The buyer’s journey, or customer journey, is the path that a customer will take through the discovery of your company and the eventual decision to make a purchase. But this isn’t a journey they can always take alone. As the company trying to make the sale, there are different types of targeted content you should make that appeal to people who are in each stage. These are handholds on their climb down from the top of the marketing funnel to the bottom.
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
The buyer’s journey is the path that customers take through a purchase decision, all the way from discovering your company to post-purchase customer support. The buyer’s journey is also part of the marketing funnel. If you’re not familiar with the marketing funnel, we will describe it here. Imagine a typical conical funnel with the wide end on top and the narrow end on the bottom. It is envisioned this way because there is a large pool of potential customers at the top, but many will fall off and only a small amount will drip through the entire process. Each of these following categories has many subcategories, but these broad strokes will suffice for now.
Top of Funnel
The top of the funnel is the awareness stage, in which a potential customer discovers your company. They may be looking for something specific and are doing their research. Or they may have stumbled upon you without realizing they need what you’re selling. Oftentimes, a customer will be searching for answers to questions, trying to find the perfect solution to a problem, or educating themselves on a topic. This is where you can hook customers in with excellent content that answers the questions they may have early on.
Middle of Funnel
The middle of the funnel is where the prospect is heavily considering if they want to make a purchase. They have decided what their goals are and what makes a good purchasing decision. Educational content is important here. Customers are looking for specific answers to questions and will be more particular about features and benefits. As a business, you will better be able to target these prospects based on the type of service they need.
Bottom of Funnel
The bottom of the funnel is the purchase stage. The prospect is ready to make their purchase, but they are wavering over the “Purchase” button weighing the benefits of different products and different options. This is the ultimate make-or-break stage, so the content you deliver to people in this stage will be incredibly influential.
Top of Funnel Content
The top of the funnel is where a customer first experiences your brand. The content they engage with here will be their first introduction to you, and you need to make a good first impression.
Prospects in this stage will often discover you because they have a question or an issue that needs to be resolved. Blog posts will be the most straightforward content to create for this stage, and you can tackle questions and topics that people interested in your service will be interested in.
A great example of this is the backup software brand EaseUS. Their blog covers many topics that relate to their products, but might not come right out and say that they are the one and only solution. This article about how to recover deleted files on Windows covers a topic that many people are probably searching for when they accidentally delete a file they didn’t mean to. Their services are an answer to this problem. But they wrote an entire blog post about various methods, including their own software. This kind of content positions EaseUS as an option, while also not making the customer feel like they are being oversold. The main takeaway is that they identified a commonly searched question and made sure to have an answer that made them look like a great solution.
Blog posts at this stage don’t always need to answer a question. They might also satisfy curiosity or give inspiration. For example, we have inspirational blogs such as a roundup of the best Photoshop blogs for tutorials, even though taking users away from our site to other resources seems like it detracts from the ultimate goal.
Freebies and Tidbits
Freebies are another good piece of top of funnel content. Prospects could be enticed by free eBooks that cover the topic at hand without giving away too much premium information. This can also be gated content, where the prospect must submit their email address in exchange for the free item. Free courses and videos will entice prospects who want more interactive content.
Shortform social media content is a must. Some social media content will be aimed at existing customers. But at least some posts should be dedicated to answering questions and covering topics that someone may be searching for before they discover your brand.
Middle of Funnel Content
At this point, prospects should be within your funnel. You will have some information about them and can begin marketing more heavily toward their specific needs.
Middle of the funnel content can be personalized with the information you have discovered. You will have the prospect’s email address or phone number, as well as permission to contact them. These emails or calls can address their specific problems and inform them about your solutions. You can also bring up the differentiating factors your brand has. How will your solution be a better fit for the prospect than the competition?
Anything you can do to get the prospect to interact with you is going to be valuable here. While generic eBooks are a great top of funnel strategy, case studies and whitepapers will be the winners of this stage in the buyer’s journey. Case studies can show prospects how you helped other customers and how it benefitted their specific situation. Whitepapers are an upgraded version of free eBooks. They may be a little shorter, but they are more advanced, specific, and targeted than a normal eBook.
If you offer free tools such as calculators, games, or other interactive content, then you will want your prospects using it. This is also where you can start leveraging demos and free trials. If a user has a chance to actually try the product or service first, they will be more likely to make a purchase. In the awareness stage, prospects may not be comfortable with a free trial, or might not fully understand how they would use it. But the middle of the funnel is an exploratory stage.
Create content in your emails, social media, or blogs that point toward these demos or whitepapers. Blog posts are relevant at this stage of the funnel too, except they need to be more advanced. This is where marketers should answer specific questions about how to use the product or service and data that backs up why your brand is the best choice.
Where a top of funnel blog post might be “What to Look for in a Good Pair of Headphones”, a middle of funnel blog post might be “Why Open-Back Headphones are Amazing”. The first blog title is aimed at people who only know they want new headphones. But the second title is aimed at people who may have narrowed down their decision to a specific type of headphone design and are seeking more information to back up their decision. This is where you position your own products as the best option and talk about features with more specificity.
Hubspot is the master of using their blogs to link to additional content. Even this short article about Black Friday statistics includes a link to their Black Friday ad planning kit and their 2020 marketing trends research report. These freebies are fantastic middle of funnel content that will keep Hubspot top-of-mind with prospects.
Bottom of Funnel Content
The bottom of the funnel is where the final purchasing decisions take place. Content at this stage is often ignored, with energies instead focused on top of funnel content to attract more prospects. But the decision stage is no less important.
At this stage in the buyer’s journey, prospects are directly comparing you to other options. This is why product comparison pages or even articles explaining the differences between your product and the competition are important. To use Hubspot as another example, take a look at their comparison page against Marketo. They pit their software against the competitor where they know they can win. However, they also point out the good in Marketo. You don’t want to appear like a bully, talking down on the competition. But you do want to show how you’re better.
eBooks and Case Studies
That’s right, much like the middle of the funnel, we’re talking about eBook and case study content again. At this point in the funnel, prospects are looking for validation that choosing you is the right option. Set their mind at ease with case studies and educational content that directly relates to how they might use the end-product. Webinars, product updates, and how-to blog posts can also be repurposed or repositioned to target someone who is on the cusp of making a purchase. For content at this stage, put a heavier focus on data and statistics, as well as specific action plans, rather than the “inspirational” quality that top of funnel blog posts can have.
Beyond the Funnel
Markets have realized that the customer journey extends beyond the funnel, and that post-purchase content is needed.
You want to know what your customer thought about your product or service so that you can always be improving. Email a post-purchase survey to customers after they have had a chance to use the product. You will learn how to improve, and can potentially use data in future content.
Reviews are also important to impress potential customers, so encourage current customers to write honest reviews. You can offer a discount or freebie to people who leave public reviews, whether they’re positive or negative.
Customers love loyalty programs and a sense of community. Whether it’s a coffee shop punch card or a private Facebook group, it can be incredibly valuable to instill a sense of loyalty into customers. They will be more likely to purchase again in the future and to recommend your brand to friends and family. Loyalty-building efforts are also perfect for upsells, promotions specific to an occasion, and testing grounds for new releases.
Social media is key for discovery as well as engaging with current customers. Customers may comment on your posts to say how satisfied they are with the product, serving as a recommendation for others. They will also use social media messaging as a customer support system. So it’s important to respond to messages as soon as you can.
Any marketing effort needs to be aware of the buyer’s journey to more accurately create content aimed at the right prospects. Mistargeted content or a lack of content in a certain area can leave potential customers feeling lost. If your prospects feel supported and informed during the entire process, then they will be more likely to ultimately choose your brand.