Content as the path through the buying process

Copyblogger wrote a great piece on The 10 Essential Ingredients of Successful Sales Pages.

  1. Headlines that make promises and demand attention
  2. Opening paragraphs that promise and persuade
  3. Stories that reveal the reasons behind the offer
  4. Details that foster rapport and credibility
  5. Subheads that stop scrollers and make reading easy
  6. Anxiety-reducing testimonials
  7. Proof points that your product or service actually works
  8. An offer they can’t refuse
  9. A risk-free environment
  10. A solid close that gets your ‘buy” button clicked

Made me think about how well these ingredients align with the buying process. Consider a simple B2B buying process as:

  1. Awareness
  2. Research
  3. Evaluation
  4. Decision
  5. Support

Awareness
In the awareness phase, of course you will want headlines that demand attention. In a information rich world where news, advertising, promotions, and opinions are at our fingertips, you need to grab the already shortened attention span of the prospective buyer.  Focus on your buyer’s pain.

Research
Once you’ve got their attention, they begin actively gathering information, consuming your content, your message. Here the promise and persuasion of the first few paragraphs, much less sentences are critical. The buyer is intrigued, but wants more convincing before they jump to the evaluation step of the process, so tell them a story, given them a reason to evaluate. Leveraging peer stories is a great way to do this.

Evaluation
Then the buyer gets interested and makes that jump to taking a closer look, evaluating your product or service. Here is where you need to establish a rapport and solidify yourself as credible, but you need to do so in a way that doesn’t drown them in details, or bore them with long dissertations in plain text.   This stage is all about the product.

Decision
You captured their attention, kept them engaged, and now they are ready to make a decision. Here is where you want to fortify their decision to select you as a vendor.  Employ proof points that provide the peace of mind that they are not a guinea pig, that their decision is a wise one.  Push them over the edge into the buy step by making them an offer they cannot refuse – build and fortify preference.

Buy
Make is as easy as possible to purchase your product or service. Point them to a reseller, or a section of your website.  Take away the extra steps of hunting around for a place to buy, or the best deal. A buying environment that is risk-free and simple will get them to take that final step – purchase.

Support
The one phase of the buying process not reflected in the ingredients…the post purchase experience.  Where do they go if they need help? How will you help them? These messages not only help create that risk-free environment in the buy phase, but also give the buyer a reason to come back and repurchase, or influence others by becoming one of those anxiety reducing testimonials…. and the sales funnel continues to fill.

So, when writing content that sells, consider the purpose of the content as it relates to what phase of the buying process the buyer is in.  And remember to always link the pieces together providing that path to purchase.