You’re familiar with the buyer’s journey—the progression a consumer follows when becoming aware of a pain point and ultimately deciding on a specific solution to purchase. You may even be publishing content in hopes of nudging potential buyers into action. Yet, for some reason, you’re not seeing the results you’d hoped.
If you’re using a “one-size-fits-all” marketing approach there’s no doubt you’re overlooking buyers and potentially hindering customer retention. Here’s how to get better results in the buyer’s journey.
The standard buyer’s journey is often seen as a funnel consisting of three stages: awareness (top of the funnel), consideration (middle of the funnel) and decision (bottom of the funnel). Each stage of the journey requires a separate marketing strategy to yield effective results.
B2B buyers are becoming more selective about the types of content they consume when making purchasing decisions, and they value different formats depending on where they are in the funnel.
Furthermore, truly effective marketing should extend the journey beyond the decision phase to include touch points that ensure retention and advocacy.
In today’s overwhelming content market, understanding your audience and providing highly-targeted content at each stage of the journey is paramount in improving results. Before creating niche content unique to each phase, you’ll need to map out the buyer’s journey.
Note: For this article, we’ll be placing an emphasis on the B2B buyer’s journey.
Mapping Out the Buyer’s Journey
Thoroughly mapping out the buyer’s journey allows you to identify and address pain points in your customer experience while making sure your target audience is properly portrayed.
If you’ve been creating content based on old personas, your performance could be suffering. Anna Ritchie said it best, “…your audience, like your strategy, could be undergoing its own continual shifts, evolutions, and transformations, as well. This can certainly affect the buy personas you have created in the past.”
Take time to evaluate your buyer personas, then walk them through the customer experience at each phase:
Evaluate Buyer Personas
Buyer personas should be semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on research, data and observations about your real customers. You should have at least three-to-five personas per buying stage. It’s important to note the B2B decision-making landscape is changing, with about 73 percent of Millennials now involved in the purchase decision-making of a product or service at their companies.
Begin combing through all current personas in your brand publishing roadmap and see if any information needs to be updated. Also, make sure you’re not missing any personas that may need to be created. Some important things to include when creating a new buyer persona are:
- Personal demographics
- Educational background
- Role in making purchases
- Pain points
- Key purchase drivers
Once you’ve evaluated your B2B personas, walk them through the customer experience at each buying stage.
Walk Through the Customer Experience
While there are many variations of successful buyer’s journey maps, at PowerPost we advocate for a structure that includes retention and advocacy—such as the hourglass model.
As you can see, each stage of the hourglass model is associated with a goal. It’s imperative to think of any questions, problems or pain points your buyer personas may have at each phase to properly map message points and associate them with keywords. Additionally, you’ll want to think of triggers that will help move each persona along in the journey and close the gap on any disconnects from one stage to the next.
After you’ve ensured your buyer’s journey is accurately represented with the proper personas and have mapped out your customer experience, you can move toward creating niche content for each stage.
Creating Niche Content for Each Stage
The struggle of resonating with your target audience in the age of content shock is real. The 2018 B2B Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report showed 44 percent of B2B marketers are having trouble capturing their audience’s attention. And, according to Demand Gen Report’s annual content preferences survey, 51 percent of B2B buyers said they feel overwhelmed by the amount of content available.
By publishing content without considering what your persona may be querying, or where they’re at in their journey, you’ll have a hard time converting. The only way to break through the clutter is by providing value to your buyer and their specific needs at each stage.
We’ve laid out every phase in the hourglass model to help you develop unique, highly-targeted content:
In this initial stage, most marketers and brand publishers understand a person is aware of a pain point, want or need and is open to solutions. However, many don’t consider a customer may not realize they even have a problem. This presents two types of clients with separate (but similar) content needs.
Keeping in mind your “awareness” buyer personas, a key driver in this stage is figuring out what types of questions they’ll be searching. Make sure to narrow down specific keywords, as research has shown 72 percent of buyers turn to Google during this first phase.
Typically, questions at this stage are more open-ended. Let’s suppose we’re a brick-and-mortar retailer trying to increase product sales. We might ask:
- What is a content marketing strategy?
- Ways to sell inventory online?
- How do you create a website to sell inventory?
As an eCommerce platform, you should begin thinking of ways to target web content using keywords that resemble these questions.
Now, if this potential retailer doesn’t realize the value an eCommerce website would provide, they may not be seeking out your content on a search engine. In this case, you’d need to bring the content to the social platforms where your ideal target buyer is.
Content that may help this potential retailer understand they have a problem or want would look something like this:
- Is your business going to fail in the age of dying malls?
- Here’s why consumers love being able to shop online from local boutiques.
It’s also worth noting content produced in this stage should be educational, not a hard sell. B2B buyers generally look at three-to-five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson, so you don’t want to scare them off in the early stages.
Note: Some content formats acceptable in this stage include (but are not limited to): infographics, blog posts, podcasts, eBooks or social media updates.
Now that the buyer is aware of the problem, they’re considering and comparing available options. This is where you should indicate how your solution can solve their problem. Keep in mind they’re probably researching multiple options, so the goal is to obtain and target leads.
Some formats B2B buyers recently listed as most valuable in the mid-stage consist of:
- Webinars (47 percent)
- Case Studies (42 percent)
- Blogs by thought leaders (40 percent)
To position your company as the better solution, you’ll want to clearly articulate how your unique selling points are valuable to their needs (without being overly salesy). Going back to our initial brick-and-mortar retailer example, content in this stage looks like:
- Best eCommerce platforms for small businesses
- How to set up an eCommerce website
- Small business eCommerce case studies
Once you’ve offered strategies to properly nurture leads, they should be ready to make a decision.
By this time, the potential buyer has a good idea of the product or service they want to move forward with. At this stage, it’s about proving you’re trustworthy, credible and can provide a return on their investment.
Data shows 51 percent of buyers conduct a detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.
The more you can demonstrate how your product or service will offer results far beyond its cost, the better. Especially if this buyer persona has to package this information to the “higher-ups.”
Key content formats during the decision stage include:
- ROI calculators
- Product Demos
- Free trials
- Sales Conversations
So, if you’re the eCommerce platform trying to convert the brick-and-mortar retailer, you could provide a detailed demo and offer a 30-day free trial.
Whereas most companies would end the buyer’s journey here at a strictly transactional level, to achieve better results in your buyer’s journey you’ll want to offer support and earn loyal advocates.
Cultivating potential new buyers is only half the battle. These last two stages work together to provide invaluable opportunities for your company, from garnering referrals to having true brand advocates.
Content dedicated to customer retention would resemble any of these:
- Troubleshooting Tips
- FAQ docs
- Ways you’re not utilizing the product or service to its fullest advantage
- New feature updates
The various mediums you should use to push this information include:
- Blog posts
- Social media
- Email marketing
Remember, happy clients lead to retention and referrals, which save you time and money in the long run.
Gaining the trust of consumers is often tough for marketers. In a recent study given to B2B buyers, 78 percent said they’re placing a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of a source. That same study showed 75 percent of B2B buyers think brand publishers should use more research and data to support claims made in their materials.
In a world full of content overload, we don’t blame them. When making a large investment, it’s only logical that you want to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Taking the time to truly understand your target audience and cater to their needs will set your business apart from competitors. Appealing to their emotions makes the process feel more like a partnership and less like a transaction. When your clients start engaging with and sharing your content you’ll know your business is on the right track.
For more information on the buyer’s journey and how to create a roadmap, check out our free eBook: the Brand Publishing Roadmap.