In an ideal world, your marketing content should be like the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz - a shiny, glittering, well-posted path that ultimately leads your customer to where they need to be — your business.
To ensure that the customer doesn’t get lost along the way, your content must constantly address:
- Who is the person buying your product?
- Where are they in the buying process?
The best way to do this is by mapping your content to your b2b buyer's journey, which is also known as persona mapping. Persona mapping means linking the right content, to the right people, at the right time. You think about who your ideal b2b buyer is, and once you have established that, you look at how the content you create will help them solve their problem.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of members of your target audience. There may be more than one buyer persona - especially in b2b land, where the decision making can be very involved.
What’s involved in creating buyer personas?
In order to create a buyer persona, you need to be asking some very detailed questions about your ideal buyer. They will include information like:
- Job title
- Where they live
- What their family situation could be
- Career path
- Work goals
- Challenges they encounter within their role
- How they fit into the decision-making process
- How your b2b product or solution might be able to help them
- Where they look for information
- What sales objections you might hear from them
- How they might describe themselves
In order to verify the information, you will follow-up with a real-life representative of this buyer to check that the information rings true. We call this stage persona validation. If it does indeed ring true, then you can think about the next part, how your content will help your buyer get through the b2b buyer's journey.
The b2b buyer’s journey
HubSpot describes the buyer's journey as ‘the active research process that a potential buyer will go through leading to their purchase.’
There are three steps in this journey:
The awareness stage
In the awareness stage, a person has noticed that they are facing a potential problem. For instance, they have realised that their business is held back by internal inefficiencies.
What’s crucial about the awareness stage is that the person only has a vague idea of what their problem is and don’t know yet that there might be a solution or service that could help them solve it. They do feel significant pain though, and are likely to jump online to figure out how to get to the bottom of the problem.
Your company blog should be designed and optimised to attract people at this early stage. What are the questions that potential prospects might be asking themselves at this point? E.g. ‘How can I reduce the time I spend on business admin?’ or ‘How to reduce business overheads.’ These questions should be addressed from various angles on your blog.
There are two main benefits of attracting people at this stage:
- Your business will be front of mind when they are ready to purchase
- You get their attention when they are more receptive to new ideas that will help them clearly identify and solve their problem.
The consideration stage
In the consideration stage of the b2b buyer's journey, a person has clearly defined and named their problem. For instance, they know that their software is outdated, doesn’t integrate with their other systems and is therefore creating inefficiencies. Or: they understand that they need to change the structure of their business in order to be more profitable.
When people are in the consideration stage, they are often looking for more actionable information than in the awareness stage. Downloadable content that will help them to further define a potential solution to their problem or show them clear next steps will resonate well with them at this point in time.
For example, you could create a project timeline template for onboarding a new software or provide them with a self-assessment tool to rate their internal processes.
The decision stage
In the decision stage, a person has defined their solution strategy. They have come to the conclusion that they need to invest in a product or solution, or want to appoint an advisory firm to drive the process change.
When prospects have arrived at the decision stage they are much more receptive to product or service specific content. For instance, you could sent them an invitation to attend an online demo or participate in a webinar where you talk them through a case study showing how you’ve helped a client with a very similar problem.
...and a marketer must keep this in mind when creating content.
To put this in perspective, let’s use Dorothy as an example (assuming that in Oz, she had access to Wi-Fi and an iPhone, rather than munchkins and some seriously lush shoes).
How would the b2b buyer's journey help her?
Dorothy has quite a few problems in the course of her journey, but there is a really obvious one — the gnarly feet she must have gotten from doing all that walking in stilettos.
Over time, they are really starting to be distracting so she might Google something like:
'Really sore feet'
'Huge spots on feet'
'Painful sores on feet'
At this point, poor old Dorothy is in quite a bit of discomfort, so she’s open to any solution that might help her hobble into the Emerald City.
She’s discovered that yep, she does have some pretty manky blisters. She realises what her problem is and is now looking for things that might heal her heels.
Like Dorothy, your prospects in the consideration stage of the buyer's journey have clearly defined the problem and the issues surrounding it. They are now looking for more actionable information that in the awareness stage.
Your content in this stage should help people realise the potential solutions to their problem and show them clear steps to move forward.
When your prospects arrive at the decision stage, they have clearly defined the solution to their problem.
They are now ready to look at your product or service specific content. Your decision stage content should show how your product or service can best solve the problem - through case studies, testimonials, webinars and product demos.
Going back to our Wizard of Oz example, Dorothy now realises that she can do a range of things: get some tape, some special socks, a powder, some antiperspirant. After weighing up the options in relation to her context, she can make her decision.
Persona mapping and the b2b buyer
At all stages of the b2b buyer's journey, a business should then be thinking about how they can use content to help a customer establish their problem and provide them with the solution.
Your content is also going to be very different depending on who is reading it. An analyst will obviously need different content to her boss for example, because they have different parts to play in the decision-making process.
Persona mapping also acknowledges that these people are also fundamentally different. The analyst might be an information hound who likes to have really detailed content, whereas the CEO might be time-poor, but wants to keep informed about industry happenings.
One way to ensure that you are creating content for all your ideal personas is to create a grid. Using the HubSpot template as a guide, let’s use a fictional company, Emerald City Corporation to demonstrate:
You can then use this information to set up monthly metrics and create a report that looks at how well your content is going. The best way to do this is to set benchmarks for how many leads, marketing qualified leads and customers you would like every month, and compare your goals versus actuals. This exercise will help you to pinpoint where you need to be creating more content.
For example, if you’re getting less leads than you expected, you may need to think about creating more awareness content, or reviewing your existing content for relevance. It might even mean that your buyer personas aren’t as accurate as they need to be and you need to go and reevaluate them.
Content mapping is an involved, multi-faceted process. However it is a crucial step to ensure that your customers are skipping down the road that leads them to where they need to be.
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