The Best Content Formats for Each Stage of the Buyer Journey

September 22, 2014

If you’re creating content simply for the sake of having a blog or because you’ve been told you should, don’t expect to see big results. In order to make content marketing truly worthwhile, you need to take a strategic and systematic approach. It starts with breaking down your target customers’ buying journeys, and identifying “sticking points” where they are getting caught up and failing to convert. From there, you can focus your efforts on attacking those bottlenecks and “unsticking” more and more potential buyers with the right content in the right context at the right time.
Buyer Journey Stages
Note: Your own approach should be ultimately be tailored to address the unique bottlenecks in your prospects’ buying journeys, but to help you get started, I’ve broken down a very simplistic buying process into four stages, and identified various effective content formats for tackling each below.
You may also find this post helpful: B2B Content Mapping: Create a Content Matrix in 8 Simple Steps

Stage 1: Unaware

Your Goal: Raise Awareness of Your Brand

In today’s B2B environment, it’s more and more likely the first interaction buyers will have with your brand is with your online content. As such, you want to make sure you’re making a good, lasting first impression.
Keep in mind not to come off too strong by diving into feature specifics or pushing for the sale right away. Not everyone who sees this initial content will be ready to buy. They may not even be the right (or best) type of customer for your solution. And that’s okay. Think of this as the first step in a long learning and qualifying process.
To cast a wide initial net, you’ll want to have short, high-level pieces of content that are helpful, memorable, and as entertaining as they are educational. It’s also crucial to lay the groundwork for establishing a relationship with the audience by including high-touch/low-commitment calls to action, such as invitations to subscribe to your blog.
Types of Content to Create:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Industry data
  • Podcasts

Quick How-to Resources

Stage 2: Aware

Your Goal: Demonstrate the Value of Solving the Problem
Now start narrowing your focus. Educate your target audience about the problems they are facing and that there are better ways of doing things. At this point you should still avoid creating content that’s specifically all about you or your products. Instead, focus it on addressing issues that are important to your buyers. Identify hurdles that are holding them back, and offer helpful suggestions, information, and resources that can help them. In other words, focus on providing value through your content, rather than simply using it as a vehicle for promotion and conversion. Treat it as your opportunity to become a trusted resource and an industry thought leader.
Note: You’ll want to dive deeper than you did with the content above, and you may need to invest additional resources in order to do so.
Types of Content to Create:

  • Long form posts
  • Webinars
  • eBooks
  • White papers
  • Reports

Quick How-to Resources

Stage 3: Interest and Research

Your Goal: Promote Interest in Finding the Right Solution and Start Differentiating Yourself

Encourage exploration of the right solution by explaining what factors your target audience should be considering when looking at products and services. Demonstrate how the various solutions to your target audience’s problem differ, and why yours is the best. Employ content that clearly articulates the value that your company and your solution can bring.

At this point, your content can be less agnostic and more clearly focused on how your solution can solve the target buyer’s problem better than anyone else’s.
Types of Content to Create:

  • Landing pages
  • Case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Product demos
  • Fact sheets
  • ROI calculators

Quick How-to Resources

Stage 4: Purchase

Your Goal: Remove Impediments and Enable the Sale
Provide your target audience with everything necessary to evaluate your solution and ensure that it’s the right fit for them. This is where open communication channels and feedback loops between sales and marketing are key. Marketers should consider sales their customer — find out what materials and resources reps need to break down roadblocks and close the sale.
If your product has a free trial now is also a good opportunity to provide content that ensures prospects realize value from the trial quickly and effectively. Here are two examples of content that can help.
Types of Content to Create:

  • How-to videos
  • Tutorials

Free Content Mapping Tool

Our free content audit template will help you conduct a gap analysis to determine what assets you have and what new content your buyers really need. Download it here.
Image by Gerry Thomasen

Senior Content Manager

<strong>Jonathan Crowe</strong> is Senior Content Manager at <a href="">Barkly</a>. He was previously the Managing Editor of OpenView Labs.