When you think of content, your first association might be with items such as a proposal, ad, brochure, rack card, marketing kit, email campaign, stationary, blog post or newsletter. Most of this content is entirely focused on being promotional and awareness pieces.
But in reality, content can be used effectively throughout the customer journey. It’s not only a tool to reach prospective clients; it can also keep those you’ve already built know, like and trust with around for years to come.
I’ve talked a lot in the past about the customer journey, and while you’re adapting that approach to your business, you can incorporate content into each of the five key stages along the way.
Creating Content to Generate Awareness
Before you can tell someone how unique you, your product or service is, and how it will serve their specific needs, they will first need to become aware of your brand.
This type of content is the initial introduction of your company, and as the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Go above and beyond in this awareness phase and show you’ve done your homework and know who your ideal client is by speaking directly to them and showing you understand their wants, problems, and needs.
Be very selective in your marketing messaging here so articles, networking, advertising, public relations, social media, sales and even referrals do well here.
Awareness can be built through:
- Blogs, articles or infographics published on your site and third-party media outlets
- Testimonials from happy customers
- Reviews on sites like Facebook, Google, and Yelp
- Advertising that draws attention to your educational content
The key to creating awareness content is knowing and understanding your current clients. The more insight you have on them and their habits, the more likely you are to be able to create the right content, for the right people, at the right time.
Creating Content to Educate
Once someone becomes aware of your company, they move a bit further along the customer journey to the educate stage. Here, you’ll want your content efforts to help users build confidence in what your services can do, and give them an opportunity to learn more about your unique approach, your solution, your story and your organization. And if you don’t give them a something, you’ll get compared on price.
At this stage you need to you need to educate those prospects that want to learn more:
- eBook — not boring, dry technical stuff, your best insight over all the other typical information
- Newsletter — Weekly or monthly education that nurtures their interest
- Presentation — in person or online, these allow prospects to learn as well as engage
- FAQs — some people just need the answers to their questions and this format serves well
- Case Studies — some people just need see that others have had similar situations and got the result they desired
People want to be educated not sold. They will sell themselves if you just commit to educating.
A key part of prospect education in your business is seeing social media participation, reviews, success stories, and customer testimonials. The mere social proof effect in psychology says that group thinking effects individual actions. Third party proof across various channels (both on- and offline) will help to keep your brand trusted and an obvious choice.
Creating Content to Represent a Sample Offering
Congratulations! Your earlier content efforts were successful, and you’ve now gained highly interested prospect. But your work is far from over—now your focus needs to be on helping the prospect get a tangible understanding of what they’re potentially buying.
No one gets married without first going on many dates. During this phase, you must create a way for prospects to sample your business, expertise, product, etc.
Now that prospects are wondering how your solution might work for them it’s time to demonstrate to them with downloadable documents, galleries, reports, ebooks, webinars and very detailed how-to information. You might also have an assessment, audit, seminar, evaluation, trial version or low-cost offer here.
- Cheat sheets
- Working Sessions
The key here is to give them the opportunity to see your service/product in action very early on. Your job here is to essentially replicate the conditions of experiencing the full service or product in action.
You’ve done all this work generating awareness and educating now show your prospect in the form of content a very tangible representation of the end result.
Creating Content to Rev Up the Purchase Experience
For this stage, the focus is on educating and keeping the experience high but from the standpoint of a new customer. How you orient your customer with your business once they say “yes” is a customer journey touch point that is often overlooked, but shouldn’t be.
Think about what your customers now have access to when they say, “yes” in the form of content, resources, training, personnel, time, reviews, updates and events.
- New customer kit
- Access to “behind the scenes” content
- Quick start guide
- User manuals
- Result worksheets
One of the most important things for creating happy customers is setting expectations and orientating customers through content. You’ve worked so hard to get in front of these customers and to win their trust, so you want to continue to hammer home your value.
Creating Content to Generate Referrals
The customer journey is ultimately about referrals – happy customers. Generating referrals boils down to developing a formalized process. It’s important for you to systematically and automatically integrate referral content into the everyday interactions with prospects and customers.
- Gift certificates
- Referral video
- Lunch and learn presentation
- Collaborative presentation with a strategic partner
- Business cards with a referral offer
Today content is the new referral, and it comes from someone who hasn’t used your services.
Perhaps they heard you speak, downloaded your eBook, tuned into a podcast interview, thumbed through your presentation slides, read your article, or follow you on LinkedIn. They’ve personally sampled and experienced your expertise, and when given the chance to recommend a solution or service, they automatically think of you.
So a steady stream of content can not only lead to direct opportunities, but can create additional referrals along the way. Any business owner that wants to get referred online or offline and ultimately generate business by way of referral, needs to get serious and strategic about creating content.
Content can be a powerful way to reach your customers and prospects alike. Content can be seen by and have an influence on people no matter where they are in the customer journey. Identifying the proper audience for your content efforts, creating a consistent content that educates, and staying top of mind with both prospects and current clients will ensure that you get the most out of your content.