Content is king when it comes to online lead generationand for a B2B service provider, it is a highly effective tool to get out there and in front of a target audience. So you know it’s the way forward but now comes the big question – what content should you create?
This is one of the most important questions there is when it comes to online lead generation, as at the end of the day it is your content that will need to attract potential buyers. Once established, content marketing will create positive ROI on an ongoing basis but it takes time to get up and running. That means you cannot afford to waste any of your efforts on content that simply won’t do what it needs to.
And that’s where buyer journey content mapping comes in. It may be a bit of a mouthful to say but it’s the secret to getting your content marketing right! So let’s talk through the process and break it down in more detail.
The buyer journey in context
The buyer journey is not a new concept, as any seasoned marketer will tell you. It is basically mapping out the path that a prospect may take to become a customer, from start to finish.
Focusing on the buyer journey in this way will automatically lead you to take a very customer centric approach. You’ll be fixed on the person and their needs, which will naturally be reflected in your content. The result being that people with a particular need will become interested in you and when the time is right the sale will be closed.
It’s all about attracting the right audience at the right time, and having the answers that buyers are looking for when they are in the process of researching their problem and potential solutions.
And it’s worth doing – leads nurtured through targeted content can produce an increase in sales opportunities of more than 20% (source: DemandGen). The reason for this is simple, instead of taking a scattergun approach that hits the masses in the hope of finding the few, you only work with the ones who are already interested.
Instead of wasting your efforts on people who couldn’t care less about your product or service, you create lists of people who may be interested in your offerings. They may already have a need and/or be in the process of looking for solutions. If you happen to get in front of them at the right time with meaningful content that answers the questions they have at that moment, then you will be way ahead of your competition.
So it’s vital that you create the right content to fulfil this purpose and that’s where reflecting on the buyer journey and using your buyer personas can help.
Different buyer journey stages
Every purchase decision follows a path made up of four different stages. Sometimes we walk through that path within seconds (imagine standing in a supermarket realizing you need to purchase cereal), or it could take years (such as an organisation considering a new business management system). Either way, a buyer will always pass through these four categories:
Whatever we are buying, we will have different needs at each of the four different stages and so the content you offer needs to reflect that.
Stage 1 – Awareness
At this point, a buyer will simply have become aware that there is a problem or an opportunity. Using the business management system as an example, it may be that the CEO has read a report on advances in technology and realized that the current system could do with an overhaul. At this point, it will simply be general information that is gathered in, about what’s going on in that particular market segment. This may include conversations with others on the topic. Nobody will yet have given any concrete thought to actually purchasing a new system but the general idea will be floating around.
As a content marketer, it’s important to have appropriate content show up when these people start looking around. That could be anything from articles in trade and industry magazines, to research reports, expert opinions or eBooks, all of which talk about the topic in broad general terms.
Stage 2 – Consideration
At some point, if the problem becomes too big (the current system crashes for the millionth time) or the opportunity becomes too irresistible (advances in technology are too great to ignore) then someone will decide that it’s time to consider a new solution.
What is important now is to provide accurate and detailed information. The people involved will want to understand the problem and the solutions to it in much greater detail. They will also be willing to spend a lot more time consuming content if they feel it will be worth their while and give them the information they need. So events, off or online, may be of interest now. The same goes for more detailed expert guides and generally any content that dives into the topic on a much deeper level.
It’s important to note here that in this phase the future purchaser is still not quite in purchasing mode. They are on a fact-finding mission. They have realized it’s time to look at options for solutions to their problem but haven’t yet decided on anything, including if they will, in fact, buy at all.
Stage 3 – Decision
Once the purchaser is armed with all the information they need and everything has been considered with regards to solving their problem, it’s time to decide if they’re going to buy – and if so, from who. By this time, if you have provided a lot of valuable information to help them make a solid decision, which may not even have been about your particular solution, then you will be right at the top of the list of potential vendors.
And that’s exactly where you want to be. Now it’s time for your sales team to spring into action and provide any information that will help with their buying decision. The type of content provided at this stage will focus a lot more on your company, your solution and your services. It is likely to include case studies, detailed product brochures, service outlines and demos, all of which become relevant now.
The key to being top of the list at this stage is getting the previous stages right.
Stage 4 – Post-purchase
Once you’ve landed the sale, content marketing shouldn’t just stop. In fact, quite the opposite. Now you need to make sure your clients are happy and to provide them with information on using your product, troubleshooting and or any other information relating to the use of your services. The goal here is to encourage positive word of mouth – the strongest marketing tool there is! Happy clients will tell other people about you and in a digital world that message will be amplified.
Your content can go a long way towards helping to create happy customers and keeping them on board. This will not only help with customer retention and growing business from existing clients but should lead to referrals and even more new customers. Wins all round!
Creating a buyer journey content mapping matrix
Considering where in the sales process your leads may be is the first step to successful content marketing. The second step is to think about who they actually are and to use your buyer personas.
If we take the business management system as an example again, there’s going to be a huge difference between addressing a busy CEO, or a team member who may have been tasked with pulling together research. So in order to correctly map out your content, you need to create a matrix for every person you may want to talk to at each of the stages.
Here’s how you do it:
Define buyer personas and stages
As mentioned above, your buyer personas will come into play here. Let’s assume you have developed two key buyer personas who you really want to attract and talk to. Either one of these personas could be at any of the 4 stages of the buyer journey at any one time. That means you should have at least one piece of content aiming at each persona, in each stage – so in this scenario you would need eight different pieces of content.
Look at user behavior and research stage
Now try and put yourself into the shoes of your personas, to pinpoint what they do at each of the four stages. (A top tip here would be to go and ask some of them!) Try and find out where they look for information, what they do with the information once they find it and who they talk to.
Do a content audit
Next take any existing content you have and figure out where in the matrix it belongs. You’ll probably find you will be starting off with a lot of ‘decision stage’ material but very little in the way of ‘awareness’ material.
Fill the gaps
Once you’ve considered your existing content you should be able to see from your matrix where the gaps are that you need to full. These will be the pieces of content you need to create moving forwards.
Analyse keywords and terms
When you know the content you have and the content you need to create, define which keywords and key terms will apply at the various stages and to the various personas. This is important in order for the people who come into contact with your content to feel that they are being understood. If you speak their language the battle is already half won.
Define content type and format
Then it’s time to think about format and delivery. Again put yourself into the shoes of your personas and figure out what type of content will most appeal to them. There are lots of different options when it comes to style and how content is presented. Would they prefer a lengthy article or a short SlideShare of bullet points?
Finish content audit worksheet
Pull all your information together into one sheet and keep the document alive (i.e. have it as a working document that’s kept regularly updated). Add links in to the content that is already online and figure out which KPIs you want to measure and analyse. These will help flag up which content is producing results and why so you can adjust and improve your strategy as you need to.
Produce great nurturing workflows
The way in which you use the content is also important. You need to give some thought to when and how you will give it to your leads. While everything should be on your website, you should choose who gets sent a link to what, based on whether if it will be relevant to them and the steps they have taken. What you’re aiming to do here is ensure that the right content goes to the right person at the right time.
When you’ve built up your content library and have a lot of leads you’ll be able to create sophisticated workflows that are based on the content itself and the behavior of the people consuming it. But when you’re just starting out try to stick to this one simple rule – always suggest a next step. That means that whenever you have someone’s attention in whatever way, make sure you offer a next step. In the world of online marketing you should aim to include a call to action in every piece of content, leading the person on to the next thing.
When it comes to your website, take visitors by the hand and offer them relevant and timely content. They will show through their behavior what they are interested in and you’ll be able to spot when the time is right to pick up the phone and talk to them.
Also, make the most of online tools that can further strengthen the process. For example, with Lead Forensics software you can create a report that will show you which content on your website is performing the best, along with other detailed insights. You can then use this data to improve your current content and see what else you may need going forward.
And the result
It takes time and a lot of consideration to put an effective content marketing plan together but once you have, and you’re up and running, it will quickly become the most powerful tool at your disposal. So get those plans formalised, stick with it and give it your all, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards.