People don’t buy the way they used to. Is your marketing the same?

It’s become cliché to say that today’s consumers are more educated and empowered than ever. They skillfully filter out marketing messages while educating themselves on products and services. They quickly gather information from multiple sources and only connect with salespeople when they are ready, on their own terms.

How do you design content marketing programs to engage these discriminating folks? One thing great content marketers do to frame their organization’s content strategy is to map the buyer’s journey as it relates to their own audience. In today’s multimedia, multi-device world, the vertical line pointing straight down through the traditional sales funnel now seems a quaint notion.

What’s the buyer’s journey look like? Marketing philosopher Flint McGlaughlin suggests the traditional sales funnel is upside-down. You can also find some pretty cool infographics depicting the buyer’s journey, but there’s no substitute for mapping your own buyers on their own journey.

One depiction the buyer’s journey that’s especially useful for content marketers comes from John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.  This Marketing Hourglass shows the empowered customer’s journey through the buying process.

Content Marketing: Mapping The Buyer’s Journey image Marketing Hourglass 275x300

This seven-point model can serve as a checklist for content marketers because it:

  • Shows the need to deliver value first. Particularly for online marketers, it’s critical to demonstrate that you understand prospects and can help them reach their goals before asking for their attention or personal information.
  • Emphasizes that people need to know, like, and trust you before they give you a try. The debate about whether “like” or “trust” is more important in selling is not as important as including all three steps in the context of building customer value. Without these three initial steps, you’re unlikely to reach the end game of repeat and referral business, where the most profits happen with the least effort.
  • Helps content marketers think about mapping the appropriate content to particular stages in the buyer’s journey. Early stage messaging to build awareness and trust is much different than point-of-sale content for buyers at the decision stage.
  • Reinforces that it’s important to offer prospects a way try your products or services to experience what it’s like to be your customer before they buy.
  • Shows that from the outset, content marketers should consider the need to build a system for repeat and referral business into the buyer’s journey. Note that “Buy” is not the end of the journey – that means planning on producing content past the point of purchase and all the way through the repeat-and-referral stages.

Content marketing can be a powerful tool for generating demand, referrals and repeat business. It’s been said that in marketing, marriage is better than a one-night stand. Is your Content Marketing Factory building content for fleeting encounters or enduring customer love?

Share your secrets for lasting content relationships in the comments section below.