The short answer: A buyer’s journey is the progression of a potential customer through a framework that ends with, ideally, a sale.
And why should you care? Because caring about the buyer’s journey will increase your conversion rate which, in turn, increases your sales.
Make sense so far? Good. Now, let’s elaborate.
The buyer’s journey consists of four steps:
1. Realization of a problem
2. Researching solutions
3. Gathering information on products that provide the wanted solution
4. Making a decision on the product
In summary, the stages are a funnel, getting your customer from stage one to stage four:
Why Should I Care?
We’ll break down each of the phases in the next section, but first, let’s talk about why you should care about your customers’ buyer’s journey.
The buyer’s journey tells you exactly what your buyers need to know during each phase of their journey. Basically, it tells you what information you need to provide on your site to get them from having a problem to buying your product. Handy, right?
Where a buyer is in their journey is very important: According to Hubspot, only 19% of buyers want to talk to a sales rep during the researching stage, compared to the 60% who want to talk to a sales rep after gathering information.
What does this mean?
It means that you need more general education-based information available during the researching stage, but more product-oriented information available during the gathering information stage.
By providing the right content at the right time, you’ll help move the prospect through their journey and towards buying your product.
A study conducted in 2007 showed that the longer a person stayed in a store, the more likely they were to purchase. The same applies to the online world: The longer a buyer spends on your site, reading content that moves them through their journey, the more likely they are to purchase from that site.
Plus, the longer they stay on your site, the better a relationship they’ll build with your brand, which then leads to more trust. And consumers buy from brands they trust and feel connected to. Customers with an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%.
The bottom line: Creating content around your ideal buyer’s journey will create a relationship and increase trust, leading to more loyalty and higher sales.
The Buyer’s Journey Framework Breakdown
Now that we know why we need to know the buyer’s journey, let’s talk about each of the four steps.
REALIZATION OF A PROBLEM
The journey starts when a potential customer realizes that they have a problem. Generally, the problem they have is going to be something you can solve for them, way down the line, once they make it through the other steps of the journey.
This stage of the journey is important. It’s what marketers call top-of-the-funnel stage. At this point, potential customers don’t want you to scream at them about your product. They want you to educate them about their problem: what caused it, what fixes there are, what to do so it doesn’t happen again in the future.
Companies that try to sell their product at this point will lose because customers aren’t ready to be sold to yet.
GATHERING INFORMATION ON PRODUCTS
This is when you start convincing the buyer that your product is best suited to handle their problem. You need to strike a fine balance here between continuing to educate the buyer while also dropping in information about the solutions your product provides. You need to set yourself up to push the buyer to the next step in their journey….
MAKING A DECISION
Your buyer is ready to make a decision. They’ve done the research and created a short list of products they think will solve their problem. Now is when you need targeted, persuasive content about why your product should be the product they choose. You should get granular on the exact benefits of your product and include any statistics that make your case, through the use of case studies and white papers that can prove your product’s worth.
This is where you close the sale.
How to Use the Buyer’s Journey in Content Marketing
To get started creating a buyer’s journey for your business, you first need to know who your ideal buyers are. Yes, plural, because you’ll have more than one ideal type of buyer. And to use a buyer’s journey successfully, you need to know everything about each type of ideal buyer, because each buyer will have a different journey.
STEP ONE: THINK ABOUT THE PEOPLE
So, step one: Create buyer personas for each of your ideal buyers. This can take some time, but don’t skimp. It’s a very important step. If you don’t know what’s important to each type of buyer, how can you create content aimed directly at them? You can’t. So dig in and really flesh out everything you know and can find out about your buyers.
STEP TWO: GET SOME DATA
Step two is to research and brainstorm how each of those buyers goes through their own buyer’s journey. Everyone will be different. An individual will move through their buyer’s journey differently than an enterprise company. A Junior Associate will move through their journey differently than a CEO.
You need to understand how your buyers move through their buying journey so that you can ensure that you have the right content available for them at each stage of their journey.
STEP THREE: GET TO WRITING
Which brings us to step three, the big one: mapping out, and then creating, each piece of content that each buyer needs during each phase of their journey.
This is the time-consuming part. You need to create come up with multiple ideas for each buyer during each stage. Why so many? Because you need to keep your content fresh and relevant. As new products and innovations are released in your industry, you should write about them.
Top of the funnel, or research stage, pieces are usually the easiest pieces of content to write for and include things such as inspiration articles, checklists and articles about the latest industry news, breakthroughs and research.
Middle of the funnel, or the gathering information stage, should be more in-depth pieces: FAQs, checklists and how-to videos and articles.
Bottom of the funnel, or decision stage, should be the clincher. It should be data-driven content designed to convince the buyer that your product is the right product for them. Think white pages, case studies, product data sheets, project interview blogs, video testimonials, videos or blogs showing the product in use. Anything that will showcase exactly why your product is the right choice.
STEP FOUR: SHARE IT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
You’ve done the research and wrote the content. Now you need to share it with the world. Take one article, which should ideally be between 1,100 and 1,300 words to rank well on Google, and use the information in it to create social posts for Instagram and Twitter and small write-ups for Facebook and LinkedIn that you can link to the article. Done right, you can get a month’s worth of social posts out of just one, well-written, well-researched article. Two birds, one stone.
Now Get to It!
Does all of this sound like a whole lotta work? That’s because it is. But it’s work well worth doing. By putting in the time and effort to research your buyers and then create the content they need, you can increase not only your leads and sales but also brand awareness and trust. You can establish yourself as a leader in your industry.
If you want to learn more about how content marketing can help you grow and thrive, check out my other articles on Medium.
Anastasia Voll is a content marketing strategist who specializes in helping women entrepreneurs find their voice and attract their ideal clients.
You can learn more about her and how to work with her at www.vollcontentmarketing.com.