Mapping your buyer’s journey adds a dimension to your persona that helps you align content with the mindsets, interests and behaviors that a prospect exhibits while transitioning through Awareness, Consideration and Decision—distinct stages in the buyer’s journey that are different in terms of what the persona is thinking, needing and experiencing.
When you realize that nearly 95% of B2B buyers do more than half of their research online before ever reaching out to a company, you can see that what prospects are searching for online during the buyer’s journey is critical to your content’s success. The same holds true for developing your personas (which should include things like their role in the organization, motivations, education, influencers, experience and other dimensions), and articulating their journeys in order to define what content and actions will be most effective.
Here’s a look at the elements of a buyer’s journey and how to align your inbound marketing program and its components with it.
What’s the Prospect Thinking at Each Stage?
As your prospect goes through the buyer’s journey, his or her needs change. In the Awareness stage, for instance, the needs are fairly basic: they’re defining a problem (“Why are my printing costs rising?” “Is there a way to test circuit boards for thermo-mechanical failure?”) and beginning to see evidence that there are solutions to it. In the Consideration stage your prospect is now evaluating potential solutions, often weighing “ABC solution vs. XYZ solution.”
What Type of Information is Needed at Each Stage?
During the Awareness stage, the information that’s most valuable to a prospect is that which outlines the problem, not something designed to provide every fact and figure related to your solution. However, as the journey continues and the prospect gets closer to making a decision, he or she will need to assess – and validate – solutions on a more granular level, and the information you provide should help them do so.
What Questions are They Asking at Each Stage?
It helps to put yourself in the shoes of your prospect and list the questions he or she is asking – because those are what your content should be answering. In the Awareness stage those tend to be very high-level, while as the prospect progresses through the journey they get more specific about solutions (“pros and cons of XYZ solution”) and vendors (“reviews of ABC Corporation”).
What Kind of Content Makes the Most Sense at Each Stage?
Don’t plan a white paper for the Awareness stage, and avoid offering a simple tip sheet for the Decision stage. Easily digestible information is most appropriate for the early stages of the buyer’s journey, while details that help you convince the prospect of your value and credibility is needed toward the end of it.
What Terms Might the Prospect Be Searching at Each Stage?
Keywords are critical if you want your site to appear and rank well in online search results, and knowing what your prospect is most likely to use can’t be overstated. Search phrases that start with “how do I,” “what is,” and “what can” are good examples of the type of search that begins a journey. Later on, once the problem is fully defined, prospects are using terms like “best software for ____,” “best way to ____,” and “solutions to _______ problem.”
At the end of this post you can review a sample buyer’s journey map to help you develop your own. Before you do that, though, here’s some helpful guidance as you create those maps:
Tip #1: Keep Prospects’ Motivations in Mind
Knowing each persona’s motivations will guide the “spin” of your content. One persona might be motivated by cost (least cost, most likely), while another might be motivated by a regulatory change to find a product that ensures compliance. Why they’re looking for a solution is simple: the persona has a problem. What kind of solution can be determined both by your personas (knowing some of their motivations) and by asking questions on landing page conversion forms like, “What’s most important to you?” with dropdown answer menus like “cost, performance, adherence to Regulation 123,” etc.
Tip #2: The Kind of Content You Produce is Important
Simpler, more visual pieces like videos and infographics make sense during the Awareness stage because of the nature of the communication (simple, high-level messages), while in the Decision stage more in-depth pieces that feature facts and figures provide the detail the prospect wants. Make sure your content doesn’t exceed—or underestimate—the need at each stage.
Tip #3: Know Where Your Personas are Looking for Information
Depending on the prospect, he or she may have typical ways of looking for the information they need: forums, social media, webinars, events, review sites, etc. You need to understand where they’re most comfortable and likely to be searching if you want to get your message seen.
Tip #4: Remember Who You’re Talking To
Your prospect could be a user, influencer or buyer, and all three of those look for and use information differently. A user is probably more interested in functional elements of a product, while a buyer will be looking for things like total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI). Their role in the purchase should direct the type and nature of your content at every stage.
Using the example buyer’s journey map below, spend some time developing one for each of your personas. It’s invaluable as you create an editorial calendar that will put the right information in front of the right people at the right time!