The Customer Journey
There are three key components of content marketing, all of which must work together to create and launch a content marketing plan that gets results: the customer journey, content, and traffic.
Before getting ahead of yourself and drawing up a 12-month editorial calendar for your blog, you have to make sure to know what you want that content to do for you. Content marketing is not just about posting blog articles––it’s about strategically publishing content and driving people to that content so that you can convert more customers and generate more repeat business from your existing customer base.
This is where the customer journey comes in. Your customer journey is the lifecycle of a member of your target market all the way from the time that they learn about your business through the time that they’re both a repeat customer and an evangelist for your products or services. Your goal is to move people through that journey––the content you publish will be how you make that happen, but before you get to that point, you’ll need to establish what that journey is.
There are several primary stages of a customer journey, each with vastly different considerations and best practices. The common thread running through all of these stages is that they all depend on two things: content to inform, educate, or inspire members of the target market, and systems in place to drive traffic to that content.
The customer journey has eight distinct steps, the first four of which take a person from being aware of your business to being a paying customer. Here’s a brief overview of the first four stages and goals of any customer journey:
Awareness: Increasing Brand Visibility
Before you can consider someone a lead (i.e. prospective customer), they have to know your business exists. The purpose of this stage is to get as many eyeballs on your business (and its content). That’s the easy part, though; the hard part is capturing the eyeballs of people who matter, or, in less harsh terms, members of your target market.
This concept applies throughout the entire customer journey, but it’s especially important in the awareness stage because when you focus on boosting engagement among your target market rather than among everyone in the entire world, you begin the customer journey in a much more focused way. And when it comes to yielding results, the more focused you are, the better results you’ll have.
Increasing awareness (or getting eyeballs on your business) can look like a lot of different things, but here are some great ways to get started:
Social media updates
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Google My Business listing
Engagement: Getting People to Interact
Once someone is aware of your business and its content, you want them to engage with you. This mostly appears in the form of a) likes, shares, and comments on your social media posts, and b) ad clicks and website traffic. Instead of just being aware of your business, people in this stage are actively indicating interest in the content that you’re publishing. Your engagement statistics help measure the potential of your content, and you want to constantly be monitoring these and adapting your content to see these numbers grow.
You’ve gotten them to engage with your content at this point, but you can’t quite call them a lead yet (don’t worry, we’re almost there).
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Subscribe: Turning Members of Your Target Market into Leads
When people have engaged with your content, it tends to mean that they’re a) more qualified buyers, and b) more seriously interested in your products or services than the Average Joe. So with that in mind, your mission becomes to get their contact information, thus converting them into a lead.
With the absurd levels of spam email that we all have to wade through every day, people have become increasingly wary of giving a business their email address (and with good reason). The most effective way of getting someone’s email address is to offer them something in return for it (i.e. content). A lead magnet is a piece of content (eBook, webinar, event, or otherwise) that you give to a member of your target audience in exchange for their email address.
When thinking about what you’ll offer as a lead magnet, make sure that it is relevant, timely, and, most importantly, that it provides value to the subscriber.
Conversion: Converting from Lead to Customer
Once you have a person’s email address, they’re officially a lead (i.e. prospective customer). At this point, your goal becomes to use that contact information to convert them into a customer.
Remember how we talked about how people are so inundated with spam? It means that they’re also much quicker to hit that unsubscribe button. When marketing to your leads via email, be sure to follow email marketing best practices and to make your emails worth opening and reading (and that often means using content in emails).
It’s easy to think that once you’ve converted someone to a customer, you should shift your focus back to the awareness and engagement stages so that you can convert more customers. The answer to this is yes, but not exactly. Once you’ve gotten systems and processes in place to generate leads and convert customers, the key to maintaining that system is automation. By automating this process, you can let it run on autopilot, and your only responsibility becomes monitoring its effectiveness and tweaking it to be even greater.
But what about your newly converted customers? Well, you’re far from done with them. Where the customer journey really shines is in what you do with them after you’ve taken their money. Most businesses simply don’t––or don’t know how to––tap into the potential revenue hiding among their current and past customers.
The last four stages of the customer journey do just that, helping you to leverage your existing and past customers to increase repeat business, maintain excellent relationships, and generate recommendations, referrals, and reviews:
Excite and Ascend: How do you use content to get new customers excited about purchasing from you, and how do you continue to add more value for them, creating a lasting customer experience not only with your product or service but also with your brand?
Advocate and Promote: How do you use content to maintain great relationships with current and past clients, and how do you turn them into brand evangelists who spread the word and bring more leads and customers to you?
It’s certainly a lot to consider when thinking about how you want to use content to market your products and services, and developing and launching a content marketing strategy is no simple feat. But it also has the potential for the highest returns:
Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%). (Aberdeen)
Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (DemandMetric)
Conversion rates are nearly 6x higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs 0.5%). (Aberdeen)