Broadly speaking, a marketing channel describes the path a good or service takes from production to consumption. There are many different types of marketing channels small businesses can take advantage of—cold calling, email marketing, door-to-door sales, industry events, display advertising, and content marketing, to name a few.
It’s that last option—content marketing—that this article will explore. Specifically, this article will reveal how to tell if content marketing is a good match for your business’s marketing needs.
But first, a few definitions are in order.
What, Exactly, is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is an alternative approach to the traditional “sales pitch.” Instead of convincing potential customers that they need your goods or services directly, content marketers provide helpful and relevant content that helps answer potential customers’ questions.
Through engagement with your content, the customer decides for themselves to purchase your goods or services. It’s marketing inception!
Effective content marketers anticipate the types of questions their customers might ask. By designing content that addresses these questions, content marketers guide customers along the buyer’s journey toward realizing that your good or service is the best solution to their problem.
Essentially, content marketers utilize unconscious branding through the buyer’s journey to do the following things:
- Associate your brand with authority by positioning your brand as a company that provides high-quality answers
- Provide real solutions to problems that customers have through different types of content—blog posts, videos, infographics
- Make the process of solving customers’ problems easier through a well-designed website that is optimized for search
- Creates a community of customers that regularly engage with new content which helps maintain brand loyalty
But what, exactly, is this buyer’s journey?
Explaining the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey is a model that allows marketers to conceptualize the rational decision-making processes in buyers’ minds that lead to a purchase. It can be tied loosely to the literary concept of the hero’s journey, which is a model that tracks the growth and development of a character as they move through a narrative toward the conclusion.
For our purposes, the hero’s journey is an effective literary tool that helps storytellers emotionally engage their audience by placing the audience in the hero’s shoes.
Similarly, the buyer’s journey is a map that helps marketers envision the mindset of potential customers as they traverse the marketing funnel toward conversion.
The Three Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
Most digital marketers break the buyer’s journey into three distinct phases. However, some marketers see value in further breaking down the buyer’s journey. We are going to stick with the traditional three-stage buyer’s journey.
For more information on how marketers expand the buyer’s journey past three stages, check out this resource.
Excellent content marketers will create content that addresses the main concerns of potential buyers at each step of the journey.
This stage of the buyer’s journey sees our potential customers becoming aware that they have a problem. They either lack something or need some sort of service to fix a problem. During this stage, the buyer will start to research their issue—usually through a google search.
Here are some search queries that represent awareness stage questions potential customers might have:
- “Why does my TV have a weird streak?”
- “What kind of dinner is good for the 4th of July party?”
- “What do I do if my boss denied time off request?”
Good content marketers will already have anticipated questions like these. They will have already curated quality blog posts, videos, or infographics explaining these issues so that when the potential buyer searches for these queries, the content marketer’s useful, valuable content appears on the search engine results page (SERPs).
Some examples of content that responds to the queries above are:
- A blog post written by an electronics repair company— “What is that Weird Streak on My TV?”
- A youtube video made by a local catering company— “Easy 4th of July Recipies for Big Parties”
- An infographic produced by an employment lawyer— “What To Do When Your Boss Denies Time Off”
During this stage, the buyer digs deeper into solutions and weighs which options will serve them best. Buyers might explore the topic more thoroughly or search out alternative solutions to try to decide on the option that is most amenable to them. What constitutes as amenable is based on many variable factors like a person’s budget, taste, time restrictions, etc.
Here are some queries that a buyer in the consideration phase might search for when exploring solutions to their problem. Notice that the questions become more specific. This reveals that the buyer has become relatively informed on the issue and is now exploring particular solutions that fit their needs best.
- “Is it cheaper to repair TV or buy a new one?”
- “Best ways to plan and prepare a 4th of July dinner fast”
- “How to tell if I am a non-exempt employee”
In the first example, the buyer is clearly concerned about the price. In the second example, the buyer needs to plan and prepare a meal for a party quickly (maybe it’s July 3rd). In the third example, the buyer has learned that whether they have any pushback against their boss’s denial of their time off request depends on their employment classification.
Here are some examples of content that respond specifically to these consideration stage queries:
- A youtube video made by the same electronics repair company— “Am I Better Off Buying A New TV or Paying For Repairs?”
- A blog post by the same catering company— “When Should I Call The Caterers—How To Get A Full Meal In a Time-Crunch?”
- A youtube video from the same law firm— “Are You an Exempt or Non-Exempt Employee? What’s the Difference?”
By this point, the buyer needs to decide. They’ve conducted research, and now all that’s left is to choose a brand to align with. Content at this stage of the buyer’s journey usually funnels the buyer toward a service page or payment portal on the business’s website.
Examples of decision stage content are customer reviews, comparisons, and tutorials. Generally, decision stage content appears in the form of review videos or blog posts but can also appear as podcasts or interviews.
Is Content Marketing Right For Your Business?
Content marketing is a valuable marketing channel for many businesses, but it isn’t suitable for all businesses. Content marketing is a must for businesses that can answer customers’ questions by providing helpful information.
How many people are curious about the finer points of moving furniture? If you own a moving company—you are likely wasting your marketing budget by curating a blog. However, if you are a worker’s compensation lawyer, it’s a safe bet that people will turn to google to ask their questions about getting compensation for workplace injuries.
Is content marketing a good strategy for your business?
Roni Davis is a marketer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area.