Bonus Material: Free Content Strategy Worksheet
Have you ever seen something very expensive in the window of a shop that you just had to have, and then purchased it immediately?
Chances are, if you are like most people, that you’ve never done that.
And there’s a good reason behind that.
Hubspot was one of the first companies that talked about the digital Buyer’s Journey.
The series of steps and mental states someone goes through before becoming a customer of a company.
What we know for sure, is that the Buyer’s Journey is a messy process.
You could say it looks like a tangled pair of smartphone headphones.
Customers don’t just buy the first product they come across.
They do research, they read reviews, they go through your competitor’s website.
And then, at some point, they make a buying decision.
We know that 81% of shoppers research their products online before purchasing [source]. They also tend to interact with a business on average between 8-11 times through different touchpoints before purchasing.
The only thing, then, that can influence this decision, is the content they consume along the way.
This content can have many forms and live on different platforms.
It is our job as Content Marketers and Marketing professionals to understand this journey, and create the right content for each step.
Here’s what we’re going to go through:
Consumers Control The Journey
It used to be that the strongest person in the Client – Business relationship was the sales guy (or gal). And for good reason.
They had all the information regarding the product/service on sale, and they also controlled. pricing. The customer had to go through them for product “education”.
As the digital era became more prevalent, and businesses started creating an online presence to showcase their products and educate their clients, more and more content regarding these products started becoming publicly available.
The business that had the most content available for its products and services was considered to have a competitive advantage over its competitors.
The reason is that people tend to buy from the company that they trust and know most about.
Like the CEO of Kleenex said, Content marketing is when you’re both selling toilet paper. But you get the sale because you put step-by-step instructions on “the best way to wipe your bum” on the back of the pack.
Nowadays, the online presence of a business has become so chaotic and complex, that people can find content on Social Media, Search engines, websites, blogs, other websites, communities, etc.
This means that a Content Strategy needs to include more than just your blog posting schedule.
So let’s dive deeper into understanding the Buyer’s Journey, and the types of content that best fit each stage.
The Buyer’s Journey
The Buyer’s Journey consists of 3 steps.
1. Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they have a problem.
2. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and looks for options to solve it.
3. Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.
The Buyer’s Journey essentially is the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider, and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.
How does the Buyer’s Journey affect us as Marketers?
At each stage of the process, the buyer expresses a different behavior, has different research needs, and thus makes different “questions” about the solutions, uses different sources of information, and is susceptible to different content formats and knowledge.
By understanding the questions going through the Buyers’ heads, and putting the right information, in the right format, from the right channel in front of them, we can influence their buying decision.
The Awareness Stage
In the Awareness stage, users have realized and expressed symptoms of a potential problem or opportunity. (e.g. I need to take care of my beard more). This is the beginning of our Buyer’s Journey.
During this stage, our buyers focus on consuming brand-neutral 3rd party information around identifying problems or symptoms and are not informed enough to choose between different products or make a decision. This is why presenting a cold, solution-unaware audience with sales-oriented ads, offers or product-focused content doesn’t work.
The main thing on our customer’s head is “I have this symptom” or “I’m facing this problem”.
The Consideration Stage
During the Consideration stage, buyers have clearly defined the goal or challenge. They evaluate the different approaches or methods to pursue their goal or solve their problem.
They aim to understand all of the available approaches and methods of solving their defined problem or opportunity. The main question our customers are trying to answer is “What types of solutions are available for my problem?”
The Decision Stage
After they have gone through the different types or categories of solutions available to solve their problem, users are now looking into different products and companies, comparing and evaluating them till they can make the final decision, while also looking for offers and other opportunities.
Their research is now focused on support documentation, data, benchmarks, reviews, and endorsements, to make or recommend a final decision. The question now becomes “Which one of the available products would work best for me?”
So we see that the customer starts with a specific problem, then looks for the different types of solutions available, and then decides between products that can solve their problem.
The more impactful or expensive the decision is, the longer our potential customer or their team, in the case of B2B Marketing, has to take during each step to make sure they’re moving in the right direction.
The Content Stages
All of this makes for 3 distinct content stages across the Buyer’s Journey that we have to create and distribute content for, to successfully influence our buyers to lean towards our type of solution and product.
The most successful brands are the ones who achieve the right balance between Awareness (top of funnel), Consideration, (middle of funnel), and Conversion (bottom of funnel) content and Marketing, making for a smooth buying experience.
What content should we create for each step in the Buyer’s Journey?
During the Awareness stage, the user is looking to learn more about the problem they’ve identified, so Long-form informational blog posts answering “how-to” queries usually work best here. The standard length for these articles can well be 3,500 – 5,000 words.
Awareness Content Examples:
– How to grow a thick beard fast
– Why content strategy is important
– How to optimize your website for conversion
In the Consideration stage, the user is looking for different solutions.
From a Marketing standpoint, we want to provide them with a guide towards selecting the right type of solution for their problem.
At the same time, as Marketers, we want to turn users who previously engaged with our educational content into leads, so we can nurture them further and turn them into customers.
Lead generation quizzes, Content upgrades, and Email nurturing content work best here.
The trick is that this type of content doesn’t need to be widely discoverable on the web.
We want users to “self-select” themselves by reading our Awareness content, and then to take the next step by converting through our Consideration stage content.
Consideration Content Examples:
– Find your Beard Style with this quiz!
– Is UX Design the right profession for you?
– How much would it cost to build your mobile app?
– What’s the best Tesla model for you?
Apart from the Lead Magnets, you also need an Email Lead nurturing sequence that takes the recently created leads and warms them up.
Your Lead nurturing flow should follow an Awareness ⟶ Consideration ⟶ Conversion pattern, guiding users who engage down the funnel towards the Conversion stage.
Here’s a tiered content approach to Email nurturing:
– Top of funnel email content: with helpful informational content (e.g. What is a Landing Page? / We analyzed the 100 Top Ranking Articles on Google)
– Middle of funnel email content: that goes deeper into the top of funnel content, with testimonials and case studies (e.g. _How We Sold 10,000 Copies of Our Ebook Using an Instapage Landing Page_).
– Bottom of funnel email content: inviting users to a get started webinar, a free trial, or a discount offer.
In the Decision stage, the user knows about the different solution types and are actively comparing products and brands. They are looking for discount coupons, reviews, testimonials, free shipping offers, User-Generated-Content (UGC), bundle discounts, and social proof so this is exactly the kind of content we need to be offering them.
Sales ads and product promos are most effective during this stage, as the user is highly informed and will respond positively to our product promotion.
Decision Content Examples
– Try a full month of Lumin for FREE
– Enter your email for a 10% discount
– Beardbrand beard polish reviews
– Starbucks pumpkin spice latte promo
– Pipedrive 14-day free trial
Each step in the Buyer’s Journey is different because we also need to focus on different channels and traffic sources.
– Google Search (informational / educational queries / e.g. “how to grow a beard”)
– Facebook Cold Audience Ads (boosting your long-form content)
– Relevant communities (promoting our long-form content)
– Google Search (solution-oriented queries / e.g. “beard oil vs beard balm”)
– Facebook Retargeting Ads (boosting quizzes & product comparison guides to the audience that consumed our long-form content)
– Blog and website pop-ups and Lead generation mechanisms
– Email list (nurturing sequence)
– Google Search Ads (keywords with purchase intent / e.g. “buy online”)
– Review websites (Trustpilot, Capterra, G2, Yelp, Google reviews, Amazon reviews)
– Facebook Retargeting Ads (selling our products targeting our website and blog traffic)
– Email list (sales sequence)
What is the baseline for the different content formats and content for every stage of the Buyer’s Journey that you need?
Start with 15 articles on different topics and questions that your audience is interested in.
How to discover the best content to write for.
You need to create content that:
– Ranks on Google
– Becomes viral on Social Media
– Attracts backlinks from other websites
Look for brands similar to yours, both direct and indirect competitors who publish content on similar topics to the ones you want to rank for.
Analyze the content they create and produce better content or write with a unique twist on the subject matter (e.g. research you might have done, better visual content, use of video inside the article, etc.).
– Ahrefs: discover what kind of content attracts backlinks and ranks well on Google
– Answerthepublic: find the questions people are asking about specific topics
– BuzzSumo: identifying the most viral content topics and formats on Social Media
– Keywords Everywhere: adding keyword recommendations alongside the Google Search results
– SEMRush: additional search data regarding which content topics to write for
– Spyfu: copywriting examples and target keywords from your competitors’ Google Ads campaigns
You need 5 Lead Magnets, whether it’s a quiz, calculator, content upgrade on an article, self-assessment, or anything that makes the traffic you have acquired on the previous step convert into subscribers on your list.
The key is that your Lead generation content needs to be aligned or as similar as possible to your educational content so that users who consume the first are also eager to follow through and engage with the second type of content.
As an example, if you write an in-depth, educational article about Email Marketing, your Consideration content could be “10 Email templates to drive sales”.
Lead generation tools
– Convertflow: create pop-ups and messages across your website and blog
– ActiveCampaign: store your leads and nurture them with personalized email sequences
– Demio: host live and evergreen webinars to capture leads while educating them further
– Typeform: build assessments, forms, and questionnaires
– Outgrow: build calculators, chatbots, giveaways, and recommendation systems
You need 3 Offers or different sales angles to get your subscribers to convert to paying customers. Most businesses create a single pitch for each product, push it to market, and stick to it. They might change their Marketing copy and message, but the offering remains mostly the same.
What if instead of a one-off purchase of a product, you offered a subscription?
Or a free month of a product for free to get users to try it out, get hooked, and keep using it.
– Yotpo: collect and display UGC and product feeds
– ProveSource: display social proof notifications and informational messages
– Trustpilot: collect and display reviews from users
– Thrivecart: create checkout pages effortlessly to experiment with different offers
– Convertflow: display personalized offers to website visitors and blog readers
So to recap, you need to put together the following content assets:
x15 Long-form informational articles
x5 Lead Magnets related to the article topics
x3 Offers and different product pitches
Equally important to putting your content assets together, is promoting your content as part of your Content Strategy, to make sure you are reaching the right audience each time.
The promotion channels you use each time will be determined by the step of the funnel and the content you have put together. Another thing to have in mind is that as people go through the Buyer’s Journey, their awareness of specific brands and products increases.
As this happens, they will be interacting with you through different channels and be more eager to provide you their contact details and become MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) and SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads).
This is why telling a coherent story across the Buyer’s Journey is one of the most critical things a modern Marketer needs to be involved in.
Awareness Content Hack
Leverage Facebook Ads to drive cold traffic to your articles.
People who engage with your content (e.g. spend more than 1’ on the article page, scroll through the entire article) are likely to be part of your target audience.
A percentage of your traffic to the article or piece of content is going to convert into subscribers and paying customers immediately.
As everyone uses Facebook Ads to run sales ads, with low quality, non-educational content, the advertisers who promote their content are seeing an incredible low CPC, as this type of educational content is much more interesting to users overall.
So even though you might think that adding an extra step in your Paid Advertising efforts is going to cost you more in the end, your CPA is going to be much lower, as users are already educated about what you offer, offsetting the additional cost from your Awareness campaigns.
Also, by nurturing the leads that you acquire using an Email flow, you can take full advantage of your advertising budget by following up through a non-paid channel.
Consideration Content Hack
Retarget the people who visited your website but didn’t convert with Facebook Ads and offer them your Lead Magnets, to get a steady lead flow coming.
The trick here is to only add to your Facebook Ads targeting the people who spent more than 1-2 minutes on your website, as these are the users who have truly engaged with your content.
Conversion Content Hack
Use Facebook Lookalike Audiences to target people similar to those who have purchased or started a subscription with you. If you don’t have enough customers already to create a Lookalike Audience, you can use your email list as the base audience.
This gives Facebook the ability to select users from its database that match a similar behavior to your existing audience and brings the most targeted traffic to your website, with high chances of making a sale.
⚡Positioning hack: Analyze the negative reviews of your competitors. Identify the troubling or faulty aspects of their products that users are complaining about. Turn them into benefits for your products and use them in your ads across Facebook, Google, and all other channels.
[BONUS] Content Strategy Worksheet
To define your Buyer’s Journey steps and plan your content accordingly, you can use the Content Strategy worksheet. Here’s a template I put together based on Hubspot’s definitions and additional personal research.
You can access it here.
Conclusion & Next steps
What this all works towards is ensuring that you’re creating content that people want to see, and feeding it to them at the right moment as opposed to blasting everyone with the same type of content, or ad, or sticking to one content format without clearly understanding why.
Creating content for the entire Buyer’s Journey, and approaching your campaigns across all channels from the customer’s perspective, will allow you to offer users a smoother Customer Experience from the first to the last touchpoint they have with your brand.
Ready to get started?
Download the Content Strategy Worksheet here, fill out your different Journey stages, and start producing content that drives sales.