Having something great to offer doesn't matter much if the person you're trying to sell it to doesn't need it - or worse, doesn't know they need it. A hip startup employee living in Brooklyn might want an SUV in 10 years when he moves to the suburbs but marketing to him right now isn't going to do much good. And a soccer mom upstate might one day happen to be invited to a gala and need a pair of stilettos but giving her a discount on them now isn't likely to lead her down that path (although judging by the shoes collecting dust under my bed, this might not be the best example).
The point is that when it comes to the customer buying cycle, timing is critical. You want to be sure you're not only offering the right product - and the right content - but that you're doing it at a time that makes sense and will actually move your potential customers towards making a purchase.
In order to do that, you have to know what that buying cycle looks like and how to map it out for each of your buyer personas. Here are five easy ways to look at your how your customers are moving through the purchase process and what you can do to take advantage of their differing needs.
Determine Unique Keywords
Keywords are an important part of putting together your inbound content strategy. But it's also important that you work to uncover keywords that work with each stage of the customer buying cycle. If you're selling invoicing software and only focusing on people who are searching for "invoicing software" you're going to miss out on a lot of opportunities from potential customers in the earlier stages of the buyer's journey.
Look at your most important keywords and make sure that you have related keywords for each stage of your customer buying cycle. For instance, if you're targeting freelancers with your invoicing software, you might want keywords related to "freelance productivity" for those people who are still in the awareness phase of the cycle, and "invoice software comparisons" for those who are currently considering a purchase. Make sure you have relevant keywords targeted for each stage and you'll be able to attract a broader audience that is still entirely relevant.
Just like your keywords should differ across the buying cycle, so should the content types you choose to use. A blog post is a lot more likely to have relevance for customers in the awareness phase who are still figuring out what their problem is and what solutions exist. People who are considering a purchase will want more information than a single blog post can provide, so keep that in mind, too. That's why consideration content should be more in depth, like eBooks, webinars, or Slideshares being good options.
And the content type isn't all you can map out. It also matters where you put your content since you want to reach those customers at certain stages. Google and other search engine traffic is always important, but social media should also play a role in sharing your content and certain platforms will be more important for different buying cycle stages.
Test and Test Again
An inbound marketer's job is never done. You already know you should be creating new content on a regular basis but you never want to do that in a vacuum. Luckily inbound marketing platforms like HubSpot let you see whether your mapped content is actually leading your site visitors through the customer buying cycle. If certain keywords you have targeted for customers in the awareness stage aren't working, you'll be able to see it and adjust. Tracking your content and conversions is an important way to map your customer's buying cycle. It may just help you uncover information about your customers that you didn't know before and adjust your strategy to meet those needs.
Utilize the Inbound Methodology
Always remember that the customer buying cycle, while it maps out the choices that customers make on the way to an initial purchase, also applies to repurchases. So when you map out your content, don't forget to consider the inbound methodology, particularly the way in which you will delight your customers after they have already made their initial purchase. Be sure that you have content that will keep people interested, that shows you care about them beyond that initial payment.
The more familiar you become with your customer personas and the way in which they buy from you, the better you will get at mapping out your content and ensuring that it guides your customers down that path.