The Buyer's Journey
The buyer’s journey has three distinct stages; awareness, consideration and decision. In the awareness stage, the customer is aware of their problem or pain point but unaware of your offering. In the consideration stage, the customer is aware of the solutions available to them and weighing up their options. Finally, the decision stage is when the customer is both solution and provider aware and has enough knowledge of your offering, and that of your competitors, to make a final decision. The importance of knowing your customer cannot be stressed enough, you should strive to learn how they think, the answers they seek, and the path they tend to take to find a solution. Having the answers to these questions is great but unless you truly understand your buyer persona, your content may still be missing the mark.
knowing your customer
Only by understanding their unique process for awareness and evaluation will you be able to create a truly effective content marketing strategy, packed with custom content that best supports their journey toward making a purchase. Hubspot has a helpful graphic for this:
AWareness stage/top of the funnel
Content in the awareness stage should address the pain or problem being faced by your target audience. This is when people are looking for answers, resources, education, research data, opinions, and insight. By creating a blog, whitepaper or e-book, you’re creating a brand asset that’s crawlable by Google and discoverable by search engine users. This is your opportunity to provide potential customers with information about how your product or service can offer a solution. Their value as a lead is low because there’s no guarantee that they’ll buy from you but those who engage with your content may journey on to the middle of the funnel.
CONSIDERATION STAGE/ MIDDLE OF THE FUNNEL
In the consideration stage, the buyer persona is still considering solutions to their pain or problem. In this stage, people are doing heavy research on whether or not your product or service is a good fit for them. For this reason, product comparisons, case studies and free samples are a great way to help them make a decision. The customer is now aware and considering your offering as a solution. Presenting examples of the solution in action, e.g. case studies, is an effective tool in giving customers the push they need to move on to the next stage of their journey.
Decision stage/ bottom of the funnel
If your buyer is in the decision stage of their journey, it’s common to provide just a little bit of service in exchange for the opportunity to close the sale as the potential customer is now figuring out exactly what it would take to become a customer. You’ve managed to get them this far so the final push needs to be something they can’t refuse. For example, a free trial, a coupon or the offer of a free consultation will entice the customer to give it a try and hopefully result in a sale.
Attract, Engage and Delight
The traditional sales funnel is often used in the context of the buyer’s journey. The customers you want to attract are said to be at the top of the funnel and it is through the correct placement and offers of content that you can nurture your leads through this funnel. This methodology, however, has been somewhat debunked by the inbound marketing experts at Hubspot who favour the flywheel of attracting strangers, engaging prospects and delighting customers; Attract. Engage. Delight. The result puts customers at the center, which creates a more unified and less linear approach to all your marketing, sales, and service activities. All you have to do is take the buyer’s journey and ask the question: “How do we attract and engage this person so they become a customer?”
Hubspot posits this stage as a time to use your expertise to create content that will encourage dialogue and begin to build a relationship with the customer. At this point, a buyer is trying to solve problems, get an answer, or meet a need. They’re looking for top-level educational content to help direct them to a solution, like blog posts, social content, and ebooks.
Here is where you want to present the customer with the solution that is the best fit for their problem. This is the stage where lasting relationships are built by providing insights that align with the customer’s goals.
This is the stage of the inbound methodology where you strive to provide an outstanding experience that adds value and empowers customers to become promoters for your company. The key here is to go above and beyond their expectations and provide a customer experience that’s easy and frictionless. Marketing doesn’t stop once the customer converts; nurturing your loyal customer relationships can lead to higher customer lifetime value as well as word-of-mouth referrals and more.
Every business has a unique sales funnel, sculpted and designed around their buyer’s unique journey. When creating your own buyer's journey, you need to focus on the specific factors of your business.
That said, the general approach remains the same: Understand your audience, develop your funnel around your industry and audience intent, and create a documented content marketing strategy that maps custom content specific to each phase of their journey through the funnel.
Done well, this process will have the greatest possible impact on your customer relationships, as well as the greatest possible lift in your overall conversions. (Hubspot).