What’s the biggest mistake I see content marketers make? They spend too much time talking about themselves instead of learning about what their potential customer needs. They forget that you can’t sell a solution until you know the problem. And even then, as a marketer, you shouldn’t be selling anything.
To put it bluntly: Too many marketers are making a case for their company prematurely in the buyer’s journey.
To avoid this, make sure you know the difference between marketing and sales.
Sales activities vs. Marketing activities
Marketing is when you address your clients’ problems, then make a case for solutions.
Sales is when you talk about yourself as the best solution.
Marketing’s job is to ease people into the sales stage of the relationship, creating the best possible experience along the way so that people are excited to buy.
For this reason, marketers should focus on talking about their clients’ problems and offering solutions. Not only does this lead to more excited and engaged customers, it helps your sales process and team as well.
So how do you create content to engage your audience at different stages? When should you talk about your company and what it has to offer? When do you pass it off to your sales team?
Welcome to the buyer’s journey.
Mapping Your Content to the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey has five distinct stages:
- Stage 1: Awareness
- Stage 2: Consideration
- Stage 3: Analysis
- Stage 4: Purchase
- Stage 5: Loyalty
The best thing about this approach is that these stages integrate both marketing and sales:
- Stages 1, 2, and 3 = Marketing
- Stages 4 and 5 = Sales
Even better, it allows you to create different types of content to match each specific stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
This is the basic framework we use at Column Five to strategize content for ourselves and our clients.
The goal: Introduce yourself to your customers and acknowledge your target customers’ pain points or issues they’re struggling with.
The buyer’s mindset: They want, need, or have an undefined yearning for something. This is your opportunity to articulate what that might be, to produce content that resonates with them so they begin to think about exactly what it is they want or need.
Content messaging: Focus on content that helps as many people as possible get to know you. Sometimes this requires piggybacking on other people’s audiences.
- Blog posts
- Partnership content + collaborations
- PR collateral
The goal: Demonstrate your value and the value of working with a partner to solve your customers’ problems.
The buyer’s mindset: They now have a clearer understanding of what they want or need and are looking for people to help satisfy this desire, whether it’s a product, service, etc. They are in the early stages of research, looking to get the lay of the land. They want to see who the players are and who they could (and should) be giving their business to.
Content messaging: Showcase your familiarity with the problems your clients are trying to solve. Publish thought-leadership that showcases your perspective and experience in addressing these problems.
- Posts in industry publications
- How-tos or tips
The goal: Give people the info they need to make an informed decision about working with a company in your space.
The buyer’s mindset: This is the stage where most buyers have whittled their options down to a handful of choices. Now they start comparing unique value propositions.
Content messaging: Produce thought-leadership that showcases that you are the definitive leader in the space by demonstrating your successes or legitimacy.
- Case studies (when applicable)
- Client testimonials
- High-profile or industry-leading endorsements
The goal: Turn prospects into customers.
The buyer’s mindset: This is the point at which pricing, purchase details, and post-buying experiences are scrutinized. Would-be buyers start asking themselves questions about the transaction: What will it mean to become a customer (read: “a supporter”) of this business? Am I sure I want to go through with this?
Content messaging: Provide information that will support their purchase decision.
- Sales collateral
The goal: Nurture and maintain the relationship.
The buyer’s mindset: They want to be reminded of why they are working with you or supporting your business. They want to feel and believe their relationship is not just transactional and that you care about them beyond their conversion into customers.
Content messaging: Deliver content that reminds them why they might want to work with you again—or why they started working with you in the first place.
- “Thank you” content
- Offers for deals
- Exclusive content
- Partnership opportunities
- Co-marketing opportunities
- Exclusive access (depending on your business)
- Additional and ongoing education in the form of webinars and newsletters
Focus on The Right Message at the Right Time
If you come on too strong from the start, your customers may perceive it as a red flag. Instead, work around a sustainable strategy. Marketing is an art, not a one-size-fits all prescription. Take the time to understand your audience, form a relationship, and convert them over time.
Remember that they’re humans. Be sympathetic and tactful, and you’ll build an authentic base of supporters.
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