Reinventing the buyer journey: introducing the RH&Co content marketing framework

Every marketer has their favourite way of describing the stages of the buyer journey. Some stick to the basics with Awareness, Consideration and Decision. Others prefer AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. You’ve also got the awareness journey: problem aware, solution aware, most aware.

All are helpful to a degree, especially when planning your broader marketing strategy and channel mix. But if you try to apply them to generating topic ideas for your content marketing plan they’re not always so effective.

That’s why at RH&Co we’ve developed our own framework, based on the process we use to create editorial calendars for our clients. In this post, we’re looking at the five key stages your customer or client is likely to go through and the type of content you should be aiming to create at each one.

Stage 01: In the dark

In stage one, your reader is either not aware of their problem or not clear on their real problem. 

For example, they might not realise that their app’s security is at risk because they haven’t got a maintenance schedule in place. Or they might know that they’re having stomach problems but not realise they have a wheat intolerance.

Goal

At this stage your goal needs to be to educate your audience and raise their awareness, identifying and exploring the problem until they’re really clear on what it is. 

This audience type is right at the beginning of their journey, so don’t try to rush them to a sale. Instead, get them to the point where they feel confident about researching solutions.

Content

You could start with a piece of content about the wider issues facing your reader’s industry or share your opinion on why a particular problem is worth addressing. 

You could also highlight the warning signs that might indicate a certain problem is looming or challenge them to think about an issue in a new way. 

Stage 02: Stuck

Now your audience is clear that there’s a problem – but they have no idea what to do about it. 

In the example above, your reader may be panicking about the security risk facing their new app or feeling relieved that their stomach pain has a genuine source. But how do you improve app security or deal with wheat intolerance?

Goal

The goal in this stage should be to add real value, introducing the variety of solutions that are available. It’s important not to focus too heavily on your own solution just yet – sell now and you’ll look self interested rather than genuinely helpful.

Your reader wants the facts laid out for them so that they can make an independent, informed decision about what’s right for them, without feeling pressured.

Content 

This is where ‘how to’ content comes into its own. You can keep this content fairly broad, or start to narrow it down a little – although keep some ideas back for the next stage (you’ll see what we mean in a moment).

It’s also helpful to dig beneath the problems your reader is facing and help them understand why they’re having them. After all, it’s hard to fix something if you don’t know what’s causing it. And as humans, we’re naturally curious too.

Stage 03: Searching

Searching is like part two of Stuck. Now the reader is relatively clear on their problem and knows solutions exist. So the next step is for them to work out which of those solutions is best for them.

Is it getting a consultant in, training the in-house team or hiring a new specialist to ensure your app stays on top form? Does it mean cutting out wheat, taking a probiotic supplement or trying reiki?

Goal

This is where you start to explore each solution in depth, giving more facts such as advantages and disadvantages of each. 

Again, it’s really important to be honest rather than try to skew the reader towards your own offering. That only leads to unhappy clients and customers. If you’re a poor fit for each other, it’s best get them out of the funnel now so you can concentrate on the better fits.

Content

As we mentioned in the Stuck stage, you can use ‘how to’ content here as well. Only this time it will be more niche, focusing less on ‘how to reduce bloating’, for example, and more on ‘how to choose the right probiotic for wheat intolerance’.

You can also hone your angle to focus specifically on factors that will affect your reader’s choice, such as price, as well as comparing different options like for like.

Stage 04: Almost ready

By now your reader has not only settled on a solution but they’re considering your business – possibly alongside others – in order to make the very best choice.

The non-technical founder who didn’t realise that they had a security risk is now convinced that they do, and that they need a consultant – why should they choose you? Your wheat intolerant buyer is set on taking a probiotic every day but do they get your brand or a cheaper competitor?

Goal

This is where you provide the granular details that allow your reader to make their decision to spend money with you – or at the very least to get in touch to talk to your sales team.

The emotion we want to stimulate now is certainty, and that is best done with facts rather than hype. Although the marketer’s missive is ‘benefits over features’, you need to dig into features here.

Content

Content for the ‘almost ready’ stage needs to contain plenty of detail – prices, processes and anything else your reader might want to know about you. 

Here you can create objection busting content to support your sales team, and you can even put out ‘repel content’ – named by the clever Content Fortress folk at Jammy Digital – to put off anyone who is a poor fit.

Bonus content for any stage

Of course, there is some content that doesn’t quite fit neatly into any of these stages but is very much worth including because it can be enormously effective.

We call this reputation-building content and it can engage people wherever they are on their journey or even if they’re not in the market for what you’re selling at all. 

Goal

As the name suggests, reputation-building content is all about establishing your brand’s reputation, for example as a thought leader, innovator or expert voice.

By doing this, you create a secure brand position that will pay dividends when people do begin their buyer journey, and you’ll also build connections within your industry and with the wider public.

Content

This is the most difficult type of content for your competitors to copy because it is based on your unique IP, experience or perspective as a business.

It can include opinions and angles on current topics, use case studies to demonstrate real life examples, and give glimpses behind the scenes into your culture, values and ways of working.

How to use the RH&Co content framework

In an ideal world, you would fill every stage of your content framework with well researched, highly valuable and engaging copy – preferably with a strand for each separate product or service you offer.

The reality is that you’ll need to start somewhere, so think about your main challenges and the quick wins you want to gain.

Perhaps your sales team needs a boost with bottom of funnel ‘almost ready’ content. Or maybe you’re working with an SEO strategy and want to catch people’s attention while they’re (quite literally) in the searching phase.

If you’re an expert-led business – in other words, your goal is to position your brand as an authority in a given subject area – then you need to start working on that reputation-building content.

We’ll be writing more about how to put our framework into practice in due course but in the meantime, if you’d like to talk about getting our support to create your content strategy, get in touch.

Stage 05: Onboarding

Too many businesses get a deal over the line and move straight onto the next lead. But onboarding your customers and clients properly can give them that feel good feeling that develops loyalty and turns them into brand advocates.
Remember that you understand your products and services inside out but they may be new to them. This can cause some degree of trepidation, whether that’s about making the most of their new purpose or getting something wrong.

Goal

This is all about emotions – making your reader feel happy and satisfied with their purchase decision. They’ve handed over some cash, now they want reassurance they made the right choice.
Whatever you can do to get them more quickly towards their goals or ease any potential bumps along the road will help.

Content

Instruction guides make excellence onboarding content, and the great thing is that they tick a box for those nervous types in the ‘almost  ready’ phase too.
Another way to build loyalty is to give your new customer or client ideas about how to use their new purchase better or more frequently. Think workout guides

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