Aligning Online Business Content to Intent - dummies

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

All types of online content serves a wide variety of purposes. For content to be effective in helping convert browsers to online buyers, you need to next match each piece of content to the appropriate stage in the buyer’s journey.

The buyer’s journey represents the path a prospective buyer takes on her way to becoming your customer. That journey is segmented into four stages: awareness (not yet aware of having a need or desire for a product, just exploring); consideration (aware of a need, researching options); decision (choosing a solution, comparing options); and advocacy (loyal customer, sharing experience with others and open to repeat purchases for self).

When you’re ready to map out, or align, your content, start by considering your prospective customer’s intent at each stage of the buyer’s journey. What is it that they want or need to accomplish? What are their goals? How does your product or service meet that goal, or help in achieving the goal?

Then, look at the best type of content that can not only address the buyer’s intent at that particular stage in the shopping process, but also convince or entice the reader to move to the next stage.

For example, say that a buyer is shopping for a floor rug and trying to decide what kind. She has already found a vintage rug your online store has for sale, but is hesitant because she’s unfamiliar with how to care for it, or if it will hold up to wear and tear from her kids and pets. This shopper is in the “decision” stage and if she has access to content that is instructional and promotional, it could help her finalize the decision to buy. In this case, you could provide a quick one-minute video from your company that shows how to care for vintage floor rugs. You might also show a review from other customers who speak to the sturdiness of the rug and its ability to hold up in high-traffic rooms, despite it being an antique.

You can use an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets to identify what content is needed at each stage of the buyer’s journey. You can also tag which personas might need the content most at each stage. When your existing content is mapped out in this way, it’s also a good way to reveal gaps in your content, or what type of content you need more of to ensure there’s something available for everyone at every stage. The table shows an example of how to map out your content framework, segments, and types to the buyer stage.

Align Your Content to Each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey

Stage Awareness Consideration Decision Advocacy
Goal Exploration, entertainment
(Not yet aware of need)
Researching, looking for a solution
(Recognize a need)
Comparing solutions/products
(Addressing need)
Sharing results
(Committed to brand)
Content Framework Entertaining Educational Educational
Persuasive Instructional
Content Segment User generated
Brand generated (unbranded)
Brand generated (branded)
Brand generated (branded)
User generated
User generated
Brand generated (both)
Content Type(s)* Infographics
Videos (fun)
Trend articles E-books
White paper E-newsletter
Online reviews
Free trial
Video (how-to)
Testimonials, case studies
Video (testimonials)
Video (product tips)
Online reviews
Social sharing
Persona Decide which of your personas are most likely interested in each stage of content.
Vertical Identify a specific vertical market that matches content you have to offer.
Name of content This is where you identify the exact content you will use.

*These are examples of the type of content that could fit with each buyer’s stage. You could have more or less for each stage.

As much as you want a prospective buyer to move effortlessly and in a linear manner through all the buyer stages to become a passionate, loyal customer, that’s not realistic. A buyer may start the buying process at any one of the stages. And he may move in and out of several stages before actually becoming a customer. Having the appropriate content available for each stage of the journey is the best way to ensure you brand (or product) remains a consideration throughout the entire buying process.