Content has to serve a purpose for the business, the audience, or both.
An example of this is the sales cycle when potential buyers and customers travel through a variety of stages in which they are asking different questions and have different intentions. You need to customise content for each stage of the sales cycle to provide answers to those questions.
This process of matching content to a segment is called content mapping.
Let’s take a look at how content mapping operates in relation to a sales cycle. Then we’ll cover how to build content for each stage and how to map your content to it.
An overview of the sales cycle
When a business or individual is contemplating spending money on software, hardware, or anything else that will cost a bundle, they will go through a recognisable cycle where a particular part of the buying process takes place.
This can be referred to as the sales cycle, buyer’s journey, marketing or sales funnel, or another term, but they all share similar elements and patterns. Each cycle contains these stages.
- Awareness – people become aware of your company, product, or brand. They find you because they become aware of a problem to be solved. Also known as Top of Funnel or ToFu. People look for resources, education, research data, opinions, and insight.
- Evaluation – a prospect has identified your product or service as one that could solve their problem but need to whittle the list down to one provider. Also called Middle of Funnel of MoFu. People are performing deep research about the fit of your solution for their problem.
- Purchase – The lead is ready to become a customer by buying your product or service. Also called Bottom of Funnel or BoFu. The lead determines what it would take to convert to a customer.
Another way to look at the cycle is the customer marketing funnel:
- Discovery – equates to awareness or Top of Funnel
- Consideration – equates to evaluation or Middle of Funnel
- Conversion – equates to purchase or Bottom of Funnel
- Retention – this model includes the time after conversion when the lead becomes a customer. You want to keep them at this level.
As you can see, at each stage the customer has a different intent.
How does content mapping work?
First, you recreate the logical pathways leading through the stages of the funnel. You can use historical data to help you determine the pathway your previous and current customers took to your company. If you have the information, try to discern stages of their sales cycle and the information they downloaded or received during that stage.
You can also try to think like the customer. From that point of view, what type of information would you need at each segment of the funnel to help you find potential solutions, narrow your choices, and make your final selection?
The content leads are looking for can range from the general education to product specific. Buyers at the Awareness stage are learning about their problem and the types of solutions that might resolve it. At Evaluation, buyers are narrowing their choice of solution. At Purchase, buyers want to see exactly how the selected solution works for their process and how much it is likely to cost.
During this time you should perform a content audit to determine what types of content already exists and whether you need to create new content to fill in any gaps.
Mapping content to each stage of the cycle
Next, you lay out your funnel or cycle, and begin matching your existing content to each stage. In an example from HubSpot, the funnel and content may come out like this:
- Awareness – White Paper, eBook, tip sheet, checklist, how-to video, educational webinar
- Evaluation – Product webinar, case study, FAQ, data sheet, demo video
- Purchase – Free trial, live demo, consultation, estimate, coupon
How do prospects become aware of your company? Usually, awareness is signaled by an internet search using the keywords and terms describing the perceived business problem.
How can I make payment processing more efficient?
How can I save time during payment processing?
Can payment processing be automated?
If you have content that answers those questions and uses the same language as the prospect, the search should bring up your company’s name. At first, prospects may only read content that is not placed behind a landing page, but if you seem to have the solution to their problem, they may be willing to give up some information, such as their email address, in return for more specific information.
Once they are in the evaluation process, they may begin registering for webinars that dig more deeply into their problem and a potential solution.
How does the solution resolve the problem?
Who else has used this solution and what made it successful for them?
Can I get details about this solution without speaking with a sales rep?
At the purchase stage, the lead becomes serious about your product and wants to see how it could fit into the process as a solution to the problem that kicked off awareness earlier. Now you are down to the nitty-gritty. The lead is thinking about converting to a customer but now you must prove that your solution is the right one.
I want to try it out for awhile without charge.
Can you show me how your solution would work for me?
How much will your solution cost?
At the purchase stage, you will have shown how your solution is better than the status quo and any alternatives. The prospect has invested time with you. If you provide the right content, you can win the sale.
We didn’t talk much about content for retention, but that could be things like newsletters, helpful tips about using your product, or special offers for upgrades.
Content mapping is a convenient way of determining the topics that attract your prospective buyers, the type of content they like to consume, and the questions they tend to ask at each stage. Each stage requires a particular type of content because the prospect has different intentions and questions at that point.
Content mapping also lays out a pathway for lead nurturing. Once you have mapped your content, you can use it to guide drip campaigns and other marketing activities designed to entice the lead further down the funnel until they convert to customers.
Before you begin your next nurturing sequence, map your content to your sales cycle to provide a logical line from awareness to purchase.