Richard Cook

Earned media can be an overlooked part of the buyer’s journey, with it often considered merely a ‘top of the sales funnel’ tool. In reality, this simply isn’t the case. While it’s impact at the top of the funnel cannot be denied, this does not fully encapsulate the impact earned media has throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

In a nutshell, HubSpot defines the buyer’s journey as “the active research process a buyer goes through leading up to a purchase.” Whilst the exact terms used to describe each phase may differ, the buyer’s journey is largely boiled down to three overarching stages: awareness, consideration and decision.

Here’s how earned media plays an important role in each phase of the buyer’s journey.

At the top of the funnel, the buyer is becoming aware of their need to solve a particular problem or meet a certain need. They’re looking for top-level educational research to help direct them to a solution and this is where earned media begins to play a particularly pertinent role in catching the buyer’s interest.

Pardot reports that 72% of buyers will begin their research on Google, using basic search terms to discover the solutions available for their particular problem. Notably, research from CMO Council found that 90% of B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions. While, more compelling still, research from IDC found that 80% of business decision-makers prefer to gather information on products and solutions from a series of articles, as opposed to advertisements.

Middle of the funnel: the consideration stage

Despite its association with the top of the funnel - earned media’s impact doesn’t stop there. In the middle of the funnel, the buyer has now clearly defined the problem they’re trying to remedy. At this point, they likely know what’s causing their problem, and are searching for ways to best fix it. Their research will therefore develop into evaluating the specific solutions available to them.

Once again, content is essential. Very few customers will continue to travel through the sales funnel without doing more research first. In fact, according to Pardot, 70% of buyers return to Google at least 2-3 times during the course of their research. More specifically, within the B2B space, buyers will carry out 12 searches on average prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site (Google). Moreover, LinkedIn report that B2B buyers need to see a brand 10 times before they remember it.

Bottom of the funnel: the decision stage

At the bottom of the funnel, the buyer has determined their pain point and is vetting specific options. They understand the problem and its possible solutions and are now ready to make their decision or purchase. Throughout this stage, earned media continues to play a crucial role reinforcing trust and credibility so that the buyer can make a well-informed choice.

PR after sales

Once the buyer has made a purchase, there is still a tremendous opportunity for PR to work with customer success to convert customers into genuine brand advocates. This collaboration will spur success stories, customer case studies and shape stories which can then be pitched to the media. All of the above will help provide validation for potential new prospects, and their success story may just be the piece to pull in your next potential customer into the top of the funnel.

And so, the cycle continues. PR doesn’t exist in a vacuum. PR works alongside all aspects of the sales funnel to support the journey from awareness to advocate and back again.