Aligning your content to the appropriate stage of the organizational change process or purchase process provides vastly improved results for converting a lead into a customer. Putting the customer first and understanding who is most involved at each stage, and what information those key stakeholders need at those various stages in the purchase are the keys to formulating an effective content strategy.
Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of confusion surrounding the stages, and how content and messaging aligns to them. Many marketers believe the type of asset dictates the stage, but we've shown that to be an inaccurate statement. For example, you could have a white paper that talks about storage trends, which is clearly an early-stage asset. You could also have a white paper that outlines product features and benefits, clearly a later-stage asset. Same type of asset … two completely different stages.
At any rate, I thought it would be beneficial to outline these stages and give marketers a logical framework for content categorization.
Assets used for the awareness buying cycle should have an educational, thought-leadership tone and are used primarily to help the reader identify a problem or a pain point. Many executives have no idea they even have a pain point. That's why awareness assets frequently focus on "fear-of-loss" messaging. This type of messaging highlights the risk of maintaining the status quo through elements such as industry trends or competitive intelligence, and talks about why an organization needs to change. Executive and user-influencer buyers are the stakeholders most involved in this stage; therefore, the content and messaging need to be more focused on business and strategy issues, rather than on technical deficiencies.
For example, the Web has made it easier for Bank 1 customers to switch to other banks. This directly translates into lost revenue for Bank 1, and therefore it must offer more competitive solutions to its customers in order to keep them. Now banks understand why they need to change.
Assets used for the recognition buying cycle should have also have an educational, thought-leadership tone, and these assets give the organization visibility into the technical reasons that are causing these shortcomings and driving their customers to switch. Executives and economic buyers are the primary stakeholders at this stage; therefore, the content and messaging needs to focus more on how the business problem can be attributed to multiple different technical and process deficiencies.
For example, Bank 1 realizes that one of the reasons it is losing customers is because Bank 2 is offering a better mobile experience to its customers. Bank 2's customers can gain access to their financial records anywhere, easily. Bank 2 has a level of technical sophistication that Bank 1 doesn't. So if Bank 1 wants to solve the mobile problem, it needs to invest in solutions that enable the user to securely and quickly gain access to records on a mobile device.
At this stage of the buying cycle, the reader is doing solution exploration; he or she is looking for further detail on the different technologies that can solve each of the technical deficiencies. So these assets need to focus on helping the reader establish the optimal path to overcoming the problem. Economic and technical buyers are the primary stakeholders at this stage; therefore, the content and messaging needs to be more focused on why one technology type — out of all the different choices — is best suited to solve the security issue.
For example, one of the roadblocks preventing Bank 1 from enabling its users to be more mobile is security. The bank needs to secure the endpoint of the customer's mobile devices to prevent fraud and to ensure that its users' information remains safe. There are numerous technology solutions that can secure the mobile endpoint, and consideration content highlights the situations in which they should be used.
At the preference stage in the purchase process, the reader has made the decision about which type of technology solution will best suit his/her organization, and is now evaluating the different solution providers, searching for one that can best suit the reader's process and infrastructure requirements. Technical buyers are the primary stakeholders in this stage; therefore, the content and messaging need to focus on competitive intelligence, and help demonstrate the superiority of that vendor's core features and functionality, as well as its experience in solving similar issues.
For example, Bank 1 has come to the conclusion that an endpoint security solution is the best solution for its mobile security issues, and now it is deciding which vendor to choose.
At this stage of the buying cycle, the reader has made a decision on what technology to use and has selected which vendor to use, now he or she needs investment validation, information that helps to substantiate the financial benefits. Economic and executive buyers are the primary stakeholders involved in this stage; therefore, the content and messaging needs to be more focused on the ROI and TCO of the solution: how the solution will either save the organization money and/or help it generate more revenue.
For example, by securing the endpoints of mobile devices, Bank 1 can reduce the incidences of fraud by 30 percent.
The implementation stage is typically post-sale and is when the customer begins to roll out the solution and test it. Increasing customer satisfaction is the primary goal for this content, since it enables future cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Optimal assets at this stage instill confidence in the customer's choice and help educate the company on how to maximize the use and ROI it gets from the technology.
As UBM Tech Create's resident "Mad Scientist," Jonathan Vlock acts as both program architect and liaison between marketing, sales and operation; managing the design, creation and implementation of complex marketing programs for technology clients. Jonathan also served as Senior Business Development Executive at Bulldog Solutions, where he was responsible for developing marketing strategies and programs for numerous Fortune500 companies, leveraging best practices marketing process and activities, and enabling technologies including advanced marketing automation and CRM systems.
Create builds the ultimate brand experience for technology marketers – and their customers. As the marketing services arm of UBM Tech, Create leverages the power of decades of marketing experience and expertise to help clients minimize the complexities of modern marketing. Create's capabilities include strategic digital, social and content development and integration, relationship building through live events and nurture programs, as well as comprehensive analytic and design services. Find case studies, client testimonials and Create's portfolio at createmarketingservices.com.