Mapping Content to the Buying Cycle

Anticipating the needs of a potential customer has always been one of the cornerstones of effective sales. In the digital age, when we no longer have the luxury of face-to-face contact with our customers, the content we provide is what builds that important connection. Too often, marketers attempt to make their content as universal as possible — ignoring the fact that the needs of each customer are different and change over time. One way around this is to map your content to the buying cycle.

What Is the Buying Cycle?

We typically think of consumer behavior as a four step process:

  1. Awareness — The preliminary step of the buying cycle is the awareness stage. At this point, consumers may only have a vague sense of what they’re looking for and are tentatively exploring their options via social media or web search.
  2. Interest — The consumer has identified a need for a given product or service, and has found their way to your website. At this stage, you should be focused on convincing the customer that your business is best suited to provide that product or fulfill that need.
  3. Consideration/Evaluation – The consumer has narrowed their search to 2-3 vendors to consider purchasing from. At this stage, you need to focus on differentiation and giving the consumer a sample of what they’ll get if they select your product or service.
  4. Purchase — The consumer is ready to buy. At this point, they’ll know what they want and will have identified specific “must-haves.” Your goal now is to close the sale by demonstrating the added value you can offer them.

How Do I Map Content to the Buyer’s Journey?

Mapping a customer’s journey is straightforward enough — creating content that speaks to them at each stage is another issue entirely. Try to determine the customer’s needs at each step and build an experience that is relevant, impactful and persuasive.

At the awareness stage, avoid technical language or overly salesy content. Your goal is to educate and you can do this through blog posts, social media, infographics and other accessible content. At the interest stage, you should be attempting to position yourself as a leader in your field — do this through more in-depth content that shows off a level of fluency with your industry. At the consideration stage you should have content that shows you specific product or service such as demos or product overviews. At the decision stage, make your sales pitch. Use testimonials, case studies, and more to make a compelling case for the value your product or service offers.

What Content Mapping Tools Are Available?

Content mapping tools can help you visualize a consumer’s experience and create content that speaks to the specific stage they’re at in the buying cycle. Developing a buyer persona toolkit will give you an in-depth picture of who uses your site and how. This, in turn, will allow you to personalize content to their needs, prioritize your best prospects and strengthen customer engagement.

The next step is to take this information and apply it to the design and content of your website. Here, the right software can be essential to staying organized and developing a website that flows logically. Some of our favorite tools for content mapping include:

  • Jumpchart: Jumpchart is a great content mapping tool because it provides a single platform that can be accessed by programmers, project managers, information architects, copywriters and other key players in the design process. Mapping the customer experience is particularly easy thanks to a drag and drop hierarchy tool.
  • Writemaps: The bare bones interface of Writemaps is perfect for anyone who generates their best ideas in a minimalist environment. Don’t let its appearance fool you, though — Writemaps is a powerful organizational tool for creating and collaborating on content maps and website hierarchies.
  • Slickplan: As one of the most popular website content mapping tools on the market today, SlickPlan is an intuitive sitemap builder that is trusted by some of the world’s largest businesses, including Motorola and the BBC. Try it out in a 30 day free trial to see if it’s right for you.

While all of these tools are useful, remember that they are no substitute for compelling content that grabs your audience’s attention.

Find more content mapping strategies in our whitepaper The Ultimate Guide to the New Buyers Journey!