One of the game-changing benefits of the internet for Marketers is targeted marketing.  As an Online Marketer, you can get your content in front of someone looking for a product or service in your vertical by ranking in relevant search results. That’s a lot more efficient than paying for a print or tv advertisement, when you basically throw marketing dollars against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Marketers agree that targeted marketing is better than non-targeted marketing. Many Marketers take this logic one step farther and assume that ‘targeted buyer-ready marketing’ is better than ‘targeted researcher marketing’.  That is, optimizing or advertising for queries where the searcher is in buyer-ready mode is better than doing so for queries when the searcher is still in research mode. For example, the query would always be more important to optimize for than .

Connect with Buyer’s Early in their Buying Process with Early Stage Content

At first glance, these assumptions seem to stand up to scrutiny.  Conductor research shows that long-tail queries do in fact convert at a rate greater than head terms.

But a closer look tells us that there may be more to the story.

This is because a high percentage of buyer/conversion-ready queries take place after an online research process.  For example, a purchaser looking to buy a dining room table may start with the query , progress to , and finally to ’.

Another way of looking at this is that a significant percentage of branded searches that show up in your analytics may in fact be downstream from an online research process like this one.  Industry research shows that 86% of buyers begin their buying process with a non-branded search.

Ignoring Early Stage Content Puts Your Marketing at Risk

If a significant percentage of buyers/converters do in fact progress through a research process prior to converting, then an intelligent strategy reflects that fact.

Despite this, many online businesses have a longstanding strategy of ‘crowding the register’: exclusively optimizing and creating content for conversion-centric queries.  They’re jumping straight to the end and ignoring the process.

I recently heard a good analogy: this phenomenon is comparable to a guy in a bar who walks up to a woman and says, “Will you marry me???”  Then, after drying off the drink tossed on him, he wonders, “Am I in the wrong bar? Is it the shirt?”

Bring Forth Your Inner ‘Rico Suave’ with Early Stage Content

The obvious solution for our misguided Romeo is to get to know the prospective Juliet a bit before jumping immediately to a marriage proposal.  In the digital marketing context, that means engaging with the buyer earlier in the buying cycle.  It means creating content that will help educate and inform the buyer, content that will help them progress down the buying funnel and make an informed decision.

With this approach, we are no longer metaphorically jumping the gun and proposing marriage; we’re courting our customers rather than potentially alienating them with a push to purchase. But more importantly, we are forming a long-term relationship and a neural connection between a generic product or service and our specific brand. Hopefully, they’ll draw on this connection when they are buyer-ready and plan to pull the trigger on a purchase.

Speak to Buyer’s in the Language of their Journey

Crowding the online register (optimizing for only conversion-centric queries) is a strategy that had its place as the internet developed, when competition for purchase terms was weak and online consumers were still figuring out how much they needed and trusted digital input.  Now, being ahead of the curve means reaching buyers earlier in the purchase cycle, providing them with the kind of information that will help them make an informed purchase decision.

Done right, buyers return to the brand as they near the end of the purchase funnel.  Done consistently, buyers will begin to see your brand as the go-to authority in your industry, which will have ripple effects across all your digital efforts.

To get started building and measuring content for the stages in your buyer’s journey read:

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