Map Your Content Marketing against the Sales Funnel

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A real eye-opener that I recently learned is that the marketing objectives for a product or service has a companion, parallel series of steps or objectives called The Buying Process-or at least we hope it does!  If marketing is to be effective, we have to design it to speak to our customers at each stage in their buying process, or to look at it another way, to speak to them at each place in the sales funnel.

For example, the standard marketing objectives for your product or service might be:

  • Domain Leadership
  • Position the product or service in the vertical or market
  • Make the value proposition clear, differentiate on the basis of value
  • Sales Promotion
  • Post-purchase customer service, retention

The parallel buying process might be:

  • Buyer recognises they have a need or problem
  • Buyer searches for information about their problem
  • Buyer evaluates the alternatives to solve the problem
  • Buyer makes a purchase decision
  • Buyer evaluates their experience and satisfaction post-purchase

If you were to map these processes alongside a typical sales funnel, it would look like:

SalesMarketingProcesses

In traditional models, marketing would do their thing and at some point, sales would take over.  In digital, marketing and sales activities come together and merge in the areas of social selling and content marketing.  What tends to happen is that buyers complete almost 70% of their buying process before companies even know they exist.  Customers do all of their problem recognition, and information search, and evaluation, and often make and transact purchase decisions, online.  So the most critical thing you can do as a business is make sure that you are there, online, with relevant helpful content, at every stage of that buying process.

In other words, when your buyer recognises they have a problem, you want them to be exposed to your Domain Leadership marketing messages.  Often, your domain leadership marketing messages, if they are well-crafted, can in fact be the trigger for the buyer to recognise their problem in the first place!

When your buyer is searching for information, you want them to find your positioning messages.  When your buyer is evaluating alternatives, you want your value proposition messaging to be what they are looking at.  And so on.

The only way to develop the right content marketing for your buyer – to be in the right place at the right time – is to know your target customer really, really well.  By knowing your target customer’s pain points, needs, and the questions they ask when they have a problem, sales becomes a matter of letting them find out if there’s a good match.

What does this look like in practice?

The first step is to create a persona of your ideal client or buyer, and make sure to include as many questions as you can based on what you get asked at trade shows, in client meetings, on the phone, etc.  The best way to really get to know your target customers is to conduct customer interviews: if you’re unsure about their needs, or about the potential value in your solution, ask them!

Then, think about what kind of content are they looking for at each stage of their buying process.  What can you teach them to help them understand if they are the right match for your products or services, and if you are the right match for their needs?  Different types of content work to address different phases of the buying cycle as well.  Map these questions, and these content types, onto the buying and marketing process.

For example, let’s say you are a small business law firm.  Your unique offering is that you really understand green tech and the pain points of the small business person in this complex area building a green tech business with all of it’s unique regulatory policies and practices.

Your ideal client is a factory owner who is converting what was formerly a tool and dye manufacturing plant into a green tech business, manufacturing wind farm parts.  This client lives and works in a small town outside Sarnia, and they don’t really understand the programs and support available for green tech: they just know that to save jobs in their community and protect their own livelihood, they need to capitalize on their physical facilities and equipment to manufacture something new.  They are looking for plain-language legal and business development support, someone who will be a partner in building the business and who can help with some of the complexities of policy and government investment in this area.  Let’s map this persona and her questions against the chart we created:

Full-Chart-Example

Try mapping your ideal customer’s questions and needs against this standard marketing and sales process, along with the content type suggestions.  You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to come up with relevant, targeted content so that you can make sure your ideal customer is finding out about you during that 70% of their buying process when you’re not yet aware of them!

For more resources and information on Content Strategy and to download a detailed description of what content strategy entails, go to analyticalengine.ca/resources or download a Content Strategy Info graphic at http://bit.ly/1qY9tYp.

Christine McGlade is a Business Analyst, Content Strategist, and Usability Consultant.  With over 25 years experience in the media business, Christine helps small business, social enterprise, and Not for Profits how to leverage the power of the Internet to grow their business.  Learn more about Christine at analyticalengine.ca

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