Delivering a top content marketing strategy these days is tough. With more and more channels to manage, increasingly complex buyer personas to engage and a seemingly endless list of competitors to outshine, we certainly have our work cut out. The buyer journey is an ever-evolving matrix but one we must navigate.
Good job we have award-winning content marketing leader, Amy Higgins to offer her insights into how she approaches this tricky area of marketing. Amy has a wealth of experience in strategic content marketing, helping brands such as Salesforce, Sojern and Twilio reach new audiences and retain, and delight, existing communities.
In the following article from our Tech Talk series, Amy gives us the lowdown on mapping, monitoring and boosting the buyer journey. This is your chance to learn how one of the top content strategists is tackling today’s attribution challenges and identifying the tactics and activities that will get brands noticed. Over to Amy!
What is the best way to map the buyer journey?
Amy’s approach to mapping the complex buyer journey can be separated into two distinct parts; prospect to customer and customer to evangelist. Amy focuses on the part relating to campaigns and content: prospect to customer.
First, there’s the Discover stage which could include SEO, targeted advertising campaigns, influencer content and so forth. The next step, says Amy, is one that many people think of as at the top of the funnel, the Awareness stage. This is the moment where the prospect knows they would benefit from a product or solution but they aren’t quite sure what they need and who they should buy it from. The next stage is Consider and then you have Decide.
Naturally, the buyer journey doesn’t always happen in such a linear pattern. Amy's experience has shown her that people are likely to bounce all over the place as they make their way through the buyer journey. However, while the customer journey is rarely straightforward, content marketers need a linear process to map the various content assets effectively.
Amy explains; “Someone might visit your website, carry out additional research using SEO search terms, receive retargeted advertising content, read a blog etc. There’s a lot of interactivity that goes back and forth and if you don’t have your buyer journey mapped out the lead is going to come back to your website and not be able to find the critical information they need.”
Approaching content mapping with a theme, a pain point or a problem to solve can help, Amy says, positioning the emotion as the starting point. “Once you have the customer’s emotion in mind you can start to identify the problem that they might not even know they have yet. Then you can work out how to solve it.”
How do you manage the buyer journey with multiple personas?
One of the key challenges for today’s marketers is delivering content to the right people at the right time, on the channel, or channels, they prefer. Managing the buyer journey is tricky at the best of times. It gets even more complex when you’re trying to attract a variety of different audiences or ideal customers. So, how has Amy approached the buyer journey in terms of dealing with multiple personas?
There’s no simple answer, she tells us, especially when you bring the different stakeholders into the mix. “The hardest part isn’t always about working with your audience, it's about what is happening behind the scenes and getting all your internal stakeholders aligned.”
The key to bringing it all together is identifying the overarching marketing message and establishing how each persona fits within that message. From this point, you can work out where there are overlaps or commonalities between the different personas.
“Take a look at how your brand speaks the same language across your most prominent channels; your blog and website for example. You can then break it out for each niche audience, the webinars, the events, and the email marketing campaigns. The main umbrella message remains the same but you can start personalizing it as you go down the sales funnel.”
The personalization paradox. What is it and how do we get around it?
The personalization paradox happens when brands want to create personalized, targeted content but are struggling with the resources and capabilities that scaling requires. “If we standardize our approach,” Amy says, “We can produce content more quickly and efficiently”. Different stakeholders can customize particular elements of the content to serve their specific customers.
This is a process which can be performed repeatedly over time. However, there is one important thing to consider when standardizing content production, Amy tells us. You have to start with a structure that enables different stakeholders to reappropriate and personalize particular elements. Shared templates, for example, which enable users to edit and adapt the assets, while making sure marketing retains control of the brand identity.
How do you measure content performance?
Every marketer struggles with identifying the best methods for monitoring and measuring content performance. The challenge is compounded by the range of channels that need to be reviewed and, as we just mentioned, the number of buyer personas that must be taken into account.
Amy explains that the way we measure content performance has changed considerably in recent years and continues to do so. “Now we want to have an attributed pipeline and influenced pipeline through all stages of the sales funnel but it’s really hard to do that. For example, when someone reads a blog it's really hard to showcase pipeline value if it's not a gated asset.”
For Amy, the best approach is to take into account which part of the sales funnel the content and customer are in. “At the top of the funnel, the Discovery and Awareness stages, you can’t measure pipeline attribution. This is the point where you need to focus only on leading them to the next step; a customer story or a report for example. At the bottom of the funnel is where you want to find out how they would be using your product. Then you want to measure where they go next; whether they contact sales or how long they are reading an asset.”
So, when marketers monitor and report on content performance we should focus on which content is doing well at particular stages of the buyer journey, not which content is performing well more generally. We also need to look at the kinds of engagement and activity that each asset generates and if that is what we hoped for and expected at that stage of the buyer journey. Likes and shares at the Awareness stage on social media, for example. Or downloads and contact form submissions at the Decision-making stage.
How do you explain the buyer journey to stakeholders in the business?
Making sure every stakeholder understands the importance of the buyer journey and how all the different parts feed into one another is vital. So, how do you increase awareness and uptake throughout the business?
People often have preconceived ideas about where content assets sit within the buyer journey, Amy says. When Amy works with product marketers, campaigners or the sales team she shows them how each stage and each piece of marketing collateral nurtures the lead through every step of the process. “We need to explain what the intent of the content asset is and what we are trying to get people to do and feel. Once you map that out there is the ‘a-ha’ moment, and they are on board.”
What is the most underrated role or function in B2B companies?
As a content marketing expert Amy knows a thing or two about the evolution of her specialism in relation to the wider business framework. She notes that content marketing is often misunderstood by those who aren’t aware of its impact on customer engagement.
“Years ago, content marketing was someone who wrote the blog. It wasn’t a person or people who are directly involved with audience engagement and I think it is now underrated for that reason.” Now, Amy says, content creators are more aligned with the sales department and the sales process. They’re the people who can optimize engagement with the lead throughout the buyer journey and create the emotional response that will drive conversions and build loyalty.
What is your go-to place for content marketing tips and trends?
“I love the Content Marketing Institute,” Amy tells us. “There’s a lot of great articles and resources on there and it’s a really good community. They’ve been with me since I started my content marketing journey and I just love the chats and the people.”
What content marketing project are you most proud of and why?
“Early on in my career at Concur, we were writing a guide on expense management. Our team was throwing out elements that we didn’t think we needed. But when we launched it we discovered the results weren’t as positive as we wanted.” Amy went back to Concur’s sales department to ascertain why MQLs were so high but SQLs were low. Together they talked through the kinds of conversations the sales team were having with prospective customers and deduced that while the person on the phone was interested in the service and the offer, they weren’t able to communicate it to their management team, the decision-makers.
Amy went back to the content that the team had discarded and found a buying guide which perfectly explained how a salesperson could go to their VP, CFO or sales director and gain buy-in. “We pulled the buying guide out of the trash, repacked it and it became a really effective sales leave-behind. We then saw our SQLs double our MQLs which had never happened before.”
Which brand provides the best customer experience and why?
For Amy, her preferred brand for great customer service and experience is her local yoga studio. The business pivoted during the pandemic to deliver online sessions but didn’t lose the sense of community. “The brand is called Haum, pronounced home because it is like coming home. They do a lot of tips and tricks resources, a lot of community and outreach events and great social media. The whole brand experience is very engaging and very welcoming.”
Boosting your buyer journey in 2023 and beyond
Providing you start with the right framework and tools, mapping the buyer journey and measuring your performance needn’t be such a challenge. Why not make it your new year's resolution to update your buyer personas, and revisit your preconceptions of who your ideal customer is and what you can do for them? As marketers, we are often so close to our brands and products that we can’t see the woods for the trees. Talk to your customers, and talk to internal stakeholders. Get them onboard with the work you are doing and welcome their insights.
Be honest about what is working and what could do with an overhaul. Steer clear of unnecessarily complex processes and systems. As Amy advises, you are far better off starting with a solid content strategy and framework that can be adapted and personalized as you move those leads towards conversion and on to advocacy.
If this all seems like a lot, don’t worry. While we undoubtedly have a lot to manage on a day-to-day basis, today’s marketers also have access to a range of powerful tools that can help streamline processes, boost collaboration, enhance the customer journey and improve the customer experience. All while ensuring we stay on-brand. Do your research, keep your goals in mind and discover the martech stack that will support your brand activities and help you build that buyer journey that will get your brand the attention it deserves.
If you loved this article and would benefit from even more expert insights to help you scale your business and boost your marketing, we’ve got you covered. This article is part of a series of Tech Talks where we pick the considerable brains of some of our industry’s leading content experience lights.
Discover the entire Talking Tech series here.
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