The world wide web is not such a daunting place as it once was. Every day at almost all corners of the globe, billions of people are navigating the internet from their preferred devices.
As digital marketers, we are constantly trying to find new ways to draw users’ attention to various forms of content, whether it’s a product, a website, or some obscure video we can’t get enough of (like this cat jumping off a counter). While content marketing has become something of a sticking point for marketers due to the rapidly evolving trends in user browsing behavior, a deep understanding of the ways in which consumer behavior is influenced by the buyer’s journey, paired with a thorough content mapping strategy, is essential to producing content that is consistently relevant and helpful at every step of the consumer journey.
While easier said than done, you can certainly hit on this goal by developing a profound understanding of buyer personas (who your customers are) and the buyer journey (the path they take on their way to becoming customers).
Intimate knowledge of buyer personas and the buyer journey is a prerequisite to mapping out a robust content strategy in the digital age.
Understanding buyer personas
Creating a solid content strategy begins with understanding who your buyers are.
The buyer persona concept has been used for years in the traditional marketing world, and is built around what a company believes its typical consumers to be. Pulling from this, marketers will create numerous fictional representations of their most likely buyers, and reference them time and again when producing content that aims to speak to these respective audience segments.
Buyer personas, personified
Let’s say your company sells organic greek yogurt. After poring over data, you’ve ascertained two main customer draws: the health-conscious millennial female that lives in the city, and the suburban middle-class mom who wants her kids’ breakfasts to be packed with good nutrition.
You’ll then develop a profile for these two customer-types, including:
- job title
- education level
- spending habits
The more specific you get, the better your chance of resonating with the audience segments your personas embody when you begin producing content.
As a resource, HubSpot provides a fantastic template to get you started with creating your buyer personas.
Understanding the buyer journey
Crafting personas for each audience segment is only half the equation. The other half is defining the entire journey your audience takes on their way to becoming customers.
Breaking apart the buyer journey into stages is important, because it helps us understand how to speak to our audience segments appropriately, given where they are in the conversion funnel.
For instance, think of an Apple store. Person A, who has just entered the store, is at a different buyer journey stage than Person B, who’s been testing different MacBooks for the last 45 minutes, who’s also different than Person C, who’s in the check-out line waiting to pay for their new iPhone X.
If you’re an Apple sales rep, would you approach Persons A, B, and C the same way? Probably not. You’d most likely open Person A with a general “Can I help you?” inquiry. With Person B you’d probably approach ready to talk specifics about the MacBook lineup, including price, design, functionality, etc. And with Person C, you’d be saying something to the effect of “Did you find everything OK?” followed by “Cash or credit?”
The 3 stages of the buyer journey: who’s in the mood for fried chicken?
To illustrate the three buyer journey stages, let’s imagine a scenario in which we’re suddenly craving fried chicken.
Phase 1: Problem
Fried chicken: The problem is that we’re hungry. The food in the fridge won’t suffice; we’re in the mood for fried chicken and that’s the final word.
Your company: Similarly, your potential buyers are confronted with a problem that, down the road, you may be the solution to. But not just yet.
Creating content at the Problem stage: Here you want to cast a wide net and aim to capture the attention of most people who fit the profile of your various buyer personas. Content centered around people in the Problem stage may include:
- blog posts
- shared articles
- social media posts
Phase 2: Research
Fried chicken: We’re new to the area, which means we don’t know the local restaurant landscape. So we access Yelp and FourSquare to figure out nearby restaurants that have fried chicken.
There are three such spots within walking distance, and another two reachable by car. With all these options, we’re going to weigh factors like price, distance, rating, pictures, and perhaps supplementals (e.g. we want good draft beers to go with our chicken) before making our decision.
Your company: Once a potential customer identifies their problem, they may take to the resources available to them to understand more about their problem, and pull up possible answers to said problem.
Creating content at the Research stage: People here are more inclined to consuming in-depth content, since they’re elaborating/elucidating on their initial problem. Create content at the research stage that demonstrates specificity and an expertise on your product, service, or industry. Content types may include:
- product reviews
- case studies
- white papers
Phase 3: Decision
Fried chicken: Our appetite doesn’t care about price tonight. We’re hungry and treating ourselves to the best fried chicken in the city and that’s that. Coppola’s Fried Chicken and Waffles may be the priciest of all our options, and 20 minutes out by drive to boot, but it’s yielded a 4.5-star rating with over 200 reviews on Yelp. Plus, the photos of their draft beers look mouth-watering. It’s been decided: Coppola’s it is.
Your company: After researching, your buyers are ready to commit and purchase. But often they may require a final nudge. If you sell clothing, they may want to know your return policy. If you sell SaaS, they may want to demo your product first. Be there for your buyers by first anticipating their final considerations, and then demonstrating your expertise and/or leaving them rest-assured.
Creating content at the Decision stage: Ideally, your buyer has followed the nice little trail of breadcrumbs (i.e. content) you’ve have laid out for them. Now it’s time to spur them into actually buying. During the Decision stage, people narrow their focus by considering all the content they’ve come across leading up to this point. Focus your Decision-stage content around:
- special offers
- free consultations
- product endorsements
Before content mapping a strategy or editorial calendar for the next few months or quarters, first craft essential buyer personas based on different audience segments that make up your customer base.
Next, put yourself in your buyer personas’ shoes and imagine the process they go through on their way to becoming your customers. Flesh out the Problem, Research, and Decision stages that make up their buyer journey, and figure out all the ways you can meet them at each checkpoint with pertinent content that resonates based on who they are and where in the journey they’re at.
By developing deep understandings of your customers and their journeys, you put yourself in excellent position to hit on the Holy Marketing Trinity: reaching the right person with the right message at the right time. And for marketers, that’s what it’s all about.
Need help crafting your buyer personas and content strategy? We’d be happy to lend a hand.