According to the 2020 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, many businesses still aren’t crafting content for specific stages of the customer journey. The report’s finding are below:
- Less than half of all respondents (48%) always or often followed this practice.
- A little over a quarter (26%) of the least successful always or often followed this practice.
- Almost three quarters (74%) of the most successful always or often followed this practice.
So, here’s a quick overview of how to determine what content works at different stage of the customer journey.
Mapping the Customer Journey
We usually think of the customer journey (also known as the buyer’s journey) as the classic sales funnel:
- Top of the Funnel: Prospective buyers become aware of your offering or their problem.
- Middle of the Funnel: They assess the suitability of your offering.
- Bottom of the Funnel: They consider the purchase decision.
Actually, a buyer’s journey can have three to six stages. According to Gartner, most (82%) B2B companies create a custom customer journey map.
But for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick with the classics and use the three-stage sales funnel.
Top of the Sales Funnel: Awareness
At the top of the sales funnel, prospects have become aware of their problem or need. So, they are investigating all available solutions. They’re nowhere near ready to buy, so don’t push your product or service at this point. But they are interested in research data, reviews, expert insights, etc. that can help them figure out their next steps.
Content for this stage for the buyer’s journey should address the following:
- Customers’ pain points and needs
- Industry trends/forecasts
Some people think content at the top of the sales funnel has to be short and light, e.g., infographics, short videos and blog posts, quizzes, etc. That’s not necessarily the case. White papers that describe a business problem and its solution are also top-of-the-funnel content.
If prospects find this content helpful, they are likely to continue on to the middle of your sales funnel. If prospects find this content helpful, they are likely to continue on to the middle of your sales funnel.
Middle of the Sales Funnel: Evaluation
In the middle of the funnel, prospects are trying to determine whether your product or service is a good fit. When your product or service is complex and/or expensive, this stage tends to be rather lengthy. You’re going to have to build their trust and touch base with them on occasion so that they remember you.
At this stage, you can mention your product or service, but it should not be the focus of the content piece. Middle funnel content will generally do the following:
- Highlight advocates for your product or services
- Weigh costs (e.g., implementation) against risks and anticipated benefits
The lines between top and middle funnel content can be blurred somewhat. E.g., you could create a light but informative piece such as a numbered list on a challenge that they’re facing.
Bottom of the Sales Funnel: Purchase
When prospects are near the bottom of the sales funnel, they are close to making a purchase decision. But chances are that they are also looking at alternatives to your offering. You need to create content that your sales team can use to nudge prospects your way.
At this point, you don’t have to shy away from mentioning your offering too often. In fact, you can’t mention your offering too often; your content should focus on your offering. The prospect needs to understand it and why it’s a better choice than the alternatives on the market.
This is also a good time to let prospects take your offering for a “test drive.” If they get accustomed to using it and like using it, it’ll be that much easier for them to keep using it.
At this stage, you’ll be creating content that does the following:
- Shows how the product or service works
- Compares products/services with competitors
- Provides tutorials
- Explains exactly how it helped people in situations very similar to the buyer
As mentioned before, the three-stage sales funnel is oversimplified. Not only can there be more than three stages, but the journey is also nowhere as linear as the diagram indicates.
Because the process is not straightforward, content can help keep you top of mind. Also, most buyers are going to do most of their own research before they ever contact you. So you need to be able to give them the information they require.
Hopefully, this process outline, simplified as it was, gave you an idea of how to map content to your own customer journey.