This week’s letter is about creating content that adds value for buyers – and doesn’t just take up space.
(This is the sixth letter in a 12-part series that started with issue .016, which you can find here.)
1. The Problem
A few days ago, I heard Brendan Hufford mention a great term: checkbox marketing.
His definition: “the habit of large companies to pursue low-quality marketing efforts as a box-checking exercise”.
In my opinion, checkbox marketing isn’t just limited to big brands.
Plenty of small companies do it too: “We need to be on email and Google and Instagram … and we should probably be on TikTok too, right?”
But a strategy that starts with channels or tactics is a strategy built on sand.
The goal of marketing should be to guide buyers further along in their purchase journeys – not create content for its own sake or pursue random channels.
2. The Solution
Instead of starting with certain channels/tactics, ask the obvious question:
What’s stopping my buyers from moving further down the buyer’s journey funnel, and how can I help them overcome it?
(For context, here’s the buyer’s journey funnel:)
So: what’s stopping your buyers from going from being unaware of their problem to aware?
From problem-aware to choosing your solution type?
From choosing your solution type to deciding on your brand as their provider?
Getting the answers to these questions isn’t easy.
You can’t ask buyers directly – terms like ‘problem-aware’ mean nothing to them.
Instead, do two things:
Firstly, interview existing customers and get them to map out their exact buying journeys.
Most people won’t remember the details, so you’ll have to ask questions like “So what prompted you to start looking for a new vacuum cleaner?” (which would give you some context around how they became aware of their problem and the trigger that started a search for solutions).
Secondly, interview buyers (people that fit your ICP) who aren’t customers.
They might be closed-lost deals, satisfied customers of your competitors, or people who aren’t even aware they have a problem.
Ask them about why they chose a competitor, went with a different type of solution, or why they haven’t felt the need to solve their problem.
Make sure you include all interviews and findings in your buyer knowledge bank.
Once you’ve collated the various obstacles stopping or derailing your buyers’ purchase journeys, create content to help them move forward.
Customers choosing regular beds over your brand’s adjustable beds?
Create content around how adjustable beds are better for your health (and thus worth the cost).
Prospects skipping your free consultations because they’re worried about hard sales pitches?
Write an article explaining exactly what your ‘free consultation’ entails.
Facing minimal demand for your new software category?
Get on podcasts about related topics and tell people about that looming business problem they haven’t realised exists yet.
The key is to start with the problems your buyers face.
Then think about how you can solve those problems through content – and which channels will be most effective for distribution.
- Interview recording software like Otter.ai
- A cloud-based doc platform like Coda, Notion, or OneNote
- A spreadsheet tool like Airtable, Excel or Google Sheets
Ease of Uptake: Very Hard
- Interview at least 10 existing customers about their buying journeys.
- Incentivise them with free products or discounts as needed.
- Interview at least 10 non-customers who match your ICP.
- If they’re churned customers, closed-lost deals, or competitor customers, find out why they chose competitors over you.
- If they’re solving their problem with an entirely different type of solution, find out what makes that solution preferable to your type of solution.
- If they haven’t begun considering solutions, find out whether they’re unaware of their problem or if it’s just not a priority (and why).
- Incentive them with gift cards as needed.
- Upload all interviews and findings to your buyer knowledge bank. (Find out how to create a BKB here.)
- Distil the relevant findings from each interview and group them in same-type buckets using your spreadsheet tool of choice.
- I suggest having columns for ‘Buyer Type’ (one of four options: current customer, competitor customer, former customer, or not in buying mode), ‘Problem’ (create a new option for each distinctive problem ‘type’ you encounter), ‘Problem Stage’ (one of six options: unawareness, awareness, consideration, decision, sale, post-sale), and ‘Number of Times Cited’ (each time a buyer cites a problem, add one to this number).
- Order your spreadsheet by ‘Number of Times Cited’ (greatest to smallest).
- Based on your previous buyer research, start creating content that addresses each problem for the channels your buyers use most. Work down your spreadsheet so you tackle the most frequently cited problems first.