When creating content for your brand, it’s easy to get hyper-focused on one aspect of the buyer’s journey — usually the awareness stage. You’re so busy putting content together to let people know about your product, you can forget that there are all those other steps to turning a visitor into a customer.
That can leave you with a significant amount of content gaps.
The best way to identify and fill those gaps is to take a close look at your audience and the journey they go on before buying your product or service. Then create content for each step they take.
Step 1: Identify Your Audience
Like any other content marketing endeavor, the first thing to do is identify your audience. Not everyone reaches a purchasing decision in the same way.
For example, if you are a high-end cruise line, your audience will most likely be older, between 40 and 70. They’ll have more disposable income and may even be retired.
Let’s look at the baby boomer segment of that age group.
According to Smart Insights, baby boomers research products before making a purchasing decision, and they’ll mainly use a company’s website to do that. They do spend a fair amount of time on social media, particularly Facebook, and 60 percent of baby boomers read blogs and online articles, while 70 percent view videos online.
If you’re a cruise line catering to a younger crowd, however, your buyer persona will look quite different.
Millennials are more likely, for instance, to make purchasing decisions based on recommendations from friends or peers. And they’re more likely to buy from brands that are as concerned about the state of the world as they are, according to Forbes.
They are more likely to have a smartphone and they are social media natives.
The way each group approaches the buyer journey and the way you create content for that journey is going to be very different.
Step 2: Walk Through the Buyer Journey
Once you know who your audience is, you can map out their buyer journey.
I know. You’re thinking that’s a lot of stages to map and how will you create content for each one? But don’t worry. A buyer’s journey can be boiled down to three stages, which are all captured by your sales funnel.
Top of the Funnel
The top of the funnel is where users discover your product or service. Typically (and depending on your audience) this is where your SEO-optimized and social media content comes in.
For your baby boomer cruiser, they might find you through a travel article, a Facebook ad, or a piece on your own blog.
Your millennial vacationer, on the other hand, might discover you through the gorgeous pictures in your Instagram feed.
If you’re a B2B company, publication in a professional journal or an ebook might lead prospective customers to your site.
Middle of the Funnel
The middle of the funnel can be the tricky part. Again, it all depends on the type of company you are, your product or service and your audience.
If you are a retailer, your middle of the funnel — the part where you keep potential customers interested and move them further down to a conversion — is going to be pretty short. They’ll find your product, evaluate it through some research and then make a decision to buy or not.
But you might keep them interested with a newsletter or targeted email, particularly if you’re trying to keep them as a repeat buyer.
For a B2B company, there’s more time spent in the middle part of the sales funnel. “A $50 pair of sneakers, for instance, requires a lot less handholding when it comes to making purchase decisions than a $10,000 business software investment,” says HubSpot.
It’s here that you might present a white paper or case study to win over your B2B customers.
Bottom of the Funnel
Your user has found you and done their research, now they’re ready to make a buying decision.
For a B2B company, a video tour of your product or service could help drive a decision. So could a fact sheet that compares your company to that of your competitors, or a case study that proves your expertise in your field.
For a B2C customer, particularly a younger one, customer testimonials or content about how your product is somehow life-changing may seal the deal.
Step 3: Do a Content Gap Analysis
Once you’ve identified your audience and mapped out their buyer journey, you can dive into your content gap analysis.
A gap analysis will give you a clear picture of your content’s strengths and weaknesses. You can then plan content to shore up those weak spots and better support your sales funnel.
Do Your Research
What kinds of content should you be creating at each stage of the buyer’s journey? List out exactly which topics you should be addressing and in which format.
For your cruisers, you may start with Facebook and Instagram posts, as well as seasonal content on your blog. You may reach out to travel writers to gauge their interest in native advertising.
Once you have your audience’s attention (and possibly their email), you may keep their interest with email newsletters or some videos offering travel tips.
Finally, you may offer customer testimonials to get them to convert.
Once you have a fully fleshed-out list of your content plan, it’s time to compare it to your current content offerings.
Content Mapping and Looking for Gaps
Now you need to get a full picture of the depth and breadth of your content. There’s no shortage of tools to crawl your site and spit out reams of data. They’ll generate a report of all the indexable content you currently have. You can then compare that list to your new content plan to see where your gaps are. Fine in theory but difficult in practice when you have thousands of pages of content.
MarketMuse performs a semantic analysis of all content on your site. It looks at the topic coverage across your site as well across each piece to help you plan better content that fully engages your audience.
Step 4: Content Planning to Fill the Gaps
You’ve done a lot of work at this point, but knowing where the content gaps are is just the first step.
Now, it’s time to put together a content plan to fill those gaps.
Identify the Weak Spot in Your Sales Funnel
Look back at your buyer’s journey as it pertains to your sales funnel. Historically, where have you had the most trouble? Are you attracting plenty of people initially, but seeing them drop off almost immediately? Are potential customers engaging with your middle-of-the-funnel content but abandoning just before their purchase?
Wherever you see a weak spot in your sales funnel is where you should concentrate your initial content efforts.
And if you’re not sure, site analysis tools like Crazy Egg can help you discover where you’re losing people through heatmapping, scroll mapping and other tools.
Plan Your Content
Now that you know where to concentrate your efforts and your resources, start planning your content. Look back at your gaps and research how your competitors are covering them. Check for relevant or trending keywords for top-of-the-funnel content or see if there’s a white space in the area that you can fill.
And remember, MarketMuse won’t just tell you where your content is lacking. It will give you suggestions on how to fill those gaps, too.
Now, it’s time to plan your calendar and write your briefs.
Put together a realistic content calendar that allows you to create the comprehensive content you need, and make sure it jives with your budget.
If you’re creating video content, for example, give yourself time to find the right resources to help you out, that you’ve thought about the right channels to promote your videos and that you have time for a few rounds of editing.
For blog posts, take time to hire the right writers. Create comprehensive briefs that contain keywords and important topics to cover, as well as relevant links to include. You can do this manually if you insist, but MarketMuse is a far easier option.
Give yourself time for a few rounds of edits, as well.
Step 5: Measure Your Content
Once you’ve published your content, don’t just let it sit there. Measure it against your marketing and sales goals to make sure it’s actually performing for you.
If your goal was to raise awareness, for example, check page and social views. Look at time-on-page and scroll depth. Check to see if users are clicking on embedded CTAs and if they’re engaging with more than one piece of content.
For middle-of-the-funnel content, check to see how many people are giving you their email to download your case study. How many views are your tour videos getting and what’s the complete rate? Are users requesting sales demos via your content?
Finally, how many people are converting on your bottom-of-the-funnel content? Have your purchase rates gone up through your new content.
Mapping content against the customer journey gives you an inward look at your content marketing strategy and how it’s directly affecting your sales and your company’s success as a whole. A thorough analysis performed on a yearly, or even quarterly basis is a great way to keep your strategy on the right path.