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Buyer personas, buyer journeys, marketing funnels – there are so many marketing terms being thrown around in recent years that business owners are completely overwhelmed! I’m going to make things less complicated for you by showing you how to boost your marketing results by merging your content marketing funnel with your buyer journeys and buyer personas.
First, you need to know who your customers are. That’s where buyer personas come into the picture. I’ve written about the 13 areas of focus to create effective buyer personas in the past. Follow the link to learn all about it. Most importantly, you need to understand your audience thoroughly and create detailed buyer personas, so you can effectively market to them.
The Buyer Journey
Once you understand who your audience is and you’ve segmented them into specific buyer personas, it’s time to map out the journey people take on their way to purchase your products or services. In other words, you need to understand where people are in the buying cycle in order to write effective content for them.
Think of it this way, a person who is just starting to think about replacing their laptop is probably not even close to actually making a purchase yet. They’re in the investigative stage of the buying cycle. They’ve identified that they have a problem, but they’re just starting to evaluate their options. People in this stage of the buying cycle need to see and hear very different messages and consume very different content from your brand than people who are ready to buy a new laptop right now.
Therefore, every time you create a new piece of content, you need to consider where the audience members who will see it are in the buying cycle. Who are you creating this piece of content for? Your goal is to push people though the marketing funnel from the early evaluation stage to the buying phase (more about that later in this post), so ideally, you should create content to reach consumers at all stages of the buying cycle.
There are the five key steps along a buyer’s journey to make a purchase:
Stage 1: Not in the Market Yet
The consumer has not identified a problem that has created a want or need. Therefore, he or she is not in the market for the product or service at all yet.
Stage 2: Problem Identified
The consumer has identified a problem which created a want or need. That problem could be physical or emotional, and the consumer might not actually call it a problem. He or she is about to enter the market for a product or service to solve the problem.
Stage 3: Research and Evaluation
The consumer has started conducting research to find solutions to his or her problem and is evaluating different product or service options.
Stage 4: Preferences Established
The consumer has narrowed down his or her product or service choices to a few contenders and is doing a final evaluation to pick one to purchase.
Stage 5: Final Decision
The consumer has chosen which product or service he or she will purchase to solve the problem, or he or she has decided to buy nothing at all.
Below is a visualization to help you understand the five phases of the consumer buying cycle.
Keep in mind, the type of product or service you offer, your prices, your industry, and a variety of other factors could influence how long it takes for consumers to move through the buying cycle for your business. In addition to these tangible factors, there are the many emotional factors that influence consumers’ purchase decisions. Every business won’t see the same results when it comes to content marketing.
Content Marketing Funnel
In addition to asking yourself who you’re creating each piece of content for, you also need to ask what the purpose of each piece of content is. That leads directly to how your buyer personas and the buyer journey merge with your content marketing funnel to boost your marketing results.
In simplest terms, every piece of content you create helps to move people through your marketing funnel. Your goal is to create content marketing funnels using specific offerings to move highly targeted consumers (i.e., your buyer personas) through the buying cycle (i.e., the buyer journey).
Take a look at the image below which shows what a content marketing funnel is and how consumers move through it as they proceed through the buying cycle.
Let’s take a look at each stage of the marketing funnel and see how it maps to a stage of the consumer buying cycle:
1. Top of Funnel (TOFU)
Everyone who is nowhere close to being ready to buy your product or service is at the top of the funnel. Your goal is to create content that will raise awareness of your brand and attract a large number of leads.
Lead magnets, like worksheets, ebooks, and so on, are perfect content to offer at the top of the funnel. For example, you can promote a free ebook using a Facebook ad targeted to a group of people based on your buyer personas. When people submit their email addresses to get the ebook, you can add them to your email marketing list where you can nurture the relationship and try to move them further down the funnel in the future.
2. Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)
People who are in the top of your funnel (either because they’re not yet in the market for your products or services, they just realized they have a problem that you might be able to help solve, or they just learned about your brand) aren’t close to purchasing yet. Once they move to the middle of the funnel, they’re at the research and evaluation phase or the preferences establishment phase of the consumer buying cycle.
In other words, they think they want to buy and are trying to make a buying decision. This is the perfect time to use email marketing to send them more free content or invite them to a free webinar where you can further engage them and make them more likely to choose your product or service. However, keep your end goal in mind and don’t give away too much for free at this stage.
3. Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)
People in the bottom of the funnel are very close to making a purchase decision. They might still be evaluating their preferred choices or they might be ready to make a final decision. At this stage, it’s important that you communicate with prospects often. They’re at the tipping point, and you have to determine what type of messages, content, and promotions will give them the last little push that motivates them to buy. To that end, use email to send useful, free information and content to them on an ongoing basis.
All of your content at this point should be laser-focused on helping the consumer make the right purchase decision without being too self-promotional. After all, people are far more likely to buy from a brand that “has their back” than they are from a brand that ignores them or constantly pushes the hard sell (all else being equal of course).
Your Next Steps
Now, it’s time for you to start creating your buyer personas, consider where people are in the buying lifecycle, and create content for every stage of that journey to push them through the marketing funnel.
It’s important to point out that there are no guarantees with content marketing. It’s a powerful long-term brand building strategy that can be supplemented with useful short-term tactics to drive sales now and in the future. However, you’ll need to test, test, and test again. There simply is no one trick that works for all brands, all consumers, or all campaigns – no matter what content marketing, webinar, or email marketing “system” anyone tries to sell you.
As long as people are unique and emotional beings, marketing will always be an exciting challenge. If you’re up to that challenge, contact me and I can help you with your content marketing strategy and content creation.
This article was adapted from my online course, How to Write Messages that Convert Leads into Sales, offered through Women on Business School. Sign up to learn more and get a FREE Buyer Persona Worksheet and a FREE Consumer Buying Cycle Worksheet as part of the course materials!
Gary Bradshaw says
I think what is happening is that we now have words that describe what has been happening for a long time.
Think about it.
TOFU = Just looking and thinking about buying a car.
MOFU = Looking at Consumer Reports reading Car and Driver.
BOFU = Going to dealers to look at what they heard or think they heard.
Buyer Persona = The guy drives into the lot in an Impala and weighs 300 lbs. He will not be buying a two seater is my guess.
So what we are doing is documenting what we have always thought. Putting it in writing helps an entire team play to the goal. Or in my case keeps me focused because my insanity and wondering is now being written down.
At the first of the year, I thought I could not get any help from reading a blog like this one. Now I read every post and try to put it into action. It’s not easy at times and the results are not instant but it’s formalizing what we have been thinking.