstrations, trial periods or product samples are also useful for these buyers. Your content should support your product’s best features so that you can connect with the buyers who will benefit the most from your company’s offerings. In a survey of B2B buyers, 89 percent said that content that helped them see the direct benefits of a product was instrumental to their final purchasing decision.
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Although you do want to tout the benefits of your solutions, you should also be honest about any shortcomings your products might have for specific use cases. Although you may land some sales by omitting the drawbacks of your products, you may end up doing more harm than good to your brand, especially if you’re focused on B2B sales. Customers may decide to try your products out even after an initial rejection, but if they feel that their initial purchase was based on deceit, they may never be willing to give you a second chance.
The Buyer’s Journey is One Without End: Continuing Support
Your relationships with your customers don’t end with an initial purchase. Cultivating a relationship with your customers can ensure a long-lasting revenue stream. Quality content can help move this relationship forward towards future purchases. In supporting your existing customers, offer content that enhances the value of your products. New product announcements can expand your revenue stream, and product tutorials can give your customers new ways to use your products while improving their utility.
Traditional sales and marketing methods aim to coerce customers into buying, but this creates an adversarial relationship that doesn’t maximize the value of the client relationship. Focusing on delivering valuable content to your potential customers invites them to come on an ongoing pain-free, pleasant journey with you.
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