Trust is a crucial factor in moving customers along the buyer’s journey, and it’s not something that brands will ever just get handed to them.
Fostering trust with consumers takes a LOT of work and involves all kinds of strategies—however, no matter what steps you took to get it, it all originates from the same place: the buyer’s journey.
From first-time customers to advocates of your brand, they all started in the same place—and the only way to get from one to the other is by reaching them with content that not only interests them but prompts them to respond.
One of the biggest content marketing challenges is relevancy. That’s why you need a clear understanding of your audience, their pain points and their goals. Put simply, if customers don’t relate to your content, they won’t read it.
So, how do we know what types of content our customers need and when?
Buyer’s journey: What’s your buyer thinking?
Definitions of the buyer’s journey differ slightly, however, they all refer to the progress an individual makes toward a purchase decision.
As you know, it’s often viewed as a funnel in the eyes of marketing and sales teams and simplified into a minimum of three stages:
But, unlike traditional publishers, brand publishers must consider a marketing agenda. Marketing and sales strategists must come together to create and publish content that meets the needs of the buyer from top to bottom. A common mistake made by less mature brand publishers is to focus only on the top of the funnel.
Understanding every stage of the buyer’s journey gives you a framework that can help you consistently deliver relevant and engaging content that turns those one time visitors into long-term advocates for your brand.
Let’s take a deeper look at each stage of the buyer’s journey, in order to determine what content works best.
The B2B Buyer’s Journey
“The new objective for marketing will be to evolve customers, from unaware all the way to a brand-subscribing advocate. And content-driven experiences will be the natural-selection process that moves the customer along.”
“We are seeing brands have much more success when there is a process for creating consistent and integrated experiences. And the key is that these experiences are solely designed with the purpose to create delight at every single stage of the customer journey.”
– Robert Rose, The Content Advisory (The education and consulting group with the Content Marketing Institute)
Focus: Get traffic
At this point, potential customers recognize some kind of pain point, problem, need, want, etc. and are open to finding solutions. However, they don’t always act on this realization. For further action to be taken, there needs to be further stimulation.
Whether making a big purchase or a small one, this cause-and-effect situation happens to us almost every day.
For example, maybe you start to feel a bit hungry and happen to be driving right down a stretch of road with multiple restaurants or convenience stores. There’s a good chance you might stop, right?
The same applies to customers and your product. Even if buyers are unaware of your brand when they start their search, if you present a solution to their problem, they’re more likely to be attracted to your brand and to find out more. A lot of advertising attempts aim to trigger that awareness within the consumer, and brand visibility places your brand next to that pain point making them associate their problem with your solution.
A great low-cost entry to this barrier is through social media, especially in low-consideration decisions. Maybe you just want to drive awareness to your content. By posting an article tackling a specific pain point for your customers, they may be more inclined to sign up for your newsletters in hopes of receiving more content like this.
Content types that are typically found at this stage in the buyer’s journey include:
- Blog posts
- Social posts
- Research studies
- Analyst reports
- eBooks and eGuides
- Educational content
Focus: Get leads
Here, buyers are considering their available options. Whether they have collected research on you and your competitors, applied their own knowledge and experience or some combination of both, they’re forming conclusions on their options. This means your brand is still in the running and it’s your chance to outshine the competition.
In this stage, the most relevant types of content include:
- Comparison papers and articles
- Expert guides
- Case studies
While they are likely still comparing prices, reviews and other things out of your control, there are still ways to position yourself as the better choice. For example, brands with a clearly articulated, relevant and strong unique selling proposition are likely to attract more favorable attitudes during the consideration stage.
Even further, brands that turn their websites into a valuable resource for their customers can garner higher levels of trust and authority than competitors who don’t.
For example, Boston appliance and lighting brand, Yale Appliance, does a great job of attracting customers during this stage of the buyer’s journey.
While their retailers might not be thrilled about this blog post, it directly applies to customers who have already decided they want to buy and are doing their homework. More than just looking good, the brand actually does its homework and provides consumers honest answers on the most serviced brands, how they got their numbers and how their customers can save themselves from future issues.
Though this isn’t a substitute for a carefully crafted, comprehensive marketing campaign, Google also highly favors these types of consumer-facing articles.
Focus: Get sales
Typical content at this stage includes:
- Sales conversations
- Product literature and demonstrations
At this stage, buyers will ultimately choose which option to proceed with and complete the transaction. While this can be considered a success, it shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. Remember, you’re trying to convert this customer from a one-time buyer into a fan and advocate for your brand to others.
In order to continue their journey with your brand, that means you must continue yours as well. This includes things such as support and follow-up services to ensure your customer is satisfied with both their investment in your product and your brand.
If you only care about making the sale, that attitude will reflect at this stage of the buyer’s journey and will impact how the consumer reflects on their overall experience with your brand.
Focus: Retain and referrals
Stages three and four work together to help move consumers through the journey. Without a continued dedication and appreciation for your customer even after the first purchase, customers most likely won’t make it far into this stage. However, if you continue to foster your relationship with your audience, you’re one step closer to your end goal.
Typical content at this stage includes:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Case studies
If your product, service and content exceed expectations, this most likely means you have not only addressed the original pain point, want or need but have continued to help your customers avoid any possible problems in the future.
Focus: Bringing it all together
Although we’d love to tell you the above information is all you need to create the “secret sauce” for putting out certain content, then getting customers in return—it’s not necessarily a 1:1 ratio.
While, yes, the process of someone saying to themselves, “hmm, I think I need a new…” to “this is the one!” is a process most businesses are familiar with, it’s also important to note that, sometimes, you also need to show customers what the journey is supposed to look like.
Sometimes we forget what it’s like to be on the other end of the journey as a consumer. However, some brands are seeing the success of shedding the sales tactics and getting back to what truly fosters brand advocacy.
Marcus Sheridan, founder of River Pools and Spas (and, fellow content marketer), created the “They Ask, You Answer” philosophy, which explains the very simple concept that “If the prospect/customer is thinking it, it’s our job to meet them where they are.”
Basically, this means: help them understand how to buy.
What steps should they take?
What questions should they ask along the way?
For such a simple tenet, it can yield powerful results. For example, if you were considering installing a pool for your family, what might you want to know? Marcus Sheridan understands this feeling, and thus, creates every piece of content by anticipating these questions and answering them in a practical, relatable way.
Now, this video may not win a Content Marketing Award, but it’s representative of what a shopper would actually go through and shows both the practical aspect of the buyer’s journey along with the emotional side. Something that, most buyers with no prior knowledge of the pool industry truly appreciate.
By applying this thinking, Sheridan has become a well-known name (in the pool business, no less) and has mastered the ability to earn his customers’ trust—a component of the buyer’s journey where marketers today often fall short.
By truly taking the time to understand your consumers and catering your content to meet their needs, your content will be a tough act for competitors to follow.
If you’re interested in learning more about the buyer’s journey, download our free eBook, the Brand Publishing Roadmap, here!