Mapping content to the buying cycle, despite what it sounds like, has nothing to do with Amerigo Vespucci. It’s actually a fancy way of saying: “Create and curate content for your prospects intelligently.”
That means, instead of just creating blog posts, videos, or other content that you assume people will probably be interested in, you do research to prove that people actually want to digest that content, and in that specific format. And when the content you create is crazy helpful for anyone in your target market (namely, anyone experiencing a problem your software fixes), it will help drive more leads for your business.
Stay with me here and I’ll walk you through how you to create a content strategy that maps to your prospects’ buying cycle.[sam id=”148″ code=”true”]
Step 1. Start by empathizing with buyers in your space.
In order to accomplish anything in business, you need to empathize with your buyer. It’s how the founder of your business came up with the idea for your company; it’s how your customer service team helps your customers; it’s how your sales team makes sales.
What exactly do I mean by empathizing with your buyers?
I mean spending time learning about your buyers – who they are and why they come to you. Why do they need your software? How do they usually find you? What steps do they take before they find you? You need to really understand your buyers and their journeys in order to give them the content they need in order to come to you.
There are a lot of ways you could empathize with your buyers, but some of the best ways are:
- Run a survey of current or past customers, and ask them questions about how and why they found you. Remember that their journey began long before they heard of you, so ask them what even made them realize they had a problem in the first place.
- Spend some time listening to the things your sales associates and customer service agents have learned from working directly with your customers. They’ll often be able to cite specific vignettes that will help you think more creatively about your buyers’ processes.
- Dig into your analytics! You can often learn a lot about your buyers without ever actually talking to them. For instance, look up the keywords they searched that led them to your website, what channels are driving the most traffic, and what pages on your site are most visited and have the longest time on page.
Step 2. Map it out!
Use this information to create a buyer persona and map out the customer journey. I would suggest quite literally mapping it out (a timeline is the best form), because having a visual aid is helpful. Typically, your customer journey should have three sections:
The graphic below explains these 3 phases.
This graphic represents a skeletal software buyer’s journey. You’ll want to fill out it with specific pain points along the way that your specific buyer experiences, questions they might ask, as well as actions they take that could lead a prospect to buying your software.
Some questions you’ll want answered on map:
- What keywords are they Googling? When in their journey?
- How many buyer personas do you have? For many software companies, the awareness stage might start with an administrative assistant or entry level person, who will then pass their short list off to someone in senior management or IT around the consideration phase.
- What channels and devices do your buyers use at each stage? (Maybe they begin the awareness phase reading blog posts on their phone and then move to their desktop when they start registering for demos and webinars.)
- What questions are they asking? When? Who do they ask? Google? Their colleagues on LinkedIn?
- What channels do your buyers prefer? Not everyone is on Twitter.
Armed with this information, you’re able to meet your customers where they are – right from the beginning of their journey. Waiting for the customer to come find you spells trouble. Even waiting for the customer to realize they need software is trouble. You need to meet the buyer right as they discover they have a problem. And you don’t want to meet them with a sales pitch. You want to meet them with a helping hand. Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, sums up why best in Jay Baer’s Youtility:
“The reality is that our best customers are the people who think they can do it themselves… The other thing you have to realize is that eventually everybody is going to be out of their depth. They won’t be able to do it themselves, and at that point whom are they going to call? Someone random out of the phone books? Or are they going to call Geek Squad, who’s videos they’ve been watching over and over for six, eight, ten, twelve minutes with our logo in the corner?”
Step 3. Brainstorm a tsunami of content.
Once you’ve mapped out your buying cycle, it’s time to come up with content to address each stage of the journey. Your content should be tailored to the buyer for exactly where they are in the cycle. That means no sales pitches unless it’s the part of the cycle where the buyer is open to sales pitches. And really, being helpful and trustworthy is the biggest sales pitch you can make for your business anyway. Let’s go through the sales cycle and come up with ideas and examples of content to help your brainstorming process.
As previously stated, during the awareness stage, the buyer is looking for a solution to their problem. They may not even know what software is, let alone that it might be the answer to their problem. Meet them here with content that helps them solve their problem without software, as well as the basic answers to how software might help solve their problem. Here are some examples of what other business’ have created to help buyers in the awareness phase:
Hubspot, a marketing automation, CRM, and CMS solution, is king at creating content for the awareness phase. They have many, many posts on their blog aimed at being helpful to marketers and salespeople who aren’t ready to search for software yet. One of the best blog posts they have is 9 Free Microsoft Excel Templates to Make Marketing Easier. This post contains nine templates to download and explanations on how to use them. These templates provide somewhat simple fixes for marketers of small businesses whose problems will grow large enough soon to require marketing automation software.
WorksIQ, a CRM provider, offers an excel template for tracking leads. They have it gated, so they can capture an email address to follow up with the buyer. This means they have (or can) set up a nurture track to continue to provide the buyer with content relevant to where they are in the buying cycle. A natural follow-up to this template might be to email tricks for how to optimize the template, or tailor the template to their business’ specific needs.
InFlow, an inventory management solution, did something slightly different. They wrote a post that gathered several inventory management templates from around the web, and then explained the pros and cons to using templates. It’s a good post because it allows those with a small amount of inventory to download a template, while educating those with more inventory about options other than spreadsheets.
An example of content for the awareness stage that is more directly related to software would be the post I recently wrote that explains what CRM is. This kind of post is, again, not meant to be a sales pitch of YOUR product. It’s meant to explain how the software generally works and how it can solve their problem.
Typically during this phase, you’re going to need to publish your content on easily and generally accessible platforms, such as blogs, videos, or perhaps an eBook. Be aware of who your buyer is, and where they are physically when in this section. If your buyer is typically on mobile during this phase, make sure all your content is mobile optimized.
For the consideration phase, you should give buyers content related to why they should invest in the type of software you provide – although not necessarily your product. This means providing them content that they would find generally helpful in their search, as well as content that’s more specific to your product and how it will help them.
Helpful content at this stage could be an ROI calculator; buying guide; or a case study of a business who used your software to totally turn their business around.
You also want to create content that briefly explains your product – how it works and what it can do. This shouldn’t be a lengthy sales-pitch. It needs to be snackable content that a perusing buyer can easily digest and think on for later. Perhaps this could be an infographic. Eloqua, a marketing automation provider, even created a two minute video that gives an explanation of how marketing automation software can help a buyer, and a bit about how Eloqua in particular can help.
In this phase, you want to provide as much possible information to the buyer about your solution as possible, so that buyers can easily narrow down a list of products, and then reach out to salespeople. In addition to your blog posts, calculating tools, eBooks, etc., make sure that your website is easy to understand and filled with clear information. That means: cut the buzzwords from your pages. Tell your customers in a simple straightforward manner what your product does and why it’s special. Make sure you have a pricing guide on your site of at least your pricing as well. Nothing is more frustrating and bigger turnoff to buyers than not being able to find pricing.
Once in the decision making phase, the buyer will (ideally) have a lot of contact with your sales team. As a result, you should focus on making your content for this phase complementary to your sales people’s pitches. You may even want to sit down with the sales team and ask them what sorts of content they think buyers would find helpful.
Some of this content should be content that the buyer can access completely without your sales team – like a features checklist, pricing comparisons between you and some of your competitors; or customer testimonials. Ensure that you have plenty of helpful reviews on 3rd party sites (like Capterra), for users to be able to easily see if you have the features, support, etc. that they’re looking for.
Additionally, you will want to create content specifically for your sales team to share. You may want to create a written pitch of some form to help the buyer present your software to other decision makers. Perhaps this would be a pre-made powerpoint for the buyer to use in a presentation that your sales team could fill in the buyer’s specifics on – such as the buyer’s particular cost, ROI, and features to be purchased. You could also create eBooks or white papers that salespeople could send to their prospects with pertinent information on how your product perfectly solves their problems. You also want to create a video demo of your product so sales people can easily show your customers, and send it to them to continue watching on their own.
When you’ve created content to cover the beginning of the journey to end, you should have a library of content that ranges from answering basic questions that may not even have anything to do with your product, to very complex questions having to do specifically with your solution.
Step 4. Start over!
Even though you have a “full” library, don’t stop now. Continue to reevaluate your customer’s journey – it will always be changing as technology changes. You may find they’re asking different questions at different places, and they’re looking for the answers on different channels. You should definitely repurpose content you already have. Make a video out of a blog post, or an infographic out of a video. A content marketer’s job is never done.
Have you mapped your content to your buyer’s journey? What tips do you have?
Looking for Content Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Content Management software solutions.