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All content is not created equal. Which is good, because not all prospects are interested in the same things. That’s why it’s critical to create content that appeal to the different buyer needs.

Please don’t view this as an invitation to try to be all things to all people. No marketer can succeed at that. The different prospects I’m encouraging you to focus on are really the same prospect at different stages of his or her buying journey.

The stages will vary depending on the prospect’s own internal process and to some extent on your industry. Most will share at least these basic steps:

  • Identification
  • Exploration
  • Evaluation
  • Comparison
  • Purchase

Identification

This is one of the more interesting stages because it’s one that many marketers ignore at some level, and with good reason. It can be an expensive and low-probability task to help a prospect understand that he has a problem and should be looking for a solution.

It can also be difficult to identify prospects at this stage, so much of the targeting we might do simply won’t be effective.

There are exceptions to this, of course, and there can be real opportunity to introducing an entire class of prospects to a solution. These are typically brand new technology like electronic medical records or drones for photographers and videographers. In both cases, you’re targeting an entire industry. (Which you’d likely segment in other ways.)

Content here is going to be most successful when it can appeal to the early adopters in the target audience, and can offer an easily understood demonstration of how the new solution works and, critically, what the benefits are. This will be your broadest content, the content that would fit nicely in an introductory “101” level course on the subject.

Exploration

Beyond that very initial stage comes exploration. Prospects here understand that something in their operations could be better and are seeking ways to make the desired improvement. Since they haven’t pinpointed what kind of solution they really want or need, their digital searches and colleague conversations are going to be fairly general.

Your content should reflect this, perhaps focusing on, “the best lead generation techniques for small business” rather than, say, “using Salesforce and video marketing for lead generation.”

Evaluation

As the universe of possibilities comes into focus for prospects, they begin to weed out possibilities that are obviously a poor fit for them, whether for budget or other reasons. This is good news because as the audience grows smaller, their interests grow more targeted.

Your content can be more focused, as well, and begin talking about the nitty-gritty of your approach, what implementation looks like, the experience of working with you, and of course, the benefits they’re likely to see. Case studies are a great example of content that works for these prospects.

Comparison

Moving a step further along, prospects arrive at a point where they know what they want to do and now want to figure out who can best help them do it. Here’s where they will quite literally be comparing you to competitors. Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact vs. iContact vs. …

Creating comparison charts and talking about features that truly differentiate you is critical here. Your content will vary depending on the fragmentation of your industry. If you can name your top competitors, do so. Because heaven knows your prospects will and you’d rather frame the comparison in favorable terms. If you don’t. Your competitors will.

One last note here is the unnamed competitor that trips many marketers up: inertia. Frequently, buyers will opt to take no action because no solution has presented itself as a clear improvement to the current situation. (Or least not a clear improvement with an acceptable level of risk.) So your comparison-stage content should point out the costs, both hidden and obvious, of inaction. It may be your biggest competitor of all.

Purchase

Finally, we get to the point, we hope, where a prospect is ready to make a decision. And if your prospect has gotten far enough with you that you’re still in the running, they’ll want to re-assure themselves that they’re making a defensible choice, a choice that won’t get them fired. (See inertia and risk above …)

Once the big picture check-boxes have all be ticked, that’s when the boring, basic content in the “About Us” section of your website comes to the fore. Earlier in the process, nobody cares about your “decades of combined experience” or the prestigious institutes of higher education your team have all attended. Now, though, they’re looking for any and all evidence that they’re not making a mistake that’s going to get them fired or cost them money. Have you been around for a long time? Do you seem to be a stable organization? Do you have a history of happy clients?

All of those questions will have come up to some extent already, but now they’ll be reviewed again. Make sure that the simple stuff that operates isn’t what trips you up.


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About Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage profitable engagement with their audience. He holds a degree in Philosophy from Bucknell University in one hand and, frequently, a glass of scotch in the other.

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