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Special Report - Inbound Marketing : The 4 Stages of Engagement

Mapping content to customer behavior

May 2014 By Craig Fitzgerald
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There is no debate: Relevant, meaningful, authentic content is the key to inbound marketing. It's paramount to attracting customers to your brand and keeping them engaged; especially when they're out of their normal buying cycles. It's a means of building loyal relationships that last. The problem is, one-size-fits-all content won't work throughout that lifecycle. Your content must be tailored to your customers at each stage of their journeys and kept current to maintain their interest.

IMN's second annual content marketing survey found the most effective content marketing vehicles (for marketers across industries and company sizes) to-date have been social media (51 percent), website (44 percent), email blasts (42 percent) and newsletters (42 percent).

The typical sales funnel reflects the stages of engagement—from awareness and consideration to decision and purchase. At each of those stages, the content that engages customers/prospects and the content delivery methods (including social, mobile and email) are often very different. One of the best ways to develop a sustainable content marketing program leveraging the right content at the right time is to use digital behavioral cues that enable marketers to match communications to the buying cycle—not only identifying shoppers who are in the decision-making process, but also finding creative ways to continue the conversation post-purchase.

Let's dive into the four stages of customer engagement—awareness, consideration, decision-making/purchase and post-purchase—and take a look at how marketers should leverage content to engage with customers and prospects at each stage.

1. Awareness
This is the very top of the marketing funnel, where you're casting the widest net possible. Anybody is a marketing prospect at this point, so you're attempting to reach anyone with broad, universally appealing editorial content, videos, podcasts or other content types. It's more about volume than it is about laser-focus, so it's particularly important to have a solid editorial calendar that helps you lay out the roadmap for producing this kind of content.

Answer the question: "Why should I care?"

2. Consideration
Middle-of-the-funnel content is more difficult to think about and to build into specific layers. But at the "consideration" stage, a specific offer probably isn't swaying potential customers' decisions one way or another. It's a time when they're weighing the differences in all of their options, so things like product comparisons are critical. What are the five things that make your products and services stand out over your competitors? Can you build that into some kind of an easy-to-remember infographic?



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