Let’s assume that you mainly work from home and you have to use a computer for that. You have a lot of work waiting for you and several deadlines in a short time. I am sure you see yourself in that, right? Although you are in ‘panic’ –as always I must add, the computer of yours is not responding to your fast pace. Is trying hard, but no. Thus, you realize that you have a problem. A big one! Your computer is old, slow and lazy. You need to do something about it. But what? How? With what cost? You might wonder.
Generally, you have two options. Either upgrading this computer or buy a new one. If you do have technology knowledge, it’s ok. If you don’t, you have to search further on those options that you are interested in: upgrade or buy. To determine the solution to your problem you will eventually turn to Google’s search, to find out more about your concerns and consider all potential solutions on those options.
After searching, what? Well, after having evaluated all of the different solutions, you are now ready to choose a vendor to help you buy a computer. Yeah I know what you’re thinking. You have done this procedure before. And you sir, scratching your head affirmatively; I know you did it as well. We all have been through this procedure at some point in our lives.
After that said my friend, I officially welcome you to the Buyer’s Journey!
Buyer’s Journey: The Known, yet Unknown Journey
Before analyzing what (modern) Buyer’s Journey is, it is necessary to understand how all started.
Have you heard the acronym AIDA? I am sure you did. Just to freshen it up AIDA is an acronym used in marketing and advertising that describes a common list of events that may occur when a consumer engages with an advertisement.
- A – attention : attract the attention of the customer.
- I – interest : increase the interest of the customer.
- D – desire : convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
- A – action : lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.
The term and approach are commonly attributed to American advertising and sales pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis. After almost a century, everything has changed…
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
The buyer’s journey according to HubSpot is, the active research process a potential buyer goes through leading up to a purchase.
It is a model to help keep the buyer’s behavior, information needs and problems central to anything sales and marketing does.
In simple words, a buyer’s journey is the steps any buyer must take to complete a purchase. But wait, what are those stages?
The Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey consists of three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Let’s analyze them a bit, shall we?
At the awareness stage, prospects are beginning to understand they have a problem but haven’t defined what it is or how to solve it. Usually buyers at this stage don’t even know what they’re looking for yet.
For example: “I feel insecure with my old lazy computer. Do I have to buy a new one or upgrade the old one?”
In the awareness stage most potential prospects are seeking information to answer questions or resolve concerns they may have.
They are most likely entering search terms in Google to clearly understand more about what it is they are looking for. Foremost, this is where an effective SEO strategy plays a major role in online marketing so your company can show up in relevant search results.
It is important to note, that this particular stage refers to a person gaining self-awareness of a problem, NOT to be confused with awareness of your brand, product or service. The person in the awareness stage is really self-involved at this point and not ready for product or vendor specific information until later in the buyer’s journey (decision stage).
At the end of the Awareness stage, a prospect has now defined its problem and is committed to finding a solution to that.
When prospects reach the consideration stage, they have a better understanding of what their business pain is. At this stage, buyers are likely more familiar with their problem and may even have come across your product in their research.
Continuing our example: “I probably need a new computer. But how much will that cost? Can I afford it? What is the best solution for me?”
With a clearly defined want or need for a product and/or service, potential buyers are interested in learning what options are available to them. The desire to find best suitable solutions indicates the customer is further along in the buyer’s journey, however, it does not necessarily mean they want to be sold to yet.
At the end of the consideration stage, they’ve chosen the solution strategy that is right for their business and best suits the problem defined earlier.
Buyers have officially declared a problem, a potential solution, and now they need you –the marketing team, to turn the disparate information they’ve gathered into a well driven strategy.
As for our example: “I have found some computer models fitting my criteria and budget. I will compare them and analyze their pros and cons to make the best suitable decision.”
Buyers are whittling their list down to more relevant options and ultimately making a decision. Once your buyers have the support of upper management, they’re ready to select a vendor and make a purchase.
At this point, they’ll start thinking about preparation, implementation, quick start costs, and customer support –the final items that will determine which solution best fits their needs and budget.
Which Content Types to Use on Each Stage of Buyer’s Journey
Now that we set clear what are the stages of the buyer’s journey, let’s talk about what content is appropriate to each stage. Specific content offers are more relevant to buyers at specific times during the buyer’s journey.
Before getting in to that, let’s make even clearer that a content type is NOT necessary fits in one stage of the journey, just because of its ‘type’. It is what’s inside that matter, ok? For instance, let’s say we have an eBook with the title “Social Media Management Tools – The ultimate guide”. Although an eBook generally fits the awareness stage, in this example fits the consideration stage. Not clear yet? No worries. We’ll analyze that more in a while.
Moving forward to the content types on each stage:
Content for the Awareness Stage
In each stage the buyer will be looking for different types of information. As stated above, the awareness stage is when the prospect realizes that he or she has a problem. Additionally, this is when the prospect starts researching the issue that he or she is facing.
At this point the prospects are looking for educational content to help them frame the issue. So it’s essential for marketers to produce content that will help the prospects better understand their problem. Content like:
- Analyst Reports
- Research Reports
- eBooks & eGuides
- Editorial Content
- Expert Content
- Educational Content
This “top-of-the-funnel” content helps to educate the prospect and brings context to the issue at hand.
Content for the Consideration Stage
Once the prospects have a clearly articulated idea of the problem they are facing they move from the awareness stage to the consideration stage. At this point they are looking for content related to solutions.
The prospects want to understand all of their options as it pertains to their issue. What are the different ways that they can go about handling their problem? Do they need to purchase software to find a resolution or do they need to buy a brand new computer?
So as marketers we must be producing content that speaks to issue resolution. Content like:
- Expert Guides
- Live interactions
- Comparison Whitepapers
By producing this “middle-of-the-funnel” content we help further educate prospects on potential solutions.
Content for the Decision Stage
The final stage in the buyer’s journey is the decision stage. At this point in the buying journey the prospects clearly understand all aspects of their problem, and potential solutions for helping them resolve their problem. It’s the decision stage where the prospects make a determination on the right vendor to help them solve their problem.
In this phase marketers need to be producing content that speaks to the differentiating factors that make their organization unique. Content like:
- Vendor Comparison Guides
- Product Comparison Guides
- Case Studies
- Trial Download
- Product literature
- Live Demo
This content will help you position your product or service against competitors.
In simple words by summing up the above, you have to deliver the right content, to the right person, at the right time.
Mapping Content Aligned to the Buyer’s Journey
Content needs to be aligned to the buyer’s journey to make it most engaging, relevant and compelling. However, the key to creating effective content is to know what you have already in your content inventory; which means mapping your content to the appropriate stage in the buyer’s journey. Scared? Don’t be!
Since this is a very significant procedure for the buyer’s journey, we will dive a bit deeper into this, trying to develop a three-stage procedure to help you handle effectively all your content. Ready? Let’s get started!
Stage 1: Search and Gather All of Your Content
There comes a time for every marketer who has been creating content for a while where you realize you have no idea where all of the content is. Content has likely been created by you or other individuals in the marketing department, is scattered to the unknown.
There are lots of places where you can look to find your lost content. What about throwing some light through the following dark corners where content can typically be found hiding? Start with:
- Your computer or laptop
- Your shared drivers
- Your folders
- Your landing pages
- Your associates
Stage 2: Create Your Content Inventory Spreadsheet
It is crucial just before you start cataloging the content you found in Stage 1, to set up a system for your content inventory to record significant information about each content offer.
Start by downloading a Content Inventory Worksheet template like one HubSpot is recommending, or make one on your own.
In this specific worksheet, however, there are a few standard categories for you and included columns with pre-populated values, liked Content Offer Title, Content Format, and Buyer’s Journey Stage. For example, The Buyer’s Journey Stage category provides you with the option to specify Awareness, Consideration, or Decision stage.
You’ll need to identify the categories of detail that are specific to your business and the appropriate values. Start considering separating by the followings, in addition to any others you may want to include:
By Buyer Personas
Ensure that each buyer persona has relevant offers available. You have to write down which of your content fits each of your personas criteria.
For example, for Persona 1 you have content fitting in each stage of the buyer’s journey unlike Persona 2, for which the content fits only the consideration stage. That means that you have to repurpose some existing content offers or create new ones.
Make sure that your content is properly balanced to be sure that distribution is accurate. Simply, don’t focus to one topic but cover a wide range of issues of your company’s services and/or products.
By Type or Format
Does your content type and format align with how your customers find information? This question will be answered to the next stage.
Stage 3: Map Each Content Offer to the Buyer’s Journey
Since you have your worksheet set up (stage 2), and you’ve added all of your existing content offers that you found (stage 1) into the content inventory worksheet, you’re ready to map each content offer to the appropriate stage of the buyer’s journey. As stated above, you want to deliver the right content, to the right person, at the right time.
In order to achieve this, it’s essential to know which stage of the buyer’s journey readers would likely find your content offer most helpful. There are 3 key content mapping fundamentals using Content Mapping Methodology, you must take into consideration for an individual content offer.
The 3 key content mapping fundamentals are:
- User Behavior and Research Needs
- Content Type or Format
- Keywords and Relevant Terms
Let’s analyze these fundamentals a little further…
1. User Behavior and Research needs
As mentioned, the buyer’s journey is defined as the active research process a buyer goes through leading up to a purchase. Each stage of the buyer’s journey is characterized by unique behaviors, motivations and information needs.
Review information contained in a content offer and determine which set of behaviors, motivation and information needs your content align with.
2. Content Type or Format
Over the years buyers have demonstrated particular content format preferences for how they consume content in each stage of the buyer’s journey. You have to ensure that the information you have to offer easily fits in a format that is most appropriate for each stage.
Refer to the content formats most appropriate for each stage of the buyer’s journey in the chart below and then take this into consideration when mapping your own content offers.
3. Keywords and Relevant Terms
Each and every topic can be covered in a number of ways, from various perspectives, by dissecting the details of one aspect of the topic. Different aspects of a topic are relevant to buyers at different stages of the buyer’s journey.
According to HubSpot, there are 3 perspectives from which you could approach a topic and each of these perspectives aligns with one of the 3 stages of the buyer’s journey:
- Discussing the problems associated with a certain topic aligns with the Awareness stage.
- Covering the solution landscape and strategies available in the marketplace to solve the problems associated with this topic aligns with the Consideration stage.
- Information relating to vendors and the branded products/services they offer in this topical category aligns with the Decision stage.
There are clues within the title and text of your content offer in the form of the terminology used that can help you identify the aspect of the topic being discussed in your content offer and thus, the corresponding stage of the buyer’s journey.
Below is a detailed chart of the terms indicating relevance in each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Once your content library is nicely organized with your content inventory worksheet, you’ll be able to take action by using the renewed content in your inbound marketing in the following ways:
Short Term Action Items
- Revise Titles to clear the message for your persona in each stage.
- Create Landing Pages with content that you found in your website and not only there
- Split Content Offers that tries to cover multiple stages into 2 content offers. For instance, 1 Awareness Stage PDF and 1 Consideration Stage Webcast.
Long Term Action Items
- Do a Content Analysis meaning analyze your content inventory to gain actionable insights and identify holes that will influence your content strategy and fuel your content creation efforts.
- Repurpose Content by selecting a content offer from your inventory that you’d like to increase exposure for to message to persona where content is lacking.
- Create New Content Offers fitting the stages you want to be covered.
Map an Individual Content Offer
Let’s try to map an individual content offer together, to help you understand the process that we talked above. Remember the eBook titled “Social Media Management Tools – The ultimate guide”? Well, this will be our guide. Are you ready?
Note: The 3 steps Mapping a Content Offer are
- Identify 3 Key Content Mapping Fundamentals
- Evaluate alignment of each to Buyer’s Journey
- Decide on one Buyer’s Journey Stage to which this Content Offers Maps
The first 2 steps are visualized below…
What about the third step?
Come on give it some thought. I am sure you will find it. Just remember what we discussed above and combine these by using also the charts. I started counting… 1, 2, 3… Well, too anxious. Did you guess correctly?
Definitely you did. It is Consideration Stage!
Even though it is an eBook which generally fits the Awareness stage, this one is an expert guide which contains tools trying to solve the social media management problem and thus, fits the Consideration stage. See? It was easy.
Now that we’ve covered what the buyer’s journey is as well as all the individual steps needed to effectively use content in each of its stage, it is time to have you seated down in front of your content…
Yes, YOUR content. Big project –tell me about it, but after absorbing this blog post it is going to be a piece of cake!
Remember that the main goal of buyer’s journey, is to take advantage of a more customer-centric philosophy to better position your company by delivering the right content, to the right person, at the right time.
So, what stage of the buyer’s journey can your company improve upon and why?