Friday, October 18, 2013

FAQ Series: What types of assets are users viewing at each stage of the buyer journey?

A frequently asked question that came up again at a recent client meeting was “what types of assets are users viewing at each stage of the buyer journey”

There are several reports available that provide deeper insight on this – TechTarget Media Consumption here. DemandGen also has a similar report here. Beyond that Annuitas Group also published a similar report about how to bridge the gap of getting users from the top of funnel to the end here.

However to simplify, my brief thoughts on this are:

With the ease of access to information that the web and mobile provides, users can enter the funnel at any time. It’s no longer linear. There are several published articles on this already but I like this one by Nichole Kelly as she uses the visual of a Neural Network rather than a funnel.

The buyer journey is complex and the path is subject to changing direction as they digest information. As users research, new questions come up and pain points or goals of the solution they are looking for can change. This changes the type of content they look for.

This becomes exceptionally clear when you look at a real user journey from start to finish. I have worked to produce visualizations of real users navigating through the buy cycle. These visualizations show where companies have a sales win and then look back through the content consumption of all users at that account from start to finish in the buy cycle.  What is obvious in these exercises is that users are engaging with content that would often be labeled typical “awareness stage” content even in the late stages of the buy cycle. 

Below is a simplified real account journey of an account that purchased from a client (client info removed for privacy concerns). You can see below their interactions cover everything from Editorial articles, to live chats, through to custom live events. Editorial articles are typically something that would be labeled awareness content yet this account still viewed almost 50 articles of this type in the month prior to purchasing. This content consumption pattern process isn't a linear process with users consuming only Awareness -> Consideration -> Decision Stage content. The better indicator of buy stage is overall volume of topically relevant content consumed, and other triggers like how many from a buying team are involved, buyer personas factors, etc. Yes content type can be considered but it’s not the primary or only indicator. Identifying the buy stage is a about looking at a blend of aspects rather than looking for one singular asset interaction.

So to get back to the question was “what types of assets are users viewing at each stage of the buyer journey”. I think it’s clear that users view all types of assets during the buy cycle. The better question would be to ask, do you have the right content, in the right place, at the right time?

Here are 3 steps you can take to help have the right content, in the right place, at the right time:

1 – Focus on producing content of value. As explained in the book Youtility content must help users with their problem. (Forget product sell sheets; focus on the users pain points)
2 – Identify the buyer personas that apply to your solutions buying teams. Tailor content to each personas unique needs
3 – Conduct a content analysis to find gaps, and then fill them.

So while yes generally speaking assets like eGuides tend to be early stage, and assets like vendor comparisons tend to be late stage, this isn’t an absolute. The better approach is to do the content audit, then fill gaps based on priorities. From there use analytics and other nurturing data to identify where the users/accounts are in the buy cycle based on overall consumption patterns.

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