Inbound marketing centers around the concept that buyers want to consume information on their own and progress down the sales funnel. The buyers’ journey defines the adventure a customer goes on from first identifying a problem, all the way to making a purchase decision to solve their problem.
Depending on your business, your audience might spend more time in one stage or another. If you’re a business-to-consumer company, there’s a good chance your buyers’ journey will be far shorter than a business-to-business company. However, the journey can be divided into three main stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
Explore the below stages of the buyers’ journey and consider how your audience moves through them before deciding to make a purchase with you.
At this point in the buyers’ journey, your audience is just becoming aware of their problem. They might not even know what it’s called, if anyone else experiences it, or if it can even be solved. During the awareness stage, your audience will be seeking educational content that will help them better understand their problem.
To successfully market to this audience, focus on creating ungated content, like pillar pages and blogs. This is content that is openly accessible to anyone without having to provide anything in exchange for that insight. It’s crucial that this content focuses solely on education. Avoid discussing your organization or your service offerings entirely, focus on providing value to the consumer.
In this stage, your audience has defined their problem and is beginning to consider different solutions to alleviate their various pain points. In a universally familiar example, if your audience was hungry, at this stage they would be deciding between going to a restaurant, ordering delivery, picking up takeout, or cooking at home.
In this stage, education is just as important as before. Teach your audience about the pros and cons of each of their options. Naturally, it makes sense to position your solution as the most favorable. However, it’s crucial that your content transparent and factual.
Remember, for questions such as pricing, drawbacks, and more, your audience will be searching for an answer. Even if you don’t give it to them, someone else will. Wouldn’t you rather your audience end up on your site and not a competitor’s?
Ungated content like blogs are still helpful, but start shifting to gated resources like ebooks, checklists, templates, or other downloads. This will allow you to start collecting your audience’s information, such as email addresses, and qualify them as a prospect while they’re vetting you as a solution.
This is the final stage preceding a purchase. At this point, your prospect knows what their problem is and how they want to solve it.
Continuing with the previous example, your audience identified they want to go eat at a restaurant and in this stage are trying to determine which restaurant to go to. This is the time to start selling and advocating for your brand. Sell sheets, case studies, testimonials, and other resources that competitively differentiate your brand and service offerings are perfect for your content strategy.
Retention is a bonus (and often forgotten) stage. Making a sale isn’t the end of your relationship with a customer; it’s the beginning of it.
After a customer buys from you, it’s time to shift your focus from sales to retention. Explore opportunities to demonstrate the value you bring to your customers. Additionally, seek out ways you can provide even more value to your audience. From discounts to free resources or even a birthday card, keep yourself top of mind with small, positive reminders.
While there are many strategies for retention, the most important part is assuring the customer they haven’t been forgotten about after a sale is made.
Remember, throughout each stage, your content should provide value to your audience. Even as you get further toward making a sale, your content should be factual and beneficial. Consider: if you wouldn’t want to consume your content (and you already care about your brand), your audience (who doesn’t care about your brand yet) definitely won’t.
Once you understand the journey a customer takes from the first interaction to purchase, you can more strategically create content that will nurture leads and push them down the sales funnel.