I recall our annual road trips as a child where we would plot out our anticipated journey on a map (yes, one made of actual paper!), highlighting with big red ‘X’s’ our planned pit stops and giving us the quickest route from A to B.
Of course nowadays that process is completely automated with navigation systems that determine the optimal route by simply inputting our starting address and desired destination. But the underlying process and objective is the same. Get from one point to the next in the shortest amount of time.
As inbound marketers we are our potential buyers’ navigation systems. Perhaps not revealing the entire path in one go but instead providing them with the information they require to move through the various stages of the buying cycle in the most efficient way.
The way to achieve this is to ensure that we have clearly defined buyer personas and are creating and offering them the most appropriate content for each leg of the journey, so to speak.
The decision-making process is a complex one. Most especially when we’re talking about business products, services or solution procurement. Your potential prospects have a heap of questions that require answers and a pile of elements to consider when selecting and will typically move through 3 distinct phases of a buying journey. Let’s examine each of those now, consider what they are looking to achieve and what content formats would serve them best for each stage in order to map out your content marketing strategy accordingly.
3 Stages of the Buying Journey and What Marketers Need to Do for Each
Awareness : Starting the Journey
In this stage your potential prospect has realised and expressed symptoms of a potential problem or opportunity. He is looking to understand the issue at a broad level and uncover the solution. He’ll get to know your company via your content he finds on the matter, such as blog posts in search engine results or via social media mentions. The objective here is to build trust through your content and educate your prospect at a high-level.
Key terms they use during this stage include words like troubleshoot, upgrade, improve, resolve, issue, risks, prevent or optimise.
The best content types for buyers in the awareness stage include:
- eBooks or eGuides
- Analyst reports
- Research reports
- White papers
- Educational content
Consideration : Pit Stop
At this point your prospect has consumed enough information to be able to clearly define the pain or opportunity. He ramps up his research on the matter in an effort to understand all the available methods or approaches that will help him overcome the issue or take advantage of the opportunity.
Key search terms change to words like solution, provider, tool, device, software, service or supplier.
Popular content formats for the consideration stage include:
- Comparison white papers
- Expert guides
Decision : Reaching The Destination
So now your prospect knows the options available to him, has defined a solution strategy, method or approach and needs to determine who to buy from. Information needs to shift to supporting documentation, data, benchmarks or endorsements that will help him settle on a preferred supplier.
Terms that are commonly used at this stage of the buying cycle include compare, versus, benchmarks, pros and cons, review or test.
Content types most effective at this stage are more specific in terms of product details and includes:
- Vendor comparisons
- Product comparisons
- Case studies
- Trial downloads
- Live demos
- Data sheets
As you go about fleshing out your content strategy, take care to cover all the information that your prospective buyer needs in driving him closer to a buying decision. This way you're making sure that you're delivering valuable content for each step in the buyer journey and with that approach you're bound to find them as customers at your door.