How does web content influence the buying process?

We all know that content is a vital part of any website’s conversion path, but exactly what effect does this content have on each stage of the buying process? And how can you, as a business owner or manager, take advantage of these effects to drive sales in your company?

First, it’s important to understand each step the buyer takes towards making a purchase. The buyer’s journey can be divided into several stages, which are widely considered to be awareness, consideration and decision. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

Awareness

In the first stage of the buying process, consumers have just realised that they have a problem or need so they are undertaking some preliminary research. They want to be better informed about the general issue they’re researching before moving on to more specific solutions.

Content at this stage should ideally come in the form of a wide range of informational pieces, such as general blog posts, introductory ebooks, industry white papers, how-to lists and videos, infographics, slideshows, resource round-ups and glossaries. This kind of content will introduce people to your brand and demonstrate your industry knowledge and authority. It should also make up the majority of your content, as most visitors to your site will be in this initial stage of the buyer’s journey.

Example: if you were the owner of an independent computer store, you could create blog posts such as “Five things to consider when buying a laptop” and “The top 10 laptops for the everyday user”. This would attract web users who are interested in purchasing a new laptop, inform them of the general options available to them and make them aware of your business.

Consideration

The consideration stage is where buyers evaluate the different options available to them. At this point, they’re probably aware that your business offers a potential solution to their problem, but they also know that other vendors do too. They will start to look at individual products or services and companies in-depth and this stage is arguably the most important in the entire sales process.

Recommended content for the second stage includes expert guides and ebooks, webinars, podcasts and reviews. Through these, potential buyers should start moving towards the realisation that your business is the best choice and that you have the specific solution to their problem.

Example: again, let’s look at the example of an independent computer store and a consumer looking for a new laptop. The consumer would now be ready to look at individual laptops in more depth, so a video review of the latest Microsoft Surface Pro or an in-depth guide to the latest Asus ZenBook could keep them on your site, show your extensive knowledge, and help move them towards making a decision.

Laptop buying guide - Best Buy
Laptop buying guide – Best Buy

Decision

At the third stage, buyers decide exactly what they want to purchase. They know basically everything they need to about the product or service and your company, but they need a little reassurance or something extra before they finally make the purchase. Testimonials, case studies, special offers, demos and comparisons work well at this stage, helping to alleviate any worries the consumer may have and show that you’re the business to go with. In order to close to stage, you should focus on tangible deliverables.

Example: the consumer looking for a new laptop would by now have narrowed down the laptop they want, or the store they want to go to, to a couple of options. You could have a vendor comparison page on your site that shows why you’re a better choice than the big chain stores, offer the option to try out the laptop in-store and provide a special coupon code in an email for a discount.

Repeat custom

Once you’ve gained a customer, you need to do your best to ensure you don’t lose them. After all, gaining a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times the amount of retaining a one, so this additional stage is extremely important. To promote repeat custom, you need to have excellent support, listen to all feedback and offer continued value. Surveys, promotions, competitions, newsletters, giveaways, feedback forms and email marketing are the types of content you should be utilising at this stage.

Brand advocates are one of the things you want to be aiming for, as they will shout your company’s praises from the rooftops, generating custom and goodwill in the process. You can nurture advocates by giving existing customers a motive to share your content and your business’s information through the aforementioned kinds of content and outstanding customer service.

Example: in the case of the independent computer store, they could send customers follow-up emails after their purchase, asking them to review the product or offering discounts on laptop accessories.

Tracking

When utilising content marketing throughout each of these stages, you should monitor how effective each campaign and piece of content is. Use tools like Google Analytics, Buffer and Marketo to keep track of all your marketing activities and the results they bring. Use the data you gather to make changes to your content marketing plan as you go along. Make sure you’ve identified some key metrics that will clearly show how successful your activities are; for example, the number of leads generated from a particular post, and the number of Facebook likes accumulated from a campaign.

As a business owner or manager, you want to attract and retain as many customers as possible and, as you can see, content is invaluable for this at all stages of the buying process. You need to ensure you have a clear content strategy that helps buyers come to the decision to choose you, so make sure you’re investing your time and money in content marketing – it has the power to transform your business!

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