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Content is useful for attracting prospects and generating and nurturing leads as they move through the stages of the buying cycle. But don’t stop at business development and sales; instead, create content to continuously engage throughout the entire client journey, from awareness to advocacy.

The average firm’s content is almost entirely focused on the selection stage of the client lifecycle. Think about a typical firms’s website, emails and social media posts; they’re primarily focused on company information and selling points, assuming that everyone is ready to hire the firm right then and there.

What about prospects that aren’t ready to make a selection?

The reality is, at any given time, very few of your prospects are ready to make a selection decision, so what is your content doing for those prospects? With few exceptions, a prospect goes through a journey, as they move from awareness about your firm to the point where they evaluate and decide to whether or not to hire your your firm. And content should play an important role in every stage of the buyers journey to help create awareness, build trust, establish credibility generate leads and convert leads into opportunities.

Mapping content to the buying stages of the client journey

Certain marketing channels will play a role throughout the entire selection process, such as blog posts or social media. But the information prospects are seeking varies greatly in each stage of the buying cycle and the types of content you should use are often very different from each other as well. So it’s important to create the right type of content for every stage of the buying cycle by considering your buyer personas and identifying the key information your prospects are seeking as they move through the cycle or down the sales funnel.

Creating content for unknown visitors and prospects

There are many different ways to slice and dice the stages of the buyers journey, but we’ve condensed it down to three typical primary stages:

1. Awareness

In this stage a prospect becomes familiar with your firm and/or realizes that they have a need for your services. They’re trying to figure out what options exist and become familiar with the landscape. Blogging is the primary type of content to use at the awareness stage. It will help you get found in search results and help position you as a subject matter expert once they get to your website. Other content to consider would be infographics, articles, videos and online news releases. Social media is useful to promote your content and to start building awareness and rapport with prospects.

2. Interest/Consideration

It’s at this stage that a prospect has identified a need and does research for potential solutions or partners. They have interest in your firm to some degree, but are not ready to sign on the dotted line just yet. They’re looking for information to help them make a better decision once they are ready to move forward with selecting a partner. This is the stage where lead generation happens. Once you’e attracted a prospect to your website through blogging or social media, you need content to convert the unknown visitor into an identified lead. Content that is critical in this stage would be premium offers such as eBooks, whitepapers, reports, research studies and webinars.

3. Evaluation/Selection

Once a prospect has considered their options, they begin to narrow down the choices and ultimately determine who to select. This is where more traditional content plays a role. They are looking for detailed firm information, data sheets and project profiles. They’re interested in reading case studies and testimonials, and are much more interested in sitting through a presentation. And last but not least is the proposal. Yes, even a proposal should be viewed as content. It’s your last chance to add value, make a case for your firm and ultimately get the shortlist—so look for unique ways to add more to the proposal than simply a scope and fee estimate.

Creating content for existing clients

Up until this point, we’ve only considered the buying stages of the client journey, and for good reason. Content marketing is very effective for demand generation and lead generation and then nurturing leads until they become clients. But the usefulness of content marketing doesn’t stop at the point of sale; it extends far beyond business development and is also valuable for ongoing client development. Consider the last two cycles of the client lifecycle.

4. Satisfaction/Retention

Don’t stop engaging once you’ve closed the deal. Continue to show your knowledge and expertise and keep adding value to the relationship. After all, you want them to be satisfied and remain your clients for the long haul. Create content that would be beneficial in the early onboarding stage of the relationship, such as user guides or FAQs to answer any questions or issues that typical new clients may have about your services. And be sure to continue to publish helpful blog posts that clients and prospects alike will find valuable.

5. Cross-selling/Up-selling

It’s a known fact that it’s easier (and cheaper) to sell to an existing client than it is to convert a new one. This only further reinforces the need to engage your clients with the goal of generating repeat business. And don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. A solid content marketing program (combined with an outstanding client experience) leads to passionate brand advocates who do the selling for you. Consider holding workshops specifically for clients to educate them about a particular area of interest, offer promotions or set up an ongoing drip email campaign that sends them valuable insights on occasion.

The goal: turning prospects into promoters

You’ve probably heard that it’s easier and less expensive to keep an existing client than it is to gain a new one. In fact, research from Bain & Company found that it costs up to 7 times more to acquire a new client than retain an existing one. So if your content marketing is solely focused on the front-end of the client journey, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to engage your existing client base with the aim of retention, cross-selling and advocacy.

As you create a content marketing strategy and a content roadmap, be sure to carefully consider your audiences needs and interests throughout the entire lifecycle, not just the front end or the tail end. Because ultimately, the end goal of content marketing and the reason for creating content for every stage of the client journey is really quite simple: to continuously deliver valuable content that solidifies profitable, long-term client relationships and creates influential brand advocates.

Face-to-face and personal relationships are still critical in business, but the right kind of content can be one of your greatest assets as you continuously nurture both prospect and client relationships.