The Gist

  • The content path. Modern customers follow a circular journey and path and require valuable content that meets their needs at different stages of their journey in order to become brand advocates.
  • Deep understanding. To create effective content for each phase of the customer journey, brands must deploy data-driven processes and methodology and have a deep understanding of the customer persona.
  • The content types. Top content types for each stage of the customer journey include thought-leadership articles, case studies, live demos and product implementation guides.

The linear top-down funnel of the traditional customer (buyer’s) journey is no more. Today, buyers follow a modern circular journey and path, in which they will do their own research and evaluation prior to any purchase. These same buyers, if engaged properly and enabled with customer journey orchestration, can turn into brand advocates who promote your product and brand with independent passion.

To get this level of engagement throughout the full buyer’s journey, whether in the awareness, consideration, decision or advocacy phase, brands must create valuable content for users that meet their needs at various stages in their journey. In order to do this, brands must deploy data-driven processes and methodology, along with a deep understanding of the customer persona as fully rounded individuals, in order to trigger customers in the right moments to move them along the journey.

Marketers … “need to be empathetic and work to truly understand their customers long before they try to market or sell to them,” said Jill Grozalsky Roberson, vice president of digital marketing at Velir. “This can take shape through a number of sources, including analyzing data for patterns of behavior, mapping and analyzing the customer journey or undertaking customer research where organizations interact with customers to understand their concerns and ideas.”

But what are the right types of content brands need at each different stage of the buyer’s journey to move them to the next phase? What content works best to build awareness, versus what works best to convert to a sale at the right moment?

The Customer Journey

There are all sorts of different opinions of what the right stages are of the modern customer journey, but most marketers would agree on three main stages (with a new extra one): the Awareness Stage; the Consideration Stage; the Decision Stage; and finally, the Advocacy Stage. 

These stages are typically put down on a customer journey map, which can visually show their journey and the trigger points. It’s important for marketers to remember that this map is a reflection of the customer's viewpoint. “Remember that the customer journey map is about the customer’s perspective, not your product,” said Dave Dabbah, CMO of automation software company Robocorp.

Related Article: 4 Steps Toward Successful Customer Journey Orchestration

The Awareness Stage: Rife With Possibilities

From a marketing content perspective, the awareness stage is rife with possibilities and potential content types. In this phase, customers and prospects are looking for answers to questions on a particular subject, finding good resources, educating themselves, listening to peer opinions and researching relevant data points. Customers in this stage are not necessarily looking to purchase, nor is that necessarily their next step. But for brands to build long-term relationships with customers, improve lifetime value and reduce churn, they need to provide more than just sales messages. They need to deliver value to consumers in the form of content.

In fact, 60% of marketers consider content as very important or extremely important to their overall marketing strategy.

Just like any other stage, persona research using data is a critical step to knowing who you are writing content for and meeting their needs. Awareness content is going to be more informative and educational as opposed to directive and suggestive. At this point in their buyer journey, you can’t really consider these researchers leads, they are simply too far from the purchase phase. But this is where you have an opportunity to inform consumers about your industry, technology and help them solve a problem, building the view of the brands in the consumers’ eyes positively.

Top Content Types for Awareness

  • Thought-leadership articles

  • Blogs

  • Social media posts

  • Whitepapers

  • Videos/animations (e.g. how-to)

  • E-books

  • Webinars

  • Infographics

Related Article: Customer Journey Mapping: A How-To Guide

The Consideration Stage: Looking for Options

Once a buyer moves out of the awareness stage, they move into the consideration phase. They have done some educational and overall research, and now they know what they need clearly, and are looking at all of the different options out there to meet their defined goal. In short, customers' attention has been captured at this point.

Learning Opportunities

This stage is critical for content as well, as more targeted and defined material can help users find the right solution for them, as well as help them understand how your product is differentiated from your competitors. The content types for this stage need to be much more product-oriented.

The consideration stage is a critical point of the extended engagement of nurturing a lead with a customer or prospect. This is when the relationship is being developed more fully, and trust is being established between your customers and company.

Top Content Types for Consideration

  • Case studies

  • Product guides (to help with comparisons)

  • Vendor guides

  • Checklists

  • Calculators

The Decision Stage: No More Beating Around the Bush

It’s been a long journey, but your buyer has educated themselves by researching and talking to peers on social media, and has a clear idea of what their problem is and what they need to address it. It is now time for that buyer to make a purchase in the decision stage. At this phase of the journey content needs to stop beating around the bush and talk directly about the product itself, and how it deals with real-world use cases, the value/cost of the product and competitor comparisons of product features.

At this phase you want to be brand-centric and product-centric. In fact as people move through their buyer journeys they move from more customer-centric material to more corporate-centric material.

Top Content Types for Decision

  • Live demos

  • Free trials

  • Coupons/discounts

  • Product specification (fact) sheets

  • Product implementation guides

The Advocacy Stage: Trust in Peer Feedback

One of the main changes in the modern customer journey versus the traditional customer journey is the advocacy stage. This creates the circle. As buyers become bigger fans and supporters for your product, they eventually become advocates, talking positively about you in social media and other forms of communication. This advocacy becomes a key research element in the awareness stage, as new customers will put heavy trust in peers providing positive feedback.

Conclusion: Using Content to Trigger the Buying Cycle

Being able to develop effective content for triggering consumers at each phase of their buying cycle begins with a data-based understanding of your customers as fully-rounded people. This begins with the customer persona process to make sure you understand your customers in-depth, created by leveraging customer data points from various channels.

By using that same data to create the right content for each individual buyer and audience segment, marketers can effectively engage their most valuable customers with relevant content that will help them along to the next phase.

With the right content delivered at the right time and in the right place, marketers can move buyers not just to the purchase phase, but turn them into long term advocates who can serve as a source for research for new buyers in the awareness stage.