Mapping content to the buyer’s journey is a critical step when taking a customer-centric approach to marketing.
Forrester analyst Sheryl Pattek, with David M. Cooperstein and Alexandra Hayes, urged B2B marketers to rethink their approach to marketing back in February 2013 in a Forrester report, “Rethink Marketing In The Buyer's Context.”
The report defines a framework for understanding the relevance of the customer journey and the need to adapt to changing customer demands and evolving buying journeys through a customer-centric approach to marketing with strategies mapped to the buyer’s journey.
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Mapping Experiences to the Buyer’s Journey Remains Integral to Marketing and Sales Success
Three years after Pattek’s report was originally published (it was updated in May 2014) the central argument remains just as critical for B2B marketing success, if not more so.
In a related blog post, Pattek explains why the customer-centric approach is essential:
- Buyers are in control, triggered by an internal or external disruption that creates a need.
- Mapping the buyer’s journey reveals key decision-making junctures throughout the buying process. Coupled with buyer personas, the buyer’s journey map becomes “the foundation upon which B2B marketing teams construct marketing strategies, messages, and offers tuned to specific customer needs and designed to help customers navigate their decision processes.”
- Relevance to unique customer needs speeds purchase decisions. “Strategically aligning content to each journey stage helps steer the buyer in the right direction.”
“Sellers who are ready to meet customers at different points on their journeys will exploit digital tools more fully, allocate sales and marketing resources more successfully, and stimulate collaboration between these two functions, thereby helping to win over reluctant buyers,” explains Oskar Lingqvist, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Jennifer Stanley in a February 2015 article for McKinsey Quarterly.
The authors note that while substantial change is often needed to achieve these goals, their experience working with more than 100 B2B sales organizations reveals that the payoff is well worth it, with benefits such as:
- Up to a 20 percent increase in customer leads.
- 10 percent growth in new (first-time) buyers.
- Up to 20 percent gains in the time from lead qualification to closing a deal.
The Opportunity: Many B2B Marketers Don’t Have a Documented Content Strategy
LinkedIn Group Partner, Technology Marketing, reports that 72 percent of B2B marketers have a content strategy in place, yet just 30 percent have a documented content strategy.
Mapping content to the buyer’s journey without a documented content strategy is nearly impossible, leaving a great opportunity for enterprises to make strategic gains in the coming years.
In fact, Gartner predicts that by the year 2020, 85 percent of the customer-enterprise relationship will be managed without direct human interaction, making the role of content and digital experiences increasingly influential.
This means that B2B consumers increasingly seek channels and resources to self-educate throughout the decision-making process.
In the research process, buyers may consume content produced by you, your competitors, or third-party resources.
When you provide the right content relevant to your individual buyers at the right stage in the buyer’s journey, you gain tremendous power in influencing buying decisions in your market.
Consider how much influence a B2B enterprise exerts over prospects when they produce targeted, relevant content that’s unique to each buyer and crucial to the decision-making process at various touch points throughout the buyer’s journey while few competitors do the same.
For enterprises with channel partner programs, relying on the same mapping process to support partners with relevant, engaging content that accelerates sales multiplies this capability.
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In a recent deep-dive into channel partner marketing best practices, Docurated found that comprehensive marketing support is a key element in program success.
Mapping content to the buyer’s journey fuels strategic partner support, leading to greater partner success, strengthening your partner relationships and boosting revenues.
How to Create Relevant Experiences by Mapping Content to the Buyer’s Journey
The process for mapping content to the buyer’s journey relies on a few basic fundamentals.
Of course, your customers’ buying journey is unique to your industry and perhaps even your company, so there’s no one-size-fits-all template.
Julie Kukesh presented a straightforward, three-step mapping process at #INBOUND14 based on three fundamentals: content type and format, keywords and relevant terms, and user behavior and research, all of which converge at a single stage in the buying cycle as illustrated in the screenshot below.
Akoonu details the buyer’s journey mapping process using Lyftz, a supply chain management software company, as a case study.
Each buyer persona may go through a different buying journey or interact with your company at different touch points.
Overall, however, the buyer’s journey generally consists of some combination of these phases:
At every stage of the buyer’s journey, the needs, activities, content preferences, and participation level is documented for each buyer persona.
You’ll find dozens (perhaps hundreds) of models, frameworks, and templates for the mapping process.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what model you use as long as it’s in line with (or customizable to) your business needs.
Your buyer personas, buyer preferences and needs, touch points, and even the buyer’s journey overall may evolve over time, so choose a model capable of adapting to your changing business needs.
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The mapping process is complex and multi-faceted, yet once complete serves as a strategic framework and foundation allowing you to produce content that meets unique buyer needs, addresses key challenges specific to each buyer at various stages throughout the journey, and in a format in line with each buyer’s preferences.
It’s the basis on which you’ll base every marketing and sales asset created, allowing you to fine-tune and focus your content efforts with laser precision, a living, functional tool that gives your enterprise a distinct advantage and the power to influence buying behavior in the complex digital world.