Content marketing is not a new marketing tactic. In fact, almost 88% of B2B companies do it. What’s less known, is how to do it in a strategic way that effectively creates brand awareness, generates and nurtures leads, accelerates the buyer journey, drives higher close rates, and higher revenue per new customer. This requires a solid content strategy that is mapped to the stages of the buyer journey.
According to a survey conducted by FocusVision, the average B2B buyer’s journey involves the consumption of 13 pieces of content. The most popular forms of content being blog articles, how-to guides, white papers, email, video, infographics, and case studies.
Most companies fill their website with articles on products or services – but this leaves content gaps in earlier stages of the buyer journey which are essential to a company’s success.
Not every piece of content you create should be for lead generation. Content that spans the stages of the buyer’s journey will have a greater influence over buyers, ultimately leading to more sales.
How to Develop a Value-based Content Strategy
To create an engaging and impactful content strategy, you need to develop a value-based content strategy. To do this, it’s important to know the customer. And not just any customer–the one you want! This is where understanding your target audience becomes crucial.
Here are five steps for an effective value-based content strategy.
1. Develop a buyer persona that is detailed and personalized
Go beyond industry, company size, job title, and role responsibilities. Know their world and what matters to them personally and professionally. What specific problems, challenges, and opportunities are they trying to solve? When you understand your target persona, put yourself in their shoes for each step of the buyer journey. What content do they need to help them in their journey, whether they ever do business with you or not. The content should focus on how to help them. This will build trust and help set your company apart as an expert and give you the opportunity to introduce your products or services as the ideal solution to help them. And as the old saying goes, people want to do business with people they trust.
2. Identify buyer journey stage and the buyer’s intent
Insightful marketing begins with understanding the state of a target buyer at any given point in their buying journey. If you are targeting buyers in the Awareness stage, they will be looking for information on how best to address a problem, challenge, or opportunity relevant to your products and services. Instead of promoting case studies that offer little value without context, provide them with more actionable content such as blog articles about solving common problems related to your industry verticals.
3. Leverage analytics to identify what content target customers find engaging
Data is power! Analyzing how customers engage with your content can provide insight into what is most relevant to them. You can identify what topics and topic categories are engaging to them, and what content formats they engage with the most.
4. Leverage Social Listening to find pain points
Social listening is a powerful tool that can be used to stay on top of the needs and wants of your customers. It’s important to make sure you are aware of their points by monitoring keywords and industry happenings with tools like Google Alerts and social media monitoring services. This can help you identify frustrations and challenges your target customers are having with competitors, or with a product or service, or with items in their daily operations.
5. Monitor trending topics getting competitors attention
Does it seem like your competitor’s content is always performing better than yours? It seems like they know something you don’t, and it turns out: They do. With the help of tools like BuzzSumo, you can keep up with trending topics are, including your competitors’ leading content.
Analyze what’s trending in your competitors’ content, then provide a better version of that information to get noticed and stand out from their posts!
Key Stages of the Buyer Journey
It can be difficult to map content to the buyer journey. There are many factors that come into play. This is where the exercises you did earlier will go a long way in helping you make decisions about what content to create for each stage of the buyer journey.
First, let’s quickly review the key stages of the buyer journey.
Awareness > Consideration > Decision
Awareness – At this point, your prospects are aware that they have a problem, challenge, or opportunity and need to find a solution for it. They’re gathering information from various sources to make an informed decision about what product or service will suit their needs best. SEO plays a key role in attracting your target customers during this stage of the buyer journey.
Consideration – This stage is all about educating your potential customer on the different aspects of what you have to offer them with the intent of increasing their knowledge surrounding a product or service they are interested in. It’s important that this content is of high value, so it doesn’t get overlooked!
Decision – At this point, your target customers have narrowed down their options and need help making a decision. Content related to this stage will offer guidance in the decision-making process, including what factors to consider and why.
Mapping Content to the Buyer Journey
What’s makes mapping content to the buyer journey a little tricky, is there is no one buyer journey the same as another. People don’t consume the exact same content in the exact same order. There ends up being some overlap between content focus and content types when mapping content to the buyer journey. This is fine, so long as you have clearly outlined your target persona, and what they generally need to know at each step of the buyer journey. This will enable them to become aware of your brand, learn your company is an industry authority, and that you provide value-based content to help them solve their real challenges, problems, and solutions.
With that said, the below outlines the content focus and content types you should utilize in each of the key stages of the buyer journey. As you go through this process, keep in mind the five steps outlined above in the “How to Develop a Value-based Content Strategy” and you will be on the path to successful content marketing.
Awareness Content – Content for the awareness stage tends to be where the largest volume of content needs to be created for the buyer journey. And there are many different content formats that can be utilized. Don’t become overwhelmed at the number of formats below. You can start with one or two and work your way into other formats by repurposing content created for, say, blog articles and download guides.
Content for this stage is in the following formats: Blog posts, social media posts, guides, white papers, eBooks, checklists, tip sheets, infographics, tools, kits, how-to videos, educational webinars, podcasts, templates.
Awareness content will create brand awareness and is an opportunity to establish your business as an industry authority. This is not the stage where you promote your company’s products or services directly, as you are in a stage where you’re starting the relationship with potential customers and establishing trust.
With all awareness content, be sure to include a call-to-action (CTA) to get your target customers to move into the next stage of the buyer journey. For example, a compelling deeper dive “How to” guide offered within or around a related blog article is a great way to generate leads.
Marketing is a bit like starting a new relationship, you start with building trust. As you win your target customers’ trust through content, they become willing to take you up on your deeper dive content offer in exchange for their contact information.
Depending on how compelling your content offer is, you can ask for their name, email address, company name, and even their phone number in exchange.
Organic search rankings should be a focus on awareness content. You certainly can and should utilize target marketing channels like LinkedIn Ads and Google Paid Search to get your content in front of your target audience. But Organic search can become a well of traffic that generates brand awareness, leads, and new customers.
Consideration Content – You’ll continue to use some of the same content formats, but at this stage, your content should start to focus on products or services, competitive comparisons and differentiators, and social proof like testimonials, case studies, and reviews.
By providing consideration content you stay top of mind and further build trust and authority. And with this earned trust buyers become open to considering your products or services. Your calls-to-action in this stage should be focused on filling your sales pipeline with demos or appointments, as well as re-engaging prospects.
Decision Content – Your target buyer has identified solution options they think are likely a good fit and your business is a finalist. Congratulations! But you still need to win the deal and close the sale.
Your decision content should focus on why buyers should choose your company, your products, or your services over competitors. Features and benefits and product comparisons are still important to make a sale but remember that the buying decision is also an emotional one. Focus on testimonials and case studies from satisfied and happy customers that really emphasize the benefits customers received with your solution.
Your associated call-to-action should continue to focus on offers like a free trial, live demo, free consultation, or promotional offers. However, your target customers have likely already taken one of those calls to action. So, this stage also becomes largely about follow-up, and the sales team working to close a sale. But you want to also continue nurturing your prospects with social proof, product comparisons, and industry expertise that address ongoing questions and potential objections to closing a sale.
With a detailed buyer persona, an understanding of the customer’s intent and stage in the buying process (along with their pain points), you can develop content that is mapped to the key stages of the buyer journey. Leveraging tools like social listening and monitoring engagement with your content through analytics will help you stay on top of providing content your target customers find the most valuable. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can now create a content strategy that works hand in hand with the buyer journey to generate more leads and increase sales.