This post will be published the day before Thanksgiving—a quintessentially American holiday, celebrating the harvest and, more recently, the onset of holiday shopping.
Consequently, I’m taking this opportunity to explore how and when the giving of thanks should play a role in content marketing strategy.
Happily, this gives me an opportunity to write about an oft-forgotten stage in the buyer’s journey and the content that businesses can usefully publish to support it.
Much attention is paid to the first three stages in the buyer’s journey: awareness, evaluation, and selection.
This should come as no surprise. Attracting, engaging, and converting prospects is the simple recipe for generating revenue.
Publishing content that facilitates prospects’ progression through these three stages is the basis for many companies’ content marketing strategies—although too much emphasis is still placed on targeting ready-to-buy prospects at the selection stage.
However, the buyer doesn’t stop there.
In most cases, they go on to implement the solution they have purchased, seeking to realize the valuable benefits for which it was selected.
Superior content marketers understand the importance of publishing content that helps purchasers successfully take advantage of the solution they have bought.
This helps ensure that customers unlock the expected value, think highly of the solution, and hopefully come back for more.
It also provides continuity from marketing to sales to customer success, with the buyer hopefully oblivious to the boundaries between teams.
Many buyers do stop there, happy to enjoy their purchase and move on to other things.
Truly smart content marketers know that there’s one more stage to be unlocked: Loyalty.
But truly smart content marketers know that there’s one more stage to be unlocked: Loyalty.
Your most loyal and satisfied customers can, under the right circumstances, be converted into advocates for your brand—one of the most powerful forms of low-cost marketing.
Advocates tell their peers and extended networks how great you are and how your solution has delivered value beyond their expectations. Importantly, they tell other people to buy your solution, too.
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing you can employ.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising.
Wouldn’t it make sense to show some content marketing love to this often-overlooked stage in the buyer’s journey?
Not every satisfied customer becomes an advocate. Some people prefer to enjoy the fruits of their wise purchases without promoting the idea to others.
However, many buyers do want to pay it forward—helping others to find and unlock the same benefits that they’re enjoying.
Others want to enhance their reputation as a savvy buyer.
This is especially true in the B2B sector, where championing a successful purchase for the company can help a commercial buyer (or technical expert) elevate themselves above their peers and into consideration for promotion.
Whether their motives are altruistic, egotistic, or careerist in nature, your company can benefit from enabling a buyer’s desire to share.
Whether their motives are altruistic, egotistic, or careerist in nature, your company can benefit from enabling a buyer’s desire to share. The more advocates you can enable, the more you will benefit from that powerful, free, word-of-mouth advertising.
This might mean providing easy-to-share materials through periodic outreach, such as case study PDFs in a quarterly update email.
It might also mean giving advocates a platform, such as inviting them to speak on a panel, at a webinar, or on your booth at a trade show.
But it is also about making them feel valued.
Reminding potential advocates that you appreciate their business and that you value their feedback is a great way to spur them into action. It doesn’t hurt to tell them how smart they are for choosing your solution, either.
This is what I mean by building thanksgiving into your content marketing strategy.
There are several ways of making customers feel appreciated within your content marketing strategy (and I’m sure you can think of others that I haven’t included here).
First, consider sending personalized, high-quality communications to existing and potential advocates.
A couple of decades ago, it was common to reward advocates with high-end swag—from elegant gifts to expensive boondoggles (leisure trips disguised as work). These days, anti-corruption legislation has all but put a stop to these easily abused practices.
Today, a thoughtful but low-value gift, delivered by courier and accompanied by a personal note of thanks is special enough to do the trick.
Second, consider inviting a cadre of premium customers to attend a VIP event where they will be shown the latest and greatest your company has to offer and have the chance to participate in product strategy-setting sessions.
This gives your team an opportunity to interact with them over an extended period, both to pick their brains and to show gratitude for their loyalty and business.
Such events provide multiple opportunities to deliver content thanking advocates for their business and for their valuable guidance.
Third, consider publishing case histories that are co-authored by premium customers.
In addition to lending great credibility to the use case itself, these publications give you chance to publicly thank the customer for their belief in your company and its solutions.
This can be especially powerful if you’re an emerging player whose products are not yet widely known or accepted in the market. Publish a case history that names a well-recognized buyer and watch how quickly their peers start visiting your website and asking for information.
Lastly, acknowledge and re-share customer generated content (CGC) that helps others to evaluate your product.
CGC, such as product reviews and blog post comments, is highly authentic—provided you don’t try to filter it. Publish the good, the bad, and the ugly, and express gratitude for anything that’s not hateful or blatantly inaccurate.
Pay particular attention to regular commentators and those who go the extra mile to provide detailed feedback, constructive critique, and helpful hints for other buyers. Make them feel special and they’re likely to continue to advocate.
As you plan your content marketing strategy for the year ahead, don’t forget that there are five stages in the buyer’s journey.
Overlooking the fifth stage, loyalty, is a mistake because it opens the door to low-cost, high-impact advertising in the form of advocacy.
Content for the loyalty stage should encourage and help your best customers become advocates for your business and your solutions.
Part of that process involves making them feel valued.
Say thanks in whatever form makes most sense for your business and the customers it serves.
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Image credits: Adobe Stock