The customer journey has become very fragmented in an omni-channel world. While the ripples of this began with consumers, it’s certainly true in the B2B world. The pandemic and its aftermath have added to the chaos, creating even more touchpoints and channels to engage and convert audiences. To guide customers more precisely, you’ll need to redefine the customer journey with content.
Let’s find out how!
We’re All in the “Messy Middle”
With the fragmentation of the customer journey comes the term “messy middle,” coined by Google. They define it as a “complex space between triggers and purchase, where customers are won and lost.”
Buyers do two things here — explore and evaluate. They can move in and out of these actions, and what’s propelling them through? It’s content, and B2B buyers are heavy consumers of it before decision-making. On average, they consume 13 pieces of content before engaging with sales, most of which they’ll seek on your website. That number looks to be growing, as B2B content consumption increased by 9 percent in 2021.
Thus, it’s clear you’ll need to redefine the customer journey with content. You’ll need to align content to every touchpoint and make it compelling and relevant while buyers move in and out of the messy middle.
You’ll want to start by creating customer journey maps for every persona, product, or brand in your enterprise. On this map, you’ll need to understand customers profoundly and what drives them in the direction of choosing your organization as their solution.
Developing a Customer Journey Map
A customer journey map is a visual representation of how customers engage with your company and their experiences. It defines the audience’s needs, what motivates them, what worries them, and what their expectations are. Those things can change rapidly, too, depending on their industry, customers, or a million other factors. So, to say that a customer journey is an ongoing project is an understatement!
Check out the video below for a short introduction to customer journey maps.
Every customer journey looks different, but these steps are universal in helping you align content to each touchpoint. To begin this exercise, you’ll need:
- Your content audit report that defines each asset’s persona and funnel stage (e.g., top, middle, and bottom)
- Content analytics data that identifies your top-performing content in terms of lead acquisition and conversions
- Detailed buyer personas
- Information about how most customers purchase from website data, sales, customer interviews, and any other source
With these resources, you can begin your journey.
Step One: Outline a Typical Buying Process with Content
A product or service can have a short or long buying process, depending on the cost, number of decision-makers, and how much it will impact operations. From your data, you should be able to designate milestones in the process relating to content:
- Determine the formats, topics, etc. that were most likely to deliver a lead.
- Analyze what content buyers consumed after the initial acquisition that turned the lead into an MQL (marketing qualified lead).
- Find out what content was most likely to deliver a conversion.
This process is not an exact science. You’ll have to make some assumptions, no matter how streamlined your data and attribution tactics are. When developing this, don’t forget about the “messy middle” where audiences can go from researching to getting close to a purchase (e.g., free trial) to back to exploring.
Step Two: Define User Actions After Content Consumption
In the customer journey map with content, you’re looking for what users typically do when they consume content. They may go in search of content about your company through other sources. They could start following you on social media or come back to your site to download a case study.
There will be exceptions to every rule, but you’re just looking at what they would likely do. Here’s an example.
New user downloads a top-funnel ebook as their first known engagement. The user then opens the email with the ebook and clicks on a secondary piece of content, heading back to your website.
So, what do you do next to redefine their journey with content? You can send them through a nurturing campaign or retarget them with sponsored content on LinkedIn. Then, after some time, they return to your website and request a demo after researching and evaluating.
Every new touchpoint with content gives you more information about how they respond. This is valuable data that will inform your content strategy and much more.
Step Three: Consider Every Touchpoint a Customer Could Have on Your Journey
Your initial map is your best hypothesis on the journey. While well-informed, it’s not perfect. So, you have to map out every touchpoint scenario in terms of content, both online and offline. Tracking how a buyer engages with content you own is only part of it — your website, social profiles, email, etc. However, there are offline and other interactions that you need to account for as well. Those could include:
- In-person events: You’ll only know about this interaction if they provide their contact information.
- Informal meetings with salespeople: Hopefully, your sales team will include this in your CRM.
- Partner events: You may be hosting a webinar through an association or publication and would receive their information from the third party.
- Guest articles or sponsored content: This content lives on another organization’s site but could link to yours. In considering this touchpoint, think about what CTA would get a buyer to click to move down through the journey.
Redefine Your Customer Journey with Content
When you put all these pieces together, you should have a view of how someone engages with your brand and becomes a customer through the lens of content. Remember, this is a living document that will evolve as you collect more data. In the end, you should be able to map out the specific content pieces that drive the customer journey to your door.
Have more questions about customer journey maps? Check out our post on how to incorporate them into your marketing strategy.