The Four Stages of the Buyer’s Journey and the content types appropriate at each stage

Consumers don’t just make decisions to purchase new products and services they need out of the blue. There’s a journey or a process they go through from the time they get to know about a product or service to the time they make the decision to purchase. This is what’s called the buyer’s journey.

As a marketer, it’s very important for you to understand what goes on in the head of potential consumers at every stage of the buyer’s journey so you can influence how they make purchasing decisions. Here’s a detailed discussion of the four stages of the buyer’s journey and the types of content you should offer at every stage:

The Awareness Stage (top of the funnel)

This is the first stage of the buyer’s decision-making process. Here, the consumers recognize that they have a problem they need to solve to feel normal again. This problem could be something like feeling hungry, and they need food to satisfy it. It could also be in the form of lacking enough time to exercise in the gym, and they want some simple but effective workouts they can perform at home to stay fit and healthy.

Once they recognize that there’s a problem, the consumers will try to find possible solutions to those problems. They’ll do so mainly by searching for more information on how best to solve them.

Consumers’ sources of information

Some of the ways they source for information include:

a) Search engines—Search engines like Google and Yahoo provide instant results to people trying to find information on different topics. So, it’s not surprising that many potential buyers use them to search for solutions to their pain points.

b) Personal sources—Search engines may be the first place many people run to for answers. However, recommendations from fellow human beings are more preferred because they come with a trust factor. So, you’ll find a good number of potential buyers asking for advice from their family members, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors regarding their problems and how to solve them.

c) Public sources—Potential buyers also turn to public sources such as consumer rating organizations and mass media to get information.

d) Commercial sources—Commercial sources like salespeople, advertising, and dealers can also be used by prospects to get information.

As a marketer, your goal at the awareness stage should be to expose your brand to as many prospective buyers as possible so they can know about its existence.

The best way to do so is by creating free, educational, and valuable content that provides specific answers to the specific questions your prospects are asking. Also, be sure to provide them with some basic information about your brand, products, and services in return for their contact information.

As you create content, remember that potential customers don’t just want to purchase products or services to fulfill their needs. They’re also looking to do business with a company they actually trust and like. Because of this, you shouldn’t put pressure on them to purchase from you at this point.

Instead, you should focus your energy on creating a brand impression that’s trustworthy and transparent. Ensure that the content you provide not only positions you as the best possible solution to their needs but also reflects the language and purpose of your brand.

Now that you have some background information on the awareness stage, let’s look at examples of content you should offer to prospective buyers at this point.

Content types appropriate at the awareness stage

#1 Blog posts

A blog post is one of the most popular types of content used at the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. With an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, a blog post can help your business rank high on search engines, making it easier for potential buyers to find your website and learn more about your brand. So, why are blog posts appropriate at this stage? Here are some possible reasons:

a) They provide potential buyers with comprehensive, informative, and valuable content that answers the specific questions they’re asking.

b) By providing informative content, blog posts position you as an expert in your industry.

c) Blog posts can also lead to a continuous stream of customers for your business.

Before creating content for your blog, it’s a good idea to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and imagine all the questions they might want to be answered before buying your products or services. Come up with a list of all the possible questions and address them in your posts. Don’t forget that this stage is about creating brand awareness and not selling your products.

#2 Downloadable content

You can also offer potential buyers content that can be accessed and downloaded instantly, such as eBooks, checklists, tip sheets, guides, and templates. These resources are often used as lead magnets and given to prospects freely in exchange for their contact information.

They’re mainly used at the awareness stage because:

a) They contain detailed and valuable information that helps to give potential customers a taste of what it’s like to use your products and services.

b) They have the potential of going viral within your niche if you cover as much information as possible. This greatly helps to boost your brand awareness.

#3 How-To videos

Considering that many people prefer watching videos instead of reading, it makes sense to offer your audience how-to videos at the awareness stage. This type of content not only gives you an opportunity to share your knowledge with potential buyers but also answer the questions they may have. How-to videos also:

a) Give your brand a human face, which helps to build trust between you and your audience.

b) Help your website rank higher on search engines.

c) Allow you to explain topics that your web visitors may find hard to understand by reading in a simple and clear manner.

The consideration stage (middle of the funnel)

This is the stage where evaluation of the different options available to the consumers takes place. With the information they’ve gathered from various sources, they’ll proceed to evaluate the brands on their choice list in order to determine the best option for their needs. The evaluation can be based on parameters such as quality, price, reviews from previous customers, and belief in the brand, among others.

Because the consumers haven’t decided on the brand they want to buy from at this point, your goal should be to deliver content that helps them make that decision. Here are three content types to offer at this stage:

Content Types Appropriate at consideration stage

#1 Comparison charts or guides

Providing comparison content such as comparison charts or guides not only make the decision-making process easier for consumers but also gives you a chance to highlight the areas where your brand excels the most. This can be in technology, convenience, quality, or cost.

Note that some brands use comparison charts to point out all the wrong things with their competitor’s products and services while making themselves look good. This sneaky sales effort won’t work with modern consumers, so you’d better not try it.

It’s much better to make the comparison charts between you and your competitors fair so consumers can make an informed decision based on facts. This includes stating the pros and cons of using every option you’ve mentioned.

#2 Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Sometimes, consumers at the consideration stage may need advanced explanations about the products and services they’re interested in. This can happen, especially when they don’t find the information they’re looking for from the content you’ve provided on your website.

Because of this, it’s very important to have a Frequently Asked Questions page. FAQs not only allow you to answer a wide range of questions that potential consumers may have but also helps to increases your internal page views.

#3 Demo videos

Demo videos are also ideal at this stage because they allow you to show potential consumers exactly how your products and services work to solve their problems. They also help to distinguish you from your competitors, build a brand image, and nurture a relationship based on trust.

The decision stage (bottom of the funnel)

This is the stage where the sales cycle begins. Consumers have finished evaluating the alternatives before them and have narrowed down their list to a few options. They’re ready to purchase, and are now looking for the brand with the most convincing solution to their problems.

This is a golden opportunity for you to convert these leads into paying customers. Examples of content you should offer at the decision stage include:

Content Types Appropriate at the decision stage

#1 Video testimonials

Videos, as you may already know, trigger emotions in the people watching them, and are preferred more than written content. Therefore, it makes sense to offer a video testimonial on your website where potential customers can see actual customers giving their opinions about your products and services.

A genuine video testimonial from a satisfied customer is much more effective at converting leads into customers than the most persuasive salesperson in your company.

The key to succeeding with video testimonials is to ensure that they’re done in a relaxed atmosphere. The speech also has to be audible and naturally flowing if you want the video to trigger emotions.

On the same note, you should avoid using fake customers to deliver testimonials that are read from a script. Why? Simply because potential customers who’re keen will definitely know that the whole thing is staged.

#2 Discounts/coupons

You can also offer discounts and coupons to consumers at the decision stage. By reducing the prices of your products and services, you’re creating FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling, which is very effective in getting them to take action.

#3 Free trial

You can also use a free trial to increase your lead conversion rate. A free trial provides prospects with practical experience of your products and services before they commit their hard-earned money. That hands-on experience greatly helps to take away any doubts they may have and convinces them to make a purchase when the free trial period is over.

The Loyalty Stage

If you do everything right from the awareness stage up to the decision stage, you’ll most likely end up with a stream of happy customers. However, getting potential customers to purchase your products and services isn’t where the journey should end. If you want to enjoy long-term success in your business, it’s crucial that your customers return for more purchases. This is where the loyalty stage comes in.

Think of the time immediately after purchase as the consumer’s honeymoon phase. Like you’d expect, it’s a time of happiness and excitement. But it’s also a time when they evaluate their post-purchase experience. Most consumers will be asking themselves whether they made the right decision by purchasing your products and services.

It’s your responsibility to nip this uncertainty in the bud by sending them a “thank you” message thanking them for making a purchase, and reassuring them that you care about them and their after-purchase experience. You can do so via your company’s social media channels, supportive emails, as well as your customer care web page.

Other than sending a thank you note, your goal at the loyalty stage should be to remind your customers continuously of your expertise in your field, build deeper relationships with them, and increase their loyalty and retention.

Examples of content types that can help you achieve all these include surveys, user guides, loyalty programs, contests, video tutorials, product updates, product-focused articles, and customer newsletters.

Overall, different businesses have different sales funnels designed around their consumers’ unique journey. However, the general approach for creating content is the same—understand your customers and their intent at every stage of the buyer’s journey, and create custom content that addresses their specific needs. If you do this well, you’ll be able to build lasting customer relationships and increase your lead conversion rates significantly.

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