Part 1 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey
B2B content marketing seeks to provide helpful and compelling content for each stage of the Buyer’s Journey. By thinking about what actions a buyer is taking in each stage, B2B marketers should provide content that educates. Your content should help the buyer progress to the next stage in the Buyer’s Journey and toward your product or service.
In a three-part blog series, I address the primary challenges B2B content marketers face during each buyer’s journey stage and provide tips for how to conquer these challenges. So let’s jump in!
Review of the buyer’s journey
First, a quick review of the buyer’s journey which defines the typical actions and steps a prospective buyer takes. The buyer starts by first understanding their problem to finally purchasing a solution. By defining specific phases or stages along the journey, we can better understand what information the buyer needs in each stage. There are many different buyer’s journey concepts available, some more granular than others. I prefer HubSpot’s Buyers Journey, shown in the graphic below, because it is easy to understand and more than adequate for content marketing purposes.
The entire journey has only three stages, Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. In this blog, Part 1 of 3, I discuss the Awareness stage.
Awareness stage buyer activities
During the Awareness stage, the buyer is just becoming aware there is a problem that may need to be solved. Or they may be discovering an opportunity for improvement. The buyer is typically researching online and offline to better understand if they have a problem, or opportunity, that warrants further investigation. They are looking for trustworthy educational content. This is content that is not trying to sell. It is content that helps them more clearly define their problem or opportunity. The goal for a content marketer during the Awareness stage is to gain the buyer’s attention. The successful content marketer does this by offering educational and helpful content in the places where the buyer is looking and researching.
Top 2 content marketing challenges in Awareness stage
Assuming you know and have defined your target Personas (read my post, B2B Buyer Personas: 6 Easy Ways to Research & Develop, if you need help creating Personas) and have compelling content appropriate for the Awareness stage, your top 2 challenges for content marketing then are: gaining attention and being where the buyer is.
1. Gaining attention – Gaining the attention of your prospective buyer is a top challenge for two reasons:
- First, B2B buying is a “team sport” — CEB’s research shows that an average of 4 people are involved in B2B buying decisions. However, trying to provide content for 5 or more personas is beyond most B2B marketing team’s resources.
Understand who is most active during the awareness stage so you can focus your content on only a few Personas. During the awareness stage your primary target should be the influencer. The influencer is often the technical designer/developer asked to investigate problems/opportunities or the user who experiences a problem firsthand. A secondary target should be the decision maker. This persona is recognizing there’s a problem or opportunity, but is not sure it’s worth solving. Offer educational content for the Personas in these buying roles and keep the branding and selling minimal if at all.
- The second aspect of this challenge is information overload. In our always-on culture information is right at our fingertips, eyes and ears with news, social media, email, and marketing messages constantly vying for our attention. However, each of us has a limited amount of attention to devote to seeking out and sifting through all of this information. This is why we’ve seen the advent of ad-blocking software, news and other content aggregator sites. According to a 2015 survey by Microsoft, average consumer attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds to just 8 seconds since 2000. So attention becomes a limiting factor for consuming content. (If you are interested in learning more, read The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business by Davenport and Beck.)
Treat attention as a finite resource, especially during the Awareness stage. Respect your Persona’s attention by helping them conserve attention.
Provide helpful and concise information. For example, break topics into more bite size chunks with links to more in-depth information. Incorporate easily digestible visuals to more quickly convey information and hold attention such as graphical charts and diagrams and infographics.
2. Be where the buyer is – To be where the buyer is means using a multichannel, online and offline, content marketing approach. Again, this is a challenge due to the limited resources most B2B marketing teams have. Never mind the proliferation of channels available, especially online. It’s simply too costly and time consuming to be “everywhere”. In addition, it’s hard to know which channels are most important for your target personas.
Focus first on being found online via SEO since everyone googles. Then focus on a few primary online channels/websites and offline via a few primary conferences and trade shows. Understand where your technical influencer/user and decision maker Personas go during the Awareness stage to get information. Where do they go and what do they read to stay informed about industry trends and new technologies? Then do everything you can (keywords, offer helpful content, conference presentations, etc.) to be found in these places.
Some prospect/customer interviews and testing may be in order to determine the best channels. However, keep in mind that your Personas, especially for certain B2B industries, may not use online social sites such as LinkedIn (except when looking for a new job) or Twitter. Instead, they may focus on trade association and industry trade journal websites and forums. In fact, a significant portion of their attention may be on offline channels — print was reported as the third most important content distribution channel used by 58% of B2B marketers, ahead of YouTube, Twitter and other online channels according to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report from the Content Marketing Institute.
From awareness to consideration
In the Awareness stage your goal as a B2B content marketer is to gain the buyer’s attention by offering educational and trustworthy content in the places where the buyer is looking and researching. By focusing on a few key Personas most active during the Awareness stage, helping them conserve attention, and being found in places they already give their attention, you can successfully convert more buyers during the Awareness stage of the Buyer’s Journey to the Consideration stage, which I’ll discuss in my next blog – Part 2: Challenges in the Consideration Stage: 6 Tips for Conquering.
How does your content conserve the reader’s attention? What have you done to determine the best channels for your Personas during the Awareness stage? I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas!