How the buyer’s journey has changed

Marketers are tasked with bringing in new customers and helping them along the marketing funnel until they buy—and hopefully become lifelong customers.

Buyers_Journey_Changed

Remember when the “buyer’s journey” was a straight path down the marketing funnel?

PR and marketing pros’ job was to generate awareness, which sits at the top of that funnel, and then nudge prospects toward interest before handing them off to sales somewhere around consideration.

Today, the trip down the funnel looks more like a constellation. It’s complicated because the journey looks different for every person.

Here is one example for a client looking to buy new software:

Once you identify the ideal customer persona, today’s pros have an unprecedented ability to understand what that journey—or constellation—looks like.

Your ability to target your audience has an infinite number of strategies, while at the same time, it’s so much more precise. Today, PR now plays a role in almost every stage of the funnel. Unfortunately, the 24-hour onslaught of polarizing headlines has people checking out. Fear-based approaches to PR run the risk of alienating the people you’re trying to bring closer.

Also, media relations is no longer enough. It’s still the best way to build credibility, but it’s lagging in its ability to drive awareness.

A successful PR strategy must begin with authenticity, be guided by empathy, and amplify its messages on the way toward building community. Digital marketing strategies must be part of the PR program.

PR can no longer afford to live in a vacuum. It must be integrated with your content, search, social media, other digital strategies, and offline campaigns, too.

Here’s a good place for any PR campaign to start:

1. If a media outlet prints a story, does anyone read it?

Today, the lifecycle of a news story is minutes long, maybe hours if you’re lucky. Consumers are inundated. In the last 10 years, there has been a 835% increase in news stories. Amplification tactics allow you to use media coverage and other great content to drive actions such as click-to-purchase and thought leadership initiatives on social media.

2. High-quality content marketing.

The content you create, commonly referred to as “owned content,” is one of the most powerful integrated PR tools because your organization can control the message. However, BuzzFeed threw things out of whack with its viral listicles that got clicks, but didn’t generate loyalty. Clicks were the prize so everyone followed suit, but the trend was misleading. Today, quality is performing better than gimmicks because people are overwhelmed with volume.

3. Influencer marketing.

Authentic evangelists create believers. Credibility is a gating factor to any new product, organization, or idea.

Influencers can create the bridge between awareness and trust. These marketing assets aren’t just celebrities and YouTube or Instagram stars. They are people with smaller, but more engaged followings—industry analysts, community leaders, even teachers—anyone who has the ability to shape brand perception and/or purchasing decisions. These “micro-influencers” increase campaign engagement rates by 60% and are 6.7 times more efficient according to AdWeek.

4. Search engine optimization.  

SEO work isn’t just about website keyword strategies. In integrated PR, organic SEO strategies make your third-party content discoverable by media outlets and by your audiences. It’s a long-term amplification strategy that continues to work even when you’ve moved on to other things. You should not only match headlines and content with your keywords, but also with potential related content and trending topic searches.

Effective PR makes sure the right message reaches the right audience at hundreds of the right times and places. The buyer’s journey is now a scattered series of moments, or touch points, where you have the opportunity to educate, increase awareness and even inspire someone to take an action.

When PR takes an integrated approach, it also closes the measurement loop so you can more accurately assess the impact of your program.

Beth Andrix Monaghan is the CEO and co-founder of InkHouse, an integrated PR firm with offices in Boston, San Francisco and New York City.

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