If you’re a B2B marketer, I bet you’d love it if all your prospects took identical, predictable steps toward making a purchase.
It’d sure make content planning and distribution a lot easier.
But today there are too many channels, pain points, timetables and corporate decision trees for there to be a consistent approach to procurement across all organizations.
While the B2B buyer journey isn’t always as linear and logical as we’d like, the three-stage buyer’s journey helps marketers understand how to give their prospects the content they need from the point of need to the point of sale and beyond.
What is the B2B buyer journey?
The buyer’s journey describes how a potential enterprise customer recognizes a need, gathers information on potential solutions and ultimately makes a purchase decision. It’s general enough to apply to different industries, budgets and channels. And it’s just specific enough to help you use it as a jumping-off point for your content strategy.
What are the three stages of the buyer’s journey?
- Awareness: Your potential customer knows that there is a problem.
- Consideration: They evaluate potential solutions.
- Decision: The solution perceived to be the best is purchased.
The most effective marketers use the three stages of the buyer’s journey to develop content that helps each unique prospect become a paying customer. The content planning starts here, with a comprehensive assessment of your audience’s content needs at each stage.
The scenario: You’re a marketer for a company that provides performance management and employee recognition software to large enterprises. Your audience is human resources decision-makers. Their titles include Chief Talent Officer, VP of Human Resources and Human Resources Director.
1. The Awareness Stage
At the awareness stage, your potential customers are aware that they have a problem. Your job is to make them aware that your company can solve it.
To grab the attention of prospects in the awareness stage, we write content that speaks to their pain points.
For an HR leader, these pain points might include:
- We have an inconsistent culture across our offices
- Our current HR system requires too much training and administration to use effectively
- Employee morale is flagging
- We aren’t attracting top-tier talent anymore
- Performance isn’t assessed in the same way throughout our organization
Whether it’s a white paper, tip sheet or blog post, every piece of content should address a specific problem for HR managers. So, building off our list of pain points, we can generate content ideas:
- “We have an inconsistent culture across our offices” leads to a white paper: “The HR Leader’s Guide to Supporting a Unified Company Culture”
- “Our current HR system requires too much training and administration to use effectively” leads to a tip sheet: “The 7 Features Your HR Platform Must Have to Serve the Modern Employee”
- “Employee morale is flagging” leads to a research report: “More Than Free Snacks: 6 Surprising Reasons Today’s Employees are Unhappy”
- “We aren’t attracting top-tier talent anymore” leads to a blog post: “How the Most Sought-After Employer Brands Are Attracting Top Talent (Hint: It Isn’t Money)”
- “Performance isn’t assessed in the same way throughout our organization” leads to a contributed article: “How to Standardize Performance Management Across Your Organization in 5 Steps”
Because each of these content ideas ties back to a pain point for HR leaders, you can add them to your editorial calendar knowing that each asset will help your target audience in the awareness stage.
2. The Consideration Stage
Let’s say a VP of Human Resources found a blog post of yours through a Google search, and she’s now seeing that your HR platform might be the upgrade to her current system that she’s looking for. This person has just entered the consideration stage of the B2B buyer journey. She has a few other potential vendors in mind as well, so at this point, she has a list of priorities in mind as she evaluates her options:
Many prospects will be looking for specific features, so make sure that the functionality of your solution are clearly communicated on your company website. These should be tied to benefits whenever possible.
Prospects don’t want to just take your word for how great your solution is. They want to hear from experts and actual users to get a sense of how innovative, reliable and valuable it is. You can give your solution a leg up on the competition in the consideration phase if you showcase user reviews, credible analyst reports, case studies and customer testimonials on your site.
If they’re still intrigued, prospects will want to try the actual productto see how easy it is to use and better understand how it would add value to their organization. Make it as easy as possible for your prospects to schedule a demo or a free trial so that they can get a sense of the product first hand.
Once your prospect has had time to digest all of this information and compare it to your competitors, the time has come to make a decision.
3. The Decision Stage
As your prospect enters the decision stage, there’s still work to do, and your content can help lighten your lift. The details that still need to be ironed out can include:
- Ease of implementation
- Maintenance requirements
- Pricing and terms of contract
The most effective way to alleviate any fears of high implementation costs is to provide case studies and testimonials of successful implementations. You can also create easy-to-understand implementation and maintenance guides to put your prospects at ease. If ROI is still a concern, an ROI calculator can help your prospects see the value of your solution for themselves and also share it with their internal stakeholders to secure final approval to purchase.
Your Content Should Improve the Customer Experience, Too
Did you make the sale? Congrats! Your content successfully guided your prospect from need to purchase. But the B2B buyer journey doesn’t actually end after your prospect becomes a buyer.
This is the beginning of a relationship between your new customer and your brand, so make sure your content is helping them have the best customer experience possible. That can include thought leadership videos that help them do their jobs better, tip sheets for getting the most out of your solution, and emails alerting them to cool new features.
Word of mouth is the absolute best way to get more sales and shorten your sales cycle times, so invest in your new customers by crafting amazing content for them, and you’ll be rewarded many times over with new referrals who are ready to buy.