Investing in content marketing to strengthen your brand presence is always a fantastic idea. However, while some companies may have deep pockets to wait for results patiently, most businesses need an approach with a slightly higher success rate and faster ROI.
Lean businesses need to focus on aligning their content marketing efforts with the customer journey.
Like product development, marketing (in any of its forms) has to be consumer-oriented to deliver results. And one of the best ways to ensure this alignment between what your audience wants and needs and how you present your products/services is to create content for each stage of the customer journey.
But what are the stages you should be focusing on? And does each of them require a different approach to content production?
Well, if you’re ready to boost your marketing efforts, read on to find out.
What is the customer journey?
If you try to learn the definition of the customer journey, you might find yourself with several possible choices. After all, consumer behaviors vary greatly depending on industries and markets. Moreover, shopping has changed significantly since the sales funnel was first described through the AIDA model in the late 1890s.
Still, to fully align your marketing efforts with your customers’ needs, you must understand what the consumer journey actually consists of.
In allowing simplest terms, the customer journey refers to the steps a consumer goes through when shopping for physical or digital products. It starts with identifying an issue that requires a solution and ends with buying a product that will solve that problem.
In most cases, it can be broken down into four stages.
1. The Awareness Stage
During the first stage of the buyer’s journey, consumers become familiar with relevant answers for their needs. They research the problem they have and discover products and brands that might meet their needs. However, they are still not committed to buying. Instead, they are looking for trustworthy guides, educational materials, and advice.
2. The Consideration Stage
Once a consumer has a better idea of what they need, they go through the consideration stage of the customer journey. Essentially, during this time, they start to look more closely at particular brands or products. This stage is when they spend their time evaluating the benefits offered by particular product/service providers.
3. The Decision Stage
During this time, consumers are ready to make a purchase. Here, they’re aware of their exact requirements and preferred products. When targeting this stage of the customer journey, brands need to convince consumers to choose them over the competition. This can mean providing detailed product information, educational materials, or customized offers.
4. The Advocacy Stage
Finally, the buyer’s journey doesn’t end once a person makes a purchase. In fact, achieving loyalty and advocacy requires just as much effort as securing conversions. But, once they are obtained, they hold the potential of bringing in considerably more profit than making sales to new clients. For this reason, expanding the sales funnel with the advocacy stage offers companies the possibility to maximize customer lifetime value and to get the absolute most out of every cent they have spent on acquiring a customer.
The benefits of aligning content marketing with the customer journey
As you can see, consumers have varying needs during each stage of their buyer’s journey. It’s only logical that marketing to the four parts of the funnel requires different approaches.
These people won’t just be looking for different types of information. Even more, they will be looking for that information in different places.
By optimizing your content for each of the stages, you can meet your potential (and existing) customers exactly where they are, providing them with relevant data that will move them along the sales funnel, building trust and loyalty. Moreover, by aligning your content marketing strategy with the customer journey, you can avoid preventable losses by only spending money where it actually has a chance of contributing to returns.
Content marketing for the awareness stage
When creating content for the very top of your funnel, your focus should be to reach, intrigue, and engage your audience. Ideally, you’ll do that through informative and educational content.
During this phase, you’ll want to:
- build your brand authority
- meet your target audience’s search intent
- gently move your audience towards the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey
Seeing that the people inhabiting this stage aren’t too familiar with the specifics of the type of solution they need, your content must be approachable and easy to understand. Complex, unrelatable content will alienate people with no previous experience in your niche.
Formats that have proven to offer the most benefits during this stage include:
- blog posts
- social media posts
- articles offering answers to consumer questions
- guides and educational material
- data overviews, etc.
Make sure that you don’t just focus on text when targeting the awareness stage. Video and audio content can be excellent choices, thanks to the way people consume content nowadays.
Plus, multimedia formats tend to see less competition than blog posts, which could allow brands to supercharge their way to a trustworthy reputation.
For inspiration on how you can go about creating content for the awareness stage, you can check out one of the following brands.
Example 1: Biossance
Biossance, a natural skincare brand, bases its social media presence on a combination of promotional posts, influencer marketing, and educational content aimed at the top stage of the sales funnel.
This Instagram infographic is an excellent example of the latter. It explains how skin hydration gradually decreases over time due to the lower production of a moisturizing lipid. Then, it introduces a solution – a sugarcane-derived version of the same lipid, which replaces the skin’s natural hydration and makes it appear healthy and young.
But instead of just scratching the surface of this widely explored topic with an infographic, Biossance goes a step further. It invites followers to read the related blog post by clicking a link in its bio.
By linking to its blog section and asking followers to read more, it also drives traffic to its website. And that’s where it can use in-depth educational content created for the lower end of the awareness stage to slowly move readers towards the next customer journey segment.
Example 2: InFlow Inventory
Having an excellent understanding of its target audience (and the online spaces they inhabit), InFlow uses a tactic that targets the awareness stage of the customer journey by providing answers to common search engine queries.
Through producing helpful blog posts and ensuring they contain relevant information, the brand is building its authority among SMB owners. Moreover, thanks to a well-developed marketing automation strategy, it’s also nudging that same audience towards becoming its customers.
This instructional blog post, for example, teaches readers how to calculate margins and markups. It targets a high-volume search term, but instead of relying on words or mathematical formulas to answer a question, it also provides readers with an explainer video. This way, it minimizes website bounces. Plus, it uses the opportunity to present visitors with its software product that automates the calculation process.
Example 3: Mozart Data
Finally, this example of a brand creating content for specific segments of the customer journey comes from Mozart Data, a company operating in a niche industry that relies on high-tech solutions to common problems.
Being aware of the complex nature of implementing data management systems in small and medium businesses, Mozart Data chose to create an insightful resources section of its website that covers a wide variety of topics connected to its niche.
So, for example, this guide to data warehouses introduces the concept to people without previous experience in the niche. But, in addition to covering the user intent for the seed keyword of “data warehouse,” it takes a step further. The brand provides real-life examples of use cases for this type of solution, along with an explanation of why people should consider investing in this type of software.
Content marketing for the consideration stage
Once you’ve grabbed your audience’s attention, you will want to move on from general, beginner-friendly content and commit to bringing something extra to the table instead.
To align your efforts with this stage of the customer journey, you’ll want to go into detail with your posts, taking a step towards promotional marketing. Of course, the absolute best way to do this is to focus on the consumer experience. In other words, you’ll want to produce material that will help your audience see the perks you offer. You can do this with:
- educational content like videos, podcasts, and webinars
- previews and free trials
- pieces based on social proof
- original data and research
- direct communication with your potential customers
Pushing for sales at this stage of the sales funnel still isn’t the ideal way to go. But, as you move on from lead generation to lead nurturing, you can start using marketing automation to secure sales more quickly. It will help you boost your profits while minimizing your investment.
Example 1: Aura
As a brand that markets its products to other businesses, Aura understands the importance of the consideration stage in a saturated industry. So, to compete with its rivals, it uses a combination of different content formats to secure an edge.
In this blog post, for example, the brand focuses on the benefits it offers. These include machine learning-powered strategies built into the software, automated processes, unique customization tools, and a promise of a 65% increase in sales.
But, instead of just listing features, the content production team also includes previews of the software itself. Moreover, the website offers a live chat option that makes it so much easier to serve each web visitor with the exact type of communication that will turn them into a viable sales lead.
Example 2: Finli
A brand that takes a slightly different approach to meet customer needs with content is Finli.
Knowing that its target audience already has some idea of possible software solutions that could meet their needs, Finli targets search terms related to scheduling systems comparisons. Then, it goes on to write an in-depth overview of some of the most popular products on the market, listing the pros and cons for each and giving examples of scenarios in which they’re the best choice. The process is completed with helpful graphics, as well as pricing information.
But what helps Finli hit the nail on the head? In truth, it’s that it doesn’t shy away from mentioning its competitors. Instead, it gives accurate information about the benefits and limitations of each option.
This way, the brand ensures that it appeals to its middle-of-the-funnel audiences but doesn’t oversell. Thanks to this choice, its potential customers know what to expect and can move towards the decision stage with confidence, knowing whether Finli is the right solution for them or not.
Example 3: Jira Cloud by Atlassian
If you have access to data regarding the real-world applications of your products, you might see excellent results by doing something similar to Jira Cloud by Atlassian.
Seeing how the brand behind this product offers a wide variety of software solutions, it chose to make use of the data available to it and utilize it to target people in the consideration stage of the customer journey.
With case studies such as this one, the brand effectively describes real-life uses for its products, presents potential customers with the perks they can expect (like a 15% reduction in costs), and effectively creates marketing materials that benefit both itself and its existing clients.
Furthermore, this case study includes a touch of social proof, plus it subtly introduces additional products that potential buyers may see as beneficial to their business.
Content marketing for the decision stage
You have successfully introduced your brand as a trustworthy option for the people exploring your niche. Moreover, you have presented your solutions as a good fit for your potential customers. Now, it’s time to convince them to take the leap and become your clients by creating content specifically made for the decision stage.
Here, you will have to pay attention to several things. In addition to coming up with attractive offers, you’ll also have to ensure that your marketing materials are fully personalized and delivered at the exact right moment. Formats that will allow this include:
- product demos
- detailed FAQ sections
- high-quality onboarding materials
To make all of these work, you will have to optimize your lead nurturing efforts with compelling CTAs and offers that are difficult to refuse.
Example 1: Headspace
Targeting people who are ready to take up mindfulness, Headspace finds itself in a tough spot. Essentially, it’s a paid app that offers a service that can be acquired for free.
But knowing that winning over customers during the decision stage of the buyer’s journey makes the difference between making a profit and losing business, Headspace implements a perfectly thought-out approach to content, pulling out all the stops to acquire new clients.
This FAQ page, for example, is an excellent example of how the brand uses information, education, and just the right amount of classic sales techniques to convince people to give the app a try. Notice the perfectly placed CTA button, with the extensive resources library at the bottom of the page, and the offer to try the service for free.
Example 2: Evernote
As a brand that takes a slightly different approach, Evernote creates decision stage-oriented content that focuses on the various functionalities available within its product.
Its YouTube page, for example, is filled with instructional videos such as the one below. It shows how users can get the most out of their purchase and proves that investing in the solution might replace a variety of other digital products Evernote’s clients already use. Essentially, it shows them how to save money with a single purchase.
Content marketing for the advocacy stage
Lastly, if your goal is to keep your customers engaged with your brand, even after their initial purchase, it’s good to know that you can accomplish a lot with the right content marketing efforts. After all, well-made pieces won’t just help you minimize churn rates. But they can also help your clients get additional value from their investment and may even turn them into brand advocates who actively contribute to the growth of your business.
The great thing about producing content for this final stage of the customer journey is that you can see results from almost any type of content. So whether you prefer email, blog posts, video, audio, or social media, you can effectively nurture relationships and maximize CLV.
Example 1: Affinity
For a superb instance of a brand doing everything to keep its users happy, check out the education section of the Affinity website.
With a wide variety of content aimed both at beginner and advanced users, the team behind Affinity’s marketing is taking the ideal steps to continue providing value week after week.
For the team itself, this content isn’t challenging to produce. After all, it relies on their existing expertise. But for the users, it provides new and exciting information and ensures that their customer experience remains high throughout their customer lifespan.
Example 2: Heatle
If you want to use your distribution channels to build strong relationships and nurture loyalty, you could also choose to produce content that relies on community. This is what Heatle does really well.
This newly founded brand came up with an exciting new product. But, instead of waiting to be picked up by early adopters then popularized with the general public, it decided to base its marketing efforts on advocacy.
Using a large amount of user-generated content, which positively affects the purchasing decisions of 79% of consumers, the brand shows a wide variety of applications for its product. So, the number one benefit Heatle is seeing is that it’s actively targeting a broad audience instead of just small niches like coffee or tea enthusiasts.
But in addition to allowing the brand to make more sales, the community-based approach to content also helps the company build and maintain relationships with its existing users.
By showing an interest in the way consumers use the product and validating their loyalty through sharing their content with followers, Heatle gains a highly engaged customer base that is more than happy to shop with the brand again. An added plus is that these buyers won’t think twice about recommending the product to their friends, thanks to the positive relationship with the company.
Get the most out of your content marketing efforts by aligning them with your customers’ needs
For many, the idea of basing their content marketing strategy on the buyer’s journey seems like a lot of work. And, in some cases, it might be.
But the truth is, delivering the right message at the right time (and to the right person) is the only way to achieve high ROI.
So, before you go about writing another blog post or creating a new email campaign, consider these questions:
- Who is this content made for?
- How will it provide value to your consumers?
- What’s the best way to distribute the content to ensure it gets views?
- Is there anything you could change to help it drive sales more efficiently?
Go ahead. Give consumer-oriented content a go. You’re 100% sure to find that it’s much more effective at bringing results than taking shots in the dark.