The heart of the inbound marketing is about attracting strangers from across the internet and nurturing them into delighted customers.
The question becomes how do you attract these strangers, and then build the necessary credibility and trust that is essential to a long term business relationship? The answer is content.
Content is all of its forms, e-books, white-papers, blogs, case studies, videos, and infographics are how organizations are capturing attention, building credibility, and eventually closing sales. In this blog post I would like examine how you can use specific types of content to positively influence the sales process at every level.
Mapping Content To The Buyers Journey
To effectively use content throughout the buying process you must first understand the stages that your buyers go through when making a purchase decision. These purchase categories can be broken down into three basic levels:
- Awareness Stage: In the awareness stage the prospect realizes that they have an issue that needs to be resolved. So they start researching to better understand and frame their problem.
- Consideration Stage: In the consideration stage the prospect has a clearly defined idea of the problem. Additionally, they have researched all of the potential solutions to the problem that they are facing.
- Decision Stage: This is where the buyer has evaluated all of the different solutions and now has to choose a vendor to help them solve their problem.
Understanding the high level stages that your buyers go through allows you to better map content to each one of these stages. Individuals that are working through a purchase decision will be looking for different types of content depending on where they are in their research process.
Content for the Awareness Phase
In each stage the buyer will be looking for different types of information. So knowing the type of content to produce for the: awareness, consideration and decision stage is essential. As stated above, the awareness stage is when the prospect realizes that they have a problem. Additionally, this is when the prospect starts researching the issue that they are facing.
At this point the prospect is looking for educational content to help them frame the issue. So it’s essential for marketers to produce content that will help the prospect better understand their problem. Content that helps advance the buyers goals at this stage are things like:
- Research reports.
This content helps to educate the prospect and brings context to the issue at hand. This higher level content will be important for things like: “top-of-the-funnel” lead generation, elevating the organization’s search engine rank, and increasing credibility within the industry.
Content for Consideration Phase
Once the prospect has 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 prospect wants to understand their 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, do they need to hire someone in-house, or can they outsource to fix the problem?
So as a marketer we must be producing content that speaks to issue resolution. Content like:
- Case Studies
By producing this “middle-of-the-funnel” content we help further educate prospects on potential solutions.
Content for Decision Stage
The final stage in the buyers journey is the decision stage. At this point in the buying cycle the prospect clearly understand all aspects of their problem, and potential solutions for helping them resolve their problem. It’s the decision stage where the prospect makes 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
- Feature differentiator sheets
- Granular product literature
This content will help you posture your product or service against competitors.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the purchase process has completely changed in the last 15 years. The internet and search engines have reconstructed the way in which people research and buy products and services. Consumers are now starting their research process on popular search engines like: Google, Yahoo and Bing. Here's a handy chart to sum up what was discussed:
The shift in purchase behavior has mandated a shift in the way that organizations market and sell their products. Additionally, it has elevated the importance of content at every stage of the sales cycle. Smart organizations are taking time to clearly understand their buyers persona’s purchase process. Then they are mapping highly relevant and educational content to each stage of the process.
So take time to build out resources for the awareness, consideration and decision stage. By doing this you allow thousands of prospects the ability to walk through the stages of the purchase process at a pace that is convenient for them.
These educational resources will help you decrease the cost-per-lead, shorten the sales cycle times, and increase the conversation quality that your sales people have with prospects. So start creating great educational content for your business today, you will be amazed at the impact that it has on your bottom line.