Introduction to Content and Customer Journeys

We’ve all heard about how content has to map to:

  1. Customer journey
  2. Buyer’s journey
  3. Sales funnel
  4. Marketing funnel
  5. Conversion journey
  6. Retention journey

We keep hearing about these because understanding your customer's journey is critical to any content marketing strategy. Mapping content to customer journeys and creating/writing content while valuable, is only the building block and not the solution.

To strengthen content effectiveness, the importance lies in relevance and message timing to align marketing and sales to the way people actually buy. You need to know not only which customer but what is the right content and what is the right time to serve the content to the customer along their journey.

A recent report from Bain consulting argues that to gain transformative change beyond reach and engagement, customer intent and timing is paramount.

Bain consultingBain consulting

Let's start off with a quick refresh on the customer journey. The terms might vary between sales and marketing teams, but the idea is the same.

Awareness: The awareness stage is the first stage of the customer's buying journey when someone first discovers you for the first time. The curiosity stage for which traditional marketing content is built for.

Consideration: In this stage, the buyer knows their problem and is looking for a solution, your content has to go deeper into ways someone could solve his or her problem. 

Decision: The prospective customer is ready and they’ve come to a decision about your offerings and it’s now the right time to make a sales pitch. This is the place the marketing content needs to transition to the sales content to close the sale or transition the prospect to a sales representative who can continue to nurture the customer down the sales funnel.

Trial: The customer is ready to try your offer in case of XaaS. At this stage, the actual purchase decision will be based on their trail experience. The customer journey continues.

Conversion Phase: The customer is able to see the value from the product and makes the purchase. 

Reevaluation Phase: B2B sales often have a contract and it needs to be renewed after the term is up.

The Conversion Challenges

Today, 97% of visitors ignore the CTA, while 86% bounce.

Studies show that 89% of B2B buyers turn to the internet to begin the B2B research process, 86% of searchers conduct non-branded queries. Your prospect customer search for answers to questions they have or a problem they wish to solve.

  1. Once the customer clicks on the content which matched the customers need, the next step is to present the next piece of content to nurture and move them through the buying funnel - today, the next content asset required to move the customer through the funnel is buried on the site or the blog somewhere.
  2. Today, content is typically presented to web visitors in silo websites, forms, and dead-end landing pages, or the relevant content buried in blogs no one can actually find. This puts the full onus on consumers to navigate the maze of brand content without experiencing the story they need to reach an informed decision.
  3. One of the challenges is focus - the focus is on 'clicks', not always on the way people buy and specially not on what happens after the click. In B2B, this is the leading cause of poor lead quality and the primary reason of misalignment and friction between sales and marketing.

-- today, these represent the biggest culprit to dismal conversion rates.

4 out of 5 marketers think 'Content Marketing' isn’t very effective:

  1. Very expensive
  2. Very labour intensive
  3. Difficult to distribute to a wide audience
  4. Difficult to prove out the ROI
  5. Mostly tied to “vanity” metrics - like “new leads” 
  6. No sense of whether they are qualified leads
  7. No understanding of the cost to convert these leads through the sales channel as compared to leads from other sources

Yet, in the face of these realities, the general emphasis in Content Marketing innovation seems to be:

  1. How to automate the production of content
  2. How to automate the distribution of content
  3. How to produce more content for less money

This approach may (or may not) increase the exposure for content, and in turn increase awareness among customers - akin to old fashioned brand marketing.

But, this approach will not improve the metrics that matter most - the metrics that connect to revenue and profit.

And, with more and more marketers producing more and more content, the challenge to be noticed is greater than ever.

Content Marketing can influence four metrics

There are four metrics that can be tracked to determine the effectiveness of content marketing. (But, the same content is not applicable or effective for improving against each of these metrics. So, before measuring these, it’s key to first decide which ones matter, and produce and deliver content in a manner tailored to affect the metrics that matter.)

The Four Metrics

  1. More leads (this is the wrong metric for ROI, but may well be the objective of some marketers - it is akin to brand marketing - it is awareness building, and perhaps does lend to generating more content with more distribution, if it can be shown to be a useful metric)
  2. Better qualified leads - these generate more conversions, and lower cost per conversion. 
  3. This metric is not influenced by 'more content and more distribution
  4. But, this metric can be influenced by the right content, better content, delivered at the right moment, in the right way
  5. Better customer retention - converting the trial customer into a long-term recurring revenue customer. 
  6. This metric likely may have the greatest economic impact
  7. This metric is not influenced by 'more content and more distribution'
  8. But, this metric can be influenced by the right content, better content, delivered at the right moment, in the right way
  9. More penetration into existing enterprise customers (more seat licences)
  10. This metric likely also has great economic impact
  11. This metric is not influenced by 'more content and more distribution'
  12. But, this metric can be influenced by the right content, better content, delivered at the right moment, in the right way

What Should Content Marketers Do? - The Solution

One way or another, we're all bidding against each other for traffic that we hope will convert.

Most of the businesses we talk to spend more dollars on winning traffic than improving how they convert that traffic and often chasing only marginal gains when they do.

Selling is getting more complicated, not less, and we need to direct the traffic generated much more effectively to raise conversion rates.

The way to counter this trend is to deliver the right content at the right time, but in a way the current CX/CMS's haven't been built to deliver.

You need personalization, relevance, and timing, the focus has to shift from strictly filling the top of the funnel, to taking the prospective customers on a journey to be buyers.

The solution is threefold:

  1. Focus on the right metrics - The importance of this cannot be understated.
  2. Better qualified leads
  3. Better customer retention
  4. More enterprise penetration
  5. Understand and map the Customer Journey
  6. Customers are not peripatetic in their movements, simply popping up on this webpage or that landing page. Customers are on a methodical purpose-driven journey
  7. Prospective customers are trying to learn enough to make an informed purchase decision
  8. Trial customers (new customers) are trying to learn enough to become proficient with your product
  9. Experienced customers are trying to gain new insights in order to gain a competitive advantage with your product
  10. Senior management customers are trying to build the case (collect the evidence) to disseminate your product throughout their organization
  11. Every customer is on a methodical journey, but every customer’s journey is unique
  12. As a marketer, you need to map these different journeys so that you can…..
  13. Deliver the right content at the right time in the right format to make it easy to buy
  14. The content needs to be the right content. That is, it needs to be contextually relevant given where the customer is in
  15. The buying cycle/funnel
  16. The ramp-up of learning how to use the product
  17. Learning how to get the most out of the product for an experienced customer
  18. Expanding the use of the product internally to their organization
  19. The content needs to be delivered at the right time
  20. Not in a random email that arrives when the customer is doing something else
  21. Needs to be delivered when the customer is engaging with the product (or the purchase decision)
  22. The content needs to be delivered in the right format
  23. On topic
  24. Digestible in size - for example, if the customer is examining a product feature, a white paper on the state of the industry is not helpful
  25. Integrated - the customer needs to consume the content without having to stop what they’re doing (or worse, log out)
  26. Interactive (ideally) - if the content is packaged as a tutorial, all the better, and if it is a hands-on tutorial, even better yet

The importance of establishing a measurement criteria of content performance at every stage of the customer’s journey cannot be understated. Measurement is absolutely critical for business success, by aligning and delivering content along the customer's journey makes this measurement a lot easier and transparent.

While a new concept, Buyer Intent offers a powerful advantage to early identifying the customers intent to predict the outcome. The customer intent is measured by evaluating the depth and breath of content the customer has consumed along an engineered customer content journey. Today buyers have a constant conversation with the brand, yet we serve content to them in a very transactional fashion, we need to read the customers signals and respond appropriately.

There is no shortage of content in an organization or across the web, leveraging existing content which has been successful and to the point makes it easier on the buyer. As a side note, if content does not serve a customer journey, there is no reason to produce it. This single change can improve ROI significantly, today 70% of content produced is never used, yet 45% of marketing budget is spent on it.