Succeeding with digital marketing means delivering the right content at the right time.
One of the best things about digital marketing is that it lets consumers come to you. Rather than firing off a sales pitch and going on your way, digital marketing works to build trust and relationships with customers before trying to convince them to buy. It’s still advertising, but it’s advertising on your customers’ terms.
Think of it as marketing that invites rather than assaults.
Of course, building these relationships isn’t easy. Courting customers throughout the buying cycle relies on a structured system of content delivery and consumer guidance. Ideally, this system gently guides prospects along your marketing channel until they’re convinced of the value you have to offer and are ready to buy.
This process is often described in terms of the “sales funnel” or the “buyer’s journey.”
What’s the Difference?
This distinction is one of perspective: The sales funnel describes your marketing channel from the viewpoint of your business, often using terminology like “prospects,” “marketing qualified leads,” and “opportunities.” The buyer’s journey, on the other hand, examines the phases of research customers go through during the buying process, using stages like “awareness” and “consideration.”
Today, we’ll be reviewing the first stage of the buyer’s journey, assessing the needs of your customers and what type of content creation strategy will work best during this important first stage.
Stage One of the Buyer’s Journey: Awareness
During the awareness phase, customers have only recently realized they have a problem. A piece of software fails; their quarterly reports show stagnant growth; customers’ complaints are tearing apart their social media presence – it doesn’t matter. They have new pain points and they’re feeling frustrated.
Generally, customers at this stage either won’t know exactly what’s causing the problem, or if they do, haven’t yet discovered the best way to fix it. Thus, they turn to the internet for guidance. Eighty-one percent of consumers do research online before making a purchase.
With that in mind, the key goals of the awareness phase are to nudge consumers in the right direction while showing off your brand expertise:
- Provide information
- Answer their questions
- Establish yourself as a well-informed authority
And that’s it. Content during the awareness stage should first and foremost be aimed at education.
Information provided should be neutral, factual, and backed by research. Meaning, don’t push your own products at this stage – spouting off about how great you are is too much of a sales pitch for this early stage of the buyer’s journey.
Remember to keep their perspective in mind: Right now, they don’t want to be sold to. They want to get more information that can help them understand their problem.
Best Types of Content for Consumer Awareness
Awareness-focused content should support your customers’ research by being short, sweet, and to the point. Aim for these types of materials:
- Blogs and articles
- Industry white papers
- Social media posts
- Guides and ebooks
Note that content delivered in this stage should be fairly broad. Offering prospects live demos, case studies, or free trial memberships won’t help because at this point they’re still not sure of what they need. Research shows that 76 percent of B2B buyers want to receive content unique to their buying stage.
Awareness content is accessible
Notice how each one of the materials listed above helps support the goal of education. Content like blogs, ebooks, FAQs, and social media posts are brief by nature and prioritize readability. Their goal is to be accessible, making them a great way to cast a wide net with your content.
Awareness content builds trust
Materials like white papers aren’t as accessible to average readers, but they serve another important function: Providing data-backed research that is necessary to build trust with an audience. White papers usually contain plenty of facts and statistics that provide concrete evidence of your value.
If consumers are going to travel down your sales funnel all the way to the point of purchase, they need to trust you. And while research-oriented content really shines in the later stages of the buyer’s journey, establishing this much needed trust begins in the awareness stage.
Set them on the right path
The awareness stage of the buying cycle is just the first step on your customers’ paths to conversion. To support them in this process, pack your site with helpful resources that consumers can browse at their leisure. You won’t be able to snag them all, but with the right content delivered at the right time, you’ll have plenty of leads to guide them through the next stages of the buyer journey.