How to attract customers in the age of invisible buyers
It’s a given: your business needs to attract customers who want your products or services. Because without new customers your business won’t grow.
Fortunately you’ve found this website so you can learn how to use content marketing to build your customer base. Good move!
But how do you create content that will attract customers when most of your potential buyers are invisible to you?
Let’s take a closer look at this dilemma.
Self-education requires online teachers
In today’s always-online world, self-education dominates. Consumer and business buyers alike regularly use Internet searches and social media to learn about issues, products and solutions before buying anything – or even before contacting sales.
Buyer education, then, is largely a self-directed, independent process. Your business needs to support that process by becoming an online teacher.
Content marketing – when done well – is a great way to teach and attract customers at the same time.
That’s underscored by Demand Gen Report’s 2016 buyer survey which found that “more than half (51%) of B2B buyers rely on content now to research their buying decisions, and they want… content that educates rather than sells.”
The challenge with this process is that most online education and content consumption takes place behind the scenes. Learners remain anonymous because they don’t want to be bombarded by email promotions or sales calls.
Your content ends up teaching and helping people you don’t even know yet because… they’re invisible.
In a landmark 2013 study, market research firm SiriusDecisions found that the first 2/3 of a typical buying cycle is done digitally. In other words, buyers take control by finding information they need online long before contacting Sales.
So a buyer might be actively searching, but Sales is out of the loop. You might not even have the potential buyer’s email address yet, let alone a phone number or name.
Your learners are anonymous. They might be great potential customers. But they’re still invisible.
But don’t despair. Instead, recognize that invisible buyers are part of the process, and plan accordingly.
Five ways to attract customers who are invisible
Your role as a content marketer is to help invisible buyers learn from your content even before you’re able to see (or identify) them.
Here are five ways to attract customers that haven’t yet contacted you:
- Help people recognize a problem, pain or need
- Provide advice on how to approach a problem
- Tell stories of other people who had the same problem
- Provide thought leadership on problem causes and trends
- Use SEO (search engine optimization) to increase the chance that buyers will find your content when asking questions online. [Learn more about how to get in the SEO game.]
These tactics provide plenty of helpful education while also positioning your company as one that understands the needs of real people.
Attract customers by naming their pain
Many businesses, large and small, make the mistake of creating content that only describes their products or services. But for buyers in the Education phase of the Buyer’s Journey that kind of content simply isn’t appropriate.
Early stage buyers might not even know they have a problem. Or they might feel that they have some sort of issue but can’t put a name to it.
Help them name their pain, and your helpfulness will build their trust.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer, and list the symptoms they might have
- Describe the causes of those symptoms
- Examine what other people with that problem have done (good and bad)
Attract customers by providing advice
With this tactic you’ll help potential customers understand the pluses and minuses of alternative problem solutions (pain relief) and give them advice on how they might approach their own situation.
Presumably your company’s alternative is one of the better ones, but at this point you should stick to helping people learn how different approaches might be good for different situations.
This tactic might seem counter-intuitive if you’re used to strongly pitching a particular product or service. But unlike a sales pitch, this method shows that you’re empathetic to your audience. It also begins to align your solution with your ideal customer – your ideal persona – that will help you later on in the Buyer’s Journey.
Attract customers by telling stories
Content that tells a story is perfect for invisible buyers. Human stories can educate, entertain and position various solutions in a way that features and specifications can’t.
These don’t have to be in-depth case studies. They can be short vignettes, extended quotes or quick “here’s what happened” briefs. They might even be stories about bad situations such as “10 times things went horribly wrong.”
Stories help invisible buyers project themselves into the problem space in which your business plays.
Attract customers with thought leadership
Industry trends, technology shifts and new thinking is perfect material for invisible buyers.
With change comes uncertainty. Thought leaders (like you) that help potential customers navigate a challenging landscape provide a great service to buyers. The prospects you don’t yet know will appreciate your insight and further elevate your company on their list to consider.
Attract customers with SEO
You can tie all of these tactics together by creating content with appropriate keywords and on-page SEO techniques.
- To find the right keywords list all the symptoms, causes, pain points, approaches and trends that impact your ideal audience.
- Then brainstorm as many synonyms as you can to grow the list.
- Then create a variety of web pages, blog posts, social posts and more that use your keywords and synonyms.
- This will give invisible buyers multiple paths to find you when they self-educate about their pain or problem.
Make the invisible, visible
Be as helpful as you can throughout this process to increase your chances of making invisible buyers, visible.
If you create quality online educational content such as that described here, you’ll eventually earn trust and the “permission to engage” from potential buyers. Permission can then come in the form of an email address, a blog subscription or even a sales call.
Once that happens, you can continue to use content to educate and assist buyers as they travel along their journey toward a purchase.
It may take awhile to attract customers this way. But when you do, you’ll have found people who truly want your products or services.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
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