Content Strategies 101: Buying Stages
A four-part series on the basics of content marketing, lead generation and engaging with your customers online.
Content – written copy or images that informs, engages or compels, is everything you see online. It’s the blog post you read, the web page you browse and the eCommerce store in which you shop. Without content, there is no world wide web, no funny cat videos and certainly no digital marketing.
Furthermore, if there is no content strategy, then you may as well string a few random words and images together on a couple of web pages, because the content you provide must make sense to the person that’s viewing it within his or her context. This four-part series on the basics of content strategy will provide you with an understanding of the components necessary to creating an easy to use, engaging and informative online experience – one that generates leads and ultimately converts users to customers.
Part 1: Buying Stages
Buying stages are the first component a brand needs in order to develop a content strategy in that they will allow your business to map marketing activities and campaigns to the needs of your users, thereby driving engagement and sales.
What are Buying Stages?
Buying stages describe a specific mindset of a given online visitor. While one could certainly build on this framework, generally there are four stages, those being:
4. Loyalty and Retention
As the user journeys through an online experience, he or she will advance from the beginning stage of awareness to the final stage of post-purchase/investment loyalty and retention. For each of these stages, a brand can create particular types of content that will resonate with those users.
The awareness stage describes a person that has realized he or she has a problem or challenge and begins researching that problem online. This person is seeking high-level, non-branded educational content in order to better understand the problem as well as learn more about potential solutions. It’s important that the content he or she finds is non-branded, in that it can appear sponsored, or too salesy, which can deter someone from doing business with an organization that doesn’t have strong brand recognition. The types of content that best facilitate this phase are:
- Website pages
- Blogs, and
- Industry publications
These types of content will allow a user to move from awareness and justification (yes, I have this issue, as do others) to prioritize potential solutions with features that are compatible with his or her needs, such as budget and timeline.
The consideration stage of buying or investment illustrates a website user who has created a list of brands that offer a viable solution, but now wants to learn more about the solutions that particular organization offers, as well as the organization itself. This then becomes the vetting stage, where visitors are more likely to reach out to brands for examples of the solution in action, pricing and other questions. The types of content that best suit this stage are:
- Case studies
- White papers
Unlike awareness, consideration stage content should be branded in order for the user to be able to associate your solution with your organization. The key to consideration content is the way its presented, the ease in which it can be accessed and finding a balance between when and when not to reach out to a lead that could be a potential customer.
Once a website user, now lead, has created a short list, he or she is said to be in the decision stage. This is where a solution has been decided upon, but this person wants to know what will happen once a purchase or investment is made. Will the solution be easy to implement? Will customer service support the brand promise and ongoing maintenance of the solution be regular? The types of content that speak to this stage are:
- Customer support or team contacts and bios, and
- Contact information
Decision-stage content should help to reaffirm your brand’s commitment to customer success with your products, services and solutions, as well as the team’s dedication to assisting in any way possible.
Loyalty and Retention
Once a person has done business with your brand, the relationship doesn’t simply end. Even if your organization doesn’t sell a consumable, he or she could still be a great advocate on your behalf to friends and family that one day find themselves with the same challenge. There are specific types of content that help to retain customers and maintain loyalty per industry and sales cycle, but a strong go-to engagement plan should always include social media interaction and email. These delivery platforms lend themselves well to regular two-way communication, which is always appreciated by customers.
Once you understand the thought-process of your target audience, you’ll be better positioned to convert more leads into customers, and keep more customers loyal. For more on this and all things digital marketing, feel free to contact us – and stay tuned for the next content strategies 101 installment: buyer personas.