Let’s start out on the beach. Picture some relaxing waves, imagine a layer of sand is stuck to your forearm, and settle deep into your metaphorical beach chair. You reach into your oversized beach bag and pull out a book — what’s the genre? If I had to guess, I’d say that it’s probably not an in-depth guide on optimizing your content strategy.
There’s a reason the bookstore features a table of summer beach reads. Consumers choose their content based on what they need in that specific moment. Behind every purchase is a distinct need; therefore, each piece of content should have a purpose. Content should assist the consumer’s search for the solution, whether they’re just discovering a problem or standing ready with cash in hand.
So, the key to effective content is telling potential customers what they want to hear, right when they need to hear it. But it’s not as simple as it sounds, namely because your prospective customers are all at varying points in their individual journey. To create content that will effectively guide someone toward purchase with your brand, you first have to really get to know your targeted consumer.
This is where it becomes critically important to know what your buyers typically think, feel and behave in each part of the sales funnel. Mapping a customer journey provides insights that allow you to craft a more effective content marketing strategy.
But before we jump into customer journey mapping, let’s quickly define the customer journey.
Quick refresh: What is the customer journey?
Each time a person encounters a brand for the first time, a series of interactions, evaluations and decisions kick into motion. Think of all the ways someone might interact with a brand: reading a 2-star review on Yelp, chatting with a representative over the phone, or receiving an emailed receipt for a purchase. There are hundreds of touchpoints for any given brand, all creating unique experiences for potential and existing customers.
The customer journey is the aggregate collection of those experiences and interactions with a brand.
Planning content with the customer journey in mind
In order to plan and distribute content that aligns with your customer’s journey, you need to visualize what that journey looks like from start to finish.
Customer journey maps are a tool for illustrating the customers’ experiences at each touchpoint they encounter and tracing potential paths toward purchase. Because not everyone follows the traditional flow, mapping out the process allows you to better trace the path of a customer who could potentially enter the market at any stage.
There are a number of templates that you can use to map out the journey, as well as a wide variety of visualizations. But to get started, we’ll explore some high-level steps to outline the mapping process.
1.Start out with your personas
If you’ve taken the time to detail personas that represent your existing and potential customer base, it’s time to put all that effort to good use! Explore their expected behaviors, buying triggers and pain points.
Ask yourself, what motivates them to even consider your brand? What experiences push them toward making a purchase? What potential frustrations prevent them finding a solution or satisfaction?
2. Describe your customer’s end-goal
When it comes to interacting with your brand, what are your customers trying to achieve? Once you determine what your customer wants, think about how that desire aligns with your own business goals. While the customer should be the focus of this exercise, it’s important not to lose sight of why their needs matter to your business in the first place.
3. What individual actions are they taking that work toward those goals?
This is where you start to delve into the details of the customer journey. Write out the series of tasks the customer must undertake to achieve the goal you described above.
By breaking the process down into individual actions, it will become easier to recognize what information the customer would find helpful at each step of the journey.
4. Think about the channels
Consider the channels where your customer is operating in order to perform those tasks. Knowing whether your customer is interacting with your brand in-store, online, by phone, or through print materials helps dictate the best form for your content.
As you start to move toward planning and distributing content, don’t forget that it’s more likely customers are using all of these channels at some point, even simultaneously.
You can delve deeper and define the most common online channels that they visit by researching where they are likely to spend their online time. You can also use audience research to place your content in the line of sight at the right time.
5. Start defining well-suited content
Here’s the moment we’ve been building toward. Think about what content, both traditional and digital, would serve your persona best when completing the tasks needed for their goal. Use any device usage or technographic profiling you have at your disposal and ensure that you’re creating content that meets their needs.
Mapping content to stages of the customer life cycle
Equipped with knowledge about customer goals and behaviors, you can use the customer life cycle to organize this journey by placing these experiences within the three broad stages of the sales funnel: awareness, consideration and decision.
Think of the top of the funnel as the exploration stage. Customers have a lot of questions as they discover and define their needs. This is where the customer realizes that your brand is a potential match for providing a solution.
- How-to or informational videos
- Informational webinars
- Research reports
- Editorial pieces
When developing content for the awareness stage, keep in mind that a customer in this stage of your sales funnel is also likely at the same point of their customer journey with many other brands. That’s why is so important the content makes a strong impression for your brand while ultimately helping the customer toward their goal.
When it comes to the middle of the funnel, customers get serious about their search for answers. This means they’re researching your brand, comparing it to others, and weighing the importance of certain attributes to aid their eventual decision.
- Product webinars
- Case studies
- Product samples
As customers enter what is traditionally considered the bottom of the funnel, customers use the evaluative criteria they’ve established to decide on the solution.
- Free trial
- Live demo
- Phone or in-person consultation
Pro tip: Although this three-stage funnel is handy for organizing the many touch points your brand offers, don’t think of the customer journey as a linear process. The majority of a customer’s journey is digital, which empowers the customer to choose when, where and how they want to interact with a brand.
If you’re looking for deeper insights or a little more guidance on mapping your brand’s customer journey, we’re happy to chat — send us a message today!