First-time visitors to your website rarely convert. In fact, according to ReTargeter, only 2% of all site traffic converts on the first visit, leaving a whopping 98% that click away without making a purchase.
But, all is not lost upon this vast majority – so long as we have meaningful strategies in place to entice them back again. And to do so, we first must get to grips with the four stages of the buyer’s journey.
The four stages of the buyer’s journey
Content marketers, it has to be said, sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the various content strategies that we employ are simply designed to attract new web visitors and nothing else. Now, whilst traffic generation is most certainly an important part of the content marketer’s role, it is only the first part.
We attract traffic, yes, to raise awareness and promote brand lift. But from this traffic we must generate leads, and then these leads must be nurtured down the sales funnel to create paying customers, and subsequently nurtured further to create returning customers.
This, in effect, is the buyer’s journey, and it can be broken down into four stages. These are:
- Awareness Stage
- Consideration Stage
- Decision Stage
- Post-purchase Stage
Let’s look at each stage one at a time.
Awareness: This is the stage at which most of your first-time visitors will be. These prospects will have become aware that they have some sort of problem, and are beginning their research into solutions that will solve that problem. Prospects in the awareness stage will typically be unsure as to exactly what it is they’re trying to find at this point, and thusly will be open to suggestions from many angles (hence why 98% will disappear without making a purchase).
Consideration: Having completed some initial research, your prospects will now have found a number of potential solutions to their problem offered by a number of different companies (yours being only one such company, of course). Now they are in the process of consideration – weighing up all their options and pitting your solution and your business against your rivals’ offerings.
Decision: Hooray! Having considered all options, the decision stage is the point where the prospect becomes a new paying customer.
Post-purchase: This stage, not included in the image above, is what happens after purchase. Your customers at this point will be evaluating whether or not they are pleased with your product and/or service, and whether or not they will purchase again from you in the future.
Content strategies to nurture prospects along the buyer’s journey
At each of the four stages of the buyer’s journey, we can see that our prospects (becoming customers) have different needs and will be thinking about different things. And so, as content marketers, we need to be ensuring that we are giving them what they want, when they want it, and where they want it. This means devising various content strategies, each with the specific design of nurturing people neatly along to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
So, let’s consider how we might do this.
At this stage, the prospect is full of questions – often quite broad ones. Who is this company? What does it do? In what industry does it reside? Does it have a solution to solve my problem?
Our content strategies at the awareness stage must aim to answer these questions. Initially, it’s a great idea to have developed buyer personas, as these will help you understand exactly who your first-time visitors are likely to be, and have a slightly clearer idea as to what questions they will need answering. Indeed, the trick is to get into the minds of those who are at the awareness stage, and from there optimize content accordingly.
Importantly, we must strategize our content first of all to attract prospects at this stage. And this means blog posts, news articles, infographics and videos – all of which SEO optimized so that prospects are able to find our websites when they first head over to Google to search for the answers to the questions they have.
Keywords, as you will no doubt suspect, play a key role here. What will your prospects be Googling when they become aware that they have a problem that you are in a position to solve? Do your research, figure this out, and ensure that you have plenty of keyword optimized content that will enable prospects to find you at this early stage of the buyer’s journey.
By this point, you hope to have made the short-list in your prospects’ considerations. As such, they will now be fully-aware of your existence, and will be relying less on Google to find the answers to the new sets of questions that they have.
Indeed, these new questions will be much more pointed. What precisely does this company offer? Exactly how will the product/service benefit me/my organization? What are the advantages of choosing this company over another? What are existing customers saying about what’s on offer? What does the brand stand for? What are its values?
Content strategies at this phase, therefore, must now be devised first to answer these questions, and second to ensure that these answers are easily discoverable. eBooks, white papers, case studies, webinars, research reports, product demonstrations – these are your content assets that must be presented to prospects at the consideration stage. And they must all be designed to intelligently convince prospects that they will get the most value from choosing you over any rival that they may also be considering.
Well done! You now have a brand new customer.
But, there’s now more work to be done. Paying customers have expectations, and you need to be making sure that they are happy, because customers also have power.
An unhappy customer is very likely to take to social media and other online channels to express their grievances. So, it’s important now that your content strategies are devised carefully to solve any pain-points that customers may encounter when using your product or service.
Email is your friend at this stage. Thank you emails should be automated, of course, to be sent out to all new customers. New customer surveys are also useful for both gathering data about what the pain-points may be, as well cementing the new relationship.
Providing tutorials will also be key – and blog posts, infographics and videos can all be used for this purpose. You should also make sure that you’ve got an updated FAQ page that you can direct new customers towards, and should be doubling down on efforts to engage with new customers across your social media channels, ensuring every step of the way that your new customer is a happy customer.
Improving the lifetime value of customers is key to success in any business – and, once again, content strategies must be devised to help you do this.
To keep customers engaged with your brand post-purchase, you need to be adding value in every way that you can. Indeed, remind customers of the value of staying with you by sending out regular emails pertaining, perhaps, to how much money they’ve saved so far since becoming a customer. Offer discounts on repeat purchases or for referring friends, and unlock exclusive content (such as an eBook) that you reserve only for customers.
Triggered emails are also useful – fired off at crucial moments, such as when a new sale goes live, or just before a subscription renewal.
Back to you
Focusing on the specific stages of the buyer’s journey will help produce the most highly-optimized content for your website and enable you to create a strategy that will lead directly to more conversions. As content marketers, it’s far too easy to get lost in the awareness stage, and forget where the actual revenue comes from. Nurturing is key to success, and the right content delivered to the right people at the right time will help you turn traffic into leads, leads into customers, and customers into returning customers.
How have you adapted your content marketing to your buyer’s journey? Share your experiences in the comments below.