A 2018 Harvard Business Review article said blog output by brands has increased 800% in the past 5 years. That’s huge. But how many of these brands are actually getting good results? My guess would be very few.
It takes some serious thought to create an effective content marketing strategy. It’s complicated. And the central puzzle piece is the buyer’s journey. If you don’t understand that you’ll never get any results.
Let me take you through an imaginary buyer’s journey to help you understand.
The Four Stages of the Buyers Journey
The buyer’s journey consists of four stages we all go through when buying something. You need the right information at each stage before you can go on to the next. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you checked your refrigerator and realized you’re out of milk and other food items. You’re at the problem stage of your buyer’s journey. It’s your reason to go to the store
So, you make a checklist of the items you need. Once you arrive at the store you need directions to the right department. You need information.
You’re at the buying stage when you’re checking the price on the milk. Here’s you need proof, such as checking the best-before-date.
If your experience was good you’ll buy from that store again, especially if they send you coupons in the mail. You want the latest news (in this case, coupons).
There you have it. The buyers journey. Your content marketing will be on the right track when you have these four bases covered. If you’re creating blogs, you should know they’re most effective at the early stage and won’t typically help you make a sale. For that, Case Studies are far more effective.
Content Effectiveness by Buying Stage
B2B buyers need different types of content throughout their buyer’s journey. So, you’ll need different types of content to take prospects through to the sale. For this, you need a marketing strategy.
One possible content marketing strategy is to post blogs on your website to build awareness. Then offer a free download such as an EBook to build a mailing list. Opt-in subscribers can be sent additional information about your content. This could lead to an educational Webinar, possibly based on a Case Study. Over time you can stay in touch with additional Case Studies or case study articles until they’re ready to buy.
Creating effective content is a matter of answering a set of questions (usually unspoken) that buyers have on their way to the sale. Though they may jump back and forth at any stage, unanswered questions at any stage may prevent a final sale from happening.
Stage 1 – What Possible Reason Would I Have for Needing Your Product?
You may be eager to sell your products but at this early stage your prospects may not even realize they have a problem. No one likes having a problem, so they may be in denial. Or worse, they’re aware of the problem but don’t see any urgency to solve it.
Here you can use persuasive content to challenge their status quo by informing prospects that change is coming. This will introduce them to why your “type” of product is the right solution.
Stage 2 – Yes, I Have a Problem. What’s my Best Course of Action?
Giving a prospect all the information they need can be the longest leg of the buyer’s journey. The last thing someone wants to realize is that they bought the wrong product after spending $100,000 on a software license they’ll never use. Yet this happens all the time.
Explanatory content marketing helps prospects understand their options while building authority for your product. EBooks are often used for this purpose, but so are articles, emails, webinars and more. Here your content must help buyers objectively consider their options.
Stage 3 – I’m Ready to Buy. Can You Deliver on What You Promise?
Storytelling with case studies gives prospects all the proof they need to buy now. Success stories are easy to remember since they are how people make sense of things. They are the hero’s journey and your prospect is the hero.
The basic structure of a hero story is the problem, solution and result. Their problem is the villain of the story. You are their mentor and your product is their magic formula.
Stage 4 – I’m an Existing Customer. What’s the Latest News?
Descriptive writing is useful for updating customers on industry or company news. They’ll want the latest news from you because they’ve already bought into your solution. Your can use your newsletter to introduce offers, generate repeat sales and referrals.
Right Message. Right Audience. Right Results
The buyer’s journey is the central part of your content marketing. Buyers need the right information at each stage before they can move on to the next. The job of your content marketing is answer all their questions so you can finally sell your product.