The buyer’s journey, which encompasses the three stages of Awareness, Consideration and Decision, is central to Inbound Marketing Strategy. Each of these stages represents the frame of mind and the context in which a prospective client transitions from visitor to buyer. The inbound marketing methodology shapes itself around this journey to provide the right information at the right time, and organically guide the user through each stage.
In the first installment of this series, we took an in-depth view at the Awareness stage, and how the user transitioned through. At the end of the Awareness Stage the users have clearly identified their problem and are looking at potential solutions. Now converted into a lead, the visitor is entering the Consideration Stage.
The Frame of Mind of a New Lead
By this time, prospects have clearly identified the challenge or goal they’re looking to overcome, and will need to evaluate the existing solutions or approaches to resolve them. The research becomes a lot more targeted, where the buyers:
- actively look into each available solution,
- educate themselves thoroughly about each solution,
- assert the pros and cons of the solution against their own particular needs
Users during this phase of the journey will be more open to providing their own information in exchange for premium or exclusive content that bears valuable information. From the business’s point of view, the buyers are looking for content that will convert them into a customer. Inbound marketers pay careful attention to the needs and respond to them accordingly.
What Kind of Information Does the Considering Buyer Need?
Even though buyers at this stage have shown a particular interest in the brand, the relationship is still on its early legs. They are not yet married to one specific brand: they have a number of other prospective solutions they’re looking into, as well. Therefore, information needs to toe the line between being educational and competitive - that is, it needs to address the specific pain points of the buyer and establish the business’ superiority among its competitors without being too pushy about making a sale.
Further down the line, buyers will narrow down their prospects to just 2 or 3, at which point they will begin to reach out to sales representatives. The consideration stage is, therefore, a crucial stage, where marketing and sales have to work together to guide the user closer to a decision.
While the marketer’s role is decidedly the dominant one here, the sales team will also have to start pulling their weight to push the lead further down the funnel. Both teams should go about the conversation with the leads with kindness and patience.
How To Track Leads Through The Consideration Stage
In order to ensure a prospect’s continued interest in the brand, marketers need to closely monitor their leads’ behavior during this phase. Doing so will help them implement more effective lead nurturing tactics through precisely targeted content and ensure that sales is ready to jump in at the right time.
You can gauge prospective leads’ position in the buyers’ cycle vis-à-vis the search queries they enter in search engines. As we’ve said before, search queries become more specific than those in the awareness stage. It is also possible to ascertain how far into the consideration stage a lead is by the specificity of the keywords. The closer they are to a decision, the more brand-specific the keywords become.
You also need to track the growth of the level of interest a prospect has in the business. You can do this by tracking metrics like returning visitors, page views, sign-ups for exclusive and interactive content like webinars and e-books. Actions like these are indicators of particular interest in a brand, and you should optimize your automated lead-scoring tactics to recognize and score these actions at higher values for lead qualification.
Mapping Helpful Content
Content mapping is a key process within the inbound methodology, wherein one decides which content needs to be shown to prospective leads or customers based on the lifecycle stage. Mapping content begins with looking at past conversions and working backwards to figure out what actions triggered those leads’ movement through to the end.
By tracking these actions, you can create multiple logical conversion pathways, with each one depicting the sequence of actions a user took to go from being a visitor (stranger) to a customer.
These flows will include the pieces of content they consumed, the CTAs they clicked and e-mails they’ve opened. By mapping each content asset to the conversion path, you can figure out what type of content was effective in furthering the conversion and what wasn’t. Another aspect of content mapping is also identifying which content assets are missing from a business’s strategy.
Content Types Associated with Consideration
Content is aimed at addressing how the business can address the prospect’s particular pain points. The language or messaging used in evaluation-stage content needs to straddle the line between educational content and product/service information.
Some of the common content types used in this stage are blogs, e-books, webinars, tutorials, slideshares, infographics and case studies.
A number of content assets used in the consideration stage may seem to belong in the awareness stage, as well; and while that does hold true, the difference lies in the way the content is framed. For instance, an e-book in the Awareness stage may center on a more general topic while a Conversion-intended e-book would be centered on a specific solution.
CTAs in Evaluation Stage
Calls-to-action are created to induce customers to respond with certain actions that trigger their transition down the sales funnel. Therefore, it follows logically that CTAs need to take the customer’s position in the journey into account: that is, it needs to be relevant to the content it is placed within. For instance, one cannot place a CTA for a product demo within a blog post aimed at newly converted leads.
The CTA needs to convey both value and relevance to the user who is, at this point, merely interested in whether the brand can solve their problems. Pushing a sales CTA will only drive them away.
Sales Team: Assisting the Transition to Decision
As the buyer moves through and edges closer towards a decision, there will come a point where their choices for solutions come down to two or three options, at most. This is where they would start reaching out to sales representatives to gain more information about the brands in question. It goes without saying, then, how crucial this point is: sales need to be ready, fully armed with all and any information that will help pull the lead over the threshold into the Decision stage. So, this is where both teams need to join forces. We have previously talked about how sales and marketing teams need to be aligned, and this is where those alignment tactics pay off. Sales alignment in this stage can be tricky, since there’s still a modicum of uncertainty about the prospect’s level of readiness.
Don’t Get Pushy on the First Call
Remember, customers at this stage are not sales-ready, they are only marketing-qualified leads. Pushing a sales pitch the first time they reach out to sales is like popping the question after a first date. That never ends well. Instead, sales should use the opportunity to understand why this prospect chose their brand as a potential solution. Marketers can supplement this by providing sales with relevant information about the lead, product benefits and competitive replies.
Don’t Make It about The Business
Instead of telling leads how their service will help them, sales need to flip the script and ask them how they think the business can help them. This will give both sales and marketing a gauge on their own perceived value in the view of the prospect: what the prospect finds valuable in their business or what they hope to achieve with your product. Marketers can use the data gathered to inform sales about the leads’ previous actions and particular interests. Sales can use this data to sharpen their own conversation.
Keep Sales in the Loop
Marketers can take things a step further by constantly informing sales of any content that they can use to assist them during this crucial stage: case studies, testimonials, and FAQs that they can immediately share with leads that are on the verge of deciding on a final vendor. Frequently check in with sales, gaining more information about the kind of questions from consideration leads or topics that they need content for: this has the twofold benefit of allowing marketers to tweak their content strategy and sales having the right resources at hand when they need it.
At the far end of the evaluation stage, the conversation should become increasingly focused on convincing the prospect to keep the brand in mind: content needs to focus more on how your product justifies its pricing with the features it offers.
Remember, though, talking monetary value at this point isn’t about closing the sale: it’s just another piece of information that buyers will be considering before making a decision. Content assets like success statistics, testimonials and case studies will be especially handy at this stage, as well.
Now, buyers should have all the information they need to make the transition from consideration to decision: where they will finally choose and pay for the solution that will solve their problems. But more on that in the next installment of our in-depth exploration of the buyer’s journey.