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Fifty percent of generated leads are not ready to make a final purchase decision when they enter the sales funnel. To hold their attention until they are ready to buy, you have to understand the process they're going through and what content is appropriate each step of the way. Whether it's writing case studies or compiling nitty-gritty white papers, all of your content must have a purpose.
HubSpot splits the buyer process into three stages: awareness, evaluation and purchase. They define the purpose and format that content should fulfil in each:
- Awareness. Content and offers in the form of whitepapers, ebooks and checklists should educate the buyer.
- Evaluation. Content will inform the buyer about what will fulfil their need and offers like webinars or case studies should follow.
- Purchase. Content gives the buyer specific information and access to your brand through a free trial or consultation, even product literature.
When a buyer starts out, they aren’t ready to commit to a consultation with your company or even to sit through a webinar, but as they become more invested in your brand, the likelihood that they’ll accept these types of offers increases.
Giving a lead the right choices of content and offers at each stage determines whether or not they choose to take the next step. This is why it’s essential to put yourself in the buyer's shoes and account for their needs at every stage with the content you produce.
Telling your buyer’s story
If you're wondering 'what content do my leads want to see?,' the process of matching content to the buyer’s journey is called content mapping. To find the answer to your question, you have to understand the buyer’s story.
Using your buyer personas, the fictional representation of your ideal buyers, as a foundation, a buyer scenario will tell each buyer’s story from the initial problem they encounter through to the final purchase decision.
You then determine what content they would look for at each stage and fill your editorial calendar based on those topics and the appropriate content format for where they are in your sales funnel.
If you already use a tool like Hubspot (we do!), this is even easier. You can view the profiles of customers you’ve gained and look at the series of content they chose to read before making their final decision.
You can also map it out in story form. Let’s give it a try by putting ourselves in the buyer’s shoes.
Insert your name here
You are a small business owner with a staff of 18-24 employees. Your company sells and installs audio-visual equipment and systems for home and business. You are always interested in finding better ways to do business so you read online sources and talk to your network of small business owners.
You might come across articles or whitepapers on:
- 20 real uses for tablets in small business
- 10 top CRM applications
- 9 ways to achieve better customer service in the cloud
What’s the problem and how could I solve it?
You’ve noticed a disconnect between your sales people and technicians. Customers are supposed to direct questions and problems to their account managers, but technicians are getting requests or encountering questions on site. These things don’t always get communicated back to the office.
Because of the articles you’ve read, you consider equipping the technicians with tablets and access to a CRM application so customer account information is put in the same place in real time by every employee.
Like most buyers, you start your research online. To find the best options, you look at:
- Reviews on different sites and blogs
- A case study on how three companies used tablets to make their business mobile
- A webinar on using CRM software in a mobile small business
Which products am I actually interested in?
This is where business and personal values come into play. You might have personal preferences toward certain vendors, but you also feel:
- Price matters, but not at the risk of sacrificing quality
- With technicians on the move, warranty and customer support matter
- You need compatibility with the equipment you already have in your business
When you looked at the reviews, you found a few tablets which met your basic criteria, but now it’s time to get serious. You look at product literature like a:
- Vendor comparison guide for tablets
- Feature comparison between a single company’s tablets
You’re also influenced by the customer experience at this point-how easy it is to make a purchase and the quality of service if and when you make contact with a representative.
What do I think of my decision?
You decide to purchase tablets for your lead technicians with a CRM software by the same company. Now you’re making your post-purchase evaluation of the equipment itself and any support you receive while integrating it into your business. You refer to articles like:
- Tips and tricks to using CRM software better
- Staying connected to a growing, mobile staff
This chapter of the story, or this purchase, is over, but you have one more decision to make as a buyer.
To be continued …
Did you just buy a product or did you buy into the brand? A growing business always has different needs and pain points. Will you return to the same brand for future purchases? These are the questions your customers ask themselves.
It costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an old one, so as a marketer, these questions are worth answering. Does your content marketing simply lead them to your products or does it engage them with your brand even after the sale is made?
It’s all about the buyer
Every buyer making a purchase decision has their own set of values guiding the process which are important to consider as you create your buyer scenarios and content to suit.
In B2B transactions, the company sets standards based on desired benefits, price, quality and internal policies. However, even in business, personal factors like job role, reputation and even brand preferences can influence the outcome of a purchase.
Your content should appeal to these internal values, but the way you present your content should be influenced by how people make choices. Sheena Iyengar, in her TED talk on the science of choice, asserts easier choices stem from:
- Cutting. One company experienced a 10 percent sales increase when they cut their product offerings by approximately 50 percent.
- Concretising. Buyers are more likely to move forward if they understand the concrete benefits of their choice.
- Categorising. Buyers don’t want more options, but are more likely to purchase a product or service when they can easily locate the type of product they are seeking.
- Complexity. In a series of decisions, buyers want the simpler choices first if you expect to keep them engaged.
When you are executing an inbound strategy, a buyer makes a choice whether or not to read a piece of your content or sign up for an offer.
Your goal is to create a logical series of choices for each buyer based on their needs to lead them to the final decision-to convert and become your customer.
(Photo: Stefan Shambora)
Content mapping means seeing an inbound marketing strategy to attract, convert, close and delight from the customer’s perspective. Your buyers want it to be first about their problem, then what would solve the problem, and finally, your products or services.
By seeing a purchase through a buyer’s eyes, you can better curate content, master offers, close sales on quality leads and continue to reel in those buyer’s until you’ve made brand advocates out of every single one.
(Hat tip to Matt Jiggins for the photo)