In our three-part blog series “Struggling to Rise Above the Noise in the Cybersecurity Marketplace,” we’ve looked at how to build a solid foundation and then use that information to create compelling content. In this third post, we’ll show you how to deploy content to attract the attention of your potential buyers and convert them into prospects.
To do that, we need to consider which formats and channels best serve your buyers, depending on where they are in the buyer journey. The first step in figuring that out is to convert phases of the buyer journey into stages of your marketing funnel. This will help you plan content and distribution with both buyers’ needs and your goals in mind. Here’s how they map to each other:
|Buyer Journey Phase||Buyer Needs||Marketing Funnel Stage||Your Goals|
|Awareness of Problem||Understand problem(s), scope, and implications||Top of Funnel||Be found|
|Considering Options||Investigate internal and external solutions and approaches||Middle of Funnel||Be considered|
|Evaluating Vendors||If best option is to partner with a vendor, investigate and evaluate vendor landscape||Middle/Bottom of Funnel||Be preferred|
|Making a Purchase||Narrow down vendor choices and select preferred vendor||Bottom of Funnel||Be chosen|
For each stage of the funnel, you have an almost overwhelming choice of content formats (white papers, blog posts, emails, etc.) and distribution channels (paid, owned, and earned). The key to success is to choose the combination that is most compelling to prospects, and customize content topics to suit each stage of the buyer journey. In fact, this is so important that the Content Marketing Institute reports that “While nearly all (90%) of the top performers said they always/frequently do this, fewer tech marketers overall (62%) always/frequently craft content for specific stages. Given how people’s informational needs in the earlier stages differ dramatically from the support needed once they near or make a decision, tailoring content to where your audience is in the process is a smart move.”
We talked more in-depth about this in our last blog post, but to recap, prospects early in the buying cycle expect a great deal of topical/educational content. For those in the middle of the journey, you’ll want to provide in-depth product information and competitive differentiation. And for those at the end of the journey, you’ll want lots of social proof and third-party validation.
A General Look at Content Formats and Channels
Making content creation a little bit easier is the fact that we know what content formats prospects generally prefer. Use of videos and webinars has increased as has digital content such as articles, blog posts, eBooks, and infographics. And, long-form content such as white papers is favored by 81% of technology content marketers.
In terms of distribution channels, use of social media continues to increase and the majority of tech marketers also use paid methods to promote content in order to attract new audiences and website traffic. That’s important, because your website acts as the foundation for all of your marketing initiatives throughout the buyer journey, so pay attention to verbal and visual brand standards, ensure consistency, and do everything you can to maximize that channel.
Now let’s take a closer look at specific content formats and channels for each stage of the buyer journey.
Top of Funnel
Because being found is so important at this stage (otherwise, there’s no way you could garner leads), you need to invest in on-page and technical SEO to boost your Google rankings. On-page SEO should be based on keyword research and includes titles, tags, and page descriptions. Fresh content such as blog posts and new landing pages also helps. Technical SEO is a little different in that it relates to how fast your site is, how it’s indexed, and how operational it is. That means if you haven’t looked for broken links or 404 pages lately, you’ll want to get on top of that, as they can hurt your rankings.
Earned media such as bylined articles, press placements, and presentations at trade shows is also important to being found by potential new customers, so having public relations help is useful.
Take advantage of owned media such as social channels to promote topical/educational information in the form of white papers, infographics, e-books, information briefs, videos, and blog posts, among other things.
In terms of paid media, consider working with a third-party publisher through co-branded email to their list to promote your content. This is also the right time to advertise your brand keywords as well as the same long-tail keyword phrases you are optimizing for on your website. This will help boost your profile in search results, whether or not you’ve done a good job on SEO, assuming you are optimizing your keywords and bid strategies in Google Ads.
Middle of Funnel
Nurturing prospects with educational and persuasive product content is critical to being considered and preferred, and email is a great way to achieve that, through in-house email marketing or emailing to a vetted list through an external service provider. Consider supplementing with direct mail, a tactic that had fallen out of favor in recent times, but is regaining in popularity.
Continue using the same channels (social, email, advertising, media, events, blog/website, search, direct, etc.) and formats (white papers, webinars, articles, presentations, blog posts, infographics, eBooks, information briefs, newsletters, etc.), but consider adding more techniques to your arsenal, for example, retargeting ads to previous visitors, account-based marketing to dive deeper into prospective customer companies, and field events to invite prospects you’ve met through digital channels and industry events.
Bottom of Funnel
In order to be chosen, prospects will want to be reassured that they will reap benefits when they decide to go with your solution, so anything that proves your case will be important to leverage. Think: customer case studies, in-depth use cases, analyst reports, ROI data, and product trials so they can experience the difference themselves. Supplement the channels we’ve already mentioned with in-person visits, 1:1 emails, conference calls, and direct outreach on social.
Additional Tips for Your Consideration
- If you are not sure of the specific content needs of your buyers at each step of their journey, ask Sales, sit on demo calls, investigate analytics, do keyword research, listen on social media, and reach out directly to current customers to learn how they found your organization and then came to consider, prefer, and choose to do business with it.
- Once prospects move through the funnel and become customers, content is even more important to build loyalty and generate referrals. Don’t stop generating content once prospects convert!
- Make sure you are targeting multiple personas within each organization, not just the buyer, but also influencers and users. They each have their own journey and a content marketing program isn’t complete without including information for them as well. This can become unwieldy, particularly if you sell into many industries and have many different use cases, so rigorous organization (and sometimes technology such as asset management systems or CMSes) will often be required.
We’d love to show you how AimPoint Group’s high-impact content marketing expertise and experience can help drive value for your business! Contact us today for a free strategy session; together we’ll look at your needs and map the best path forward.