Simply creating content is not the same as creating content to meet the goals of your target audience. Your audience looks for specific content at each stage of their buying journey. 76% of B2B buyers prefer different content at each stage of the buying cycle. Apart from this, buyers can be 90% of the way through the buying process before they reach out to a salesperson, which means that content plays a huge role in up to 90% of the buying process.
Get a higher ROI on your content by nurturing your audience through the buying cycle – map your content to the buyer’s specific needs at each stage.
Buyers are reading more, doing research online, evaluating alternatives based on the content made available to them by the vendors, reaching out to discussion forums to figure out solutions to their problems, forming opinions about the vendors based on the content, and consequently, handpicking a few vendors with whom they would like to pursue talks.
Are you one of their choices?
Unless you are the sole player in your chosen business, you have to compete and publish content that will stand out and earn the buyer’s trust – at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Understanding the B2B Buying Journey
The B2B buying journey essentially consists of four distinct stages:
1. Need Recognition:
At this stage the buyer is struggling with challenges, learns about new solutions, defines the requirements and understands best practices.
72% of product research for a future business purchase begins on Google.
In this stage, the buyer is trying to understand the best solutions and vendors, she defines the budget, figures the ROI and makes herself aware of the risks associated with the implementation of solutions.
3. Evaluating Alternatives:
In this stage, the buyer is evaluating alternatives through product trials, comparing prices, shortlisting the vendors and validating the alternatives through online discussion forums and independent groups.
The buyer having evaluated her alternatives makes the buy decision. She expects to purchase with ease and implement the solutions successfully.
Infographic on Mapping content to the B2B buying journey. Click to open and enlarge.
Click to open and enlarge.
How to map content to the B2B buying cycle?
Once you have decided to create content for each stage of the buying journey, how do you decide what is most appropriate for each buying stage and audience?
The process involves understanding your buyer, recognising their needs and problems at different stages, and helping them find solutions. The 8-step approach includes:
Think in terms of who and where your target audiences are, what content is consumed by them, what they are looking for on your website and what kind of Lead Activity History you have in your CRM. Answering these questions will give you specific details about your target segment and help you cater to their needs.
2. Identify buyer persona
Once you have identified your target segment, it is important to define the buyer persona. Who are the decision makers? Are they C-Level or mid-level executives? What are their functions? There is also a need to understand what their priorities, needs and challenges are. Chart out different scenarios and map their characteristics in those scenarios to understand their behaviour and preferences.
3. Define buying stages
Although buying stages are similar across industries, they may slightly vary with respect to your product and industry. It would help to customise the stages specific to your product and identify the duration of each stage. This will help you in deciding the types of content suitable for each stage and determining which stage requires more content.
4. Identify conversion pathways
There can be more than one scenario and pathway to convert leads to sales. Identify the different scenarios pertaining to your product and industry and work out pathways to convert the leads.
5. Identify persona questions
The typical persona’s questions across the buying stages vary and hence, it is important to identify them to produce content that will address the needs of your buyers. The persona will think in terms of understanding their problem in the need stage. At the research stage, the persona will look for ways to solve their problem. The evaluation stage will see questions on what solutions will best suit their needs. Purchase stage questions will be on how to get started, successful implementations and service-related queries.
6. Answer buyer questions
Create content which will answer all the buying stage questions, address the different scenarios, and fit the different conversion pathways. Map the content to the buyer’s goals and intent so that it can address the specific needs and challenges of your persona. The more targeted the content is, the better is the possibility of gaining the buyer’s trust and increasing conversions.
7. Identify content types
No one type of content will address all the buyer goals. An educational video may suit the need recognition stage better than the evaluation stage. It is, therefore, important to identify the different types of content that can address different stages and related questions. Sometimes a blog will work, while in other cases a video or a research paper will serve your needs best.
It is also important that the buyers find the content, and marketers need to understand the places where the buyers will look for information. Hence, it is important to identify whether a particular content piece will work better on social channels or emails.
Create a grid that will help you map the content to different personas, their buying stages and the kind of content that will serve the purpose.
Throughout the buying cycle, either your content will nurture the lead to the next level or it will dissuade them to choose you as an alternative. Hence, lead nurturing through the different stages using relevant, genuine and quality content becomes all the more important.
Use the template shown in the infographic – ‘Mapping Personas and Buying Stages to Content’ – to map the content to serve the buyer’s specific needs at each stage of the buying cycle. Accordingly, invest wisely on creating a variety of content like blogs, videos, infographics, research reports, or other content that will serve the purpose for your audience.