A quick note from Pawel: In this guide, my good friend, Justin McGill from LeadFuze, a killer B2B lead gen. software offers an introduction into organizing your content around your product’s buying cycle.
Naturally, there’s way more to the whole process. But if you’ve never tried to identify the content for each stage, then Justin’s post will give you a good grounding in this strategy.
So, let’s hand it over to Justin.
Content marketing means more than just starting a blog to draw people to your site.
Instead, it should be present within every single step of your buying stage. Done well, it can efficiently move your prospects down the sales funnel until they become dedicated customers.
And what’s important, this process particularly effective for SaaS companies.
Here, let me show you.
Critical Elements of Content Marketing
When considering the kinds of content to create, you have to think about three things:
- The product (you probably know that pretty well)
- Your ideal customers (vital to creating engaging content)
- The buying cycle in the industry (to understand when and where the content goes)
What you sell solves problems (which we’ll go over in a minute). Highlighting those solutions in a way that creates a perfect world for your customers is all part of good copywriting.
The product has to be the sword that your customers use to slay their problems and become a hero in their life or organization.
Don’t just know what your stuff does, know how it changes people and businesses for the better.
Your products solve problems, but you also have to know who it is that has those particular issues.
In sales and copy, these are called “pain points.”
The most efficient way to understand the pains of the leads in your marketing and sales cycle is to have a few “personas” in mind.
This post is about matching content to the buying stages so we won’t spend a lot of time here. That said, if you don’t know who you’re creating content for—it won’t hit the mark.
Let’s illustrate with an example:
You have an app that helps HR reps in the manufacturing industry track and maintain employee data. Hiring, training, disciplinary action, annual reviews, you name it.
Over time, you find that HR pros in manufacturing care more about training data than just about anything else. If all of your content revolves around the hiring process, you’d have a hard time convincing busy reps, right?
For your content to be most effective, you have to know what’s important to your ideal customers—not just who they are.
This just scratches the surface on the whole buyer persona/ideal customer business, but here’s a great guide to further your knowledge.
Now, onto the buying cycle itself.
The SaaS Buying Cycle
There are three main phases of the SaaS buying cycle (there can be more, but these are the basics).
- Stage One: Awareness
- Stage Two: Consideration
- Stage Three: The Purchase
Stage One: Awareness
This really starts outside of your marketing funnel. Your “pre-leads” are doing what they do and maybe not even aware of their problems, let alone your brand.
Getting them to know who you are isn’t a small feat. You could just run an ad on Facebook or LinkedIn. But that wouldn’t work to the extent you’d like.
People want to know what’s in it for them. An ad that promotes who you are is, well, self-promotion.
Use that ideal buyer data to create an awesome lead magnet. Using the example above, it could be a white paper that details your manufacturing safety regulations. Sounds boring to you, but it’ll make an HR rep perk up in their office chair.
Ask yourself, “If I was a ______, what would I be willing to give my email address to get?”
You want to move the customer to be in the perfect place to move to the second stage, and that’s it. That’s your main goal. And you aren’t going to get there by showing how awesome you are (directly).
Many different types of content accomplish your goal.
It all depends on what you feel may work best for your particular demographic.
- Maybe a blog post would be best? Get the word out.
- Maybe a video tutorial would strike a cord? Get recording.
- Got a visually appealing infographic? Promote it.
- Ebook still making your audience happy? Write it.
- A small email drip course? Works like gang busters.
Industry insights and practical help as a whole also fits in here, and you can easily find individuals to create the content for you (if you don’t have someone on your staff who you feel fits the bill).
Key Point: If they’re unaware, the most effective way to make them notice is on their terms. Choosing content they’ll enjoy that is in some way related to your products is the sweet spot of awareness.
Stage Two: Consideration
Excellent content is the backbone of the consideration phase.
Once the potential consumer has acknowledged you exist and begins to realize they have a problem that needs fixing—it’s time to show them why your brand is the best to accomplish said fixing.
This isn’t where you present your accolades and awards.
Huh? Shouldn’t they know that? Yes, but not until they know you understand their problems and the solutions. This second stage is a little more direct but still gentle.
Part of the consideration is determining whether or not your solution is the best fit. The place to start isn’t your awesomeness displayed; it’s your awesomeness portrayed. Show them how you’re the best by articulating exactly what they need and why they need it.
All through content in your funnel.
This stage is to show how your product can help the consumer overcome their problems. Through educational materials and (possibly) personal interaction.
In stage one, you may have only one lead magnet (although, more could yield better results).
Stage two would require a library of effective content that answers every question and concern of today’s savvy consumers. Researchers will need to understand several things before being ready for a hard pitch.
- Worth: Leads are wondering how well your stuff works, whether or not they should switch solutions, and if it’s worth the cost. This is where you show how well the product works through explainer videos, landing page copy, webinars, etc..
- Credibility: Ok, maybe you are legit, but are there case studies and testimonials of actual people who have used the gizmo? Give them to them in a well-constructed format, like a nice looking web page or even a video with some sweet music to sell it.
- Reservations: There are always “what ifs” for a large purchase or monthly commitment. Alleviate those fears with a solid FAQ, a detailed-description of your post-sale process, and any guarantees you offer.
Not only will the bulk of your content happen in the consideration phase, it will also be the place your leads hang out the longest.
I highly recommend using a customer relationship management (CRM) software to track the activity of your leads. Most software products allow you to score leads based on the content they’ve consumed and the interactions they’ve had with your sales team.
Key Point: Answer all of the questions pertaining to the product you’re trying to sell with the type of content that best suits your intended audience. This could include multiple formats for each concern (e.g. a video and white paper that explains your product).
Stage Three: The Purchase
Once a lead has indicated that they are ready for a demo, or pitch. You pitch them. If they buy, congratulations! This pitch can even take place via content, like a long-form sales page, demo video, or a webinar.
But now your work has just begun (especially in the SaaS world).
Churn is a four-letter word.
If your customers are leaving before you can recoup ad cost, or you’re dropping a certain percentage of users on monthly basis—it can be difficult to get funding or even turn a profit.
That’s what makes the purchase and post-sale interaction with your new customers arguably more vital than your pre-sell content.
It’s after they decide to buy that you can show them the last little bits of information that’ll wrap up the deal nicely.
The content here needs to be as direct as if you were trying to get them to buy. Your customers can leave at any moment, and how long they stay is directly influenced by how quickly users successfully interact with your product.
Onboard new clients properly and ensure that they are comfortable with using your product to get the results they’ll expect.
If it won’t be an overnight success, let them know clearly and honestly that your software takes time to do it’s work (e.g. SEO, or something similar). Educate them into your product, and then an expert, and then a brand ambassador.
Yep, it’ll take a lot of time and great content.
Key Point: To continue a user’s monthly/annual payments, you’ll have to teach them to create that perfect world you promised them in your pre-sale content.
Where Do I Start?
If you’re ready to start content marketing, you’ll have to start with a good look at your products, customers, and what your sales funnel looks like.
Ask yourself about all of the interests (that pertain to your business), questions, concerns and desires. Then, starting planning and creating content that tackles all of those points.
Creating content at a rapid pace to aid your sales efforts isn’t an easy thing to organize. It may be best to start by creating your own content matrix.
Essentially, it’s a map that shows you and your team how to make your marketing content, and keeps you on pace with your goals. Once your funnel is filled with all of these new goodies, you’ll want to split test and gauge how well the content does to nurture your leads through the funnel.
- Will your potential consumers respond best to online imagery?
- Do they like short snippets of content through social media?
- Or will they sit down and read an entire white paper?
It’s all about who you’re selling to and where they’re at in the buyer journey. And that’s something that will take time and testing.
Keep track of what you feel is working well and adjust your map (and your call-to-actions) accordingly. Eventually, you’ll find out what converts best, and then you’ll be able to begin planning ahead, creating more great content that guarantees results.