In the past, marketers and salespeople focused on advertising and cold calls over inbound marketing and content creation. That has changed as buyers have become more empowered in the Information Age. They can use a search engine to perform thorough research before making a purchasing decision — and that’s exactly what they do.
According to Pardot, 72% of buyers will start their research with Google when they’re faced with a problem or particular pain point. In addition, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer reaches out to a salesperson. All that time is spent researching and discovering relevant content that will help them make their decision.
Though content is crucial at every stage of the buyer’s journey, content for the awareness stage is arguably the most important. If you aren’t producing valuable top-of-the-funnel content to attract buyers, then you have zero chance of selling to them.
Defining the Buyer’s Journey
According to Hubspot, the buyer’s journey is the process that buyers go through to gain awareness about, consider and decide if they want to purchase a new product or service. There are three stages of the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness: The buyer realizes they have an issue that needs to be resolved.
- Consideration: The buyer identifies problem and begins researching options to solve it.
- Decision: The buyer decides to make a purchase to solve the problem.
To determine what buyers are looking for in the awareness stage, ask yourself such questions as, “How do buyers describe their goals or challenges?” and “How do buyers educate themselves on these goals or challenges?”
For the consideration stage, ask, “What categories of solutions do buyers investigate?”, “How do buyers educate themselves on the various categories?” and “How do buyers decide which category is right for them?”
Finally, for the decision stage, determine what criteria buyers use to evaluate the available offerings, what buyers like about your product or service compared to others, who will be involved in the decision to purchase and whether buyers want to try your product or service before purchasing it.
Remember: One size does not fit all with your buyer’s journey. You should always reference your buyer personas, then create content specific to their journey. One buyer’s concerns may not match up with another’s, so always tailor your content and offers to the specific audience you’re attempting to reach.
Content for the Awareness Stage of the Buyer’s Journey
Awareness-stage content must be educational and compelling enough for the buyer to want to continue on through the journey with you. When they find your content, it has to convince them that you’re knowledgeable about their problem/pain point, and you can help them solve it.
Since buyers will most likely use a search engine to discover your content, you need to make sure that they can easily find it. This includes incorporating relevant keywords with interesting page titles that make them want to click. Instead of trying to sell to them, focus on educating them. Don’t include sales pitches; save that for later, when they’re in the decision stage.
When you’re ready to start creating top-of-the-funnel content for the awareness stage, consider the following types of content:
1. Blog posts. According to DemandGen, 71% of buyers read blog content during the purchase process in 2018. Since 43% of people skim blog posts, your posts should include headlines, short paragraphs, pictures, videos and other great design elements that make it easy for your busy buyers to read.
Keep track of your blogging efforts with an editorial calendar, which can also be used to track keywords and align content with audience segments.
2. White papers. B2B buyers love to read white papers, which cover industry topics in great depth and include statistics to back up claims. Your white paper should include have detailed information on an industry topic, be beautifully designed and incorporate your brand standards. Don’t give your white paper away for free; instead, create a landing page and ask visitors to fill out a form to download.
3. Webinars. When you host a webinar, you’re educating buyers about specific topics. Some best practices for webinars include collecting attendees’ emails during the sign-up process, keeping the webinars between 30 and 45 minutes long and hosting it in the morning, at either 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., when buyers have the time to watch.
4. Videos. Since everyone is watching more videos these days, create how-to videos that help buyers learn the steps to solve their problems. Keep your videos short, since 60% of people stop watching a video by the two-minute mark, and make sure your video contains subtitles in case people are watching it without sound. (Today 85% of videos on Facebook are viewed without sound). Ideas for the awareness stage can also include short informational videos about topics in your industry, profiles of your customers, company culture videos and FAQ videos about your company and what you do.
5. E-books. E-books are 20 to 200 pages long, and serve as “how to” guides on specific subjects. Like white papers, e-books should be easy to read, include a nice design that complements the content and be provided in exchange for filling out a form.
6. Infographics. Infographics are graphical representations of topics and processes. They include a mix of text, images and statistics that are either original or curated. Infographics are shown to increase web traffic by 12%, and when done right, they are highly sharable because they're eye-catching and easy to digest. You can create infographics using programs like Canva or Venngage.
7. Social Media. On social media, you can draw in prospects by regularly posting exciting and valuable content across platforms. Effective social media content for the awareness stage includes answering FAQs about your company, sharing a relevant blog post, launching an explainer video on a hot topic in your industry and sharing information about your company's team and leadership. You can also invite your followers to download an e-book or white paper. Additionally, make sure you use relevant hashtags that your prospects may be following.
By creating and promoting these different kinds of top-of-the-funnel content, you have the opportunity to attract valuable buyers who will hopefully make it to the end of your buyer’s journey, thus boosting your sales quota and your bottom line.