Lead Nurturing: Offering Content Based on Visitors' Buying Phase

As a Demand Generation company, customers often ask us what content we recommend for lead nurturing processes.  A few months ago, I attended a road show session featuring The Google TechTarget Research Project: How IT Pros Search Online During the Purchase Process, which identified the 3 phases of the IT buyer’s purchase process and their online behavior within each phase.  I found knowing these phases very useful for developing content for lead nurturing processes.  Below we’ve recommended content based on the prospect’s buying phases.

1.  Content for the Awareness Phase: This is the first stage of the buying cycle, in which the buyer has identified the business problem, and is looking for an IT solution to address it.  During the awareness phase, buyers are using issues and opportunity phrases in their organic searches more than any other terms.  For example, if a buyer is looking for a demand generation platform, their search phrase might be “lead nurturing software” or “lead tracking software”.  If a buyer enters a site using this search phrase, they could be added to a lead nurturing process, in which the first collateral they receive is an informative piece on demand generation software and its features.  According to the Research Project, buyers in the awareness phase are more likely to respond to whitepapers, podcasts, blogs and videos than to demos and trial software.  Therefore, offering one of the above four mediums would be ideal for a buyer in this phase.

2.  Content for the Consideration Phase: The consideration phase is when buyers begin to explore technology options and research solutions.  Buyers are using solution and brand phrases in their search and are starting to look at trials, demos and virtual tradeshows more than in the previous phase.  If a buyer enters our site using a phrase, such as “demand generation solution” or “Manticore Technology”, we would add them to a different lead nurturing campaign featuring content, which matched their buying phase.  At this point, we might offer them an online demo of the solution, a whitepaper or case study on Manticore Technology.  During this phase, buyers are gathering information to weigh their options and begin comparing solutions.

3. Content for the Decision Phase: During the decision phase of the process, most buyers have identified what solution is going to meet their business need, looked at several different manufacturers/vendors offering the solution, and are ready to compare vendors’ solutions to make a decision.  During the decision phase, 52% of buyers are using comparison and review phrases in their searches.  Although in the past, many marketers have been hesitant to mention competitors on their web site or in their collateral pieces, buyers now have this information at the tips of their fingers and are most likely aware of the competition before they reach this phase.  According to the research project, vendors that offer “comparative content” are prime magnets for buyers in this late phase of the process.  With over ½ of buyers using a search to discover brands that they were not previously aware of, you could even pick up leads, who are searching for comparative data to another brand.  Because of this, it seems more advantageous to acknowledge your competition in a comparison than to not mention them at all.  Prospects searching with comparison/review phrases can be put into a lead nurturing campaign offering a competitive comparisons and information.

Understanding these phases of the IT buyer’s purchase process and the buyer’s behavior in each phase, can help you target that buyer with the right message and shorten the sales cycle increasing the flow of “sales-ready” leads.  Not only can you build lead nurturing campaigns based on organic search terms, you can also move leads through the phases of the purchase process.  Many of your prospects will be entering your site in the awareness phase.  When they are put into a lead nurturing campaign, they should be offered collateral consistent with their buying phase as they continue move through the cycle.

Next time, we will talk about using lead scoring to effectively segment your leads based on their behavior, which is indicative of their buying phase.