What a trip: Mapping content to the buyer’s journey
Travel the buyer’s journey for smarter content marketing
Do you like to travel? My wife and I sure do. We revel in every chance we get to change our regular routine and go somewhere new. So having just returned from a lovely mid-winter Florida beach trip, I just had to make this week’s post about another kind of traveling: the buyer’s journey.
The buyer’s journey is a predictable set of three steps that every buyer takes on their way to a purchase. Because the buyer’s steps are known in advance, you can map your content messages to support the buyer’s needs at each stage.
It’s a smart way to align your marketing efforts with a customer’s buying process.
The three steps of the buyer’s journey
So, what are those three steps?
Step one of the journey is Education. Step two is Solution. And step three is Selection.
In the Education phase potential buyers recognize that they have some sort of problem or desire, and begin to learn about how that situation impacts their business or personal life.
In the Solution stage buyers make a commitment to address their problem or desire, and begin to research alternative solutions.
Finally in the Selection phase the buyer chooses their preferred solution, and makes a purchase.
Variations of the buyer’s journey
You might find other descriptions of the buyer’s journey that use different terms for these three phases or even a different number of steps.
Hubspot, for example, calls the three stages awareness, consideration and decision. SiriusDecisions uses education, solution and selection but breaks each stage into two sub-stages. And Uhuru defines the buyer’s journey in six steps: awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, post-purchase and repurchase.
But deep down they all describe the same progression toward a purchase. And since this blog is all about making content marketing simple to learn for business startups, let’s stick with three stages in the buyer’s journey, shall we?
Why the buyer’s journey matters
Alright, fellow travelers. Why should you care about these three points along the buyer’s journey?
The answer lies in the minds of your target audience: at each stage, your buyer is concerned about different things.
The content-to-thinking map
When buyers are just starting their trip (the Education phase), they want to define their problem or desire, put a name to it and gain an understanding of its impact in their lives. Content that maps to their thinking at this point delivers analysis, examples, stories and explanations. You could provide those in blog posts, social posts, short ebooks and white papers.
As a buyer travels to the Solution phase he or she becomes concerned about “how” to solve a problem or meet a desire. Your helpful content at this waypoint should map the specifics of your solution, its impact on the individual and its competitive advantages. Webinars, demos, videos and comparison charts are helpful here.
And when the buyer reaches the Selection phase they care about risk, making the right decision and justifying that decision to someone else. Your content at this juncture needs to reassure the buyer about these concerns. Case studies, ROI calculators and guarantees are welcome services for your weary traveler / buyer.
Take a trip: An example
To illustrate this mapping process, imagine that you’re thinking you need to take a vacation.
You’ve felt a vague yearning to get away. Guess what: you’re in the Education phase of the buyer’s journey.
You’ll probably read a few travelogues (stories), looked at pictures of others enjoying themselves on the beach (examples), or even read a blogger’s article about the joys of traveling (naming and explaining your feelings). Feel the tingle? That’s content working in your brain.
But you don’t stop there.
You’re pretty sure now that you’re going to take a vacation soon. The big question is “where?” You’re in the Solution phase.
Cabo? The Caymans? Curacao? A cruise? You need to see the costs. Evaluate the activities. Compare the packages. Watch some videos. Study a chart about the best Caribbean vacations.
Ah, there’s the one you want: Costa Rica! Isn’t content marketing grand?
Finally you’re ready to take the plunge. But will your spouse approve? You’ve just entered the Selection phase.
Time to read the fine-print, study the travel guarantee and share the story of your neighbors who took the same trip.
Content consumed. Decision made. Trip booked.
You’re gonna love it. Bon voyage!
Map content to the buyer’s journey
This example shows you how buyers look for different things at different points on their journey toward a purchase. Your job as a content marketer is to help them find the right content about your offering that meets their needs at each stage.
To help you plan your content creation efforts, build a grid that maps your proposed content to the three stages of the buyer’s journey. It might look something like this:
You probably won’t be able to create everything right away, but this map will help guide you as you “fill in the blanks.”
Add another dimension: Personas
Especially in the B2B world, buyers aren’t just a single monolithic individual. There’s usually a buying committee involved, made up of multiple personas with different buying roles, thinking and needs.
If your business is B2B, first make sure you’ve defined your key buyer personas carefully.
Then add a third dimension to your chart: proposed content for each stage of the buyer’s journey for each unique persona.
Track buyers through their journeys
How do you know where a prospect is along their buyer’s journey so you can deliver matching content?
One way is to ask them. Simply pose a qualifying question on your website that branches viewers to different types of content based on their answer.
Another method is to track a prospect’s previous content consumption behavior and nudge that person on to the next stage. For example, if a buyer has downloaded one or more pieces of content from your Education-focused library, you might send them an email suggesting a more in-depth piece from your Solution-focused content.
Keep your communications helpful and your prospects will view your company as a valuable guide service.
Start your trip
To put these techniques into practice:
- Define your buyer personas
- Define potential buyer thinking at each stage in the buyer’s journey
- Map proposed content to each stage
- Add multiple personas to your map grid if needed
- Start to create content and fill in your map
- Track content consumption and help buyers move to the next stage
Send me a postcard
I want to hear how your content marketing trip along the buyer’s journey works for you. Please let me and others in this community know about your experiences, stories and recommendations in the comments below.
Have a wonderful voyage!
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