Content marketers, by definition, seek to engage with personal and business consumers involved in what is known as “The Buying Process.” This is the process consumers use to decide which product or service to purchase from a vast array of choices.
A typical corporate buying process looks like this:
- Awareness: The company is aware they have a need, but has not yet begun a formal effort to fill that need.
- Information search: Someone at the company begins seeking a solution. This period is defined by internet searches as well as the occasional phone call or email to a potential vendor. Contacts at this stage will generally be brief requests for clarification about the capabilities of a firm, so a thorough website may mean your firm is not contacted at all in this phase.
- Request for pricing and information: Now, your firm will be contacted. The buyer will give you information regarding their needs and budget and will want to know what you can do for them and what it will cost. Even if you publish these details, expect a buyer to still get in contact, if only to feel out your firm’s customer service and professionalism.
- Purchase decision: Now that the buyer has spoken with several firms and consulted with the decision makers at their company, a decision will be made about whether or not the purchase is truly necessary. They may have found that none of their options are sufficiently affordable, or their needs may have changed since the search process began.
- Competitive alternatives: Once a firm is certain they will buy one of the options available, a final search is undertaken to make sure no options have been missed. Also, buyers at this stage, having gathered pricing information, may go back to vendors previously consulted and say: “XYZ Company says they can do it for less” in an effort to make them justify their pricing or offer a discount.
- Final decision: a vendor is chosen and a purchase is made.
A consumer buying for themselves or a household follows a similar process, but is likely to omit steps three and five. Three is ignored because their purchases are simpler and have standardized pricing, and five is skipped because, since less money and oversight is involved, the decision is made with greater speed and perhaps even on impulse. However, important personal purchases, such as of a car or home, are likely to include all six steps.
Where does content marketing come in? Everywhere. Nearly every step in the buying process involves internet engagement. In step two, content helps draw buyers in, in steps four and five it reinforces their desire for the product, and in step six it helps set your firm apart from others.
Many participants in the buying process are starting with little to no knowledge of the product they need, other than that they need it. When they encounter websites associated with that product they are more likely to stay if the site includes content that not only explains the product’s benefits, but also provides insight into the sector as a whole. Content marketers should use such explanatory content to build trust with a potential buyer. Further, a site populated with such content enhances the buyer’s perception of a firm’s expertise.
Though all similar, everyone’s buying process is somewhat unique. Experts advise that when seeking new business, companies should map out the buying process of their ideal customer and tailor their marketing approach to fit.