The web has changed the way marketers, sales, and buyers interact. We get that. The uprising success of content based marketing is leading a movement stronger than the markets themselves. We’re learning that. And as buyers continue to gain more and more leverage of the buying process, content is becoming increasingly important in defining marketing strategies that truly accommodate your buyers’ needs. We MUST understand that.
How readers read, and respond to, industrial marketing content, and all content for that matter, is most effectively categorized into four main stages of awareness:
1.) Discovery: This first, initial phase of awareness starts when a prospect is seeking information on their needs. What, specifically, are their needs? This is the ?awareness? stage where prospects discover a gap and begin to explore filling it. Having quality, continuous content and a strong web presence across a variety of marketing platforms ? website, directories, SEO, social media, blogs, white papers, etc. ? sets the stage for those end users to ?discover? you.
2.) Research: Once the need is identified, more specific information is determined to how they should go about the procurement process. Suppliers and their competitors are discovered and researched. This is the process where the buyer builds a mental note of ?who has this available.? Thus, their initial exposure to your website, brand, company or content might be through a link, a topic search, a recommendation, etc.
3.) Sourcing: During the sourcing stage, a buyer becomes more actively engaged with companies to identify who can best solve their problem. During this stage, the buyer narrows down purchasing options by exploring product specs, adjusting requirements, and more. This is the stage that requires guidance and is the first true interactive conversion. Here content comes down to your online brand identity. What people know about you ? online and elsewhere ? is generally due to the content that?s available. The more, the better, the more unique and individual and quality, relevant content that speaks to your customers is available, the sooner you become the go-to ?source? for their particular needs.
4.) Procurement: This stage of the content cycle is when buying decisions are made. This point of the process is when pricing is viewed, specifications are verified and final questions are answered by various vendors. This is also typically where most companies stop their engagement and leave the customer in control of this process. It is the one true opportunity where companies can differentiate themselves through, what else, content aimed squarely at the end user.
By understanding the buying cycle and creating a machine of content to supply buyers with the resources they need for each stage of the cycle, it will allow marketers to not only identify clear needs, but to stay engaged with the buyer through each critical elements of the sales cycle. Incidentally, this is called a ?cycle? because content is driven by the customer and the customer is driven by the content.
Parting Words About Your Killer Content Machine
This ?cycle? is why content is so critical. It is the driving force behind the marketing and sales cycles while driving conversion in a uniformed way. The content machine must consistently be maintained, just as a traditional machine would be maintained.
The better the machine, the better the process.
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