This post is largely borrowed from Lesson 6 of my Marketing That Makes Money free email course.

You’ve maybe heard me say before that for me, the definition of marketing is to tell your story to people who want to hear it. We need to expand that definition to talk about the job of marketing – which is to move somebody through the phases of their buying journey. Let’s identify three basic points in our buyer’s journey. In the Awareness stage, the buyer is trying to understand their problem. They’re doing initial research, seeing who else has this problem, how others solved it, and who might be out there to help it get solved. In the Consideration stage, they’ve gotten closer to realizing they have a specific problem and they’re exploring specific solutions. Finally, in the Decision stage the customer is selecting the best solution that fits their situation, budget, timeline etc.

You’re probably familiar with a journey like this, and it’s useful as an illustration except for what I think is its glaring weakness – it’s impersonal.

The Modern Marketing Funnel

Your “buyer” is a human being. Your ability to connect emotionally as well as intellectually in your response to wherever they are on their journey is what will put you ahead of others in earning their business. So I like to reframe the buyer’s journey according to what I call the CARE Funnel.

Clueless But Curious

The buyer starts out Clueless But Curious. They’re lurking around the edges of your organization. They want answers and insights, and they’re looking to get those from anybody they can get them from. They prefer to stay anonymous, reading blog posts or watching video or listening to podcasts, no strings attached.

Attentive

They can be nurtured to become Attentive – this is where they’re considering you as a valuable resource in their search. The stuff you’re sharing really clicks with them. Your organization seems to know what they’re going through, or understand their problem well, or have some solutions that look interesting. They’ll be interested in lead magnets – downloading resources, registering for webinars, signing up for events to get more specific insights. We want to keep a close eye on these folks and what they’re expressing interest in so we can proactively give them more. If they download a resource about red widgets, let’s send them an email in a few weeks showing them how red widgets work compared to blue widgets, and let’s make sure they get an exclusive invitation to this months webinar all about red widgets. This is the stuff of a rock solid content strategy.

Responsive/Ready

The buyer moves into Ready when they’ve figured out that you and you alone are the right resource to help them solve this problem. We need a nice tight connection between marketing and sales so this person can, without friction, push the buy button or schedule the consultation or do whatever it is that engages them with sales. This person is looking for something more personal and intimate like a webinar, seminar or consultation.

Engaged

Finally comes an Engaged buyer – now a customer. Now we capture their testimonials or positive reviews and use those to go back and fill the top of our funnel for the new Clueless but Curious buyers. One example I like here is Pad & Quill, a premium leather goods company in Minneapolis. They have review systems set up for people after they make a purchase where people can put in some comments about the shopping experience or the product. They then feed these responses into their Twitter timeline for their followers to see, respond to and share. Their Engaged customers are influencing the Clueless But Curious Buyers.

You see that every point of the CARE Funnel – the Buyer’s Journey – receives its own kind of messaging or content. A person in the Ready stage is looking for more personal attention. Think about buying a car – when you’re Ready, you’re looking for a test drive. But if a sales rep would have taken command of the journey and invited you for a test drive when you were just doing some research on different models – when you were Clueless But Curious – you might’ve been turned off and considered it too aggressive. Some buyers need to be carefully nurtured from one stage to the next over the course of weeks or months. Some buyers needs days or hours. And some buyers come into your Funnel having skipped being Clueless (the Awareness) stage and even the Attentive stage – they’re Ready. These are often customers where a referral or word of mouth has given you credibility.

Align your buyer’s journey with the kinds of content you have now and the kinds of content you need. Many SMB’s have taken a stab at blogging, but don’t have any webinars or seminars prepared for the Ready buyer. Other SMB’s do a lot of lunch & learns but aren’t posting strategically to social media or blogging, so they’re missing out on reaching those Clueless But Curious buyers who are just doing research. A content strategy is required for comprehensive and holistic outreach that builds and nurtures relationships. “Content strategy” is a fancy phrase for “having a thoughtful plan for the stuff we’re going to share, when, to whom and why.”

Content marketing is crucial for today’s sales reps, too – this is where a holistic marketing strategy kicks in. Sending along a resource like a how-to document, a case study, a white paper or something else that delivers value to a prospect is a much stronger approach than the usual “thanks” or “checking in” emails your customer is used to receiving. A capabilities or “about us” document doesn’t cut it either – that’s working from the company forward. Remember to be thinking from the customer backwards with your content marketing, delivering actionable, practical materials to them whenever you can, and helpful philosophies or concepts that can help them better understand or solve their problems.

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