The Purchase Journey
Today’s shoppers bounce back and forth moving at their own speed in a multi-channel marketplace. They switch devices to suit their needs at any given time or whim. They search content, read articles or reviews, evaluate ratings, compare prices, and they may even repeat this process a few times until they are ready to buy.
They show little regard for speaking with a live person at this point. They want content and they want that content as long as it is convenient and easily accessible. They use their smartphone. They chat with friends (sometimes they even talk to them!). They check out social media, all for the purpose of gaining information and getting educated.
In reality this process is less like a sales funnel and more like a flight map.
In 2012, Google performed a study that evaluated the purchase journey for 3,000 shoppers in tech, consumer goods, auto and finance. What they found were 3,000 completely different paths! But when they drilled down, they found certain “hubs” or stops that were in common.
The largest common hub was online search. No matter where consumers entered their buying journey, they touched down on search at least once, and usually many times.
We are all inundated with information from every angle. Each of us are exposed to over 5,000 marketing messages per day. The problem is we cannot consume that many messages, therefore we ignore most messages, even good messages.
Consumers Aren’t Tuning Out – They are Being Very Selective
According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, in 2010 the average consumer engaged with 5 pieces of content before making a buying decision. In 2011 that number doubled to 10. I believe this number will continue to increase as consumers engage in more content. Today most of us have content gathering tools with us at all times (i.e. iPads, smartphones, etc.) and we are sifting through content at an unprecedented rate, ignoring most content that is not relevant to our moment of wants and needs.
Cutting Through the Clutter
If the above stats are true and consumers are engaging with 10+ pieces of content before making a buying decision
–– how is your content publishing strategy performing for you? Do you have a content marketing strategy for prospects and customers to engage with that will influence and enhance their perception of you and your brand? Do you have an audience? Do you really connect with that audience?
Imagine for a moment that you’re a CEO in search of a service that provides you as an employer with outsource employee management tasks such as employee benefits, payroll, workers compensation, recruiting, and such.
If you’ve encountered Amy Grimmer and she is aware of your need, you’ve more than likely received a personalized message from her with a link to this relevant information. Amy is helping cut through the clutter. She is using a strategic content marketing strategy that engages, influences, and enhances her brand.
Sally Hogshead, in her book Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, says a company has as little as nine seconds to capture the attention of its customers. Millenials, those between the ages of 19 to 34, expect brands to develop content for them, with 80 percent wanting to be directly entertained through content marketing. Creating helpful and compelling content not only cuts through the clutter but creates credibility and trust. Everything else gets ignored, skipped, or disregarded.
Robert Rose, co-author of Managing Content Marketing, states that “to succeed today, we need to use content to continually engage our audiences
– from the first time we meet them, continuing throughout the entire customer life cycle.”
In short, the job of marketing is no longer to create customers, it is to create passionate subscribersto our brand. In turn your content, if worthy, will convert casual, passerby readers into loyal ones. In turn, those loyal readers may then be converted into loyal customers. Content marketing without a loyal audience is not much at all. Your content can’t accomplish anything without an engaged audience.
The Magic Happens When the Audience is Built
The future of media is not the media, it’s brands like yours. Like it or not, your competitors are beginning to wake up to this fact. The goal is to build an audience, one that loves your content so much that it leads to subscriptions and then to business and referrals.
Content marketing is not just nice to have but it is integral for how you go to market.
Following are the key challenges we’ve identified:
- Every buyer is unique. Buyers are self-directed and unpredictable. They follow their own “flight plan” to purchase.
- Be ready to meet buyers when they are ready to buy.
- Every lead is initiated by the consumer. No longer can you tell shoppers what to look for and when to buy it. This used to work in the past but push advertising isn’t enough anymore. The way you advertise must be completely different, because every lead is initiated by the consumer.
- Cross-shopping behavior is present and ever growing. In the new world of multi-channel shopping, whether it is products or services, your customers will do some research online, some in stores, and some solicited by word of mouth or social media. Sales will start online and be completed offline, and vice-versa. It may start on an iPhone on your website, but be completed later on a iPad at a later date. The challenge we face is to meet today’s empowered customers where they want, when they want, and with the “compelling” information they are searching for.
The “flight map” of today is very challenging and requires a content strategy in order to make the sale.
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