Would you ask a someone to marry you on the first date? Hollywood romance stories sometime portray such successful love at first sight scenarios.
Real life? Not so simple. Reality normally requires building a relationship before popping the question. Earning trust, learning to know one another, seeing that you are right for each other and taking the relationship to the next level when you're ready.
If this makes sense to you so far, then why oh why are you selling to strangers on your first date with them instead of making sure to nurture a relationship with them and adjust your messaging to their rhythm and research process? This post will help you understand what the buyer's journey is and how to adjust your marketing strategy and content to align with it.
So what's the buyer's journey?
“The buyer’s journey is the active research process a potential buyer goes through leading up to a purchase."
There are three stages to the average journey:
The awareness stage represents the top of the marketing funnel (TOFU).
For example, the prospect is experiencing high fever, muscle pains and a sore throat. He is googling his symptoms and is only interested in information.
Typical content used by inbound marketers at this stage is aimed to satisfy the need for general knowledge on a specific problem, without mentioning particular solutions or vendors. Blog posts, Whitepapers and eBooks fit perfectly at this stage.
The consideration stage is slightly more focused on solution guides and comparison reports. Middle of the funnel (MOFU) is often vainly overlooked by marketers. In our example the prospect finds out what he has and now has a name for he's condition. In this case streptococcus. He is now researching what his options are for relieving his pain or cure his symptoms.
The content at this stage should be content that helps a prospect consider certain solutions. Comparisons, whitepapers, expert guides and webinars are what you should aim for.
Bottom of the funnel (BOFU) is represented by the decision stage, which is mostly focused on product features and capabilities. At this stage the buyer is finalizing his decision and may need a test drive to discard his last doubts.
In our example the prospect learns he can get treatment from his family doctor, ER, a nurse or private clinic. ER costs more but is the fastest and he has insurance.
The idea is to build trust and create value by presenting relevant content to your prospect, in accordance with his stage of the buyer's journey. The content should be presented when he is ready and interested in reading it. Not a second before.
The content at this stage should help the prospect make a purchasing decision. Product comparisons, case studies, trial offers and live demos are a good fit.
Food for thought: 47% of B2B buyers consume 3-5 pieces of content prior to engaging with a salesperson - your prospects are consuming your content before your sales people even know who they are. Whether your like it or not, if your content is only typical decision stage content, you're in fact ignoring the buyer's journey and driving them away by being "too much" and too soon.
How to apply
Make a list of websites they use for networking, drawing inspiration, solving their day-to-day needs, etc. Speak with current customers and ask them about the journey they went through prior to deciding to work with you. How long did it take them? what did they identify as a problem? what solutions did they consider? What made them choose you?
List their favorite social media accounts, their preferred marketplaces to monitor prices, their most popular resources for trade-related news and technical specifications.
Dive into their buyer’s journey and help them down the path leading to a purchase.
When placing the right content at the right place and time, you will be able to attract strangers, convert them to leads, and futher on to customers and even promoters.
Having a deep understanding of who you are writing to (your buyer personas) and at what stage of the buyer's journey, will enable you to become customer centric. Instead of focusing on who you are and what you have to offer, simply being aware of the potential journey your prospects go through before they decide to buy from you can make a dramatic shift in your marketing strategy. If you're unsure about the mechanics of driving conversions from content, make sure to read this post and learn how to structure your funnel.
As any relationship, buliding a relationship with your prospective customers takes time and investment. Make your marketing relevant and useful. Create the type of marketing that people will enjoy and benfit from. Put yourself in your prospects shoes and walk their buyer's journey.
Then, when the time is right, pop the question and head off to towrads the susnset together.
Enjoy your journey!
If you found this useful, and you're curious to learn more and find out how to create a long lasting Inbound Marketing strategy, we invite you to download our How-To guide for creating an Inbound Marketing strategy.