How to maximize value throughout your consumer journey
Your content marketing efforts should be well-optimized, easily discoverable, and lead readers down the sales funnel—ideally to purchase/conversion. Content is key to your digital marketing strategy, but it needs to be aligned to the specific needs, questions, and barriers of your consumers at every stage of their journey. Otherwise, you risk losing ROI on your efforts.
At Quietly, we know that too many companies create and distribute the content they think their audiences want to read, without properly measuring, analyzing, and acting upon the results of their historical efforts or those of their competitors. This is why working with a partner can be so valuable. Taking a consumer-centric approach to content marketing will allow you to engage clients with the right content at the right time. If you’re a brand looking to elevate your online presence and engage your consumers, you can’t afford to miss these opportunities in the consumer journey.
Note: Depending on whether you work in B2C or B2B, you may use the terms “customer journey” over “consumer journey” or “buyer funnel” over “sales funnel.” We recognize that these terms are fairly interchangeable, and have chosen the ones most relevant for these insights.
Aligning your content marketing with the consumer journey
Too often, brands spend time and money on their content marketing without fully understanding the consumer journey. This is the first major missed opportunity most brands encounter: they’re not thinking about the specific types of content they should be putting in front of their audiences at specific stages of the consumer journey.
Part of this is because brands lack a sophisticated understanding of what the consumer journey truly is. To get a clearer understanding of what this term means, consider this: if you were buying a new car, would you head to a car lot, find a model you like, and purchase it immediately? Probably not. Most likely, you’d do your research first, compare models, ask your friends and family for recommendations, talk to sales representatives, take the car for a test drive or two, and then, once you were feeling confident in your choice, consider making a purchase. This process is what is known as the consumer journey, and can also be understood as the act of moving down the sales funnel from awareness to evaluation to purchase.
To help brands better understand the importance of the consumer journey, we’ve outlined some of the missed opportunities brands should take into account at each stage of this process.
Top of funnel: capitalizing on the awareness stage
This is the stage where you’re first making your consumer aware of your brand’s products or services. Typically, this is also the “research” stage for the consumer: they’re looking to have a specific problem or question answered. Of course, this stage will differ depending on your business model—B2C consumers may require less nurturing along the way than B2B consumers looking to make big decisions about their software or service providers.
Generally speaking, however, you want to use this stage in the consumer journey to assert your brand as an industry expert.
Establish subject matter expertise
Some marketers think that long-form content, like whitepapers and e-books, are most useful later in the consumer journey. However, if your potential lead is investigating answers on a particular subject (e.g. “best payment providers for small businesses”), being able to provide all the answers in one piece of content can work to your advantage—rather than having to browse through multiple blog post and disparate sources to find an answer, your audience will be able to find all the information they need in one place.
Plus, as a side benefit, creating content that takes into account consumers’ specific search queries can help your article achieve a better search ranking through SEO, allowing you to further solidify yourself as an authority in the industry. Ideally, this will ensure consumers keep your brand top of mind when they’re ready to make decisions, and ensures your educational content is working to nudge people further down the sales funnel.
Give them a framework
The beginning of the consumer journey provides an opportunity not only to make the consumer aware of your brand, but also to give them a framework for thinking and evaluation. You want to steer them subtly towards purchase while giving them useful, valuable information. Consider creating blog posts that guide them towards a purchase by giving them a way to approach their specific problem. For example, going back to our example of a consumer’s search for the “best payment providers for small businesses,” it would be beneficial for a company who offers online payment services to create a blog post that details the common payment pain points of small businesses, and to then position their brand as the solution to each of these. As such, it’s one thing to tell a consumer what your brand does and quite another to show them how your brand can help solve their specific problems.
Middle of funnel: using content to streamline the evaluation stage
After the awareness stage comes the “evaluation” stage, where people are doing heavier research on whether or not a service or product is the right option for them. Your content marketing plays a critical role here in guiding prospective consumers towards purchase.
At this point, the audience knows they have a problem that needs to be solved—but they want to find the best possible solution. So, how can content marketing capitalize on this evaluation process?
Draw the comparisons for them
At this stage, your prospective consumers are likely comparing multiple products or services. This is your chance to frame your own brand in the best possible light. You have two options here: you can let the consumer do their own independent research and arrive at their own comparisons, or you can help streamline the process and make the comparisons for them. Ask yourself: what are the USPs of your product? How does your service measure up to that of competitors? Consider creating content that highlights your strengths: charts and tables, Venn diagrams, pro/con lists, and infographics help consumers know exactly what to look for.
Gather consumer information—then customize
At this point, your audience is engaged enough to be seriously considering your product or service. The last thing you want to do is send them away without a way to follow up and guide them further down the funnel. This is where gated content, newsletter subscriptions, and webinars come in handy. Finding ways to give your consumers the information they’re after—while gathering valuable details like their contact information and industry—will allow you to continue the consumer journey to purchase. You can use this information to target your consumers with customized information, such as drip campaign emails and blog posts, that will help steer them closer towards purchase.
Bottom of funnel: getting creative with the final offer
You’re so close to sealing the deal—but that doesn’t mean your bottom-of-funnel content should be strictly geared towards forcing a purchase. Rather, this is where creating creative, compelling content is most important—you want your consumers to feel assured in their decision to stick with you this far down the line, and excited about their decision to purchase.
What brands often don’t realize is that their bottom-of-funnel content doesn’t need to be purely educational—it can still be editorialized, engaging, and clever.
Use testimonials to your advantage
Your consumers are your greatest ambassadors—you can preach the merits of your product endlessly, but it means more coming from a third party. If you have strong consumer testimonials, consider finding creative ways to display and share these with your soon-to-be consumers. Gathering user-generated content (say, Instagram posts from satisfied consumers or quotes from your most loyal consumers) and statistics about customer satisfaction to show prospective consumers the true ROI of your product. Or, consider creating longer case studies that hone in on the success achieved by one of your consumers (ideally they will share this on their social channels, too!).
Tactical “how-to” content
You may be just about to land a purchase, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching prospective consumers on how to best use your product or service. Targeting users with engaging videos on the exact features/products they’ve been searching for might just be the final nudge they need towards purchase. After all, once a user has spent valuable time learning the ins and outs of your product, they’ll be much less likely to set their sights elsewhere in their search for a solution. Equipping them with everything they need to actually use your product can help show that your customer service goes far beyond the “awareness” and “consideration” stages of their journey, and helps them feel confident that you’ll be there long after they’ve entered their credit card details in the purchase form.
There’s no one-size-fits-all way to optimize the consumer journey, but there are certainly strategies that you can employ to ensure your content marketing efforts align with your consumers’ needs. By proactively addressing your consumers’ interests and engaging with them at every stage of their journey, you can help to foster a relationship that, when properly tended to, can grow into lifelong brand loyalty.
Overwhelmed? We’re here to help. Speak to our team today.