Imagine that a consumer is thinking of buying a new car. After Googling, YouTubing and checking social media, she keeps coming across the same model. There’s an answer to every question she asks online about it and credible sources indicate that this is the car for her. While it might seem to the consumer that all the stars are aligning around this particular model, it might also be the result of a coordinated content marketing campaign.
Marketers can orchestrate such content with precision targeting and a content marketing strategy that anticipates the consumer’s journey. Orchestration is the key. A discordant strategy leads to a cacophony of mistargeted content.
From overture to finale
A well-considered content strategy will entrance consumers the same way a symphony can. It should traverse the buyer’s journey, from awareness to consideration to purchase.
When it comes to awareness, there’s no substitute for being on the first page of search results. Seventy-one percent of consumers start their purchase journey with a search, according to a 2016 Forrester Research report. What that often means is that they read only the first page of results. Less than 10 percent of readers visit page two of Google search results, according to research by ProtoFuse.
Since consumers prefer organic to paid results, landing on that first page as a business is critical. Content that’s based on long-tail search queries (such as “What’s the best all-wheel drive 2018 model under $30,000?”) is one of the best ways to gain visibility during this leg of the customer journey. Amazon makes 57 percent of its sales from long-tail keywords.
This is where many marketers fail. Consumers can tell the difference between poorly conceived content stuffed with keywords and content that has integrity. There’s no use getting visibility if your content works against you.
To create content that will surface in long-tail searches (e.g., “21-speed mountain bikes” versus “bicycle” as a keyword), marketers first need to define an objective for their content marketing. If the goal is to attract new prospects, then find out which long-tail keywords those prospects are searching. Tools like the Google Keyword Planner offer variations on top keyword searches. Make sure to weave those keywords and phrases into content copy, but not in an obvious way. Avoid keyword-stuffing, which can be counterproductive for SEO.
During the consideration phase, consumers compare your product or service to the competition. One of the best content marketing methods to use during this phase is social proof. Case studies, reviews and testimonials can confirm recommendations and build interest as well as address doubts and questions consumers have at this stage. If there is a common perception about your offering that everyone is talking about (like that it’s too expensive) then you need to address those concerns.
The process of finding case studies and testimonials should be organic. Seek out users who are happy with your product or service. Some might be talking about it in social media, posting comments, images or videos that provide social proof you can share. Others may be providing feedback to sales that you can reference.
The final stage—purchase—isn’t always a sure thing. Many consumers need one more push to try a product. This is when content needs to be organized around action-oriented buyer keywords such as “download,” “coupons” and “buy.” Make the calls to action compelling—for example, by offering a free trial—and clearly communicate a benefit (e.g., “using this will double your revenues.”)
The customer journey was once thought of as a linear progression. Conventional wisdom now knows that there’s nothing linear about it.
For instance, a customer might learn something about a product from a case study she finds through search that moves her from awareness to interest. But a negative review shifts her back to consideration and further research. Then an instructional video assuages her concern, and she moves forward.
Or a customer might make a purchase, progress to value realization and then loyalty. At that point, his enthusiastic recommendation may move a new consumer quickly through awareness to purchase.
The best way to address these unpredictable shifts is by providing quality, targeted content at all stages of the journey. That requires producing a critical mass of content. Industry leaders tend to produce more than 16 blog posts per month, for instance. Precision targeting will help determine what content to serve based on where a customer is in the journey. Set a frequency to regularly measure results, test new content and try new approaches of sharing content to determine what’s working and what isn’t. Set clear and realistic goals to measure your progress.
Content can help retain customers during post-purchase phases, too. For instance, a consumer who is surprised how well your product or service works or one who is feeling buyer’s remorse might want to check her opinion against the masses. If there’s social proof, then she’ll feel more confident in her decision and may even feel good recommending it to others.
The goal is to surround the right consumers with the right content. “Right” isn’t just targeted; it’s also quality content that will help to establish a level of trust that mere advertising can’t. (Otherwise, just run ads.) When done well, that concerto of well-orchestrated content will prompt a consumer to sing your brand’s praises.