How To Create Content For Every Stage Of The Buyer’s Journey

Click the “Content And The Buyer’s Journey” infographic below for a full-size downloadable PDF.

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Introduction to the Buyer’s Journey

Marketers use a term called “The Buyer’s Journey” as a way to visualize the decision-making process a customer goes through to make a purchase. The Buyer’s Journey is a powerful way to map out and plan marketing campaigns, sales funnels and content. This journey has three phases: “Know”, “Like” and “Trust”.

  • Know – Your customer needs to be aware you exist and what problem you solve
  • Like – They need to know why you’re different than everyone else that solves this problem
  • Trust – They need to know that the you’re a good fit for the problem they have, and that you can deliver the result they want.

Each phase requires you to overcome a certain set of challenges or obstacles in your reader’s mind to persuade them to move forward.

It’s crucial that you solve your customer’s problems with content before they buy from you. The content you create should carry people through each phase of the buyer’s journey and help them overcome the obstacles that keep them from buying from you.

It’s crucial that you solve your customer's problems with content before they buy from you. Click To Tweet

Many people try to create just one piece of content that carries people through all of these stages. But unfortunately things aren’t that simple. Depending on your product or service the buyer’s journey can take days, weeks or even months to go through. You need content that specifically addresses the unique needs of your audience at every stage of the journey.

A recent report from Buzzsumo which analyzed over 400,000 pieces of content, found that you need to leverage different kinds of content to achieve different kinds of goals.

“One of the key findings in our analysis of the most shared blog posts is that there is no significant correlation between shares and backlinks. The most shared content that we studied wasn’t more likely to be linked to – and content that was shared less often could still make a valuable contribution through being reference-able, and regularly linked to.”

This is incredibly important for creators to understand. Content that gets a lot of social shares is powerful for building awareness, but you also need meaty content that collects a lot of backlinks to help you through the “consideration” stage of the journey.

By understanding what part of the buyer’s journey your content is tailored to, you can guide your reader through the process seamlessly without their even realizing it. You can better support your other marketing and sales efforts like email automation, social media and paid traffic.

Know – Who Are You And What Problem Do You Solve?

At this stage, people probably aren’t even sure if the problem you solve is the most important one for them to work on right now. They probably have many options to choose from. This phase likely makes up about 80% of your audience, most are just looking for information and are likely to buy in 12+ months.

Content for the “know” phase should be shorter, and easy to consume. It’s meant to introduce you to your audience and create a good first-impression. There’s a tremendous amount of noise out there and people are short on time – even asking someone to watch a 5-minute video may be too much of a commitment at this point. You also want to avoid being too pushy with any product or service offers, they’re not ready to buy yet.

Content at this phase should be optimized for sharing. It should be filled with tweetable quotes, engaging images, and eye-catching headlines.

Key metrics to measure for this phase are traffic and social shares.

Types Of Content To Create To Get Your Audience To “Know” You:

Quick Tip Videos

Aim to solve a problem or add a small amount of value to people’s lives. It’s difficult to get people to commit to a video that’s longer than 60 seconds if they don’t know who you are. Remember that even if you’re giving away free content, time is still a precious resource that your audience could be using to watch cat videos. Keeping it short means they’re more likely to give you a chance and hear you out. If you focus on adding even a small amount of value in those first 60 seconds, your audience will be more open to digging deeper.

A good example of a quick tip video is – The Best Networking Advice Ever (30 seconds).

List Posts

List posts are one of the most popular types of content today. They’re relatively straightforward to create, easy to consume and give you lots of opportunities to collaborate. They are also easy to modify -you can always add more to a list, even after publishing it, or update it to keep it relevant in the long run.

List posts are usually composed of tips, tools or people. It’s important to give enough information and context for each item on your list for your reader to decide if it is relevant to them and if they want to learn more.

A big disadvantage with the list post archetype is that there is always a bit of an arms race with them. If you make a “10 best ways…” post, then someone else can easily come out with the same content, while perhaps adding a few other things to their own list.

There are two ways around this trap. The first is to choose a very unique angle for your list. Instead of making another “Top 10 ways to become a millionaire” post, try to add a twist specific to your audience, like “Top 10 ways to become a millionaire as a programmer”.

Secondly you can eliminate a lot of competition by going much deeper in your lists than most are willing to go. Anyone can make a “top 7” list, but few are willing to make a list of 50, 100 or even 500. Like what Man Vs. Weight did with the post “113 Killer Push Up Variations

A good example of a list post is The Top 10 Cryptocurrency Resources for Non-Technical People By Taylor Pearson.

Inspirationals

Content that’s inspirational and uplifting tends to be shared more on social media. This kind of content is powerful for communicating your values to your audience.

A good inspirational addresses a pain point your audience is experiencing and provides encouragement and inspiration that a better world is out there and that your reader can experience that world.

A good example of this is the “Holstee Manifesto

Interviews

Even if you’re a seasoned veteran in your industry, there’s always more to learn and topics you may be less experienced in. An interview brings fresh ideas and perspectives to your content that are important to you, but that you may not be an expert in. This is also one of the easiest ways to collaborate with and built rapport with other influencers in your industry.

To do a good interview, make sure you have done your research on the person you want to interview and have some interesting questions prepared to guide your conversation. Aim to have 4-8 questions prepared but don’t be afraid to follow the natural flow of the conversation.

When taking a recorded interview and turning it into written content, I prefer to write it up as if my interviewee was sharing this information directly with the audience. This makes the ideas easier to consume and read. Constantly quoting and citing someone can be distracting. Just make sure you give credit where credit is due and that the audience knows where the ideas are coming from.

It’s crucial in interview content to make sure your interviewee looks like a rockstar in the end product. Keep your focus on the interviewee and not yourself. They’re taking time out of their day to help you create content, and often they do this for free, so you want it to be valuable to them. This will also make it more likely that they will share this content with their own audience and help you promote it.

Of good example of this is 5 Steps To Great Brand Storytelling With Chris Smith.

Roundup Posts

A roundup post works similarly to a list, but is usually made up of a lot of micro interviews or curated content on a topic. If you have a good network or outreach strategy, roundups can be easy to create, because you get many different people to help you put it together. You also crowdsource content promotion – most of the people you mention in the roundup post will share it.

Roundup posts face a similar challenge to industry studies in that it can be a slow process to collect all the responses you want. Make it as easy as possible for the people you’re reaching out to to get their ideas to you. Be clear in your questions and expectations when you reach out, and if you already have some bigger names that have committed to the roundup, mention that in your outreach as an opportunity to be quoted alongside these other influencers.

Don’t just take a bunch of “naked quotes” and put them together in a post. Add value to the content by weaving a narrative in between all the different quotes to create a coherent message. As the curator of the content, it’s your job to help people find meaning and value by guiding them through the ideas.

A good example of a roundup is “The Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 Creating Life on Their Own Terms” on the Influencive blog.

Like – Why Are You Different Than Your Competition?

You want to present yourself as someone who can solve this problem and as a brand that resonates with your ideal customer. This phase will make up around 17% of your audience. People who are consuming this kind of content are comparing different products or services and are likely to buy in the next 30-90 days.

All content created for this phase should have strong keyword research. You want to capture the attention of people who are actively searching for solutions to your problem. People who are actively searching for a solution will be more likely to become a customer and engage with your content.

This stage is when your personal authenticity is crucial your audience will compare you to your competition and look for reason why to choose you above them. You want to appear as more than just someone who can solve their problem, but as someone who is likeable and unique.

You also want your audience to feel empowered to solve the problem. So you want to give them opportunities to take action and get some early wins so they feel encouraged to go deeper.

The key metrics for this phase are leads and backlinks.

Types Of Content To Get Your Audience To “Like” You:

High-value Ultimate Guides

This broadly and completely covers a topic. Ultimate guides are usually very well researched and can serve as a foundational piece of content for a subject you discuss on your blog. They should include many links so people can dig deeper into specific areas of interest within the subject.

These posts are popular because people don’t want to search for and piece together a bunch of disjointed information on a topic. Often they don’t even know what they need, so they could not search for it anyway. These posts also tend to do very well with search engines, which is good for traffic for you, and gives you a nice bargaining chip to offer a link to other influencers.

A good example of an Ultimate Guide is – The Ultimate Guide To Branding With Facebook Video

In-depth “System” Posts that Solve A Pain Point

The system outlines the specific processes needed to get a result. We only have so much “critical thinking” we can do in a day, and we’re often confronted with more problems than we can solve on our own. A step-by-step system takes all the guesswork out of the problem and provides a proven solution.

A good example of this is The Complete Guide To Kindle SEO by Tom Morkes.

Our Process Or System for X

This kind of content is very similar to a “system” post, but it pulls back the curtain on your business and outlines how you do something interesting, whether it’s how you solved a problem, your methods and results for an experiment, or even a detailed description of a day-to-day operation. It does not have to be a guide to solve the exact problem your service or product solves, but it should be something interesting for your audience. Posts like this not only add value to your audience by being instructional, but they are good for building trust with your audience because of how transparent you are.

There’s a big opportunity for content with data-driven companies that like to run a lot of experiments. You can use a split test on a landing page, comparing several tools, changing part of your service. Share your expectations before the experiment, include how you set it up, the results you got, what surprised you, and what you learned.

A good example of this is How We Increased Our Traffic by 12,024% with Zero Advertising by Alex Turnbull.

Personal Stories

There’s more ways to build connection with your audience than just discussing a business process or system. You can be transparent in many different ways. A good personal story describes how you overcame a challenge or problem that your audience also faces. Instead of being purely informative or educational, it’s meant to emotive and relatable.

Being vulnerable and sharing your personal story or experiences with the problems your business solves can help your audience know the person behind the brand. They want to learn from and buy from someone who has been in their shoes before and knows how they feel.

You can also discuss certain values that you hold in your business or life and how they have impacted your work.

A good example of a personal story is In Loving Memory & A Personal Message of Hope by Kim Doyal.

Transparency Reports

There are many ways you can approach transparency. Some will be better than others depending on how your business is structured.

There are many different ways to be transparent in your business. You can do a monthly report on certain metrics in your business and what you’re doing to influence them. You can pull back the curtain on your company values, or even how you’ve structured your business.

Here are a few of the items to cover and discuss in your reports:

  • Monthly revenue – How much revenue growth you experience and why.
  • Team – New hires, and any news or updates on how you work with your team.
  • Product – Measure your customer satisfaction each month and report that score. Report the total number of people you serve and how fast your response times are for customer support. Discussed anything around the process and systems you use to fulfill your product.
  • Traffic – Share updates on how much web traffic you’re receiving, where it was coming from and what pages people are viewing the most.
  • Content – An overview of all the content you publish during the month and a breakdown of its performance.

Some companies, like Baremetrics and Buffer, have real-time dashboards that display their revenue. In fact, Baremetrics has been a leader in the “Open Startup” movement and currently have a page on their site (https://baremetrics.com/open) with real-time stats of total customers and monthly revenue. Some even display more detailed stats such as churn rate.

A powerful example at the crossroads of transparency and culture is Automattic’s (the company behind WordPress) transparency report. Automattic and WordPress are built around open-source and transparent values. They periodically share the number of requests they receive from government agencies. These requests are often for information on users or to remove content they or their users have published.

The “Line In The Sand”

One truth you’ll want to accept in this process is: not everyone is going to like you. You should accept and anticipate this fact. If you want to create a strong positive connection with people, you’ll inevitably create the opposite as well. So, create something that makes a controversial statement and take a stand in your industry.

You could do this by killing a “sacred cow” – some idea or philosophy that’s popular in your industry, but that you disagree with.

Or, create an “us and them” mentality by outlining where you think most of your competitors are getting things wrong and then providing your response.

This content is often very difficult to create and frightening to publish, but the response you get from people will be well worth it.

A good example of this is the post “Is startup validation bullshit?

The Industry Study

People love good data and research that helps them make difficult decisions and get a baseline for how they measure up in their industry. People are always asking themselves questions like, “Would I be better off focusing on email marketing or social media as an ecommerce store owner?” but rarely have data to help them make that choice.

An industry study collects a lot of data on the industry you’re working in and provides insights based on that data. You can collect your own data through creating your survey or search for databases with the relevant information you need.

Industry studies are powerful when you have a large network or email list that would be willing to share data with you.

If your study is compelling, many people will link to it and reference you to support their own ideas. They also can often be broken down into lots of little bite-sized snippets for social media, like “64% of startups are using an editorial calendar to manage their content marketing.”

A disadvantage with content like this is that it can take a great deal of time to collect the data, especially if your survey is long. Try to make it as easy as possible for people to share their information, and don’t be afraid to send a couple of reminders if you don’t get responses right away.

A good example of this is the post “Content marketing, the most important startup growth channel [SURVEY RESULTS]” on the WP Curve blog.

Templates

Templates provide structure and frameworks that people can easily adapt to their own work. They’re designed to save your reader’s time and to remove a lot of the critical thinking required to solve a certain problem. Templates save your visitor from having to “reinvent the wheel.”

Templates work nicely with data. A spreadsheet with pre-filled formulas that someone can plug data into is a very useful tool. Most people are intimidated by numbers and spreadsheets; if you can give them something easy to work with, you’ll build their confidence and trust.

You can also create a template with scripts for emails, landing pages, webinars, and many other tools. Make it easy for readers to plug in their own information by adding prompts in parentheses or brackets.

A good example of various templates and scripts is The Story Engine Resources page.

Swipe Files

Swipe files work similarly to templates, but instead of providing a framework for people to plug their own information into, they provide some examples of what other people are doing well. This makes it easy to borrow and adapt best practices of others.

This is usually a collection of materials that people can use as a source of inspiration, reference and guidance. Instead of making them create something new, you help them borrow ideas from already successful work.

A good example of this is the AdEspresso Ads Library.

Checklists

Checklists are a favorite tool of pilots and doctors to ensure they don’t miss any critical details in their work. Although these people are professional and very experienced, they still use checklists to keep themselves consistent.

A checklist can make for a great lead magnet because it guides people through a process. A checklist breaks down a complicated task into easy steps. Checklists are most useful when outlining a process that has several steps. They can be used for something done once (setting up a wordpress site), or something that is done repeatedly (promoting a post on social media, or preparing for tax season).

A good example of a checklist is The ultimate content promotion checklist: 97 questions to optimize every aspect of your content marketing

Trust – Can You Deliver What Your Audience Wants?

At this point you’ve proven yourself to be competent and likeable to your audience, so from here you must convince them that you are a good fit for them and that working with you will be a good investment of their time, energy and money. This phase is by far the smallest segment of your audience, probably just 3%, but it’s also the most valuable segment because they’re ready to buy right now.

At this stage, you start to eliminate the “buyer and seller” dynamic between you and your customer and replace it with “a subject matter expert and interested party.” Your audience is more willing to share information about their business with you at this stage.

Also remember that “trust” does not stop after the sale – you must consistently maintain and build on the trust you develop with your audience even after they’ve become your customer. To do so, create things that will help your current customers be more successful as well and remind them how much value you add to their lives.

The key metric for this phase is sales and conversion rates.

Types Of Content To Get Your Audience To “Trust” You:

Customer Success Stories As A “How To” Post

A good customer success story can help your audience imagine themselves working with you and getting the same results you got for the customer you’re featuring. By framing the post as a “how to” and featuring your customer as the hero, you avoid appearing self-promotional and keep the focus on the customer.

A good example of this is How Jarrod Robinson grew The PE Geek from 0 to 350 paying subscription members using automated webinars.

ROI Calculator

Once a reader sees you as legitimate and competent, they’ll start to wonder what kind of “Return On Investment” (ROI) they can get from you. Depending on your business and what you provide, you may be able to provide a rough estimate on what kind of ROI you can provide. These can be a simple as a few numbers entered into a calculator, or a long form survey that analyzes every aspect of someone’s business.

For example, if you help people build online courses, you could collect information like the estimated price of the course, list size, conversion rates, past customers, current revenue, experience on the topic they’re teaching, and budget. Then, you can calculate an estimate of how valuable a course could be for them.

You can also use a “reverse ROI calculator” to determine what the cost of not working with you will be.

For example, you could teach productivity and calculate a customer’s hourly rate (how much is an hour of their time worth to them?), then multiply it by their estimate of how many hours a day they spend being distracted, then multiply that by 365, and come up with an estimate of how much “poor productivity” is costing them.

A good example of this is the The 7 Minute Online Course Success Calculator.

The DIY Guide To Get The Solution You Provide

People are often afraid to disclose an entire process or system that gets the results for their customers. But content a good DIY guide can heavily influence a buying decision. A good DIY guide outlines how you get results for your customers, and allows someone to follow that process to get the same results on their own.

Remember that, even though your customers are probably “able” to implement everything you outline in this guide, they probably don’t have the time or the capacity to do it. Your DIY guide is likely to provoke one of two thoughts in your audience:

  • Wow, this is great, but it seems like a lot of work! I’ll just hire you to do this for me.
  • Wow, you really know what you’re doing! I trust you to handle this for me.

A good example of a DIY guide is Unstoppable outreach strategies that cut through the noise. The unstoppable stage campaign lead magnet linked to in this post is an even better example of how this can work.

Deep Dive Webinar

A deep dive webinar is an extended presentation where you tackle a subject while engaging and interacting with a live audience. A good webinar not only delivers good content, but also incorporates elements of your own story and entertaining information to make it an engaging experience. Often, these webinars come with a “workbook” that your audience can print or work with during the webinar.

Webinars are powerful because they allow you to capture the attention of your audience for an uninterrupted 40-60 minutes. Most other types of content usually only get attention for 1-10 minutes, and are often just one of dozens of tabs open in your audience’s browser.

This extra time allows you to bake a lot of critical trust elements right into your presentation, like:

  • Clear messaging – Ensure that the solution you provide is exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Social proof – Show that you are competent and experienced and have solved this problem many times before.
  • Risk reversal – That whatever your audience needs to commit to solve this problem with you (money, time, attention) will be a good investment.

This extended period of time hearing your voice, seeing your face, listening to your stories and taking in your information will build a powerful personal connection and trust with your audience if done well. As you add value with good content and information, you’ll earn the permission of your audience to sell your product or service to them.

Conclusion

Hopefully now you’ve gotten some good ideas for how to build out content that carries your audience through the “Buyer’s Journey” and helps them make the decision to work with you.

How to create content that carries your audience through “ The Buyer’s Journey” #buyersjourney. Click To Tweet

Remember that although the The Buyer’s Jounrey is simple enough to sum up in three words, the real world is never so clear and simple. Customers jump back and forth between phases as their own situations change, and no two journeys are alike, but if you can understand the common challenges and questions that a prospect will ask at each phase, you’ll always have something relevant to share with them.

For anyone just starting out with content, a natural question at this point is.

How many pieces of content do I need to make?

In the world of entrepreneurs and startups, you’ll often hear people mention an acronym when talking about creating something new: “MVP”. It does not mean “most valuable player,” like in the sports world, but it is equally desired and obsessed over. It’s a “Minimum Viable Product,” which means a product in its simplest and most bare-bones form, yet still complete enough to put on the market and start selling. It’s usually just got one simple feature that solves a clear problem, but is rough on design and sparse on any other features.

The minimum viable product is so valuable because it allows you to enter the market and start learning from your customers. Then you can guide the rest of your product development through customer feedback and real-world information, instead of guesswork and research. It saves you from risking thousands of dollars and many hours spent developing a product that people don’t end up wanting.

When it comes to content marketing, entrepreneurs and startups run a similar risk of investing a tremendous amount of time and money into content before they see any results. We can borrow from the MVP strategy and apply the same ideas to our content marketing. We can create a “Minimum Viable Blog” or MVB.

A Minimum Viable Blog is the least amount of content necessary for your audience to know, like and trust you.

Want help building out your own MVB? Download the Minimum Viable Blog Cheatsheet with winning recipes to help you plan out content and tell your story in a way that connects with the hearts and minds of your audience.

 

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  • This is a very comprehensive and useful guide – thanks for putting this together Kyle!

    • Thanks Meryl! I’m glad you caught that link! That was the surprise I mentioned in the email the other day. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Holy moly Kyle!
    This is such an in-depth post. One of my favorite types of posts is/are the customer success stories. It makes it so much easier for the reader to see how they can go from where they are to the end goal by seeing that someone else (besides the author), did it.
    Thanks again, I’ll be bookmarking this 🙂

    • Your awesome Kim! I’m honored that you enjoyed the post and got good value out of it. I agree on the customer success stories. It’s one piece of content I see many people get wrong because they try to point to themselves instead of the customer in the story and come off as “salesy” or “pushy”.

  • Grant Weherley

    Thanks so much for mentioning us Kyle! Awesome post!

    • Thanks for checking it out and creating amazing work Grant!

  • Hey Kyle, amazing post. Content master that you are. 🙂 I’m digging the new site too! Nice work!

  • Pingback: Brand New Content #18: De marketeer van de toekomst, het Playboy logo en productiever werken met de Mac - Brand New Journey()

  • Chris Stanley

    Another amazing post. I’m intrigued with the strategy of making this thr call to action on the home page. Very powerful post to drive people to proving to them you are an authority. Nicely done