The best way to understand your potential customers is to get inside their heads and figure out what they truly need. If you’re lacking in the mind reading department, you’re not alone. And, don’t worry, because we have a few tips that will help you better understand your prospects and ultimately create content for them that makes sense.
1. Create detailed buyer personas
If you’ve identified your buyer personas, you’re in good shape. If not, now is the time to invest in a persona-building exercise. Buyer personas are important because they help us humanize personas and relate to them as real people. Detailed buyer personas not only help your marketing team, they benefit everyone from sales to HR. And, if you’re still not convinced: businesses that utilize buyer personas to create content see a 45 percent increase in sales accepted leads (SALs) (source).
To begin, identify your primary persona. Once you identify who your ideal customer is, you can create the character—give them a name, age, background, job role, and story. To start building out the profile, you need to answer a few important questions: Who is your ideal customer? What does this person value? What challenges is this person trying to solve or overcome? Is this person a decision maker? And, most importantly, how do your products or services solve those problems? By answering these questions, you’ll be on your way to creating a solid buyer persona profile. Tip: Create a profile for your primary persona, first. You can work on secondary persona profiles later.
2. Understand your buyer’s journey and their pain points along the way
Now that you know more about your persona, it’s time to understand their buying process and how they progress through each stage. The buying process has changed drastically over the last few years.
Today’s buyer (your potential customer) is in control of the buying process
This means they’re not waiting around for a promotional flyer to land in their mailbox or a call from your sales team. Instead, they’re proactively seeking content, researching solutions, and gathering options.
To deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time, you must truly understand the pain points, challenges, and opportunities your personas experience at each stage of their buyer’s journey. If you can do this, you will be able to create the content your personas need and engage with them every step of the way—and ultimately, lead them to take action.
So, what does a typical buyer’s journey look like? It typically consists of three stages:
- Awareness: In this stage, the buyer becomes aware of a possible problem or opportunity and begins to research and learn more. At this point, your prospect will likely go to Google and perform a few keyword searches to better understand their need or challenge. Hint: This is where your SEO plays a big role.
- Consideration: During the consideration stage the buyer defines their challenge or opportunity and begins to research solution options. Before getting too far, the majority of buyers will also begin to research pricing, requirements, and ROI so they can secure buy-in from management when the time comes.
- Decision: During this stage, the buyer has narrowed down a list of vendors and is getting ready to move forward and make their purchase—at this point, costs, customer support, timeline, and implementation are top of mind. And remember, at this stage, your persona is evaluating options as a qualified lead.
3. Map your content to the buyer’s journey
This is the fun part. Now that you understand the process your target persona takes when making a purchase decision and the challenges, concerns, and questions they experience at each stage, it’s time to develop your content roadmap and map your content to their journey. To create your content roadmap, follow these steps:
- Create the roadmap framework. Outline the stages of your persona’s journey (awareness, consideration, and decision) and the challenges, needs, and behaviors they experience at each stage. The easiest way to do this is to create a three-column table, with a column for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Map your existing content to their journey. Essentially, you want to provide educational, helpful, and valuable information to your persona at every stage. Answer questions, uncover opportunities, and offer solutions – and, if you don’t have content for every stage, no need to worry. Take inventory now and create what you need later.
- Identify content opportunities. If there are gaps in your content map, that means there are opportunities to create more content. It’s important that you have content that’s appropriate for each stage of the buyer’s journey so you can walk your persona through your sales process. If you start to notice you have a lot more content for the awareness stage (blog posts, how-to guides, checklists) than you do any other stage, focus on where you can create the most impact and start thinking about content that could be appropriate for the consideration and decision phases.
- Content Tip: During the decision phase, prospects typically evaluate options and define a short list of vendors. To help them through this process, offer more advanced content that shows you’re an expert and gives them information they can use to guide their decision (webinar, expert guides, webcasts, etc.). And, don’t forget the decision stage! At this point, prospects are sales qualified and about to contact sales. To inspire prospects to take action, make it easy for them to connect with sales without being sold to—or feeling obligated to move forward. A great way to do this is to offer a complimentary consultation, an expert evaluation, or a free trial (no strings attached). Leads will be more likely to contact you with a more specific call-to-action than the typical “contact us” option.
If you follow all of the steps listed above you’ll have an effective, highly targeted content strategy, as well as content that attracts more qualified leads and engages leads through every step of the buyer’s journey.