Did you know that 70% of customers say they would rather learn about a company through articles rather than advertisements? This is particularly important in the B2B world of organizations that are offering their services as products. Purchases that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars are not going to be made after two visits to your website. The savvy Chief Marketing Officer knows that effective content marketing will require multiple touches on a variety of channels, before your member or prospect is ready to even have a real sales conversation. And it will most likely be an in-person conversation that will lead to a purchase. Your content marketing strategy needs to be creating content for every stage, taking into account where your prospect is in the buying cycle. So what does that buying cycle look like?
The Buying Cycle: Four Stages
Here’s a great link to show you a variety of visuals that graphically illustrate the buying cycle. Despite the variety of images, typically the buying cycle can be divided into four stages:
|Awareness/Discovery||The prospect first discovers your organization and is curious to know more about you and the services you offer|
|Research/Education||The prospect identifies a problem that you might be able to help them with and is researching multiple organizations/companies that provide similar solutions|
|Comparison/Intent||Having compared options, secured senior level buy-in and funding, the prospect narrows down the selections, including your company or organization|
|Registration/Purchase||The prospect decides from whom to buy|
The ultimate goal of your content marketing at each of these stages is to influence the behavior of your prospect in such a way as to move them closer towards your company or organization at each succeeding step.
Mapping Your Content Marketing
If you’ve created your buyer personas and done your content audit, identified holes in types of content, and taken steps to repurpose content into various formats, you are now ready to map your content marketing to the buying cycle. Looking at the table above, think about which types of content would make sense to use at various stages to influence behavior. The greater breadth and variety of your content, the more likely you are to be successful in leading prospects down the sales funnel.
Stage #1: Awareness & Discovery
At this stage, your member/prospect is just taking a cursory glance at your organization, wanting to learn more. They’re looking for personality and authenticity. Is membership in your organization or on your team a good fit for them? Do you share similar values? Is there a community aspect to your organization? A strong online presence that includes social media updates, blog posts and video will give this person a good first impression.
Stage #2: Research & Education
A member or prospect whose curiosity has been piqued will likely come back for a second look. They have identified a need that you might be able to fill for them. They’re looking for more specifics about HOW you might help them. Ebooks, webinars, white papers, infographics and industry reports that are answering the questions they’re asking will demonstrate commitment to their needs. They’re looking for credibility and depth to your knowledge base.
Stage #3: Comparison & Intent
Now your potential member or prospect is in shopping mode. She/he comes with serious intent to peruse your content. They likely have a budget and a deadline. You have made it to the short list! They’re going to be comparing you to your competitors, so expressing your uniqueness is of more critical importance at this stage. How do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Case studies, work samples, real-life member profiles, demos and especially testimonials are hugely important here.
Stage #4: Registration or Purchase
This is the tipping point. Member benefits, demographics and statistics, detailed product info and Power points are helpful at this stage. But there’s no substitute for human contact. Phone calls, Skype, Face Time or an in person meeting will give you the opportunity to hear from your prospective member what their needs, wants and concerns are and answer any questions they might have. This is the TRUE service conversation, when you’re asking about what’s important to them: their needs, challenges, opportunities, relationships and experiences. It’s not your product or service, but your relationship that closes the deal!