Creating a content funnel that propels your customer forward through the conversion funnel… keeping them on your site throughout their buyer’s journey – never straying away. Ensuring that no matter how or where they enter your content funnel, you’ve got content that is just right for their needs… Content marketing is about laying a clear and simple path for your buyer to navigate. It’s a path that passes through your shopping cart and then helps guide them back to commence their buyer’s journey again.
Know Your Buyer
Knowing your Buyer Persona is the single biggest challenge on the path to sales conversion. Know your customer. Understand their pain. Know how to ease it. Understand their challenges. Know how they like to consume information. Without knowing your buyer intimately, you can’t guide them through the buying journey.
Talk to your ideal customers. Ask them in detail why they chose you. Ask them how you could do better and what your competitors do poorly. Delve into their thought process during their purchase decision. Use their words in your copy. Show potential buyers that you have a clear understanding of their challenges. This is the first step to building trust and trust is at the heart of making a sale.
Once you think you know them well, figure out what distinguishes them from the tire kickers and researchers. Understand the keywords used by purchasers and the keywords researched by tire kickers. Track their every movement through your website – and find which paths lead to a conversion and which simply waste your sales team’s time.
When two personas are on the same buyer’s journey
Is your buyer persona actually two people? An administrative researcher/gatekeeper and a knowledgeable decision maker? You’ll need to understand the precise moment in the purchase journey that the gatekeeper steps back and the purchaser takes over. The tone, technical depth and focus of your content will be vastly different depending on the reader. Be sure you know who you’re talking to and clear their path to conversion.
The stages of your buyer’s journey
The first step in the buyer’s journey is becoming aware of a problem. This is the largest potential market for you and you’ll need to target widely, often with multiple pieces of content.
The next stage is the investigation stage. Here your buyer is educating him/herself on what the best solution for their particular problem. S/he will use this stage to weigh their options and understand the benefits of each.
Next comes the decision stage. Your buyer is well down the path now and is looking for side-by-side comparisons of their options. Here your content needs to prompt them to make that enquiry and talk with your sales team.
Finally, the loyalty stage (or delight stage) where your content is on hand when they need support, to buy again, to recommend to friends or to upgrade when the time comes. For now, let’s focus on funnelling them from stranger to shopper!
Understanding your potential buyer’s problems
What is your potential buyer thinking? Before you create a single piece of content, you’ll need to do a little reconnaissance work. Create a spreadsheet with a tab for each stage of the buying journey. The first step is to tune into conversations about your product or service to understand what the customer needs. Note each question or search phrase in the first column of your spreadsheet. Beginner questions will go onto the awareness sheet, questions regarding desirable features and benefits should be placed on the investigation sheet. Finally, the decision sheet should feature comments about competitor’s products or services and discussion of price and other key decision making factors.
So where do you find this information? There’s limitless places to mine information online but some great places to start include:
- Google Autocomplete
- Google related searches
- Google trends
- Facebook groups
- LinkedIn groups
- Google Plus discussions
- Industry forums
- News sites
- Buzzsumo (for trending content on the topic)
- Yahoo Answers
- Twitter hashtag feeds
- Amazon reviews
- Aardvark (paid)
- Wordtracker (paid)
- Your competitor’s websites
A client was rolling out a fleet of new mining vehicles. Their marketing materials were jam packed with stories of strength, speed and efficiency. The imagery was impressive. When it came time to create the content, 94% of mentions found online had nothing to do with the speed, strength or efficiency of these cutting edge models. What really had potential customers talking was the electronics system, GPS tracking and technical tools that allowed mining companies to analyse the most profitable “patches of dirt” in their possession. The existing marketing materials had very little about the electronics system as it was considered a “side benefit” by both the client and the manufacturer. The lesson: content marketing research is market research.
Got data, now what? Your SERP Characteristics column
You’ve populated your lists of questions, now to find out how to best answer them. On your spreadsheet, add a column for SERP Characteristics. Google your questions, read the results. What was great about them? What could be done better? Note the formats (infographics, video, text, white papers, client case studies etc) that were most effective. Which questions from your list were answered in each article and was there room for a bigger better article or a faster, easier option?
Also look for the technical “ranking factors” for these articles. These may include:
- Inbound links (is the industry linking to this information)
- Keywords used
- Length of content
- The number and style of multimedia elements
- The level of technical or specialised information
- Targeting (including vertical targets)
- Internal funnelling (where did the article encourage you to click next)
- Trust factors such as testimonials or demonstrated knowledge
- The style of call to action used (and which buttons really made you want to click)
- Comments left by previous visitors
- Social media signals
- Anything that stood out and impressed you – or would likely impress your buyer
Use all this information to create a list of potential content pieces, their technical features and what pain point they’d poke for your potential buyer.
Where content marketing meets SEO
It’s not one or the other. The two need to interact to attract buyers into the funnel and then drive them along the road to conversion. SEO is still a vital part of your conversion process. SEO, email blasts, social media, industry outreach, public relations… these all serve to drop the right people into your funnel – and they all work together in a cohesive manner. Whether you use Google Adwords Keyword Planner and your brain, or you have a bevy of SEO tools at your disposal, performing keyword research is not optional.
The right keyword exactly answers your buyer’s question. A large general keyword that shows little understanding of technical features is likely going to be an awareness stage keyword. Smaller, long tail keywords that examine specific features or models will likely be part of the investigation stage. Create you list of target keywords for each content piece.
The all-important content title
The ultimate title for your content piece will make the difference between keeping hold of that potential buyer and seeing them bounce away never to be heard from again. It’s a sad fact that no matter how amazing and informative your content, if you can’t grab them with that first line, you won’t reach your full audience. Where possible, use your keywords to generate highly engaging titles. Tools like Co-Schedule rate your titles based on the power of the wording. These are nifty but you are writing for your buyer persona. If they detest anything remotely resembling “click-bait” you’ll be better off simply stating the benefits of your product as your title. The elements that make a terrific landing page also compel your customer through your funnel. Take care to get those right.
Plan your content
Your spreadsheets should now be full of brilliant content ideas. You have the preferred format, the questions that need answering, the keyword and the title. Make a mud map of each piece of content in Word documents.
Create a new sheet on your spreadsheet and insert a flowchart. This will be your content plan. Start by listing all your awareness stage content items across the top. Then list your investigation stage content below and finally your decision stage content. Your decision stage content will likely include some very powerful copywriting and finally a carefully tested landing page.
It’s now time to plan your funnels. When your persona, fresh on his/her buyer’s journey arrives at a top row piece of content, where will she likely need to go next? Which investigation stage content will be the best “next step” for this buyer? Connect your three stages of content together in a way that forms a logical and helpful path to conversion.
Create your content
Finally, it’s time to actually start producing your content. Every word your write, infographic you design or video you shoot should aim to progress your buyer’s journey. Use your content plan and your understanding of compelling calls to action to generate opportunities for her/him to progress through the funnel. Don’t allow distractions that will veer her off the conversion path. You must ensure that she knows EXACTLY where to go next.
Measure the value your content
Use Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of your funnels. Revise often, test and use re-marketing tools to pull those who leave your funnel right back in. The most successful websites have multiple funnels for each persona, each carefully addressing different pain points.
Your buyer’s journey is a complex one but with a comprehensive content marketing plan, you can be there, when your buyer needs you with the perfect solution to their problem.
(Written by Dana Flannery, Creative Director at Content Marketing Agency Talk About Creative here in Brisbane and a valued member of the Media Heroes Alliance program. Dana has worked in marketing copywriting for more than a decade and carefully combines traditional marketing theory with digital marketing ingenuity.)