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 sales; instead, create content to continuously engage throughout the entire customer lifecycle, from awareness to advocacy.
The average company’s content is almost entirely focused on the purchase stage of the customer lifecycle. Think about a typical company’s website, emails and social media posts; they’re primarily focused on company information and selling points, assuming that everyone is ready to make a purchase right then and there.
What about the 96%?
Only about 4% of visitors to your website are actually ready to buy. So what is your content doing for the other 96%? With few exceptions, a prospect goes through a journey, as they move from awareness about your company to the point where they decide to buy your product or service. And content should play a critical role in every stage of the buying cycle to help create awareness, generate leads and convert leads into customers.
Mapping content to the stages of the buying cycle
Certain marketing channels will play a role throughout the entire buying 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 buying cycle, but we’ve condensed it down to three primary stages of a typical buying cycle:
In this stage a prospect becomes familiar with your company and/or realizes that they have a need for your product or service. 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.
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 company 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 purchase. This is the stage where lead generation happens. Once you have gotten 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 eBooks, whitepapers, reports, research studies and webinars.
Once a prospect has considered their options, they begin to narrow down the choices and ultimately determine who to buy from. This is where more traditional content plays a role. They are looking for detailed product information, data sheets, project profiles, demos and free trials. They’re interested in reading case studies and testimonials, and are interested in sitting through a presentation or product webinar. 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 and make a case for your company, so look for unique ways to add more to the proposal than simply a scope and fee estimate.
Creating content for clients
Up until this point, we’ve only considered the buying stages of the customer lifecycle, and for good reason. Content marketing is very effective for demand generation and lead generation and the nurturing leads until they become clients. 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 customer lifecycle.
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 customers for the long haul. Consider holding seminars or other events specifically for clients. Or create user guides or FAQs to answer any questions or issues that typical new customers may have about your product or service. And be sure to continue to publish helpful blog posts that customers and prospects alike will find valuable.
It’s a known fact that it’s easier (and cheaper) to sell to an existing customer than it is to convert a new one. This only further reinforces the need to engage your customers with the goal of generating repeat business. And don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. A solid content marketing program (combined with a quality service or product and outstanding customer service) 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 insight on occasion.
The goal: turning prospects into influential brand evangelists
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 customer lifecycle or the sales funnel, 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 customer lifecycle is really quite simple: to continuously deliver valuable content that solidifies profitable, long-term client relationships and creates influential brand advocates.
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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.