Is your content divided into types that appeal to various customers and their degrees of familiarity with you? Most customers go through a series of three steps leading up to a sale, subscription, or whatever other action a business wishes them to make. This is called the buyer’s journey, and providing a mix of content for all three stages can be a powerful tool for sales funnels. We’ll detail each of these steps and provide examples of content marketing that work well in each stage.
Stage One: Customer Awareness and Education
Naturally, people have to know who you are before they can find your products and buy from you. Stage One is often the hardest for a business with products or services that aren’t easily explained. For example, a business that sells organic weedkiller might need to explain what its active ingredients are and why they’re better than manufactured chemicals.
Infographics are one of the best forms of content through which to educate customers and create strong first impressions. In particular, interactive infographics give an added bit of visual excitement and help the reader learn better. Blog posts with clear data visualizations can be helpful, as well, and videos are even more accessible. You might want to avoid longer content like white papers. Save those for Stage Two unless you are in the business-to-business space, where readers expect that much information.
In general, Stage One has the most flexibility with actual content formats. It’s more about where you place the content and how it is composed. Other things suited to Stage One include:
- Interesting news related to your niche or industry, such as reporting on a relevant study or finding.
- Any highly visual, slightly less in-depth introductory educational content.
- Anything posted on social media for anyone to see, as opposed to narrowed toward a smaller audience.
Whatever type of content you choose for Stage One, make it helpful and valuable above all else, but not overwhelming. Offer links and landing pages to draw interested people toward the more substantial content in Stage Two, but do not ask for sales yet. Stage One should be all about giving value and being generous, as that sets a better atmosphere as readers move to Stage Two’s content.
Stage Two: Consideration and Trust-Building
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After your customers have discovered who you are — thanks to helpful, entertaining, introductory content in Stage One — it’s time to build their trust and get them to seriously consider what you are offering. Even though this is more direct and sales-oriented than Stage One, it’s still not time to go into advertiser mode.
Stage Two content can be regularly available and less-frequently updated, which Stage One content can naturally link toward. There are many blogs, for example, that link naturally to podcasts. Podcasts are great because visitors expect them to be longer and packed with more information; those who know who you are and what you’re about will readily accept this content. Stage Two is also a good time to offer short, free e-books in exchange for some sort of connection, such as joining a private social media group or an email newsletter list.
Even making longer and more in-depth versions of the content you used for Stage One can be effective in Stage Two. If you wrote blog posts for Stage One, make longer ones that are related but dissect a common issue or provide more value. If your Stage One content included short videos, make a video course or series in Stage Two.
Don’t focus exclusively on advanced content building off Stage One, however. Stage Two is a chance to show off About Us videos and similar features that tell a customer about you without pushing for a sale. The key takeaway is this: Now that you have someone’s attention, it’s time to build trust and understanding.
Stage Three: Purchasing
Your customer understands your business and what it offers and now trusts you enough to seriously consider ordering. Assuage the final barriers, such as fear of buyer’s remorse, with targeted, individualized content, if possible.
Suppose you send an email to customers on your newsletter list automatically if they have opened past emails related to Stage Two. In this email, ask them if they have any questions about buying your product. If you have the resources, ask them to respond via email so they can talk to a sales and customer service team member until they’re fully convinced.
For content, however, it’s best to create small pieces that alleviate all the common hurdles that appear just before someone buys. Your email could link to each one, so whether buyers are worried about a product’s lifespan, warranty, delivery, discretion, or anything else, they can get clear answers.
One of the best types of Stage Three content, by far, is the case study. Always show off a happy customer’s story if you have the opportunity. Many businesses also use case studies, or at least tiny snippets of them, in the earlier stages. In Stage Three, however, the potential customer is closer to the prospective outcome shown in the case study, giving it the most persuasive power.
Other types of content to inspire that first purchase include:
- Comparisons to competitors.
- Demonstration videos.
- Customer testimonials or reviews.
Even after a person has bought or ordered from you, keep the content coming. Keep people engaged as long-term users by asking them to contribute to surveys, providing news and updates on other products, and offering helpful guides and information for getting the most out of what they purchased.
If there’s one thing online content marketing needs, it’s content attuned to a customer’s place in the buyer’s journey. Avoid the trap of mixing up your content’s stages in the buying cycle, such as upfront selling to customers who need education or flooding customers with information when they’re already planning to purchase. If you make firm rules about the types of content your business should provide for each of the three steps and ensure they flow naturally into one another, you’ll have an irresistible and high-converting chain of content turning cold traffic into regular customers.