Not every potential client or customer is at the same point on their buying journey. And if your content marketing strategy isn’t designed to meet them wherever they are, your message could end up meeting them at the “wrong place or wrong time.” That’s not to say that whatever content you do have isn’t working; we just want to envision a scenario where your content is overall more effective.
Let’s imagine you’re in charge of marketing a financial services firm to two customers:
Amy, a young professional who still rents an apartment in the city, is thinking about investing in an IRA along with her company-sponsored 401(k).
Jon, a proud father of four, has an established retirement account of over $200,000, a Roth IRA, and life insurance, and is researching how to better allocate his investments, more actively invest in stocks, and change his life insurance policy to an investment vehicle.
As a savvy marketer, you know that Amy, who is unfamiliar with investments, the differences between Roth and traditional, and her long-term goals, would be overwhelmed by a full-blown technical sales pitch detailing all the benefits of different investment options. On the other hand, you’re pretty sure that Jon, who has done a lot of research already, would have little use for a step-by-step guide that helps him establish investment preferences or a budget.
The beauty of content marketing is that you can be flexible with your messaging. If you don’t want to scare Amy away or bore Jon out of his mind, you don’t have to! Content can easily be tailored to the needs of different buyer stages. The trick is figuring out what content you can produce for each stage.
Different people will divide up the Buyer Journey in different ways. Our approach is to break it into five stages.
When considering content to produce for each stage, it’s helpful to determine what someone in each stage is specifically looking for from your content and what a paradigm example of that kind of content would be.
Buyer Stages and Content Paradigms
Awareness: This client is pre-Amy. The person at this stage is the ultimate novice. They don’t know anything. They don’t know who you are, what you offer, or even that they have a need you can fulfill. Because of this, they probably aren’t actively seeking out content, let alone specific solutions. They aren’t trying to find you, so you need content that is going to find them. This content should make the type of problem your service can solve visibly. When they notice they have a problem, YOU want to be the name they search for when they’re beginning their research.
In this case, your content paradigm could be good old-fashioned ads that play in the background of people’s online browsing. Other considerations are shorter, basic blog posts, and routine social media content – it’s passive content, and passive content is great for Awareness. All you need here is to get your name in their ear and associated with a type of problem.
Sample search keywords for Awareness (using our example from above):
- IRA (Amy)
- Roth IRA versus traditional IRA (Amy)
- Pros and Cons of Term versus Whole Life Insurance (Jon)
- Maximizing Investment Accounts (Jon)
Interest: In the interest stage, your potential client knows they have a problem, but they still don’t know how to solve it. This is when they begin the active process of research. And if you’ve done your awareness marketing right, they’ll recognize your name as a good place to kickstart their efforts. Remember, they’re not looking for specific information yet – they just want to get familiar with the nature of the problem. The main goal of your content now is to develop trust. You got them on your site, but now you want to give them a reason to stay.
The content you present needs to be easily searchable, readily understood, and nonthreatening. Your content paradigm here continues with blog posts, especially long-form content that positions your firm as a leader and expert. You can also use social media, email marketing, infographics, checklists, and basic guides (FYI, this is where our friend Amy is).
Sample search keywords for Interest:
- How do I open an IRA (Amy)
- What do I need to convert a life insurance policy (Jon)
- What are my long-term investment goals (Amy)
- How to allocate my investments (Jon)
Consideration: Once the client gets to this stage, they have some basic knowledge of their problem and how it is generally solved (hopefully they can thank your interest level marketing for that!) Now, they want to figure out what it would be like to implement specific solutions. But be patient! Remember, they’re still not looking for specifics on what it would be like to work with you. They just want to know what it would be like to work with someone. Your content for this stage should help their imagination along.
The content paradigm for this could be downloadable guides and templates, case studies, webinars and other video assets, whitepapers, e-books, service descriptions or sell sheets, and original industry research. Think higher-level, more in-depth content.
Sample search keywords for Consideration:
- Investment advisors near me
- Financial service providers in [city]
- Top-rated financial services firms
Purchase: Let’s wave to our friend Jon! The client in the purchase stage knows their problem, is familiar with typical solutions, and NOW they want to evaluate specific options. And, if they’ve been with you every step of the way till now, they want to know why your option is the best. So tell them! Your content for this stage needs to show them what working with you is like.
The content paradigm for this stage includes case studies and testimonials. Tell them about work you’ve done for others! Be specific when it comes to ROI, pricing, and the bottom line (this will be valuable information for B2B clients who need to justify purchases to upper-level management). You can also incorporate live chat or chatbots and offer complimentary consultations, or a live demo if you use proprietary or industry-leading software or tech. Also, make sure your customer acquisition process is easy and streamlined.
Sample search keywords for Purchase:
- [Person’s name] and [firm name]
- Compare [Firm name] and [Firm Name]
- [Firm name] reviews
- How much does it cost for [XYZ]
Wait a minute, why did we say five stages? Isn’t your job done once they’ve purchased your product?
Definitely not. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs:
“It is 6-7 times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.”
That’s why it’s so important not to forget this last stage:
Post-Purchase: Relationships take work! Once the client has committed to you, they want to have a good experience with your company and your service. They want to make sure they’re implementing your solution correctly. Make sure they know you are a resource for them if they need it.
The content paradigm for this stage tends to center around e-mail marketing but can also include regular video and webinar content, podcasts, surveys, and any other piece of content from the rest of the buyer journey. Use automation where you can and segment clients into relevant groups so your communication is more targeted. Your goal here is to stay in touch with clients, appreciate them, listen to them, be proactive, and tell them what’s new in your world. Remember not to overlook this stage.
Once you’ve identified content to produce for each stage, there are some things you’ll want to consider for your content marketing strategy:
What are you already producing for each stage?
Do you already have a pretty good blog? What content do you have that aims to educate? What do you have that’s more sales-focused? Classifying your existing content according to buyer stages will help you determine where the gaps are in your strategy.
What content do you have that can be repurposed?
You can save yourself a lot of time and energy if you consider what existing content you have that can feasibly be reworked for another buyer stage. Could you put several blog posts that work in the interest stage together for a more involved e-book that’s suitable for the consideration stage? Can a script from a video become the basis for a blog post? The beauty of considering repurposing now is that you can continue to consider it as you create new content, ultimately saving you lots of time and hassle in the long run.
How are you going to make new content?
Ultimately, good content takes time and resources to produce. Before deciding to make new content, make sure you have the time, budget, personnel, and expertise for the job. And remember, even if you don’t have the in-house manpower or expertise for a specific type of content, that doesn’t mean you can’t outsource it!
Create a spreadsheet to:
- Map out all existing assets.
- Assign a buyer stage to each asset.
- Identify the gaps.
- Mark which assets can be repurposed or updated (or deleted in the case of very old content).
- Note keywords and phrases for each asset.
Taking buyer stages into account can be what separates an effective, intentional content marketing strategy from a disorganized or haphazard one. Have fun incorporating buyer stages into your content, and let us know in the comments what content you produced for each stage! Or, if you want more personalized advice or guidance, feel free to contact us anytime!