As sales processes have grown longer and more complex, the significance of the buyer’s journey in the sales process has grown too. The buyer’s journey refers to the various steps a buyer takes to purchase a product. Mapping a buyer’s journey is crucial since it determines the kind of content that a buyer would be looking for at each step of the journey. Sellers can derive the maximum value out of content by ensuring that the right piece of content is provided to the buyer at the right time. Aligning content with the buyer’s journey ensures that this happens.
In its simplest form, the buyer’s journey consists of three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. At what stage the buyers are in their journey would determine the kind of questions they would ask, and the answers they would seek.2
In the awareness stage, for instance, buyers have recognized the symptoms of a problem, and are working toward mapping the problem and its effects on their business process. At this stage, the content they are seeking is educational, and the goal of sellers is to convince them that the problems they are facing can be resolved and that their business processes will be the better for it.
In the consideration stage, buyers are involved in researching and understanding the various solutions that are available to solve their problems. At this point, buyers are looking for content that would help them decide such questions as to whether they should build the process in-house or outsource it, how easily they can integrate the solution with their existing systems, what kind of resource investments they would require, and so on.
The final decision stage is where the buyer progressively narrows down on a single solution, makes a list of sellers and products that can provide that solution, and ultimately makes the purchase decision. The seller’s goals here are to address the buyer’s specific pain points, align the product story to address the concerns of various stakeholders within the buyer organization and tackle objections toward the new investment.
However, it’s important to remember that the buyer’s journey, in reality, is not linear. Buyers move in and out of the different stages, often circling back as they seek to achieve the goals of finding decision-enabling information, validating that information, and getting other stakeholders to buy into that information. Sellers need to ensure that they stay continuously engaged with buyers all along this journey, providing seamless integration of content across online and offline channels.
The benefits of aligning content with the buyer’s journey are many.
Firstly, it allows for increased personalization. According to Gartner, customers are three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret when suppliers provide information perceived as helpful in advancing the purchase process.3 Aligning content with the buyer’s journey allows sales teams to provide only the most relevant information required by buyers based on the questions they ask at each point of interaction. Personalizing content in this manner also allows sales teams to target their messaging at different stakeholders within the buyer organization, thus creating a process that facilitates an organizational buy-in.
Secondly, it helps shorten the sales cycle. Content and messaging focused on the buyer journey helps to drive prospects further and faster along the sales path, as it focuses on what generates momentum at each step of the way. Coupled with strong content analytics that gives sellers a clearer sense of who the promising leads and high-value accounts are, such messaging can make the sales cycle shorter and more efficient.
Finally, it provides greater visibility into the sales process. By seeing how buyers engage with content at different stages in the buyer’s journey, sellers gain greater clarity into the sales process. This provides them with valuable data on what the buyer’s expectations are at each stage, the kind of engagement they are seeking, and what type of content is effective in moving them along the sales journey.
However, aligning content with the buyer’s journey requires a smart content strategy that allows marketing and sales teams to efficiently contextualize content for different buyers. While creating such compelling content requires content expertise in knowing what generates interest and provokes a response, on-ground inputs on what clinches a deal are just as vital. Sales teams are on the frontline of this process, making the calls and driving the conversations to the point where buyers are convinced to make the purchase decision. Proper alignment between sales and marketing teams is, thus, key to taking the buyer through the entire buying journey. There are several ways to encourage content collaboration between sales and marketing teams, including joint development of buyer personas and mapping of buyer journeys, sourcing inputs on content gaps from the sales team, and training the sales staff to use content assets effectively at different stages in the buyer’s journey.
If your answer to the question that we posed in the title of this article is a ‘No’ or, at best, a ‘Maybe,’ you might want to give us a call so that we could turn the answer into a definitive ‘Yes’!