Some like to overcomplicate the marketing and sales funnel (buyer’s journey) more than is required. It’s mostly true that no two consumers have identical journeys to becoming a customer. Depending on the industry, it can take up to 28 content touches or more before a purchase decision is made. Many marketers believe they must map out all of the possible touches and paths as consumers bounce around the funnel. That’s not necessary and overcomplicates the planning process.
It’s true that the buyer’s journey in most cases is not a linear path (top to bottom) for many consumers. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the funnel is a representation of a potential path that content and calls to action can be assigned to. All content produced can be labeled in one of three areas – awareness, consideration/evaluation, and conversion. See below:
Many believe that content produced and amplified for this stage IS content marketing alone. The fact is, it’s just one third of it. This is why so many silos still exist across enterprises when it comes to content. Teams focused on each stage should be closely working together to accelerate the buyer’s journey and maximize the ROI.
The best analogy for this stage is meeting or being reintroduced to a person. In this case it’s a brand. That’s what engagement with top-funnel content should look like. People don’t ask someone to marry them when they first meet.
Content labeled in this stage is overtly NOT salesy in nature. It’s generally helpful content that speaks to the expertise and thought leadership of a brand. Businesses are in the business of solving problems. That’s what they do and why they exist. It’s what separates them from households and governments in the macroeconomic sense. As a result, content labeled for the awareness stage should reflect that.
There are many examples of this type of content shown in the graphic above. While the purpose of this content is not to sell anything per say, it’s designed to be a trust-builder between the brand and consumer. Building that trust is crucial in order to move the consumer to the next phase.
Once enough trust and interest in a brand is gained from a consumer the next logical step for them is to examine other content assets on the brand-owned website or trusted third-party website. They’re more likely to consider attending a webinar or event, too. Consumers engaging with this content are evaluating whether or not they should or would do business with said brand.
Back to the analogy above – this is where a person asks another person out on a date for the first or second time. The business relationship is just getting started between the brand and the consumer. That being said, marriage is still out of the question.
Content at this stage can be product/service-prudent. It provides the information consumers need to size up a brand to determine if moving forward in their journey is worth it. In most cases, Sales should wait to contact these individuals until after they engage with next-stage content.
This stage of the funnel is the money-phase – where real business outcomes start to happen. When consumers engage with this content, they’re typically doing a deep dive into a company and/or comparing and contrasting a brand’s competition. This can be true for both B2B and B2C brands.
Generally, engagement with content at this stage requires some sort of conversion on a landing page with a form and shows clear intent signals of shopping the brand. This is the best time, in most cases, for a salesperson to reach out to the consumer. In cases of most B2C/ecommerce companies, the same journey applies, albeit with the website doing the selling rather than a salesperson.
To keep the above analogy consistent – this is the point in the buyer’s journey where a marriage proposal is prudent and bottom-line KPIs are satisfied.
As mentioned above, many content marketers try and overcomplicate the buyer’s journey. Yes, consumers bounce around the funnel over time and rarely go straight linear to the bottom and close in three touches. That’s OK. We don’t need to define thousands of different paths for each consumer. However, we do need to pay attention to the top paths that deliver the most revenue and double down on that content. As marketers, we only need three buckets for content labeling – awareness, consideration/evaluation, and conversion. That’s the buyer’s journey simplified.