It didn’t happen overnight, but your content machine is up and running. After facing some initial skepticism from stakeholders, you got the green light and developed a content marketing plan for the organization. You’ve established your audience personas, defined the engagement cycle, found your content niche, and built your editorial calendar. In a year, you want to demonstrate how you’ve been able to generate and nurture leads through content marketing, setting the table for an even larger content investment in the future.
Avoiding Content Gaps
But if you’re like many organizations, you may be leaving strategic gaps in your content. Building a successful content marketing program means mapping content to the Engage, Nurture, and Convert stages of the buyers’ journeys for the personas you’re targeting. It means providing the content your prospects are looking for throughout their path to purchase: from initial inquiry into a problem, to a decision to purchase a product or solution from your company.
And yet, according to Carlos Hidalgo’s 2015 book Driving Demand, “fewer than 29% of organizations are aligning their content to each stage of the buyers’ journey.” Instead, Hidalgo sees many organizations “creating content for content’s sake, rather than basing it on the intricacies of the buying process.”
Nurturing Leads Through Content
At Fifteen Four, we’ve spent the past dozen years planning and creating content and web experiences for a range of organizations. And while we’ve seen plenty of organizations do content marketing right, we’ve also noticed a tendency to neglect the Nurture stage in content planning. Those highly detailed new product videos? Great for the Convert stage. That article identifying a common problem faced by customers? Perfect for Engage. But what about Nurture? As marketers scramble to create content, this critical second stage is too often neglected, keeping them from effectively nurturing leads.
Hubspot describes the Nurture stage as one in which content should transition from being “focused on the problem” to being “focused on the solution.” Having progressed from the education and awareness process during the Engage stage, the buyer is now ready to consume vendor-specific information on solutions. At the same time, the buyer may not be ready to interact directly with a sales rep or to invest time digesting nuanced product details.
Once you understand the information requests that are likely to come from your prospects during this stage, your content marketing plan should include Nurture content that follows these basic guidelines:
- Topic: The topics you select should assume the prospect is now educated on the nature of their problem and is collecting information on possible solutions. Topics should address solutions without performing a ‘hard sell.’
- Format: As with each stage, format should be varied and could include videos, white papers, ebooks, infographics, interactives, or other formats. But the length of time it takes to consume that content should be carefully considered – allowing time to provide substance without being too lengthy. Remember that the prospect is probably reviewing content from multiple vendors in search of the right solution.
- Branding: While your Engage content may make only glancing reference to your brand promise, Nurture content should demonstrate your brand promise throughout, as your buyers are actively considering the right vendor and are looking for differentiators between brands.
Remember Your Buyers’ Journeys
Before finalizing your content marketing plan, walk through the buyers’ journey for each of your personas and identify the content that will be aligned to the Engage, Nurture, and Convert stages of their journey – careful not to leave gaps on their path to purchase. Avoid the mistake of ‘creating content for content’s sake’ and you’ll be creating a content marketing program that effectively nurtures leads.