You create mindful content. After all, you’ve embraced the results of a detailed content marketing audit, hired a branding firm to polish your messaging and discovered hundreds of attributes about your target audience. Now, go one step further. Does your content creation align with the path your potential customers take when engaging with your brand?
What is the customer journey?
Simply put, the customer journey is a map of behavioral scenarios fueled by data. Feedback from analytics tools sheds light on where, why and how customers land on your websites or social media feeds. Tracing these pathways and understanding how they connect and intersect forms the basis for a documented customer journey.
At a deeper glance, HubSpot defines the customer journey, also known as a buyer’s journey, as “the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.”
This three-step process lays the foundation for a variety of customer journey variants.
- Awareness stage (TOFU): This is when your customers search for topics related to a challenge, goal or opportunity to educate themselves. As a marketer, you can dig into the data related to this step to discover common concerns and how potential buyers prioritize their needs.
- Consideration stage (MOFU): In the second phase of interaction with your brand, the customer is armed with clearly defined goals and are ready to address them head-on. They are looking for targeted solutions. As a marketer, you can learn which categories of products/services your customers need most and what details they’re seeking about these solutions.
- Decision stage (BOFU): In this final touchpoint before making a sale, your customer is ready to commit. They’re weighing their options and choices before pressing the Buy Now button. As a marketer, you can discover how buyers evaluate your solutions, what concerns/expectations they may have and who was involved in the decision-making process.
When we envision the customer journey, we refer to a classic conical “funnel.” We see our buyer’s journey beginning at the wide-mouth opening at the top. Sometimes this is referred to as TOFU — no, not a vegetarian cuisine staple, but rather the “Top of Funnel.”
As connections with our customers narrow and become more defined in the MOFU, or “Middle of Funnel,” so does the nose of the funnel. When a buyer completes a transaction, they drip out of the tip, or BOFU, “Bottom of Funnel,” and get added to the businesses’ bottom line. Sometimes customers re-enter the funnel multiple times or drop out before reaching the BOFU stage.
Despite a misconception that it’s always a top-of-funnel tactic, content marketing can help reach people at any stage of the funnel, and as those people continue their interactions with your organization, it helps widen the neck of the funnel farther down. And because content is all the words and pictures on (and off of) your site, you have a lot of options to tailor your content marketing message to where your audience is in that funnel. — Moz
Are there different variations of the customer journey?
Absolutely. The order, types and number of stages in a customer journey vary based on your goals linked to specific campaigns, products, services or even customer type.
Think of a working funnel like an ice cream sundae. All are served in a tall vessel filled with scoops of ice cream topped with sweet treats. Some have sprinkles, whipped cream, cherries and nuts. Others do not.
Variations of the customer journey can show up at any stage (the sundae toppings) within the foundational funnel (ice cream) we shared earlier. Why? This allows marketers to pivot and sweeten the deal with their audience at the ideal time, with targeted content to entice them to the BOFU. The right outreach is kind of like finding an extra cherry under the second scoop of vanilla deliciousness. Perfect!
Let’s explore some popular stages and variants that you might include in a customer journey mapping session.
Most funnels will include three to six of these stages:
How the stages fit together and flow is determined by your unique sales process and goals from start to finish. The customizable combinations are endless. Here’s a sampling.
- The ADEPT marketing funnel is comprised of five stages: Awareness, Differentiation, Experience, Particulars and Transaction. You can see this highly personalized customer journey flow through the persuasive words of a furniture ad in “How to Spin Epic Product Descriptions With ADEPT Narrative Lines (Even for a Used Couch).“
- The AIDA marketing funnel stacks Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. This is a more traditional flow for marketers working to sell products and services.
- The ACCLA marketing funnel is geared at boosting brand engagement online. An audience works through Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, Loyalty and Advocacy. The end goal is brand awareness via influencer mentions or fan UGC.
- The CNCP funnel entices donors to put their money where their interests lie. This four-stage non-profit organization-focused journey flows from Capture to Nurture, to Convert and finally Partner.
Salesforce explains that taking the time to map out your customer journey and find the variant that works best helps:
- Learn where and how customers engage with your outreach
- Fine-tune how to solve customer needs at various stages in the marketing funnel
- See if the order of the stages are indeed aligned to meet your goals
- Shows the sales team the approach you’re taking to generate leads for them
- Discover gaps in your sales cycle
- Find out where to concentrate your efforts to maximize ROI
Above all, does your customer journey align with your branding strategy? Is your outreach jiving with your values and as a company and how you want to present your brand? As you map out your ideal customer journey, you’ll want to think about content that partners with each stage of the funnel and the challenges of your specific customers.
Why do I need content for the customer journey?
The average B2B buyer is 57 to 70 percent through their purchasing decision, yes, the third-stage in our foundational funnel, before they engage with a sales representative, according to research conducted by The Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB) Marketing Leadership Council® in partnership with Google.
A salesperson in a brick-and-mortar store wouldn’t dream of waiting to first approach a customer as they walk to the sales counter with their purchase in hand. Why do it online? This means it’s a good idea to be in front of your audience and speaking to them with your content marketing assets as early as possible, especially at the TOFU.
HubSpot shares that 88 percent of B2B marketers are using custom content to engage with their customers at various stages in their marketing funnels. However, 65 percent are confused about which types of content are most effective. When it comes to content creation, they recommend leaning into SEO optimized, high-value written content, such as blog posts, ebooks, reports and white papers filled with original research. More on that later.
How do I use buyer personas to create content for the customer journey?
Audience is everything. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, why are you speaking at all? Let’s explore ideal customer profiles and buyer personas as a way to ensure your content speaks to the customers flowing through your funnel.
An ideal customer profile (ICP) is a data-driven strategy tool that clearly defines your best-fit buyer, which is used to align your marketing and sale teams, according to the folks at Hull, a consumer data collection platform. ICPs lay the groundwork for successful personalized messaging and razor-focused campaigns that speak to a specific audience.
After you discover who you’re creating content for via ICPs, learn how to talk to these people as individuals. We do this by creating buyer personas, or fictional character vignettes that represent a specific category of your audience. They often read like an old-school yearbook bio with lists of hobbies and mentions of personal values. These warm and inviting character sketches help marketers get into the minds of their audience members.
There’s no industry-standard template (but, we love this B2B option) or list of attributes that a buyer persona must have, but they tend to include a handful (or more) of these bits of information, often arranged in a visually pleasing one-sheet/one-slide format tucked inside a branding strategy document.
- Name: These are usually cute and stylized. Think of monikers such as Healthy Hailey for a new protein powder campaign or CEO Sarah for a top-level executive buyer.
- Occupation: This includes job title, size of business and any other pertinent information that may have an effect on them as a buyer, such as income level.
- Goals: These may be personal life goals or professional goals. Some personas share a combination of both.
- Challenges: What pain points does your ideal buyer have? Detail them here.
- Demographics: Include the buyer persona’s age, geographical location and education level.
- Brands: On occasion, I’ve seen buyer personas include a list of products and services this fictional character loves to use. It gives marketers a peek at what branding already resonates.
- Social media: Where would you find this person hanging out online? How do they engage with these platforms? Do they rely on Facebook Events to stay looped in on weekend activities?
- Summary: This is a concise one to four paragraph bio about the person and their daily life, work duties, concerns, ideals and why they might engage with the brand.
MedTech Momentum publicly shares a template they use to create buyer personas in the medical device and technology space. Here we see a snapshot of Dr. Jones via a bio, personality traits, demographics, background, identifiers, goals, challenges, solutions and common objections.
Daniel Eizans created a sample buyer persona of a small SUV/Crossover buyer and shares the final draft on Flickr. Here we learn about Kyle Fisher, a fictitious vehicle shopper, via a personal profile, background synopsis, attributes, his product-content needs as well as a break down of the current media being used to drive sales for this auto dealer.
What are examples of good content for each stage of the customer journey?
When you worked through your branding strategy, you likely discussed content levels. As a refresher, this is the hierarchical ranking of your content needs required to achieve your branding initiatives. High levels bolster core brand experience. Lower levels support strategy, branding and function.
Since you know every customer journey is unique with variants, let’s focus on the three general segments of the journey and what types of content assets best match buyers in these stages. As you browse, be thinking about which of these align with the content levels identified in your branding strategy.
TOFU: Inspirational/emotional blog posts, ebook offers, opt-ins, gated content offerings, tutorial videos, helpful social media posts, free online courses/certifications.
MOFU: Personalized engagement via email/calls/messaging, any content that positions your brand as an expert, webinars, guides, live chats, whitepapers, blog posts that offer a specific solution.
BOFU: Calls-to-action, trial offers, demos, downloads, case studies, product-focused content.
HubSpot shares a few examples of content that aligns with the various stages in a marketing funnel in this article, including a snackable yet educational approach taken by Farmers Insurance in their TOFU and how the fitness-lovers MindBody app works with UGC to create emotion-based stories, again, to bring readers into their funnel. The takeaways here are to lead with sharable, enticing content that adds value to the reader’s life through education, freebies or feel-good vibes.
When we get to the middle of the funnel, focus on qualifying your prospects and nurturing the relationships that were formed in the TOFU. Your audience is evaluating your messaging at this point and you need to be ready to offer solutions before they discontinue their journey with you.
Finally, the bottom of the funnel is where you close the deal. Although your audience may not have made a purchasing decision yet, they’re ready to be swayed with a compelling offer that not only solves their needs, but also solidifies their relationship with your brand.
Need help crafting all this content? ClearVoice freelancers are ready to make your brand messaging stand out while aligning with the latest in content marketing trends.
A peek inside my role as customer
Let’s lift the veil on my browsing history and email to see where I sit as a consumer in a few marketing funnels. As we do this flip, I’ll guess the brand’s intentions and share how it makes me feel as a potential buyer. As a marketer, take note of what’s working and what isn’t — from a consumer on the receiving end of a content asset.
TOFU makeup shopper
I’m on a personal crusade to clean up my cosmetics bag. As I hunt for less toxic makeup options, I’ve been browsing the websites of several manufacturers. My girlfriend recommended I check out 100% Pure. After looking at their lipsticks and mascara, I’m intrigued, but the prices are daunting. So, I snuck over to their blog to see if I could learn a bit more about the company or maybe get some added value before plunking down over $20 for a tube of lip color.
I found a tutorial on how to do festival makeup (perfect for upcoming summer events!) that walked me through what I’d need and how to apply it, complete with photos. Each product mention included a backlink, making it easy to fill a shopping cart with what I’d need to recreate the look.
I’m honestly still having a bit of sticker shock, but if this company tracks my visit to the blog and sends me a coupon in my email, I’d instantly be shifted into their BOFU as I add new summer colors to my shopping cart.
MOFU lingering diner
Oops! Apparently I have a few gift certificates that I’ve purchased but never used. Restaurant.com sent me this email reminder so I would not only hit up my favorite restaurants more often, but also so I’ll head to their website to download, review, exchange — or buy more certificates.
Make no mistake; This is middle of funnel messaging that’s asking me to consider using their service once again. When they are top of mind, I’m more likely to visit and buy more.
BOFU pizza lover
As a gal who has to follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, it’s hard to find a good gluten-free pizza for delivery. Domino’s has won my heart. When I’m ready to indulge, I get online and order up my favorite veggie combo. And, they know this. So this perfectly targeted BOFU email is working hard at the Repeat or Retention stage in their marketing funnel.
Will it work? Yep. I’ll likely get a pizza this week since they reminded me of an easy meal option and they’re my preferred gluten-free delivery choice.
If your organization needs a helping hand identifying your customer journey and creating content that seamlessly aligns with your buyer personas, our team is ready to work some magic. Contact ClearVoice today for your content marketing needs!