I recently got engaged to an amazing gal and it got me thinking a lot about content marketing (side note: I'm also the master at segues). Let me explain…
My fiancé Lauren and I are in full-blown research-to-buy mode for the wedding and honeymoon. We're talking to married folks, gathering opinions and online looking at everything under the sun that has to do with weddings. So we're looking, making calls, looking again, making calls, looking again, unofficially scheduling, looking one more time and then maybe officially booking places, people and things for our wedding and honeymoon.
Lauren and I buy completely differently. She's ready to lock things in and get the train moving. I have a hard time deciding which bread I want to buy at the grocery store if I haven't done my proper research.
Our buying cycles are completely different - even when we're looking at the same thing. It made me think about things like buying cycles vs. sales cycles and how often they don't really align if we're to judge based off of content marketing we see coming from companies.
For example: if we liked a venue for the wedding because of some photos we saw online, went to the venue's website and called for more information, should that venue assume that we both need the same information in order to buy?
We're different personas - so the answer is "no." But that's what we see so often with companies and their content strategies. They produce information and collateral based on demographics - not personas, personalities or buying behavior.
I recently read "Managing Content Marketing" by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi. Something that's stuck with me since reading is when they're talking about buying and selling cycles and they say "no one cares about your product or service. All your customers care about is themselves." Wow! That might sound a little harsh, but I think it's true. I don't care about one wedding venue from the next - what I care about is making sure my wife is happy with her wedding. The products should fit each of our personas so well that the products sell themselves.
And everyone's different. Like I said, personas buy differently from each other. Lauren and I are in the same demographics, but we've got completely different buying personas.
Here's what You Do...
So as content marketers, we need to start mapping out personas. Ideally, map out every distinct type of person who buys from you. You might only have one persona who buys from you (probably not), or you might have 5-10. Mapping out personas for all of your distinct buyers does 2 things -
- it lets you know who you're selling to
- it forces you to think about the different types of content buyers need in order to make a decision.
Just because you've got a linear sales cycle doesn't mean all of your personas fall into linear buckets. People like me, while I might be a qualified lead, will go research again and again, make a call, and then compare you against another finalist, then more research until I'm convinced that I'm making the right choice. That requires you to give me different kinds of content than the guy who doesn't need as much time as I do.
The next step is to take the personas you have and frame a buying process around each one. How do they buy? What do they need to make a decision? Will they do more research once you've given it to them? If so, what content can you give them to help them do that? What do you have for the people who are simply aware of you, but not necessarily qualified leads yet? Start asking and answering these questions (and more) for each persona you map out.
It's no secret - this is a nurturing at its core. Pulizzi and Rose call it an "Engagement Cycle" - determining what types of content are delivered throughout the buying cycle and your sales cycle. But it's essential and often overlooked!
Sales cycles are primarily the same. We have contacts, leads, qualified leads, finalists and contracts. There might be modifications but that's a pretty standard picture of a sales cycle. Buying cycles are all over the place. They're not linear. So we need to be able to provide different types of content to different personas as they enter into different phases of their buying cycle.
Sound complicated? It doesn't have to be. It'll take work to do this, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming and it will make your content marketing strategy a lot easier to understand!
- Get a grip on your sales cycle first.
- Map out your customer personas.
- Walk through and document their possible buying processes.
- Align types of content you produce to those stages in their buying process (i.e. case studies that prove you're successful might only go to people who enter into a phase in their buying process where they've narrowed down their choices between you and a competitor. If you give it to them too early, then you might lose them because it's not what they need at that point).
- Deliver awesome content to personas when they most need it.
Piece of (wedding) cake!
Are you selling to demographics or personas? Have you discovered ways to map out an "engagement cycle" for your content marketing strategies?