How to Use Content Marketing to Drive Sales Through All Five Stages of The Customer Buyer’s Journey

Over the last decade, the world of (online) marketing has changed. There used to be a time when you could just advertise at random places, and you could expect a steady stream of click through to your website.

The very first banner ever even had a Click Through Rate (CTR) of 44%, nowadays companies are jumping through the roof when they 0.44%, with an average CTR at the moment of 0.17% according to benchmarks by DoubleClick.

Today’s consumers have changed. They are either “banner blind” and blocking out the advertisements on the website mentally or have ad-blockers installed. They look beyond logos, overlook your promotions and won’t sign up for your newsletter. Today’s consumers only need the information when they want it, delivered to them in a format they want it.

And with as many as 81% of consumers conducting research before making a purchase, it’s fair to say that people today have a lot more to say about who they buy from than ever before.

If you’re broadcasting your products or services to your target audience, good luck trying to sell to them. Consumers want to start a dialogue with you, and they don’t like being told what to choose and what to buy. So how do you make your potential customers notice you?

You do this by being helpful, hence the birth of Content Marketing.

Content marketing is just solving the same problems that your product solves through media you create and promote.Click To Tweet

But with everybody diving into Content marketing nowadays, it becomes more and more difficult to cut through the noise and get your content delivered to your potential customers.

You need to deliver content that’s relevant to them, based on the behaviour they have at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

And what happens next?

While different Content Marketing Strategies might have a different purpose (lead generation, brand awareness, website traffic, etc.) the end goal should always be the same – to increase revenue and drive more business.

In the old days, it was the sales team that used to shoulder the sales funnel or buyer’s journey, but nowadays the buyer’s journey has transformed into more touchpoints across different channels. Quality content provides more than just a great way for marketers to connect with new audiences; it also helps your sales department better. With the right content, your sales staff can:

  • Be better prepared for their sales conversations;
  • Get better-qualified leads
  • Gain access to selling tools to engage more effectively
  • Learn more about their audience through analytics

The Five Stages Of Every Buyers’ Journey

Awareness

Before any customer ever comes to the point of wanting to buy from you, they need to know that you exist. If your potential customers don’t know that your company or your products exist, they will never buy from you.

This seems pretty logical, but there are lots of companies out there, or startups that think that the moment they launch, hundreds or thousands of customers will come running towards them ready to buy.

If you did not do any marketing before, how can they know you’re open for business? Companies must market themselves and create awareness before they can even hope for any sales.

Consideration

The next step in the journey is the consideration. Your potential customers are aware of your existence, and because of your brilliant product offering, they might even consider buying from you.

Based on the fact that your product or service is solving a real problem for them if the price is fair and if the pain is big enough that it needs to be resolved right now they will decide to buy whether or not.

Marketing plays a significant role in this part of the journey too, and can often be the tipping point that makes someone want to buy from you.

Look at a scenario of two restaurants for example.

Every day on your way home you pass both of them. You’re clearly passed the first stage of the journey, and you are aware of them.

Now, imagine that one of them places a sign outside showcasing their delicious food and talking about a promotion happening that week.

Which restaurant are you more likely to walk into?

The same thing holds true for online, you might tinker with the thought of buying something, you’ve read reviews, you’ve read content from that company, and at the moment you’re almost ready to buy, you’re retargeted to help you hop on to the next step of the journey.

An excellent example of this is this story from Justin Veenema, who will for sure be buying a BoostedBoard right now!

Conversion

Yeah, high five! You’ve made the sale!

via GIPHY
After building awareness and helping them solve their problems using your content, they finally decided they need the real deal, and they call in support of the professionals!

Now it is up to you to not only deliver a great product or service, but you have to provide an amazing experience.

Delivering that amazing experience is all part of the marketing and the branding of your company, this will not only affect your brand, but it will also affect whether or not somebody will end up becoming an advocate for you and your brand.

Loyalty

The moment someone puts their wallet away again after purchase, that is the time when they will first make a decision about how they feel what they just bought.

Lots of businesses try to deliver products that will leave a great feeling behind with the people that just bought into their product or service offering, and so should you.

No business wants to be the reason that people feel “buyers’ remorse” because that will lead down the negative spiral of cancellation of your service or return of your product (if you’re lucky, it might be even worse and result in negative reviews on public places).

(Content) Marketing can be difficult during this phase, but if done correctly and innovatively it can help turn your customers into a loyal following.

Think of things like “explainer” video’s what is happening now you ordered, Coolblue a Dutch company does a great job with this, or offering secret overnight shipping as they do at Zappos to provide that extra bit of delight.

If your newly found customers have a great experience starting straight after the moment of purchase with your product they will quickly move on to the next phase of the buyers’ journey and become any company’s dream customer.

Advocacy

Having brand advocates is the goal of any business’s marketing program. Making your client so happy, so delighted with your product or service that they not only purchase (and re-purchase) from you but that they also start referring you to everyone they know who might have the same need.

Moving someone all the way through your buyer’s journey is no guarantee however that someone will become a brand advocate or even wants to stay one when they are already one. You need to pay close attention to your marketing and make sure you’re able to make sure that all your customers are satisfied and that their needs are being met.

For some companies, this needs to be done by always innovating and coming up with new products like Apple and Google, for others it means consistently wowing their customers with fantastic customer service like Zappos.

Some others offer loyalty programs, whatever you do you should never take your (most loyal) customers for granted because as soon as you lose a client, all the effort and money spent in making them a customer in the first place has gone to waste.

Different content for different stages of the buyer’s journey

As you can imagine, with the different stages, come different types of content.

Different Content For Different Stages Of The Buyer's Journey
Different Content For Different Stages Of The Buyer’s Journey

People are searching for different things.

For example, people in the market to buy a new washing machine are first searching for things like “the best washing machines of 2020”, or “the best large capacity washing machines of 2020”. When they made the choice which size of the washing machine they want, they start searching more actionable like “best eco-friendly large-capacity washing machines” or “Miele vs. Samsung”.

Let’s have a look at the different stages and how this relates to the different types of content they are looking for.

In the awareness stage, people need to become aware of their pain, and when they do they get interested in finding a solution, they begin to discover trends, different products and brands.

In the consideration stage, people start the evaluate specific products and services, they become willing to engage with potential sellers to a solution for their pain.

In the conversion stage, they want to commit to a specific solution, they want to find reasons that justify their purchase

During the loyalty stage, your new customer expects good product performance and great customer service.

And finally, in the advocacy stage, they want to be nurtured, they want to be kept informed about new products or services that could enhance the experience they are having.

So where to start mapping your (existing) content for the buyer’s journey?

  • First, create a list of questions your customers are asking at each stage of their buying cycle;
  • Then, audit your existing content and determine where it fits into the funnel;
  • Next up, identify the gaps. Where does your content fall short of delivering useful answers?
  • Make a list of content that will help fill in these gaps, taking into account keyword analysis to identify the different sets of keywords that go with these topics;
  • Get to work 😉

The best content for each stage of the buyer’s journey

These different stages and different types of questions for each stage also result in different types of content.

Different content for each stage of the buyer’s journey
Different content for each stage of the buyer’s journey

So let’s have a look at the types of content that you can use for the best results.

Best content for the awareness stage

Since your buyer is just entering the market, the content for this stage needs to be a light read that whets the buyer’s appetite.

And since buyers at this stage are not yet highly qualified leads, your job is to relay information in an easy, concise, and relatable manner.

User Growth gives value to potential customers using content
At User Growth, for the awareness stage, we create blog content.
The goal of the blog content at this stage is simply to attract potential buyers, give something of value to them for free, and allow them to connect with your brand through social media or email marketing.

Some types of content you can use at this stage:

  • Blog posts – “How to solve problem Y”
  • Blog post – “What does ABC costs?”
  • Blog posts – Answering questions from your customers
  • Video – “How to do XYZ”
  • E-book – “A simple strategy to achieve ABC”
  • Infographic – “10 tips to achieve XYZ”
  • Guides – “The ultimate guide to topic X”
  • Social Media – Different types of lightweight content for people to get to know your brand and company on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and wherever your customer is.

Best content for the consideration stage

The Consideration stage is a crucial time for both you and the buyer. Not only is the buyer trying to figure out whether your product or service is right for them, but you also need to find out whether they fall into your true target audience, whose authentic interests really match your offering.

In essence, your potential buyer at this stage needs to be convinced that you want more than just their money, and the only way you can do so is by producing content that shows how you stand out from the pack.

LeadPages is a company that makes good use of webinars.
LeadPages is a company that makes good use of webinars. They make these webinars super informative, but always end up tying the webinar’s topic to one of their offers. Since the offer is unique and high quality, this has a good conversion rate and a good ROI.

Here’s how it can be done:

  • Blog post – “How solution X solves problem Y”
  • Blog post – “How to calculate the ROI for solution X”
  • Video – “How to integrate our solution X with software XYZ”
  • E-book – “5 simple steps to implementing solution X”
  • Guides – “How to calculate savings usings solution X”
  • Webinars – “How to use solution X for your business”

But also digging a bit deeper for those people that are almost ready to start buying:

  • Case studies “Customer case studies using solution X”
  • Videos – “Customer Testimonials”
  • Blog post – “Feature comparison solution X with competitors X, Y and Z”
  • 3rd party industry report – “Top 10 industry solutions for problem Y”
  • Studies – “ROI calculation after a successful implementation”

Best content for the conversion stage

The conversion stage is when your buyer is finally ready to grab that credit card and make the purchase. No pressure, but the content at this stage is what can make or break their decision to make that coveted “Buy Now” click.

Consumers and businesses today love personalization and interaction, which is why it’s essential for you to give them the perfect blend of both. The content you create should not just be highly customized, but it should also be persuasive enough to ensure you close the deal.

Zoho CRM uses demo videos of how their tool works
Zoho CRM uses demo videos of how their tool works

Here are some of the types of content you could use:

  • Blog post – “Top 10 questions our customers ask about Y”
  • FAQ – “Guide to doing business with us”
  • Guide – “How to implement solution X”
  • Video – “How to integrate solution X into your business”
  • Webinars showing demos of the product
  • Free trials allowing your potential customer to interact with your product itself just enough for them to understand that they want it in their life.

Best content for the loyalty stage

For many businesses, the buyer’s journey ends when a purchase is made, missing out on a lot of opportunities to get repeat purchases, referral sales, and positive word of mouth.

The key to growing your business is convincing customers to buy again.

Customer lifetime value is a term that describes how much your customer is worth to your business from their first purchase to when the stops spending on your product or service. It’s an important metric to track, considering research has shown that profit is maximized in this stage.

Specifically, in a study done by Harvard Business Review it is stated that increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost a company’s profits by nearly 100%:

Customer defections have a surprisingly powerful impact on the bottom line.

They can have more to do with a service company’s profits than scale, market share, unit costs, and many other factors usually associated with competitive advantage.

As a customer’s relationship with the company lengthens, profits rise. And not just a little. Companies can boost profits by almost 100% by retaining just 5% more of their customers.

Happy customers spend more on your service, and they’re more likely to tell their friends about you.

Groove onboarding email
Groove has an excellent example of an onboarding email. Not only does it give a warm welcome, it outlines the next steps, but it also gives lots of insights from the responses they’ve got on the “Why did you sign up for Groove” question.

So what types of content can you produce to keep your new customers happy?

  • Having a (public) helpdesk available at all time, like a forum or using software like Zendesk
  • In-app messages, guiding them through their first steps
  • Onboarding emails
  • Walkthroughs on how to achieve certain things with your product
  • Product focused blog posts
  • Surveys to get to know them better

Best content for the advocacy stage

A loyal customer is one thing, having them turn into brand advocates is another.

If you truly want to create loyal customers that feel even more valued you want to involve them in your business. You want to make your customers feel cared for, safe, but mostly listened too.

An exclusive members only community on Facebook for Gyroscope Pro members
An exclusive members-only community on Facebook for Gyroscope Pro members, where the founders are interacting with their paying customers directly.

Content to use in this final phase are:

  • Exclusive content
  • Exclusive communities on Facebook, LinkedIn or Slack
  • Co-creation with your customers to come up with new product ideas
  • Special offers and reward programs
  • Insider how-to’s
  • News and event details

How can Content Marketing help and boost your sales?

Instead of just trying to push your potential customers to buy your product, the sales department of your organisation needs to work closely together with your marketing department.

They need to assist in the creation of attention-grabbing pieces of content to help them better connect with their leads.

There are, however, lots of different ways to help create that value for your prospects throughout the first three steps of the journey.

The parts of the funnel leading up to the sales, and even afterwards. How can you convert your audience using content and later keep them on board and even turn them into brand advocates?

Let’s have a look at some more practical examples.

Let a lead self-identify their needs

When you urge a lead to buy a product, you’re slowly pushing him away from that product.

People don’t like to be told what to do or not to do.

Instead try to create a funnel, a pathway, to make your leads believe that they need your product and can’t live without it. Try to sell him or her your idea, your product using content, and let them realise what they are missing.

To be able to do this successful, you need to go to the core of content marketing:

Content marketing is just solving the same problems that your product solves through media you create and promote.Click To Tweet

You need to create content around the customer’s needs and concerns. With this content, you need to entice them to go to your website.

Using drip email campaigns for this process to send ebooks, whitepapers, or training courses to your leads. Using landing pages or in-page forms to convert people to leave their email address in exchange for this material.

Making real connections

According to research done by the SalesBenchmark Index, you are 4.2 times more likely to get an appointment with a lead or a lead opting in for a product trial when you have a personal connection with your leads.

What was the last time you made a real personal connection based on some sales call? We’re sure this was never.

Sending more sales pitch emails, or stalking them on the phone trying to get that sale is not going to cut it.

Using the power of storytelling, you can try to forge a connection by sharing something personal, let your leads relate to you.

Sharing relevant content with your leads after you’ve had them on the phone, using, for example, customer testimonials telling them how their business changed for the better after using your product.

Trying to make it personal, by making those real connections can do wonders for your business.

Adding value to the sale

Having that real connection with your prospects brings a lot of value to the sales process.

Traditionally companies did not care about the buyer’s needs. They just wanted to get the sales done and move on to a different prospect. Using “content selling” you’re able to focus on your buyers’ needs and requirements.

Using highly targeted advertising, using, for example, Facebook Dark Post, you’re able to send your leads highly targeted content that addresses their needs and concerns.

Using a technique like this will give you a headstart when you or your sales team picks up the phone and make the sales call – you’ve already captured their attention with a compelling read.

Using (unique) content to stay on top of mind

In today’s world, there is so much happening at the same time, so many different brands trying to get the attention of the same type of people you are trying to target. It is only natural that people might quickly forget about you again after they first heard from you.

This results in only a limited opportunity window to follow-up and connects with your potential customers, your leads.

Doing this without coming over as annoying can be tricky and tough.

Trying to stay on their radar using (unique) content is key here.

By now you should already know a bit more about the interests and likes of your prospects. By sharing tips and tricks and knowledge-based content with your leads you can help them shape your opinion about you.

An opinion of you being a trustworthy company, someone who knows what they are talking about.

Using more formal materials about your product can help gain a better understanding of your product or service offering to your leads to build trust.

Providing Credibility

The final step before the sales in which content can assist is providing credibility.

When people are ready to buy, it is the credibility of the company that will help people move over their last sets of fear and doubts and buy your product.

To show the credibility of your product or service you can use articles written, or maybe even video’s recorded by your customers talking about how they use your product and how it impacted their business and sent them to your leads.

Even specific content like infographics, white papers, and ebooks that have been published on another website on the internet can help you increase your product credibility in the eyes of your leads.

As long as it is content produced by others, this can be an adamant trigger. Your internal team, of course, can help and assist in the creation of this content, as long as it stays authentic.

Create content that puts your customers in the spotlight

While the above examples are targeted at converting new leads towards customers. What can you do at the moment after the sales to keep them as a client, to turn them into loyal customers and even brand advocates?

If you got customers, who are giving their time and energy interacting with you, suggesting new product ideas, etc. These are the types of people who are already engaged with your brand.

It is very easy to turn them into brand advocates by thanking them publicly and appreciating them in fun ways. How can you say thank you in a unique way? Maybe it could be something as simple as putting their face and story on your website.

Many companies are investing in customer/client sections on their website. Parts of the site where they tell the customer story and say thank you for drawing attention to their cause and story. It is an excellent execution of the reciprocal loyalty philosophy.

As you can see, content marketing can aid and assist in the sales process.

Relevant content can be used to gain the attention of leads and help to gain trust in your company.

Instead of contemplating how you can use your limited resources to connect with your leads, look at it from a different angle. Let your sales and marketing team work together to create content for all the steps in the buyer’s journey to help get a lead on your side.

Great content alone, however, doesn’t lead to sales.

Providing relevant information just when your sales team need it can help them engage with their leads more efficiently.

This in return will create more sales, and isn’t that what marketing is all about?

So know your audience, understand the pain points and challenges of your potential buyers, develop a sales funnel that’s relevant to your business and finally develop a content marketing strategy for each stage of the buyer’s journey followed with the proper types of content and you’re off to the races.

How are your marketing and sales team delivering value to your prospects? Share them in the comments below so we can all learn from each other!

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