Nothing speaks more to the need for understanding your buyer’s content journey than this: 70% of a purchase decision is made before talking to the company. At least that’s the case in the B2B world, according to Gartner Group.
Netting it out, a content journey approach gives you a framework to find and close any gaps between what content your buyers want and need along their decision journey and what you’re actually producing. With growing content holes to fill and fewer resources to help fill them, the insights you get can focus your roadmap where it’ll have the biggest impact — helping you figure out what content you need to create or repurpose (and sometimes lose completely) and in what format, for which channels, on which screens.
That’s why you adopt this practice. Now, how do you get there? Before you do anything else, start by picking a specific product or service area or region where you can pilot the process and learn from it before you attempt to scale. We’ve broken the journey model down into six main components.
1. Persona Build Out
Everything pivots off the key decision makers and influencers. In the tech space, 7 people, on average, have a hand in a purchase – more as the size of the enterprise and complexity of the solution grows. It’s important to understand not only their individual roles in that process but their interactions – and associated content it demands. What are their pain points and key care-abouts? Where can you find and engage them – online and offline? What kinds of information are they looking for and how do they like that information served up?
2. Content Mapping
Building on those behaviors and information preferences, the next step is to map out for each persona what types of content have the greatest influence at different points along the path to purchase. While peer to peer is influential throughout the decision process, most content value shifts up and down along the way. What content matters as they’re wrapping their arms around the problem and framing the issue is decidedly different than when building their consideration set and finally comparing options to buy. Clearly, buyers’ journeys focus on more than your owned content – so your analysis of their content experience should reflect what’s happening off-property as well.
3. Use Case Scenarios
Think about what could trigger a buyer’s journey. Pick 3-5 representative purchase scenarios, ranging from a straightforward, more operational decision to a more strategic, complex problem that likely involves multiple decision makers and influencers. Depending on your situation, determine whether you want to focus on the content experience for an existing customer that you’re looking to upsell or a net new customer you’re looking to acquire, or all of the above.
4. Journey Analysis
Now put the first three steps together. You know who they are. What their mission is. Where they’re most likely to go to look for the info they need. With your buyer goggles firmly in place, follow the content path and objectively evaluate what that content experience is like. Is the content relevant to the buyer? Are you teeing up the type of high value content that buyers need in their preferred format and on the preferred channel? Is it current? Can they find what their looking for easily?
Quick side bar: while we are not doing a UX analysis here, the content experience and user experience are inextricably linked. A slick interface that surfaces the off target content = fail. Awesome content that you can’t find on a dare = fail. Collaboration between these two workstreams is ideal.
5. Action Planning
No one needs another strategy binder sitting on a shelf, collecting dust (Okay, they’re virtual but you get the picture). The value lies in operationalizing the findings in an action plan. Typically, recommendations fall into three buckets: ‘quick wins’, mid-term recommendations and longer term strategies. Invariably, these findings impact multiple teams and workstreams. See #6.
6. Continuous Stakeholder Engagement
Because you’ve socialized the concept of journeys from the get-go with the teams that direct, influence, generate and/or distribute content in your firm, then they are often a great source of input and resources on the front end and are much more open to the findings and recommendations at the back-end.
Done well a journey-led approach helps you provide a richer, more relevant content experience for those you most want to reach and engage – closing the gap between what buyers want and what you produce.
Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.
Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.
Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.