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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Forget the Marketing Funnel: Map Your Content Along a Straight Line

    Posted by Bill Faeth

    Creating Marketing Content to Match Each Stage of the (Linear) Buyer's Journey

    Map your content to the buyers journeyMapping your marketing funnel to match the sales cycle probably isn’t a new concept. With a SMarketing funnel in place, you knew every piece of content you created had a specific purpose. Is that SMarketing funnel still doing its job? Have you seen an increase in leads, or do you spend all your time thinking in circles?

    Rather than thinking in circles, maybe you should start thinking in a straight line. Sure, we want our buyers to come right back for more, but when they do, will they start back at the beginning? No, and that’s why they don’t need to be funneled through the awareness stage again. If you’re not providing what they need, they may find it on your competitor’s website. It’s crucial to kick this cycle to the curb.

    At every organization, buyers pass through three stages before making a purchase:

    1. Awareness

    2. Consideration

    3. Decision

    The length of these phases can vary considerably depending on the buyer personas, price of the products, and other factors. However, the presence of these stages is a universal phenomenon across all industries. Here’s how to start matching your content marketing to the three main parts of every buyer’s journey:

    Awareness Phase

    As you might have guessed, this is pretty much the same as the awareness phase of the buying cycle. Potential customers have just recently become aware of a potential problem. That problem hasn’t yet become a pain point, but with a little bit of the right information, it easily could.

    Most of the content buyers will consume at this point will come from third parties that can provide statistics in a neutral way. Does that mean you shouldn’t bother with content at this particular phase of the buyer’s journey? Of course not. You’ll take this opportunity to share your own research in the most objective way possible. Reports, ebooks, white papers, and other educational content will serve to answer those questions your buyers don’t yet know they have.

    Will they believe your content is objective since they know you’re trying to sell something? They will if you’re honest. And, of course, you’ll want to cite your sources. Use information from those third parties your buyers trust and present it in your own research. That honesty, coupled with the fact that you’re using information from a trusted resource, helps to spark that first flame of a true relationship.

    Consideration Phase

    Now that the first flame of trust has been lit, your buyers will begin to consider the ways your products or services might help solve their pain points. By this phase, they know what those pain points are and can clearly name them. They still want information at this point, but they’re willing to take a much closer look at the knowledge you can impart.

    You do want to continue providing expert content at this point, but you don’t have to concentrate solely on information gleaned from impartial third parties. Instead, it’s time to start showing what your products and services can do. Show your buyers some comparisons between your company and your closest competitors. Provide an expert guide through each of your services and show how they’ll solve buyers’ problems. Invite buyers to webcasts and podcasts and post plenty of videos.

    Because that flame of trust was lit during the awareness stage, it will only continue to grow during the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey. At some point, they’re going to realize that they have a solution or are ready to approach a potential solution. You’ll be their trusted guide into the decision phase.

    Lead Nurturing

    Decision Phase

    You’re almost home! By the time a buyer reaches the decision phase, he’s pretty much decided to make a purchase. You just don’t know yet if that purchase will be made with your company. It’s up to you to provide all the information that will help tip that balance all the way in your company’s favor.

    What does a lead who already has a great deal of trust in you need to see at this point? Keep comparing your company with your competitors. Believe it or not, you won’t look bad when you do this, as long as you’re tasteful in your comparisons. Above that, your comparisons must be honest and true.

    Next, keep comparing those products. We don’t mean comparing your products with someone else’s either. Pit your services and goods against each other so your buyers can be sure you’re making the right decision. You’ll want to share case studies at this point so that your hottest leads can make sure the purchase they’ve chosen fits their needs exactly.

    Finally, take the time to provide a live demonstration or give a free trial period. If you think you need a little extra “oomph,” you may consider a discount just to get the buyer to sign on the dotted line. Just remember that a discount could severely skew buyer’s perceived value of your product, so don’t make that leap unless you absolutely have to. After all, you want your buyers to come back for another purchase at a later date. If they get your product or service at a price that sounds too good to be true, they’ll wonder just how valuable their purchase was to begin with.

    How do you feel about the linear approach to buyer decisions? Do you think the your content strategy can align with the new buyer’s journey? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


    image credit: murky1/flickr

    Topics: Sales