Building A Content Ecosystem to Facilitate the Customer Journey

golden path toward conversion

Content, content, content. It’s all about content, right? It sometimes seems like that’s all we hear about or talk about in digital marketing.

Well, yes, it is all about content. For most brands, much (if not most) of that content will reside on their website. But, even if you have tons of content – tons of golden content – it still may not accomplish what it needs to.

What does your content need to accomplish? It needs to create prospects, and then turn those prospects into customers. It needs to facilitate their customer journey toward the ultimate goal of conversion.

This article will examine an actual content marketing strategy that involved the production of content optimized for the main stages in a customer journey. This content strategy was undertaken for a career center, therefore the potential customers were people seeking assistance with their job search. The career center’s two "products" were 1) a series of job search workshops, and most importantly 2) occupational training grants. For either of these, the ultimate goal was for people to download, complete and then return a three-page application form. For the online content strategy, downloading the form was considered a conversion.

Since completion of a three-page form presented a sizable hurdle for customers, the content would need need to:

  • be fairly extensive and targeted to different problems faced by job seekers,
  • offer multiple points of entry into the funnel,
  • offer multiple paths for further discovery and generation of interest, and finally,
  • convince prospects that completing the form would be worth their time and effort.

The Steps in the Customer Journey

In very general terms, the strategy would be to get attention with content that was attractive and immediately helpful, then lure the costumers on to other content that would prompt them to examine their own struggles and difficulties, ultimately leading them toward conversion.

To accomplish this, three broad stages in the customer journey were identified for which meaningful and engaging content should be crafted:

  1. Awareness / Interest,
  2. Interest / Consideration, and
  3. Conversion

A general overview of the plan, presented in sales funnel-like fashion, would look something like this:

diagram of website content funnel

As shown in the diagram above, the first step was to get the content seen. This was primarily accomplished by linking to the content from three places:

  1. Website Home Page: items were routinely run in the home page news rotator, linking to the appropriate content page.
  2. Website Resources Page: the organization maintains a page of resources for job seekers; most of the new content was featured as a resource, linking through to the the appropriate page.
  3. Social Media and Other Channels: On an ongoing basis, the pages were marketed via the organization’s growing social channels, again linking back to the appropriate page on the website.

Content for Awareness / Interest

For this stage of the journey, the content was more general in nature, informational, focusing on the concerns of the prospective customers and, perhaps most importantly, not selling to them. However, because the organization’s workshops provided job search information and guidance, the content could not give way too much, and needed to remain very general, i.e., customers needed to desire the workshops.

To facilitate the customer’s journey, all pages in this stage had a call to action linking through to a related piece of content in the next stage, Interest / Consideration. Occasionally, one of these pages might link directly to one of the Conversion pages.

Content for Interest / Consideration

In this second stage of the journey, the pages began the job of selling, albeit subtly. Typically, the content was designed to compel the potential customer to examine their own need for the organization’s services. This was especially the case with the interactive Job Search Readiness quiz, which very literally challenged job seekers to evaluate their own knowledge and skills for finding a job. In this stage, all content contained a call to action linking through to a Conversion page.

Content for Conversion

There were two Conversion pages, both of which actively marketed the organization’s services; one conversion page for the training grants, and a second conversion page for the workshops. Both conversion pages linked through to the application download page.

Following from the funnel diagram above, with more detail about primary pieces of content, the final content ecosystem looked like this:

diagram of content ecosystem for customer journey

As you can see from the diagram, what resulted was the creation of multiple paths through a content ecosystem, each path designed to appeal to customers at a different stage of their journey, and leading them toward conversion. And, conversions increased year over year for the period 2012 through 2015 (to date). The graph below shows the trendlines for conversions (measured as clicks to download the PDF application form) for each of those years:

diagram of website content ecosystem

To be fair, not all conversions resulted directly from the content journey that had been created, since traffic was being directed to those pages from various sources (i.e., home page, social, etc.) However, for the period January 01, 2014 through March 16, 2015, a substantial percentage of Unique Page Views (UPVs) to the Training Grants and Workshops conversion pages did result from the content ecosystem:

  • Training Grants conversion page – 44.7% of UPVs from content ecosystem
  • Workshops conversion page – 34.5% of UPVs from content ecosystem

Especially notable is the fact that throughout 2014, the local unemployment rate fell from 8.1% to 4.9%, a decrease of 40%. This means that these increases in UPVs to conversion pages, and the increases in actual conversions, happened against a 40% drop in potential "customers" for the career center.

For further content marketing insights, you may be interested in reading these related posts: