Shoppers have always responded favorably to a helpful, personalized buying experience. Online platforms have only increased that expectation. Retail platforms like Amazon and Wayfair, and services like Netflix and Uber have conditioned consumers to get what they want, when they want it, with an even greater expectation of a shopping experience that is personalized just for them.
The wealth of product information available online has empowered consumers like never before, shifting control of the buying process away from the seller, to the buyer. Research suggests up to 80% of a buyer’s decision-making process is already completed online before contacting a sales representative.
This shift in buyer behavior presents an incredible opportunity that gives helpful brands the advantage. By creating useful content marketing that helps the consumer’s buying research, sellers can reach prospects earlier, and build trusting relationships that nurture them through their purchase process.
Content marketing is an effective strategy that combines creation of informative content that is helpful to shoppers, with marketing automation to reach the right shoppers, with the information they want, at just the right stage in their buying cycle.
Target audiences have been a staple of advertising from the beginning. Most companies capture email addresses of leads and customers. Many get started using an email marketing program that provides a simple way to segment email lists and send targeted email campaigns or trigger automated follow-up emails when a visitor fills out a web form.
But today’s consumer expects a more personalized, 1-to-1 shopping experience. Think of Amazon; when you revisit the website, the home page is customized just for you based on your previous shopping activity. The same is true of Netflix. When you revisit the site, you’re presented with an updated list of recommended movies. These sites look at your previous activity to make suggestions for what else you might enjoy.
Similarly, each visitor to your website is at a different stage in the buyer journey. By identifying what kind of information that will resonate most with each buyer, a content marketing strategy makes it possible to bring this type of personalized experience to your website visitors, leads and customers.
Using a robust marketing automation platform such as HubSpot, you can identify how visitors engage with your website, track which pages they visit, how often they return, what forms they fill out, and what emails they click. Then, based on this data, you can present them with content that is most likely to appeal to them and promote further action. For example, we can assume that a repeat visitor who has downloaded a whitepaper and looked at your pricing page is further along the buyer journey and should receive a different message than a first-time visitor.
Rather than automatically sending the same email message to every visitor who fills out a form on your website, we recommend triggering your marketing automation workflows based on a unique contact property, such as lifecycle stage to send relevant messages to contacts at each stage of their buyer journey. We use eight default lifecycle stages to define contacts:
Subscriber: contacts who know of your business and have opted in to hear more from your team. Likely, these are visitors that have signed up for your blog or newsletter and are early in the information gathering process.
Lead: contacts who have shown greater interest in your business beyond being a subscriber. For example, a contact who fills out a form to download general, often “how-to” content.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): contacts who have engaged with your marketing efforts but are still not ready to receive a sales call. An example of a MQL is a contact who responds to a specific form in a marketing campaign or who has requested multiple content offers.
Sales Qualified Lead: (SQL): contacts who have indicated through their actions that they are ready for a direct sales follow up. An example of a SQL is a contact who submits a question about your product through a contact form.
Opportunity: contacts who are likely sales opportunities.
Customer: contacts who have purchased your product.
Evangelist: customers who advocate for your business or brand, often on social media, and whose networks may be leveraged for further leads.
Other: a wildcard stage that can be used when a contact does not fit any of the above stages.
To keep your marketing messages relevant, the lifecycle stage should update automatically. One method is to use a lead score to assign points as the visitor engages in various ways with your website. For example, a contact who fills out a web form might score five points, and another five points if they open the follow-up email. After the contact accumulates 15 points, marketing automation software updates the contact’s lifecycle stage to MQL and that contact starts to receive different messages than a first-time Lead who downloaded the same offer.
Customize your lead nurturing sequences further by layering other unique contact properties onto your workflows. For example, if you’re a hardware manufacturing company that sells products in multiple channels, you could create separate nurturing messages for each channel, and use marketing automation to make sure the right messages go to the right prospects.
By creating helpful content for buyers at different stages in their buyer journey and using marketing automation to intentionally present that information to select contacts based on their website activity, savvy brands are able to connect and develop deeper relationships with buyers who may be “just browsing” online. Contact Heinzeroth Marketing Group to learn more about content marketing and how we can help get your strategy started.