Optimizing your marketing funnel starts with mapping content.
STEP 1 - Understand your buyer persona's decision process. Who's involved and what role do they play?
Get to really know your buyer persona. Interview customers who fit that particular persona, talk to the sales reps who closed the deals. Figure out what information the customer was looking for initially and how and why her information needs changed over time. Assuming you have the proper analytics in place that have tracked your customer's actions on your website from day 1, and how she responded to your lead nurturing efforts, you should be able to easily glean the details of her quest for information, the timing — all the different steps she went through and why.
STEP 2 - Create content that satisfies those information needs
Often the buyer persona isn't the ultimate decision maker, but is leading a team charged with finding the solution. Regardless, she's going to be looking for a wide variety of information that answers lots of different kinds of questions and concerns whether for her, her team members, or people in authority she needs to influence.
In fact, depending on the size of the organization and the problem, you may discover 5 or 10 different people from the same company on your site and/or in your database searching for different information on the same topics, but who have a different perspective on the problem e.g. purchasing, finance, IT, manufacturing, engineering, legal, etc.
This means you need to create content that addresses all those different questions, concerns, needs of all those different people. And that content needs to match those needs based on where they are in their decision process.
What years of research have told us, is that most buyers' information needs start off simply and grow in complexity the further along in their decision process they travel. Seems like common sense right? Yet we so often forget this in our haste to try and sell, sell, sell our solution.
Most of the time, your buyer doesn't yet know what she doesn't know. She may not even be sure exactly what her problem is! So before you try to engage her with the technical fine points of your product, she's probably just looking for something easy to understand that helps her better frame and define what her problem really is. Satisfying this need makes her feel more confident that she's on the right track for finding the best answer.
As she begins to learn more and explore, her information needs will become more complex, both in depth and detail, as well as in variety. And don't forget, the higher the price of your product, the more justification she's going to need to buy it (i.e. with more people or people with greater authority).
Now that you've figured out what your buyer persona's decision process looks like, the information she and her troupe of influencers needs to have, and when ...
STEP 3 - Publish the content in the most useful (and attractive) formats for your buyer persona
The type of information, her buying decision stage and who will use the information will help you determine that.
For instance, let's say this team is supposed to make a buying recommendation to the general manager of the division of a large corporation. He's the one signing off. Along the way, your buyer persona, who's been carrying the torch for this project/team, is keeping this GM in the loop. At strategic points she wants to feed him information that both educates him and (hopefully) leads him to agree with her team's final recommendation.
Having figured this out from your in-depth investigation of your buyer persona, you further learn that GMs in this market will watch 3-minute videos that are concise, objective and solution-language based. [Or, as they would say, "No sizzle, just give me the steak."] You know there are certain key points attached to the decision criteria that are essential for this GM to "get" so when decision time arrives, he's primed to say "yes" to your solution.
Armed with that info, you create a series of videos. You decide to put each one behind a different landing page with a form, which when coupled with compelling Calls-to-Action, continues to emotionally commit your buyer persona and pull them through the funnel at appropriate moments. Now she can forward your link to her CEO so he can watch each succeeding video, confident the info is in a format he'll digest and has what he needs to make a good decision when the time comes.
Step 4 - Publish the information where your buyer persona (and her influencers) are likely to find it
On your web pages, your social media sites, in your blog, so that search engines pick it up. You also want to include content and CTAs throughout your lead nurturing efforts. But don't stop there!
You need to discover where your buyer persona and the people involved in this decision process hang out online. Presumably you've learned much of that from your investigation into your buyer persona. And there are all kinds of different tools, both paid and free (e.g. HubSpot, Nimble, LittleBird, Google, etc.), which you can use to uncover likely places. Here's a great article from SEO Moz on the topic that's filled with great resources that can also help.
Be sure you're publishing compelling CTAs with strong landing pages and forms that lead them to the valuable content they need. You want them to keep saying "yes" to your great content so they keep renewing their relationship with your brand!
And when it comes to social media, depending on what you learned in your investigation, you may discover that SnapChat, LinkedIn and Twitter could be a better fit for your audience than Facebook + Twitter. It really depends on where your folks are hanging out and what they find most useful.
To take it a step further, you may discover that using Pay-Per-Click advertising to encourage downloading /listening / watching your content could help jumpstart your marketing efforts until your inbound strategies take the lead.
This entire process is called "content mapping." You examine each buyer persona and determine:
- Her information needs
- Who in her influence circle requires what information
- When she [and they] need that information
- What format is most useful to each information "consumer"
- Where to publish calls-to-action so your buyer persona and her troupe are likely to find it
In my next blog post, we'll cover part 2 of optimizing your marketing funnel.