Buyer’s Journey: Mapping Content and Inbound Marketing
Focusing on the customer and the buyer’s journey means offering valuable content that is optimized with inbound marketing.
On one hand, inbound marketing is the process of making sure that your company’s products or services are easily found online through search engines and social media websites. On the other hand, content marketing is the process of creating and distributing valuable content to build an audience of potential customers and increase sales of products and services. The two activities rely on one another for distribution (of the sales message) and substance. Instead of delivering an obvious pitch for a product or service, the content marketer gives relevant and timely information to the customer that supports the buyer’s journey to make a purchase.
Not only should this information be useful, but it should also fill a unique need for the target market that no other company has offered yet. This content should engage the customer and focus on various stages of the buying process, from brand awareness, to consideration, to the buying stage. Consequently, with consistent content marketing that is well disseminated and amplified with inbound marketing techniques, a company can benefit from an increase in website traffic and a growing following of loyal customers.
Lead nurturing for customers who have already expressed interest in your company and customer service for current customers also require different content management strategies. Useful for targeting all stages of the buyer’s journey, outlining customer personas helps to give a face to customers. Content marketing is a more genuine and respectful way of interacting with customers than traditional advertising and marketing, and it is generally well received. The marketer offers content with intrinsic value for free in order to attract the customer to a company’s brand, product, or service.
The first stage in the buyer’s journey is to become aware that an opportunity or problem exists. The types of content that are most effective at promoting awareness include ebooks or eguides, white papers, expert advice, industry research and analyst reports, and educational blogs.
Short ebooks of about 20,000 words, or 60 to 80 pages, give customers an in-depth look at a topic of interest. Look for a topic that helps a buyer address the goal or challenge. Templates make creating an ebook much easier than it may seem at first. Add a landing page online for the book that links to your company’s website and include a call for action.
A white paper is an authoritative, less interactive publication than an ebook. It’s like an article in an industry journal, usually about 6-8 pages long. Expert advice can come in the form of a guest article or interview that is formatted to highlight information about a relevant topic about a certain industry or market. Q & A sections hit the mark for customers looking for immediate answers to their questions. Industry research can come in ebook or white paper form.
Educational blogs are less formal and more conversational than articles and often contain a listing or quick roundup of a subject. Their length should be between about 1000 to 1600 words. Keep a sense of humor to relieve stress and let readers learn by doing, such as taking a hands-on quiz, to keep their interest. Offer “field trips” to useful websites or other blog articles and give extra credit for returning to your site or signing up to receive more content.
Second, at the consideration stage, the buyer has identified the opportunity or problem that he or she needs to address. The search is on for the best way to solve the problem, so at this point the buyer is interested in looking at comparison sheets; webinars, video chats, or podcasts; expert guides; and product pages. In comparison sheets, infographics are helpful, with charts that give a quick view of trends and data results.
A webinar is a live online educational presentation. During this live event, participants submit questions and comments. The audience has a limited amount of time and attention span. Therefore, it’s best to keep webinars short and sweet, about 30 minutes to an hour. The best time to start a webinar in the United States is at 1 or 2 pm EST. Keep any slides or graphics moving every 20-40 seconds. Listing the main points will make the presentation easier to follow.
Speak in a normal, conversational tone of voice and tell stories so that the audience can relate to you and will enjoy the talk. Show what you mean with graphics and photos, instead of telling your audience or using text. A dedicated Q&A facilitator can help keep interactivity. Add speaker notes and contact information at the end of the presentation. Use a cabled headset microphone or a landline phone for better sound quality. Citrix offers a good webinar platform.
Online product pages are critical to the buyer’s consideration process. Therefore, it is important to create a dedicated page for each product or service that you are offering. First, make sure that the URL and product title are appropriate and will make sense to a customer when searching online. These should be optimized for search engines with keywords that are not obvious to customers but will provide good findability. Ensure that pages load quickly.
Use multiple, high-resolution images taken from different angles for physical product pages. Graphics should allow the customer to zoom and interact with the virtual product. Leave plenty of white space to allow the customer to focus on the offering. Videos about a product or service will also increase interest. Add engaging copy to describe what you’re selling, and allow customers to write reviews. Consider adding a live chat option. Include easy-to-use social sharing, purchasing, and cross-selling buttons so that the customer can quickly move from consideration to the purchasing stage.
Third, at the decision stage, buyers know their plan of action. However, they still need to support that decision with vendor comparison sheets, product brochures, case studies, free trials and demos, assessments, and consultations.
Product brochures can appear in digital or printed format. Limit fonts to at most three different styles for the headings, subheadings, and body copy. Use high-quality photos and graphics, and if printing, make sure that the paper is excellent. Online publishing services such as Canva can help make the process easier.
The case study should tell the story of your ideal customer from start to finish. It will highlight your experience and knowledge in the industry, and how your services can benefit other customers. Quoting from an interview of an actual customer (especially from well-known companies) and using statistics will make the study even more valuable.
Product brochures and case studies will help the buyer to make that final purchasing decision. However, at this stage you should also have a basic relationship with the customer and can offer extra benefits such as a free trial, demo, assessment, or consultation that will help push the customer over the tipping point to make the purchase. Make contact and bring the buyer’s journey to a close.
By Mary Le Rouge
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