We all know by now the importance of listening to our customers. However, during two recent conversations with clients about this same topic, I began to think more about how we listen and respond.
While working on the 2020 marketing plans for our customers, we began to look for some common themes and strategies in marketing and social media. We found a 2016 article from the Content Marketing Group, which touched on the subject of generating blog and content topics from questions we hear from our customers. A common theme was that marketers often were not able to complete the process that their customers need. We realized that we need to learn how to tie content – to search terms – to the customer journey – to conversions. Now that we understand that they’re all tied together, in a circle, if you will, we realize this is why they pay us. But that doesn’t mean they, or others, also know.
To put this into perspective, let me draw a parallel between this subject to a recent event in my personal life. After 17 years in the home we built in 2000, my wife of 27 years and I decided it was time to downsize and move to a new location. Our sons were grown and had moved out on their own. Fortunately, we sold the home in fewer than 24 hours, so now the hunt was on for a new home. We found a lot we loved and decided it was time to build our dream home.
Building a new home is an extremely tiresome and daunting process. Before the ground was even broken, we had to choose floor tiles and backsplash colors. While cementing these decisions, it was time to add our personal touches. Since we built our first home, advances in technology have occurred that make our lives easier. For instance, today, we can’t imagine living without brands such as Facebook, Ring alarms, gigabit data and Netflix.
Now, to be honest, I’m a nerd at heart, and the prospect of utilizing all this new technology to build a “very smart home” was very appealing. But what does the term “smart home” even mean? I realized that I had to learn all the steps necessary to build a smart home in 2019, including:
- Building a smart home
- Building a smart home in 2019
- What does it take to build a smart home?
- What components make a smart home a smart home?
As my queries demonstrate, in the beginning, I completely invested in the research, or the awareness, phase, so I placed it at the top of the funnel position. I use long-tail search terms, changing them many times to create my own strategy to make our new home “very smart.” Since I had no idea which products or solutions would best fit our needs, I was nowhere near the purchasing, or decision-making, phase.
To relate my own personal journey into the context of
serving our customers, we need to get into the heads of their ideal personas and ask: “What search terms would help find a solution for their needs?” Then, we can reverse-engineer those query phrases into personalized content. This could result in a treasure trove of easy-to-win long-tail terms that bring prospects in at the top of their buyer’s journey.
At this point in my journey, I have found dozens of the tools necessary to tie all my home systems together to make my home “smart.” Currently, I’m “considering” my options, while my wife is “limiting” those same options — LOL. Here’s a snapshot of some search terms I used:
- Best alarm systems 2019
- Home security
- Smart home vendors
- Wireless smart homes
- Smart lighting vendors
In this phase, I now know what I need to solve the problem identified in the awareness phase. Next, I must find the vendors and solutions that will best fit my needs.
To don my marketing hat again, the process I used to identify what I need to build my smart home is parallel to the methods necessary to create content that effectively meets our customers’ needs and their search results. We must create awareness content: blog topics, infographs, video and podcasts that fill those gaps. Next comes the consideration phase, which is where it can get really competitive. Because the terms and phrases are shorter than those of the awareness phase, these search queries most likely will return millions of results. After all, before I began my search, I didn’t know the components I needed to build a smart home any more than our customers know what they need.
In this phase, as a marketer, we can get excited. We have taken a potential new customer through the buyer’s journey, and hopefully, we have educated them along the way. Now, they know that we have the solutions to meet the needs they identified when they began their search. This is human nature, folks — marketers just have to figure out how to disrupt it and get into the mix. Between search, retargeting and other social media, chances are good that our products will, or should, rise to the top.
At this point in building my smart home, I’ve defined my search to these specific terms:
- Ring alarm security cost
- Honeywell home thermostats
- Electric blinds from Hunter Douglas
- Vivint smart home
I’ve narrowed it down to the brands that I believe will solve my problem now. Here is where I finish my review phase as well. I rely heavily on reviews on Amazon, and I dig into honest customer feedback, not the references on most vendor sites. Reviews have never been as important as they are today. Fully 80 percent of consumers have already made a product decision once they hit your site, and if your product is what you say it is, they already know it. Ask your customers for reviews. After all, they are your customers for a reason, and chances are they will discuss their good opinions of you by word-of-mouth, on social media or in reviews.
While working with clients, we cannot stress enough the need to stop focusing only on the short-tail, extremely competitive terms, but also on the broader awareness and decision-making terms. In fact, when we collaborate on search terms, we can even decide where the term fits in the buyer’s journey.