Tell me, what makes a great content strategy?
Gosh, it’s obvious – content, du-uh!
Well, yes but ..… no. I mean that too but it’s not the heart of it.
Diversity of content types then? Ummm, nope, no, uh-uh.
Frequency of posting? (Shaking his head) .. close but wrong again.
What the -?!
Well, let’s get back to the beginning then. Every time someone lands on your site, they aren’t necessarily looking to buy. But I know you may think otherwise. And create content with this in mind.
Your visitors however might be as far from purchase as it’s possible.
Yet they still search for content
And a great content strategy is one that realises it and satisfies their all other intents.
To understand this better, let’s examine how a typical buying process a customer goes through looks like.
Leaving impulse purchases aside, most people go through a lengthy process when choosing and purchasing products or services. It varies from person to person but in general we can distinguish its 5 main stages:
Stage 1 – Identifying the Need
At this point, a customer realises that he or she has a need or a problem that needs solving. They may have noticed the problem themselves or there was a trigger event that highlighted it. All in all, at this stage, these people aren’t ready to evaluate any solutions and their main focus is on the problem at hand.
Stage 2 – Information and Research
With a problem identified, the customer begins to uncover all of its aspects and begins to look for information to help them solve it. At this stage they might also start analysing what possible solutions to a problem exist. This is also the stage when they begin to pay attention to products they might have to purchase.
Stage 3 – Product Evaluation
At this stage, the customer knows everything about the problem and has a fair idea about solutions available. She is now ready to start evaluating those. This is a stage when your offering is being compared with those of your competition.
Stage 4 – Purchase
As the name suggests, having evaluated all alternatives, the customer makes a final buying decision. But even though the sale is completed, this stage does not conclude the buying process. The one final step is:
Stage 5 – Evaluation and Support
A highly critical step in the process. First of all, many customers experience what’s know as buyer remorse, a regret of having made the purchase. Others might need help and support with using a product. And how a company reacts to both issues might prevent customers from returning the item or having a bad post sales experience.
The buying process affects your content
Various stages of this process relate to what’s known as buyer intents – intentions your customers might have for seeking out information. You should be targeting all three of them in your content strategy:
Intent to Learn
This intent corresponds with the first two stages of the buying cycle. Customers with intent to learn haven’t fully realised the extent of their problem or might not even be completely aware of it.
Therefore their intention to hear about products and solutions is very low. Instead, they are more interested in finding out about their problem, it’s causes and the extent of it. Your task when creating content for that group then is not to sell but to help them understand it and present yourself as someone who might have the knowledge they need.
TIP: When creating content for this group, consider replacing your traditional Calls to Action pointing to your solution with ones inviting them to gain more knowledge on a subject (ebooks, whitepapers etc.). Remember, these people the most willing to sign up for your mailing list in exchange for information they seek (and the most possible to nurture into becoming leads later on).
Intent to Compare
The second intent relates to the third stage of the buying cycle – product evaluation.
Customers with this intent know the full extent of their problem and are focused on figuring out a solution. They slowly enter a buying mood but they are very cautious, comparing the alternatives available to them.
Your biggest challenge when creating content for this group is to highlight the benefits of your product but without being too pushy on sales. You are communicating with people who seek solutions but are also very wary about who they are going to buy from.
TIP: The best way to communicate with this group is through videos presenting your product in action, customer success stories, presentations, demos and anything else that presents it in a favourable light.
Intent to Buy
Having evaluated all alternatives, a customer finally intents to buy a product. Customers with this intent ignore most of content, perceiving it as a roadblock to complete the sale.
That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any on their path though. Product, sales or landing pages should help them gain the ownership of a product as fast as possible while any other content, unless it aids in a purchasing process should be moved out of the way.
How to make the most of buyer intents in content strategy
Clearly indicate the intent you target in the headline – Much has been said about writing headlines. It is very rare however to hear about how they should target different buyer intents.
A headline is your chance to communicate what intent a particular piece of content targets. Thanks to this, your readers can quickly identify if this particular article or a video is for them.
Exhaust all information to satisfy the visitors intent – One of the reasons why long form content works for certain post types is that simply exhausts the visitors need for information. They simply don’t need to go and seek for more. That’s why extensive guides, how to’s etc. work so well.
Understand and tackle how users with various intents search for content – How users arrive at your site can reveal a lot about their intent. You can use this information to create and target content specifically at each of the intents.
Customers with intent to learn will search for generic terms. Very rarely their search will be related any specific product. If any, they might search for a product class or category. Most of the time however they will be looking for generic information.
Searches with intent to compare will search specific products or solutions and often use words like “compare”, “benefits”, “best”, “reviews” etc. in their search query.
People who are ready to buy will simply seek a specific solution and ignore any other information. At this stage they are determined to own the product and need to find where to get it.
Give your readers what they want
Your visitors want something, that’s an undeniable fact. Some want to learn, others find out more about what you sell while that smallest group has their credit cards in hand already. Your task when devising a content strategy then should be to satisfy all three groups. Full stop.