We’ve talked before about the importance of having a content strategy in place before you begin creating your marketing content. While that strategy won’t be the same from one business to the next, there is at least one common, crucial goal: to provide prospective customers with the information they need, when they really need it.
This week, we’ll look at how understanding the B2B buyer journey can help you do just that — allowing you to implement an effective content strategy based on:
- The different stages of the buyer journey
- What buyers are looking for at each stage
- The types of content that are most effective at different stages
What are the stages of the B2B buyer journey?
The stages of the journey describe the process that prospective customers go through, from awareness to consideration to decision. Having a different level of knowledge and different goals at each of those stages, buyers naturally are looking for different things from your content depending on where they are in the journey.
As a content creator, you want to be sure the information you offer at each stage of the B2B buyer journey helps your prospects:
- Identify a problem, or pain point
- Explore the options for a solution
- Make the right choice to solve the problem
The journey begins with awareness, where buyers identify a pain point and begin looking for a solution. The pain point may be an individual’s problem or it could be an issue that an entire company is facing.
In the awareness stage of the B2B buyer journey, the prospect’s focus is on doing a broad search, gathering as much information as possible, and assessing its credibility. Here, buyers might not be aware of who you are and what you do, much less how you can help solve their problems.
In the next stage of journey — consideration — prospects narrow down their choices and begin to research a short list of options in greater depth. Here, they are looking for more details on specific offers, to see how well they address their pain points.
In the decision stage of the B2B buyer journey, prospects are on the verge of a purchase — and this is where your business can benefit from content designed to help seal the deal.
Of course, like a road trip in real life, the B2B buyer journey is not always linear. Prospects often move back and forth between stages — for example:
- A new pain point may emerge during consideration and lead the prospect go back to do more learn more about a whole new issue.
- New vendor may pop up during the decision phase and force the prospect to go back to consideration.
What are buyers looking for in their journey?
At every stage of the B2B buyer journey, prospects are gathering knowledge so they can make an informed decision. So as a marketer, you are challenged to provide content that is informative rather than salesy.
In the awareness stage, the buyer is looking for as much content as possible, searching for general terms, and seeing what solutions are available. But that doesn’t mean you want to bombard the buyer with anything and everything.
Rather, buyers are looking for high-quality, relevant content from subject matter experts — helpful information that establishes the credibility of the sources and provides buyers with ideas for how to solve their problems.
Next, the buyer begins to fine-tune their criteria and narrow down the options by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the best solutions. So at this consideration stage, you have opportunities to add value and capture leads by providing content that:
- Helps buyers learn how to compare prices and the value of different solutions
- Offers a higher level of personal engagement with prospective buyers
Finally, further down the road, the buyer may be ready to engage with a salesperson and decide which solution will work best for their specific needs. This is where you can roll out content that supports your sales strategy.
And once buyers have made a purchase, they to want to optimize their use of the product or service to solve their problems and get added value.
What are the best ways to deliver content at each stage?
Just as different content works better at different stages of the B2B buyer journey, different ways of delivering the content can be more effective depending on where buyers are in the journey.
In the awareness stage of the B2B buyer journey, your goal is to get prospective buyers to see and read your content. At the same time, your content needs be focused on the buyer’s pain points, not on your brand or your product.
So, while your strategy needs be geared toward getting noticed and driving web traffic, you want prospective buyers to see your business as a reliable source for helpful information. Offering your content for free is also a good way to build trust and show you are here to inform rather than to sell, through vehicles such as:
- Blog posts — providing helpful tips, problem solving, or technical insights in an easy-to-read format
- White papers and ebooks — demonstrating your expertise and informing rather than selling
- Analyst and industry reports — building credibility as an industry resource
- Newsletters and email campaigns — offering news and tips on a regular basis
- Infographics, checklists, and videos — offering information in formats that are easy to digest and share
- Social media — offering news and updates with links to more detailed content
In the consideration stage of the B2B buyer journey, prospects know who you are and what you do — so now is your chance to build credibility even more. At this stage, you can also gather leads by offering content that connects with buyers on a more personal level:
- Webinars, live streaming, and events — demonstrating subject matter expertise while you engage “face to face”
- Case studies — using real-life examples to show how prospects might benefit from working with your company
- Reviews and testimonials — enhancing credibility with prospects using positive feedback from their peers
- Social selling — using social media to answer questions and interact directly with prospective buyers
- Sales sheets — providing pricing, ROI, specifications, and other details needed for comparing different solutions
In the decision stage of the B2B buyer journey, if the earlier content has done its job, prospects should be ready to buy. So finally, you can deploy content that is focused on closing sales:
- Sales conversation, via phone or in person — answering any remaining questions and building confidence that your solution will solve the buyer’s problem
- Buyer incentives — offering free trials, consultations, assessments, or demos to help finalize the decision
The B2B buyer journey doesn’t end with the sale!
Once you gain a customer, your certainly want to keep them. After all, bringing in a new customer can be anywhere from 5 to 25 times as expensive as keeping an existing one.
And so the B2B buyer journey continues with retention and the “delight” stage. This is where you have opportunities to make your customer feel important and appreciated.
On top of your ongoing service strategy, your content strategy can play a big part in nurturing relationships and retaining customers by:
- Keeping them in the loop — with emails, newsletters, blogs, and social media that address the needs of existing customers, not just prospects
- Keeping them up to date — not just on your products and services, but also on important news that can have an impact on their business
- Providing continuing education — through instructional, non-sales webinars, podcasts, live streaming, and videos
- Asking for their feedback — and even creating testimonials that promote their business as well as yours
Then there is the advocacy stage of the B2B buyer journey, where your delighted and loyal customers become advocates of your brand, recommending you to potential new customers.
At this stage, you can build on the retention strategy by following and engaging with your loyal customers via social media. For example, make the effort to like, comment on, or share relevant customer posts — and be sure to share your relevant content with your advocates.
What does a good content strategy accomplish?
Throughout the B2B buyer journey, a successful content strategy is one that:
- Provides helpful and relevant information
- Builds trust and credibility
- Makes the buyer’s decision-making process easier
Every piece of content you create must have a clear purpose: answering the questions and meeting the needs of a prospect at a particular stage of the B2B buyer journey.
So, by putting a little effort into understanding what buyers are looking for at each stage of the B2B buyer journey, you can create a relevant content strategy — one that will not only meets the needs of your buyers, but also moves them to make a purchase and perhaps even turns them into an advocate for your business.
Of course, there are many other factors that also go into creating an effective content strategy. If you need some assistance bringing your strategy in line with your buyer journey, buyer personas, brand messaging, SEO, and other marketing tools, we’d be happy to help.