Your prospects need something different from you depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. Understanding the stages of this journey, and how to determine which stage a user is at, will ensure your strategy is successful from beginning to end.
Understanding The Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey is made up of three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.
Being aware is defined as “having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge.”
In the Inbound Methodology, awareness encompasses the time when a stranger to your brand discovers the need to solve a problem up to when this user starts developing a relationship with a company, due to its help providing information about the issue.
The user then moves to the consideration stage, changing from a stranger to a lead and beginning to assess potential options.
Finally, the user moves into the purchase stage. This occurs when leads decide to buy from one of the companies they were considering.
Strategy matters at each stage, as you need to ensure that you are offering the right type of content and support to match your prospect’s needs. For instance, if you push for a sale too early, you will likely lose the lead. However, if the lead is ready to buy, you need to do everything in your power to assist with the purchase process. If you can offer a great experience, you increase your chances of a repeat sale.
In this post, we will be focusing just on the awareness stage — how to recognize it, what users at this stage need, and how to nurture these users to reach the next stage in the buyer’s journey.
The Frame of Mind of a Stranger in Need
Users are at this stage make up the majority of visitors to your website and yourinbound marketing strategy needs to capture them early on. Typically, they reach your content through Google searches or links on social media. These are users who are experiencing a problem or seeking an opportunity. They are conducting research to better understand their problem and start finding answers. Put simply, this stage is all about discovery.
Although there are many basic guidelines as to how users think at this stage, your target audience is unique — you need to understand these visitors as individuals. The best way to know how they are feeling is through interviews.
Ask questions about their goals or the challenges they are facing and how they plan to gain more information to educate themselves. Find out what would happen if they failed to take any action. Finally, ask your audience how they decide which goals and challenges to prioritize. Use the answers of the above to develop a clearer picture of your target audience.
Information at the Awareness Stage
Although users at this stage are interested in some aspect of your business, they are only looking for information, not trying to make a purchase. Many visitors are only aware of the symptoms of their problem — the problem itself is still undefined.
Information users need at this point is varied, as you are targeting anyone who may benefit from your products or services. They may be looking to solve a problem, increase their knowledge of a subject, answer a question, find statistics, or explore opinions.
In other words, users are looking for neutral information rather than details about a particular product or service. By offering useful information, you position your business as a helpful and knowledgeable expert resource. You also become a source of information on related topics in the future. At this stage, you should only offer information to educate visitors on their needs and make no mention of your solutions.
Awareness Types of Content
It is likely that you draw visitors to your website with content like blog posts, optimized with keywords to appear in the relevant SERPs. However, this is just one type of content to utilize. Once visitors have reached your website or learned about your social media profiles, you can offer a wide range of content types, including videos, eLearning courses, white papers, reports, ebooks, webinars, and checklists.
Nurturing Mistakes to Avoid
Before talking about potential ways to nurture visitors, it is important to know what actions you should never take.
Offering the chance to purchase
All through the post, we have talked about how the awareness stage is not about gaining sales. However, it bears repeating, as this is by far the most common mistake businesses make. Even throwing in an offer for a purchase can lose you a lead, as your brand will appear pushy rather than helpful.
Remember, users are only just realizing their need for information at this point. Content should gradually lead to the knowledge that they require a solution. There should be no obvious marketing at this stage — do not even mention your brand, products, or services.
Until a couple years ago, it was a popular belief that people have very short attention spans and only want to consume short pieces of content. Research has since revealed that users prefer longer content, to feel that they have learned something.
However, there are limits, especially in the beginning. At this stage of the journey, users are researching broad subjects and just want basic information. You need to create content at a length that sustains users’ interest without boring them. The awareness stage is no place for complex courses or long videos.
Misjudging current knowledge
Buyer personas help define what your target audience already knows about a subject. If you fail to take this information into account, visitors could feel that your content is aimed at someone other than them.
For instance, you need to avoid technical terms that your audience does not understand. However, it is equally important to avoid wasting time explaining concepts that your audience is already familiar with. Learning about your audience will allow you to strike a balance between providing too much and too little information.
Nurturing Best Practices
Empathize with users
Find out what pain points your visitors are experiencing and what drew them to your content. Gather data by talking to customers, meeting with your sales team, and turning to analytics. You can use this information in several ways:
- Use your content to focus on the symptoms of the problem rather than solutions
- Offer introductory material that users can relate to
- Develop more accurate buyer personas
- Find the social media platforms your target audience prefers
This information will allow you to find users where they are and meet them with the content they want.
Gather information about individuals
Each individual who has a chance of becoming a customer will match one of your buyer personas. By categorizing each piece of content according to the buyer persona it is aimed at, you can determine a user’s interests from the very beginning. Use a marketing automation tool to continue tracking an individual’s movements on your site, monitoring content consumed and downloaded.
Clearly defined triggers will first show you who to target, then show you when the user is ready for more premium content, and finally show you when the visitor is qualified to become a lead. By monitoring the behaviors of users as they become customers, you can determine what triggers to look out for and what works to keep users moving through the sales funnel.
Understanding triggers will also enable you to create more appropriate CTAs for your content. For example, reading a particular blog post could signal that a user is ready for additional content. If this is the case, you should add a CTA to encourage users to download appropriate premium content.
Moving from Aware to Considering
There are different strategies to turn a stranger into a lead — i.e. to the considering stage. One effective method is to use content mapping. This works by looking at the journey strangers took in the past to become leads.
To start, you will need to turn to the content leads consumed. Note which pages they visited and in what order. If you compare the journey of enough leads, you will notice that there are just a few pathways the majority took. Use this information to determine what kind of information and what types of content are working to move users from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next.
Even though the awareness stage is far from achieving a sale, it is just as important as the consideration and purchase stages. Without a strategy at the very beginning, your leads will be limited. Content allows you to attract visitors and start building their trust. Visitors to your site require nurturing before they are ready to make a purchase, and this stage fulfills that requirement.