3 Questions B2B Content Should Answer at Each Stage of the Buyer's Journey

March 13, 2024

Content marketing succeeds when prospects and customers find information that is relevant and helpful to them in completing their buyer’s journey.

Yet, many companies’ B2B content marketing efforts fall short of expectations because there are gaps in the content that’s delivered.

Where there are gaps in your content, prospects are either left searching for answers or find them elsewhere.

Finding answers elsewhere means the buyer will assign authority and trust to a different source of information—often your competitor—instead of to your brand.

Whichever brand is top of mind, carrying the greatest authority and trust when the prospect is ready to buy (or renew) will be favorite to win their business.

So, why do gaps persist in B2B companies’ content?  


The First Bridge

Most marketers readily grasp the importance of publishing content for every stage of their target buyer’s journey.

It makes sense to hold their hand, so to speak, from the earliest stages of solution evaluation until they become loyal repeat customers.

The challenge—especially early in your content market implementation—is knowing whether you’ve patched together a complete enough library of content to keep prospects and customers engaged.

Visualize this minimum set of content like the first, makeshift bridge across a river.

It needs to carry the prospect from one bank to the other without causing them to turn back because the crossing is too intimidating or allowing them to fall through a gap and into the jaws of waiting competitors.

Over time, you can replace and strengthen the bridge. As you add more robust content, it will transform from a rickety wooden affair into something akin to a concrete highway.

But, in the beginning, you need something that gets the job done.


Three Questions

Human brains find it easier to grasp information in threes.

Based on this observation, the "Rule of Threes" is a principle in writing and communication that suggests ideas or elements presented in threes are inherently more interesting, more enjoyable, and more memorable for the audience.

It is widely used in literature, speeches, storytelling, and advertising.

Think of fairy tales like "The Three Little Pigs" and "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", and famous speeches such as Julius Caesar's "Veni, Vidi, Vici" and Abraham Lincoln's reference to "government of the people, by the people, for the people" in the Gettysburg Address.

Steve Jobs was famously devoted to this principle. While CEO of Apple, his presentations frequently used the rule of threes to introduce new products or features, including the iconic iPhone introduction in 2007, which teased "an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator."

Along similar lines, in seeking a minimum set of content to satisfy a prospect throughout their buyer’s journey, we should identify three key pieces of information to convey at each stage.

Let’s do this.


Content marketing succeeds when it helps prospects and customers throughout their buyer's journey

The Awareness Stage

Something has triggered in your target customer’s brain.

Either they’ve identified a previously unrecognized challenge to be solved or they’ve realized that their status quo solution is unsatisfactory.

Time and resource constraints are setting off alarm bells in their head.

There are always more fires to fight than those constraints allow, forcing them to make difficult choices.

Key questions they must answer are:

> How should I quantify the impact of this unresolved challenge on my goals and objectives?

> Is a (better) solution available?

> How should I quantify the cost and benefits of implementing such a solution?

The answers to those three questions feed into their ultimate decision:

> Is it worth me investing time and effort to pursue this further?

While your company’s solution will fall within the set of potential solutions this prospect ought to consider (otherwise you wouldn’t be producing content for them), the information to be shared at this stage is mostly about them and not about you.

You’re helping them name and frame their challenge, explaining how to assess its impact on their business properly and completely.

You can provide examples of others who face (or have faced) similar challenges and how they have gone about tackling them.

You share unbiased lists of potential solution types—including but not prioritizing your own—and help them understand the pros and cons of each.

And you show them how to estimate the costs and benefits—often encoded into a downloadable spreadsheet or calculator.


The Evaluation Stage

Having committed to a deeper evaluation, your prospect is ready to learn more about available solutions.

They aren’t shopping around yet, per se. This is still an information gathering exercise.

Their status quo is still the default option.

Key questions they are trying to answer are:

> What are all the possible solutions, and which are appropriate for my situation?

> Which criteria should I use to properly compare and rank those solutions?

> Do I trust the vendor behind each solution to have my best interests at heart and to support me throughout the purchase and implementation process?

This information allows them to make their next go/no-go decision:

> Is this something my company should pursue?

At the end of the day, you want each prospect to make the decision that’s right for their business

The content you publish at this stage includes more details about your company, the solutions you offer, and how you support your customers.

This is where case studies written together with satisfied customers play a powerful role, showcasing real-world examples of how your solution has delivered value.

However, you should still include unbiased information on the pros and cons of different approaches and how to consistently evaluate them.

At the end of the day, you want each prospect to make the decision that’s right for their business—even if that means purchasing from your competitor (or not purchasing anything).

You can earn a lot of trust and goodwill by guiding a prospect away from purchasing your product if it’s not a good fit for them.

It’s an act of high integrity that they will remember, making them likely to come back to you in the future for other solutions and to refer other people to your business.


The Selection Stage

It’s time to cut a deal.

The prospect has studied their challenge and potential solutions in detail and has homed-in on one or two that make technical and financial sense.

They still have some unanswered questions, as well as boxes to check for their legal, financial, and operational decision makers.

This is the stage with which B2B companies are most familiar since we traditionally target a disproportionate amount of marketing and sales effort toward prospects at this stage.

A wide range of issues can arise here, from price negotiation to financing terms to how the solution will be implemented, and users trained.

Many of those questions will be addressed in conversations with your sales team.

However, today’s B2B buyers want to complete as much of the process online as possible—without interacting with a human salesperson.

Therefore, at a minimum your content should address:

> Detailed technical specifications for the product or service to be purchased.

> Pricing and other financial terms (such as discounts or payment programs).

> The availability of training and support resources, and how those will be accessed.

While we lambast companies whose websites are little more than a digitized catalog, the selection stage is the time and place for content rich with features and benefits.

It is also where a perennial debate arises: should you display pricing on your website?

There’s no right or wrong answer (hence the debate), but B2B buyers’ growing preference for an end-to-end digital purchasing experience lends weight to the argument that you should make prices visible.

You must also be transparent about the customer support you will provide.

Over-promising and under-delivering in this department is a recipe for disaster. One that will lead to negative reviews and the wrong sort of peer-to-peer advocacy.


The Implementation Stage

A major gap in many companies’ content lies here, after the purchase has been made.

The buyer’s journey doesn’t end with a signed purchase order.

At that point, all they’ve bought is an expectation of value. Nothing has yet been realized.

The implementation stage is where promises must be kept, issues resolved, and tangible results delivered

The implementation stage is where promises must be kept, issues resolved, and tangible results delivered.

Key questions that the customer needs to answer are:

> How do I get the expected value—and preferably more—out of this solution?

> Where can I find help and answers to any questions or issues that arise?

> How can I best measure and demonstrate the return on my company’s investment?

Based on the adequacy of these answers, they will go on to decide:

> Should I purchase from this vendor again, next time I need a similar solution?

Writing a manual and shipping it with your product isn’t good enough.

Showing up and asking the customer “where do you want this?” leads to a bad situation.

This is where the meme “have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?” comes from.

Customer support goes beyond replacing defective products and helping new customers figure out the basics. It’s about helping your customers maximize the value they realize from the investment they’ve made.

That’s why many companies call it a “customer success” team.

For straightforward concerns and queries, easily accessible self-service content takes friction out of the customer support process, allowing your team to focus on harder-to-resolve issues.

And don’t assume your customers know how to gather appropriate data to calculate the impact of the solution they’ve purchased.

Different people are frequently involved on the customer side during the evaluation, selection, and implementation stages. This means that the person who calculated the expected benefit might not be there to measure the actual benefit.  

If those calculations and measurements are performed differently and the numbers don’t align, there’s a risk that the project will be seen as having under-performed when that’s not the case.


The Loyalty Stage

Happy, loyal, repeat buyers are your customer VIPs.

When they tell their friends and business associates how great your company, brand, and solutions are, it provides some of the lowest-cost marketing you could wish for.

Advocacy needs to be nurtured and facilitated

But this doesn’t often happen all by itself. Advocacy needs to be nurtured and facilitated.

Three types of information it’s important to share at this stage are:

> Your latest developments and how they further improve the value delivered by your solutions.

> Case histories, testimonials, and user-generated content that provides technical and social proof, beyond the customer’s own experience.

> Insider information on where the company is going next (without revealing anything confidential or trade secret, of course)

Making this content available to loyal customers makes it easier for them to advocate for you, while also making their advocacy more impactful.

You want them to feel proud of the decision they made to implement your solution.

You also want them to feel valued and appreciated, both for their business and for the support they lend to your marketing efforts.

Generating and sharing this content as part of your regular content marketing process—rather than as an afterthought—can significantly increase the number of customers who stay loyal to your brand and become your advocates.


The Bottom Line

Constructing a complete content library that caters to every prospect’s needs and wants is a gargantuan task; one that will take your team months, if not years, to complete.

First, though, you need to construct a bare minimum content collection that is sufficient to guide a prospect from awareness to selection and a customer through implementation and on to loyalty.

This can be accomplished by covering a few critical topics at each stage.

We’ve highlighted three essential subjects at each stage because the Rule of Threes suggests this will make your content memorable and impactful—and ought to do the same for this blog post!

If you’re embarking on a new content marketing strategy implementation, use this post to guide initial content production.

If you already have content marketing in full swing, use it to verify that the basics are covered—and fill any gaps with urgency.


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Image credits: Adobe Stock


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