We’re strong believers that the purchase journey no longer starts with a product. Or even a brand. Every buying decision starts the moment something happens in a consumer’s life that makes your company and its products relevant.

We recently had Rand Fishkin on our podcast, the founder of Moz and one of the world’s top SEO experts. He spoke about two things that you should have in mind for your online acquisition strategy:

  1. Build your audience, then they will buy your products.
  2. Google is becoming a suggestion engine over and above search.

Building your audience

Moz started out as a destination to find out about SEO. From that, a consultancy was born – tick one for a successful content marketing strategy. Next they moved into selling the tech that they were using for their consultancy. This became successful very quickly as they were already seen as trusted experts, the go-to for SEO.

Yes, Moz is a startup. It’s harder in a way for established brands – you can’t shift your business model in such an agile way. But then you do have a brand that you could be leveraging, as well as existing online authority?

Going from a search result to a suggestion

We live in a world of forced choice – featured snippets, Google Flights, all ways of getting people to the answer faster. A nightmare for businesses if you aren’t right at the top.

Marketers are now tasked with reaching people before they even need their product. To be relevant to them, to be prioritised by Google, you don’t just need to tick all the SEO boxes like keywords anymore. You need to be a site they would already be going to before even embarking on a purchase journey.

Rand Fishkin illustrated this with a simple example. If you are searching for hotels in Japan, and Google knows that you are also an avid Guardian reader, then the travel section in the Guardian will likely come up higher in your search results than for someone else.

That’s what content marketing really is. Or at least should be.

As SEO is such an important channel, how should you be executing content online? Good quality branded content is essential, of course, but we think brands should take their inspiration from genuine customer content. As well as displaying the content itself.

British Airways Holidays asked customers to share their happiest memories
British Airways Holidays Experiences content collected with Reevoo

Look at the examples here of British Airways Holidays (BAH) asking their customers about the destination – rather than BAH’s services. Or LV= asking about the thing their customers were protecting in the first place – rather than the policy itself.

A way of capturing their audience’s attention without having to think up as much expensive branded content. Customer content is readily relevant and of value to consumers, as it was created without an ulterior motive. Authentic and useful.

The new purchase journey

Using your customers to talk about those broader topics also gives you the right and authority to do so yourself. Just because you work for a company that sells travel products and services, doesn’t mean you should be an expert on every global destination.

It builds trust in your brand earlier on in the purchase journey. More practically, it gives you a chance to drop cookies so you learn more about your audience. As well as being able to retarget them later.

Because it doesn’t stop at SEO. All those other online channels, from ads to social media, exist to push people to your content – leveraging whatever’s most clickable. We know from our clients but also from experts over at Tint that ads (and anything for that matter) with UGC get more clicks.

But remember this is BEFORE they need your product, so it’s all about content that adds value to your audience first. Best provided by the audience itself if you ask us.

That’s what content marketing really is. Or at least should be. - Highlight to share -
LV= showcases UGC throughout the entire customer purchase journey
LV= Experiences content shared on social media

If you spend all that resource on getting eyeballs to your content, you also want to make sure there is an easy next step for consumers. Include internal ads using UGC within your branded content, or give them the opportunity to click through to the product page directly from your UGC.

We’ve now circled back to building your audience first, then people will want to buy from you – exactly like Moz. Except when you’re an established brand you don’t have to work as hard on your own branded content – you can just get it from your existing customers. Constantly refreshed, consistently relevant.

The purchase journey doesn't start with what you sell anymore