Today’s consumer controls their own buyer’s journey. Anyone can research a product or service online to compile as much information as they need to come to a decision about whether or not to do business with you. It’s been reported that buyers today could be from two-thirds to 90% of their way to a decision before they make contact with your salesperson or company.

So how do you control a sales process that is out of your control?

Know Your Target Markets

This cannot be stressed enough. Knowing your audience is the starting place for all content creation. Only by knowing where your customers hang out online can you provide content to meet them where they are. Learn how they search online: what phrases and words do they use; what questions are they asking; what problems do they need to solve? By creating customer-centric content based on exactly the problems they are looking to solve, you’ll be the one popping up in the search engines, providing that sought-after information and leaving your competition in the dust.

“Answer questions better than anyone else. Honest, transparent and helpful content is the greatest sales and trust building tool in the world. Period.” –Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion

Create Purpose-Driven Content

Driving traffic to your website is only the first step in engaging with a prospect. You need to create content that will support the buyer’s journey from initial contact through to becoming a satisfied customer and brand advocate. Each step along the journey should involve consuming new information that propels the prospect deeper into the process. Your content should both inform and inspire a next action.

“Every piece of content should have a goal; what is the next step I want them to take?” –Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

This infographic by Lori Wizdo illustrates how various types of content are required to meet the needs of buyers and prospects throughout the buyer journey. Contrary to the straight-forward sales funnel of old, it more closely resembles a Dr. Seuss creation as the buyer uses web content, social media, email, and peers to acquire information in their own way, in their own time.

We can clearly see the evolution of the journey:

  • Search/discover
  • Research
  • Share/Peer Review
  • Compare
  • Trust
  • Decide/Purchase
  • Evangelize

Since each buyer creates their own journey of discovery/awareness, consideration and purchase, your content must be relevant, personal, compelling and in the correct media format to reach your audience in every stage. For example, someone who finds you on a mobile application is most likely going to want to consume additional information in the same way.

Measuring the Journey for ROI

Key performance indicators (KPIs) and various tracking and measurement tools (such as Google Analytics) lets you know the specific content your buyers are consuming, where they are finding your content, and the patterns of engagement. Not only does this information enable you to provide targeted content to improve engagement and increase conversion rates, you can measure the value of your content for proving ROI of your content marketing:

“You can actually trace and attribute ROI (Return on Investment) to the different phases of the journey based on what assets you have provided for those different phases of the journey. For example, if you’ve created a highly inspiring video with specifically the intent to generate the greatest amount of awareness at that part of the [journey], you can begin to see, through Google Analytics, the kind of response that you got to that video. If a person who viewed that video also moves on to signing up to download a more explanatory ebook about the same topic, you begin to realize that now this person is more in the consideration stage. Then you find that they’ve provided their contact information, or you can get a [page] view that they’ve actually looked at, possibly testimonial-related content. So now you know they’ve gone from awareness to consideration to actually being very close to the decision-making stage of the buyer’s journey. You can get very granular in terms of seeing how the lifespan of a specific piece of content may have generated awareness to actually contributing to closing a sale.” –Russell Sparkman

Conclusion

While the idea of consumers mapping out their own buyers’ journeys may strike fear into the hearts of marketers, by following content marketing lifecycle best practices you will be able to produce targeted content that fuels the process and shortens the buying cycle.

  • Know your target audiences
  • Produce relevant, compelling content
  • Be wherever your audiences are
  • Produce consistent, high quality content

“By the time the buyer gets ready to buy, they have already identified their needs, researched the available solutions, checked references and peers, read reviews, followed bloggers, downloaded whitepapers, watched videos and more. By the time they’re ready to talk to your salesperson, they sometimes know more about you than your salesperson does.” –Jim Godsey, e-Builder, Inc.

The right content at the right place at the right time can actually save you time and money.

Join the Conversation:

  • What steps have you taken to monitor the buyers’ journeys of your target audiences?
  • What types of content seem to generate the greatest momentum for moving your prospects through the buying cycle?
  • What metrics do you track to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing?

Related Articles: