Aligning Your Content with the Decision Making Funnel

June 1, 2012 1:17 pm

B2B Online Marketing: Is Your Content Aligned with Your Prospect’s Decision-Making Funnel?

For most business-to-business (b2b) brands, the number one reason to have an effective online presence is to secure an offline conversation. The goal is to turn the right viewer into a qualified prospect and, following a person-to-person interaction, ultimately into a paying customer.

What we see with a number of b2b websites, is an abundance of content, but none that meaningfully moves viewers into what we call the “Decision-Making Funnel.”

The five phases of the Decision-Making Funnel are:

  1. Problem Identification
  2. Information Gathering
  3. Evaluate Options
  4. Decide
  5. Post-Decision Evaluation

Instead of moving viewers through this Funnel, many sites are weighed down by a lot of “stuff” that – to a viewer – equates to useless noise. Let me ask you: Have you ever visited a corporate site and read that company’s mission and/or vision statements?  Probably not.  As a viewer, you probably care more about what the company can do for you. And that message must be made abundantly clear.

Evidence of weak content on a site often shows up in your analytics. For instance, if you see a steady increase in site visitation, but very few inquiries or leads, you probably have a content problem.

By understanding the viewer’s situation at each phase in the Decision-Making Funnel, you can begin to think like a viewer, and align content – whether in the form of static content, blog, news, video or presentation style commentary – directly to their decision-making process.

Phase I: Problem Identification

The Viewer’s Situation:
The viewer recognizes that they have a problem, need help, or require a certain product, service, function or mechanism to get something done, or do something better. In this phase, the viewer is getting as specific as possible as to what the problem or circumstance is, as they are exploring the degree and magnitude of the situation.

What Your Content Can Do:
The viewer is in the early stages of decision-making, and this represents an opportunity to catch them early. You can be the brand that steps up first and helps them navigate their problem. Great content at this phase includes broad points about the problem itself. As the old saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” You are essentially empowering the viewer with a bit of knowledge that will help them better define their problem.

Good Content Topics Will Include:

  • How to know when ____ is a problem?
  • What you need to know about ____.
  • What to look for when ____.
  • Is it time to change ____? Five telltale signs.

Phase II: Information Gathering

The Viewer’s Situation:
After getting clarity on the situation, the viewer begins gathering information as to how to get help with the problem or situation. What resources exist? What are my options? Should I hire a person, a company, and/or buy equipment or software?

What Your Content Can Do:
When a viewer goes into information gathering mode, there exists a higher level of commitment to solving the problem at hand. They are searching for resources and options. This represents a great opportunity to use content to zero in on the problem and demonstrate that your product, service or approach represents a great solution.

Good content topics will include:

  • What to consider when buying/hiring a _____?
  • Five questions to ask a provider of ____ products/services.
  • Five reasons why ____ is a great product/solution for ____.
  • Is it time to change ____? Five telltale signs.

Phase III: Evaluate Options

The Viewer’s Situation:
After sizing up the various options, the viewer begins the process of vetting. Any options that appear to be of a lesser standard are eliminated. At this point, the viewer is beginning to think like a prospect, and realize, even if sub-consciously, “I may actually have to call or contact some of these people.” This is when issues large and small are evaluated. Are they local? Do they have experience in my industry? What have they done so far? What are people saying about them online? What is their social media reputation? Would I feel comfortable doing business with them?

What Your Content Can Do:
At this stage, content needs to begin to demonstrate brand and thought-leadership. That fact that your product/service represents a viable solution is not enough. Now you need to show why your product/service is the best possible solution.

Good content topics will include:

  • Top 10 reasons why customers choose/purchase ____ from us.
  • Testimonials: current satisfied customers.
  • A FAQs section.
  • Content featuring unique credentials, experience, or industry expertise.

Phase IV: Decide

The Viewer’s Situation:
The field has been narrowed. The prospect is preparing to make a final decision. What you do here from a content standpoint could be just enough to make them choose you. Believe it or not, they are still going back to the web and revisiting and reviewing the information they’ve gathered so far. They are searching for data to validate their decision to go with your product/service, or with those of a competitor.

What Your Content Can Do:
In this final stage, data can play a critical role, and the seemingly “little things” will count for much more. It’s time to pull out the statistics, percentages, and performance graphs. You’ve shown that you understand their problem; that you have a means to solve it; and why you are particularly well-suited to do so. Now is the time to use data to lay down a layer of hard evidence for additional proof that your product/service is the right choice.

Good content topics will include:

  • Metrics or data relating to track-record and past performance.
  • Case studies showing specific scenarios and outcomes.
  • Data indicating future performance expectations.
  • Warranties and metrics proving outstanding customer service.

You never know where a viewer is with respect to decision-making when they encounter your brand. By taking their mindset into account at each phase in the funnel, and aligning content accordingly, you put your company, product or service in the best possible position to generate a sale.

Take a look at our Online Marketing Services for more information or assistance in building great, compelling content that leads to sales.

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About The Author

We specialize in b2b, supporting the clients who are the "The Brands Behind the Brands." These are the supply chain partners of brands, either in Tier 1 or Tier 2 positions, who drive value through the delivery of goods, services and technologies. We enjoy blogging about all things related to Branding, Marketing, Inbound, Tradeshows, etc... And we're always happy to talk about any ideas you may have that might Get You To Your NEXT!