Would you ever show up to a first date with an engagement ring in your pocket? If you just met a nice, single mother or father, would your first question to them be "could I interest you in another child?"
Probably not. If you answered yes to either of these questions, I can provide the number to a good relationship counselor in the comments.
My point here is that many argue that content marketing is not a worthwhile investment, that it has no proven ROI. How can content be useful if it doesn't even talk about our products?! Gasp, shudder. Asking businesses to remove their product names from titles and content that are meant to inform and educate is like pulling teeth.
Let me ask you one thing: Which of the below titles are you more likely to click on?
"Webinar: Introducing Content Maximizer v13.2.5" OR "Webinar: Maximizing your content strategy in as few as 15 minutes per day."
The first one tells us that there is a new version of a product available. Great, this really only matters to customers who already have your product AND who also track the version numbers. Hint: nobody does this.
The second one actually tells us what value we are going to get from participating in this webinar, and how much time it could potentially save us. People love saving time and money. What new feature that this new version offers is enough to make people want to learn more? Talk about that.
To go back to our dating scenario, let's walk through the 5 stages of a buyer journey from a relationship perspective - and how you would maximize your content for each.
1. First impressions need to leave me wanting more.
In the "discovery" phase of a buyer journey, you really need to catch my attention. Perhaps you've never heard of me. This is the time to make an impression. In the dating world, you will probably tell your best jokes, dazzle your date with your intelligence, and talk about mutual interests.
If you are a business, you are sharing content that inspires, informs, and even entertains your readers. You are showing them that you really get their daily struggles, that you are tuned into the market, and that it's important to you that they get their questions answered - even if they do not ultimately become customers. This phase is ALL about them. If you are selling papayas, thoughts someone may be having at this phase are:
-Those look good, what are they?
-Are papayas a fruit?
-Are papayas healthy?
-I like exotic things, papayas look exotic.
-I'm so bored with my fruit. What else is out there?
-What was that yummy fruit I ate at the restaurant last night?
-Tammy told me about papayas, I should try those.
-I need more fiber. Are papayas high in fiber?
Types of content you might create at this stage to answer these questions: blogs, ebooks, social communities, videos, & infographics. Short, fun, engaging content that has little to no mention of your specific offering. Keep it generic and informative.
2. Show me what's under the surface.
Ok, you made it past the first date and you're ready to start really learning more about this person. You start to spend more time together, ask deeper questions, maybe meet some friends, do some Facebook creeping...you know the drill. You're not committed yet but you like what you see so far and want to explore further.
As a business, this is a critical time. Your potential papaya buyers are asking questions like:
-What health benefits do papayas provide?
-What can I substitute papaya for?
-Are my friends eating papaya?
-How expensive are they?
-Where can I buy them?
-Can I use them for pie?
-What are the best recipes using papaya?
-How long do they last?
-Who sells the best papayas?
-Can I use papayas to improve digestion?
Content at this phase is going to be a mix of educational assets and content more targeted to your specific offering. In the latter stages of this phase, you want to be dropping in subtle hints that you sell the best papayas, at the best prices. At this point, they are nearly sold on papayas, and you want them to be recognizing your papayas as the best way to go.
3. Everything looks great. Let's give this a go.
You like what you see and hear up to this point. It's time to make this relationship real. You officially introduce this new person as your significant other. You're in the "trial" phase.
From a content marketing perspective, your buyers are ready to do a trial run. Maybe it's a free sample of papayas. Maybe it's a 14-day free trial of your software. Anything that gives potential buyers a sample of what you ultimately want them to buy is prime content for this phase.
4. Put a ring on it.
Everything has gone great, it appears to be a perfect match. You can't imagine your life with anyone else. So you put a ring on it and seal the deal.
This is the "buy" phase of our journey. You've introduced a new person to papayas, explained all the wonderful attributes and uses, provided a taste of your product, and the buyer is ready to purchase! They may still be weighing some of the pros and cons around price, maintenance, customer service, etc. so it's important to provide resources at this stage to help buyers feel confident in their decision.
5. Keep the romance alive
Just because you managed to snag the love of your life doesn't mean now is the time to let yourself go. Keep the romance alive so that your partner can't help but sing your praises to everyone who will listen.
Just because your customer has made a purchase does not mean your job is over. You always want them coming back for more. As a content marketer, you want to turn those customers into advocates. Continue providing them with value long after the sale is over, whether it's in the form of coupons for future use, creating reference material, or sending them regular recipes on new ways to use papayas.
Different needs = different speeds
It's also worth mentioning that buyers go through these phases at different speeds for different types of products, and there is not always a straight path. For papayas, you may experience them first and then go back and learn more about them before deciding if you want to make this a regular purchase. If we want to continue to tie this to dating, papayas may be your casual fling.
If you're investing in a new vehicle or home, something more long-term, you are going to do your homework before "putting a ring on it" because it's a commitment.
And perhaps you've already experienced this product or service before - but believe it's made significant improvements since the last time you were involved (i.e. maybe you're considering giving your ex another shot). At this level of familiarity, you may start your journey somewhere further down the line.
You can see the complexities that begin to emerge, and content at each of these stages needs to be relevant and easily consumable. Content marketing must be done strategically. Don't be the guy who shows up on the first date with an engagement ring.