Content is the key for today’s lead generation: According to Curata, 74.2% of companies indicate that content marketing increases both lead quality and quantity.
But at the same time, a surprising 87% of B2B marketers struggle to produce content that they find truly engages their buyers (Forrester).
Why is there a disconnect between content’s potential and its effectiveness?
Because many marketers still struggle to align content with a buyer’s journey through the sales funnel.
Here’s a succinct guide on how to match content to buyer’s journey stage. This helps you dictate the tone of your content, and it also helps you know when is the right time to offer particular content pieces to a lead based on their sales readiness.
Defining the Buyer’s Journey
To map content to the sales funnel, you must first understand the stages of the buyer’s journey.
There are many available definitions of the buyer’s journey. But generally, the buyer’s journey refers to the progress an individual makes towards a purchase decision.
Typically this is viewed as a funnel that includes three stages:
- Top of funnel — Awareness
- Middle of funnel — Consideration
- Bottom of funnel — Decision
In the Awareness stage, a prospect is just figuring out more about the problem. In the consideration stage, a prospect is considering different solutions. And in the decision stage, a prospect is choosing between different vendors.
So, how does a marketer know where a prospect falls in the journey?
Persona research can help immensely. Marketers should take several steps to understand how their specific personas buy products and services online.
These steps might include:
- Interviewing internal experts at your company
- Analyzing current and past clients
- Viewing the journey that customers took before the sale happened — AKA, looking backwards to identify sales-trigger actions
This will offer the marketing team more insight into an audience’s needs, challenges, and behaviors — and this research will help tell you which actions indicate that a lead is ready to buy, or which actions say the lead needs more time and education.
You should also pay attention to the alignment between your sales and marketing teams.
Both sales and marketing teams should play a role in developing buyer personas. This will help enhance content creation and make mapping much easier.
Because the sales teams will know which kinds of content indicate a readiness to buy, and which content downloads mean a lead is not quite ready to buy in the sales funnel.
Top types of content used in B2B purchasing decisions: White Papers (82%); Webinars (78%); Case Studies (73%); eBooks (67%); Blog Posts (66%); Infographics (66%); Third-party/Analyst reports (62%); Video/Motion graphics (47%); Interactive presentations (36%). — DemandGen
Once you understand the buyer’s journey, you can begin mapping your content to the three stages.
Match Content to Buyer’s Journey Stage — Awareness
In the Awareness stage, sometimes labeled the Education phase, the B2B buyer recognizes they have a problem and seeks out solutions to change the status quo.
At this stage, the marketer is focused on connecting with educational material and learning more.
Content options for the Awareness stage include:
- Blog post
- White paper
- Tip sheet
- How-to video
- Educational webinar
- Email newsletter
This content should be keyword-optimized (so people researching problems can find it in organic search). You should also have more Awareness-stage content than any other stage, since its purpose is to attract people to your brand and company website.
38% of marketers publish content weekly or more often. — LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community
The majority of your content pieces will be in the Awareness stage… but you’ll need other kinds of content, too.
Match Content to Buyer’s Journey Stage — Consideration
In the Consideration Stage, sometimes labeled the Evaluation or Solution phase, the persona is exploring solutions and committing to make a change.
The content at this stage should explain benefits of different solutions, and it should also start to differentiate the brand from competitors.
Consideration-stage content often includes these types:
- Case study
- Product sample
- Data sheet
- Demo video
- Product webinar
This is the kind of content that will prepare the lead for a sales intervention.
This statistic shows the true importance of content at the Consideration stage:
47% of B2B buyers consume 3-5 pieces of content prior to engaging with a salesperson. — DemandGen
Match Content to Buyer’s Journey Stage — Decision
A buyer in the Decision Stage, or Purchase stage, is justifying their selection and pulling the trigger on a purchase.
This individual needs concrete business details to help them support the purchasing rationale. They will respond to content that reinforces their choice to work with a specific vendor.
Content options at the Decision stage include:
- Free trial
- Live demo
This content would be appropriate for marketing- or sales-qualified leads, which are both important stages you’ll need to define in your sales funnel.
“A surprising 68% of B2B organizations haven’t even defined the stages in their sales funnels.” — Hubspot
Wait, Your Journey’s Not Over Yet
Even after the buyer reaches a purchasing decision, the marketer’s journey continues.
You must create content that nurtures brand loyalty and encourages customers to remain with the brand — often called the Delight stage.
Content options to “delight” customers include:
- Insider how-to’s
- Invitations to join a user community
- User-generated content channels on blog or social media
- Customer support documentation
- Special offers
Finally, marketers must always evaluate the efficacy of their efforts.
Content alignment is not a set-and-sit process… it’s more of a “rinse and repeat.” The successful marketer will have established metrics to track content and how well it’s working in the sales funnel.
With data, a marketer can drive better decisions about a few crucial points:
- Which new content offers are needed
- Which content offers are doing well and should be shared or repurposed
- Which content offers need tweaking and or redoing
This data can create a feedback loop that helps marketers better understand how to match future content to buyer’s journey stages — and identify holes where new offers are needed.
Match Content to Buyer’s Journey Stages Sources:
Gerard, M. (2016, May 8). Content Marketing Statistics: The Ultimate List. https://www.curata.com/blog/content-marketing-statistics-the-ultimate-list/
Ignite the Spark in Buyer Relationships: Best-in-Class Tactics for Adding Context to Your Content Messaging [Webinar]. (2016, November 18).
Raso, A. (2016, August 12). How to Create Content for Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/content-for-every-funnel-stage#sm.00012g66czam8e61x1p1jlvdtvz6t