Feeding the Beast: Mapping Your Content to Your Buyer’s Journey

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In a recent blog post, Sid Smith of the Albertson Group made the good point that marketing is to a large extent a “self-service operation” today; buyers get an estimated 80% of the information they need online…and that information is your content: web pages, blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, reports, white papers, email, webinars, videos, podcasts – everything and anything you have that a potential buyer can engage with and learn from.

You’re going to spend time and resources developing or acquiring the content you need to feed the beast, so it’s really good to have a plan for when and where you’re going to use it. Sid gave thoughtful pointers about how to map your content to the sales cycle, using a marketing automation platform in most stages:

1.  Attract leads

Get attention. For lead generation, content can consist of the following:

  • Advertisements (online or offline)
  • Direct mail postcards and letters
  • Online articles
  • Trade magazine articles
  • Press releases

The purpose of this type of content is to alert potential customers that you might have something they want or need.

2. Capture leads

Get information from a prospect. Lead capture is an exchange. You give leads something they want or need, and they give you permission to stay in touch. Lead capture has specific types of content:

  • Special reports or whitepapers
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • PowerPoint (or other) slide decks
  • Email or video tutorials
  • Calculators (such as an ROI calculator)
  • Online assessments

Marketing automation comes into play here when a prospect fills out a form on your landing page, trading their information for your content.

3. Nurture leads

Build trust and credibility. Leads come to know you, trust you, and believe that what you say is true. The types of content you’ll create to nurture leads include the same types of content you’d use for lead capture, with the important addition of email tips and blog articles. You might also throw in a live event if you’re launching a new product.

The difference between the content for capturing leads and the content for nurturing leads is how the pieces of content flow and interconnect:

  • Lead-capturing content gets people to raise their hands and say they’re interested.
  • Initial lead-nurturing content simultaneously builds trust and gauges leads’ interest in specific topics.
  • The next level of content builds credibility and intensifies leads’ desire for a solution to their problems.
  • As their desire builds, you drive home the idea that your solution is precisely what will solve their problem.
  • More content drives leads toward the inevitable conclusion to buy.

Nurturing is a labor-intensive activity, made much easier by marketing automation.

4. Segment and score leads

Get smarter about your prospects. Content can be created specifically for lead segmentation and scoring. For example, to distinguish between prospects that prefer green widgets over red widgets, you can create an email, report, or webinar about green widgets. Prospects will self-select into your designated segments, allowing you to do very targeted follow-up.

Segmentation and scoring are difficult to do without marketing automation.

This post is based on an excerpt from the Leader’s Guide to Marketing Automation.

We’re going to be sponsoring a webinar with the Albertson Performance Group soon; stay tuned for details. In the meantime, please join us for a weekly marketing automation demo  to learn more about Act-On’s easy, intuitive  platform, or contact our sales department for a one-on-one demo.

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  • http://www.invigraleads.com Stacy Gentile

    100% agree with this. Great post. One thing I would add is this. First thing to do when considering content marketing / content planning, is to take inventory of what you currently have. Then create an ideal but practical list of materials that would help you accomplish the above based on your time committment and wherewithall (money)… then you can put together a full content calendar and content tool box. Yes those are two different things.

  • http://www.act-on.com Sherry Lamoreaux

    Good points, Stacy, thanks for the tips!

  • http://www.iGrafx.com Guedo Fanony

    While this article has some pretty good info, I feel that it is nothing really outside of the box. Id love to see some unique strategies or new ideas to help capture interest and produce quality leads. Getting leads in general is great, but do you have any specific ideas for niche markets, or ways to integrate Act-On’s tools with other forms of advertising and lead gathering, like trade shows for example?

  • http://www.nwasoft.com Teresa Whelan

    I agree with Guedo that nothing amazingly new, but it’s always good to go over the basics. One thing we try to do is “write once, use many times” – so when we do a webinar, we dissect information out and then use in blog posts, create white papers, application notes, or the like, etc. If the source materials has value for your customers, creating different types of information vehicles will just reaffirm to them that value. Also agree with Stacy – planning is essential!

  • http://www.act-on.com Sherry Lamoreaux

    Guedo, as far as events go: Act-On allows marketers to upload lists of offline events and assign a lead score for this behavior. This becomes part of the prospect’s activity history – and is available to the sales team as well as the marketers. So that’s one idea.

    What are some of the out-of-the-box things you all have done that have worked well?

  • http://www.esporta.ca Howard Sures

    One of the most powerful ways we’ve found of attracting leads is to create a reward-based referral program.

    Our average sales cycle is about one year. Once we’ve captured the lead and identified the need, we spend a lot of energy nurturing. We call this process “putting our lead into our educational spectrum”. Our challenge with “Act-On” is the lack of good formatting tools to help create that content.

    I look forward to seeing that area improve.

  • Sherry Lamoreaux

    Howard, thanks for your thoughts. When you say “lack of formatting tools,” are you referring to the editor? Would you like to have a conversation with Customer Success to help us understand your concerns?

  • http://www.mybusinessintegrated.com Chris Kiersch

    I started using the lead scoring module within ActOn a couple of weeks ago. It would be great to have a list of lead scoring examples, maybe 3-4 for B2B and B2C. It reminds me of keeping score at a baseball game, everyone has a little twist on the way they do it, and most people are more than willing to share. Cheers, Chris

  • http://mybusinessintegrated.com Bruce Clithero (@BruceClithero)

    Good information to follow. Looking forward to implementing these ideas.

  • http://www.benekeith.com Julie Flickner

    Although I agree with most of what has been posted, I agree mostly with the “out of the box” concept. I want to see more in the way of intergrating leads from our website and leads from our monthly newsletters. I am not sure what that looks like yet since we are not a retail business. I would love to hear some thoughts about what a food and beverage distributor can do in this area.

    • Sherry Lamoreaux

      Julie, that’s an interesting question. You might survey some of your existing good customers to see if you can determine the path they took to becoming customers. If you can determine a pattern. you might get some ideas about how to replicate those steps with potential customers. Good luck!

  • http://Force3.com Stephanie Jackson

    As a relative newbie to the automation world, I would like to see some actual examples of successful campaigns. Right now it’s all theory to me…I need more tactical knowledge/examples from proven approaches that i can use as a starting point.

  • Jeremy Greenberg

    Great points, definitely puts a lot of emphasis on using the smartest technologies today to reach potential buyers. Definitely looking forward to using some of these ideas.

  • http://plantprod.com Wayne Myers

    Very much agree with this post, this is a big job and should be taken seriously. In our organization the biggest challenge is to decide what we are capable of taking on and what we should be outsourcing as far as content goes. But the first step will be to take inventory of the content we now supply where it comes from and who (so far) has been responsible.

  • Kaitlin Janne

    I would love to see more about the lead nurturing process. Currently our company does not have a strong process in place, and it results in tons of potential lost sales! Some more information on how to design a lead nurturing process would be great help!

  • http://fatstax.com Rusty Bishop

    Great general article thats a good reference point. I would second what Kaitlin Janne says, specific examples and designing a lead nuturing campaign would rock.

  • http://www.blumshapiro.com Liz Chasse

    I am curious to know if anyone has learned any best practices for lead scoring? Have you made any adjustments to this since you initially set it up? We set up a basic system at the start of our Act-on relationship and have not really re-looked at this, but feel it might be time to consider some adjustments.

  • Jessica Chludzinski

    A great starting point on Lead Nurturing – very succinct and easily digestible. Thanks!. For more details I strongly recommend Ardath Albee’s books and blogs on the subject.

  • http://www.sureprep.com Greg

    A couple people have already mentioned it but I’d like to see some specific examples of nurture, segment and scoring.

    • Sherry Lamoreaux

      Hi, Greg. We did one post yesterday about a simple (but effective) nurture campaign, including a matrix and a diagram. We’ll be doing more of these. Thanks for reading!~

  • Sixmar

    Good article, basic points. I agree with the need for real life examples that we all could leverage as pertaining or learn from. I have not seen the “lead nurture campaign” sample that you refer to, but I wonder if we could have a forum where we could share success stories. Maybe an ActOn – best practices group to share success stories, questions and best practices…
    I hope this helps.

  • Sherry Lamoreaux

    Sixmar, it’s the “Up Close and Very Personal (A Simple Example of a Lead Nurturing Campaign)” from yesterday. I am loving all these bright ideas.

  • http://www.certara.com Diana O’Rourke

    I’ve seen some good comments here, and agree that the more we can share ideas on lead nurturing the more we can gain from the collective experience of this group. Love the idea about a forum where we can all post… For me, the biggest challenge to lead nurturing is making sure you have the right kind of content to educate your early stage prospects, rather than typical sales collaterals that are appropriate once specific interests and/or needs have been expressed. Best practices, reasons to buy (that map to solving problems, not features of a product or service), things to think about when considering X, that position you as a valued resource, are most effective. And then, making sure you implement effective scoring that really elevates those who are most engaged with your messaging is another key.

  • http://www.haadvantage.com Carter Perez

    We’ve also found it powerful to segment our audience into buying roles and functional departments as it really help improve the relevancy of the messaging and the lead nurturing process.

  • Cory Gibson

    Others have already said but I’ll say it too, great post. It’s helpful to see the stages in the automation process. We are currently in the position of going from no content to needing to ramp up quickly to meet the demands that come along with have a robust platform like ActOn. Like Carter, we have also found it helpful to create segments/ personas to define our base and create content. This approach has made the task of content creation a little less stressful. Any tips of best approaches to creating would be appreciates.

  • Monica Seely

    This is a great outline to get started. The problem we run into is coming up with new content for lead nurturing. Our sales cycle is very long and we are B2B with no “widget” type products to update on. Does anyone have suggestions for content curation or other ways to keep communicating without losing relevance?

  • http://www.lumina.com Nick Kretz

    Awesome post. I will definitely be adding some of these suggestions to my content marketing strategy. The biggest issue I have is finding the resources to build out the content. After reading this post, I know have a better understanding of the initial content that needs to be generated. As a B2B, we need to build our lead nurturing program ASAP!

  • http://www.jacobcurtis.co Jacob Curtis

    I think it’s important for your content to address or answer specific questions your users are looking for. That way if they do find the information valuable there is a higher likely hook of them sharing it with their contacts which is a way of gaining online word of mouth referrals. Great post.

  • Nuala

    Great points. I agree that creating content for lead segmention is wise. Including a call to action in your content can help you identify customer behaviour.

  • Jeff

    Good post. Oldies but goodies that you sometimes forget. I think content is key obviously. But ORIGINAL content. I see far too often people reposting other people’s information. Create your own original content with your branding that hasn’t been overly talked about or done, etc. You want to be the content that people repost and share. That way its your brand that is getting passed around with the content and not vice versa.

  • Nik Dahlberg

    Couldn’t agree more about the importance of segmenting. The more targeted the market is the better you can customize your message to a group of leads. There’s a lot of leg work though so if you can automate the process, it’ll save a lot of time and effort.

  • Tim

    Good article. I think the key to content is quality over quantity. A lot of folks think they need an over-abundance of content, and try to publish a ton of it. The reality is, people are looking for good content and would settle for one good and valuable whitepaper than 5 mediocre ones. Same goes for blogging, better to post one a week that is well-written and very informative, than try to have a one a day approach with articles that are unoriginal or too brief to have any value.

  • http://www.regenmethod.com Brian

    I find myself spending a lot of time writing articles. This works on multiple levels. Show’s users you are proficient in that topic and you want to share it. This builds a lot of trust. That’s my favorite part of it.

  • Dani Calvert

    I think that this article is useful and has some good information about the break-down of nurturing leads. However, I think that it’s important to point out that the market is constantly saturated with promotions and information from different companies trying to nurture leads. I would like to see more information about nurturing these leads “outside the box” and different ways for companies to stand out and show their value to consumers.

  • Sam

    Nailed it! Just an additional point to this article message consistency goes a very long way across all marketing mediums and vehicles.

  • Brittany

    It’s good to see leads, and it’s great to capture them, but the best and most fun part to me is nuturing. Just as you are nurturing your leads, they teach you about themselves and you can use it for your next goals.

  • http://www.taos.com Dave Gross

    While this is good info, it’s nothing really outside of the box. What about new ideas to help capture interest and produce quality leads?

  • Greg Palmer

    As others have said, this is a great overview. For those in need of content, I’d like to point out that we have found success in, for lack of a better word, re-purposing other content around the web. Much like you’d retweet good info on Twitter, we love to share, via email, links to good articles from outside sources that relate to our business. With limited in-house resources to constantly be coming up with new content, this has proven to be a great alternative.

  • http://hanapinmarketing.com shelly

    I am with David, would love to hear some more value added advice on capturing interest to leverage high end leads

  • http://overnitecbt.com thomas craft

    Good info, but as mentioned earlier, nothing groundbreaking. We are constantly looking at ways to utilize current content along with creating new content. The trick is to make sure not to just copy or “spin” what you have already written. Google and the user react negatively to the same thing said 3 slightly different ways. We always try to write with the mindset that this is the first time someone is seeing us and we want to convey a unique message each time.

  • http://diligentbrands.com Ryan Goodin

    One small suggestion I did not see mentioned…paint a picture of your corporate culture (a view from the inside) highlighting key personnel, and connecting prospects with the faces behind the brand. Request connections via LinkedIn and begin developing a personal rapport.

  • Josh

    I think this is a great post, and it does hint at possibilities that are available through Act-On without giving too much information. I think for potential customers, the hard, tried examples are almost needed to pull them in. For current customers, screenshots and indicators as to the tools that could be used at each step would be fantastic.
    I do agree with the “out of the box” comments as well. With so much marketing content bouncing around the internet, we’re all looking for that one post each day, or each week, that really jumps out and provides insight or inspiration.

  • http://www.mbafocus.com Ryan Pratt

    My favorite part: “The types of content you’ll create to nurture leads include the same types of content you’d use for lead capture, with the important addition of email tips and blog articles.”

    We were just thinking we need to start a weekly/monthly best practice email campaign. This just proves it is a great idea.