Every day, writers and reporters create tons of content. Only a fraction of it has a real impact. Often it is because the content does not fit the problem/ solution stage in which the user is–the result is ⛔️ no content-user fit. If the content does not fit the user you see things like high bounce rates, low conversion from free to paid, a bunch of unqualified leads. Content creators must understand if their users know that they have a problem but they do not know that there is a solution and that you have it.
The 🎯 Content-User Fit Model is the concept that the attention and education stage (problem, product, alternatives) of your users influence the content. The concept is intended to help 🏂 content creators, marketing professionals, and startup teams identify which stage their users are in and which content they need in order to get closer to the point of purchase.
In addition to my experience with new markets and products, Eugene Schwartz’s “5 Stages of Awareness” (from the book “Breakthrough Advertising“) had a major impact on how I view content and why I came up with the 🎯 Content-User Fit Model. What advertising books (Schwartz, Ogilvy, Whitman) from the 1960s and 1970s explain about ads can be translated into our time with content–blog articles, landing pages, one-pagers, white papers work according to the same principles.
The 4 Stages in the Content-User Fit Model
Marketers think along the customer or buyer journey and group the content into top, middle and bottom of the funnel. The content-user fit model helps to recognize how problem and product aware the users are.
- Problem aware/Solution aware – users know that they have a problem and are aware of potential solutions
- Problem aware/Solution unaware – users are aware of their problem or need but do not know that solutions or alternatives to their existing solutions exist
- Problem unaware/Solution aware – users do not realize that they have a problem that could be solved with the solution they know
- Problem unaware/Solution unaware – users are not aware of the problem and do not know about potential solutions and alternatives
In addition to problem and solution, there is another dimension to consider–our product. Users can be problem and solution aware but do not know our product. On the education side, this can be solved with the content on product differentiation, domain expertise, and brand content (trust and credibility, trusted vendor).
What💡Content fits your Users
Let’s make it tangible. The easiest way to explain the 🎯 content-user fit with a few examples of which content fits the individual levels. The complexity of the product and the model (product-led, sales-assisted, sales-led) determine the content form. A product like Trello, whose value is easy to recognize and easy to test, uses content more for the top of the funnel, brand, and thought leadership.
More complex enterprise solutions like Workday use content in addition to awareness, especially for lead qualification, education, building trust as a vendor, and in the decision-making phase. For the article, I have chosen a bottom-up model, sales-assisted as the basis.
Problem unaware / Solution unaware
If users haven’t realized they have a problem and they are not aware of a new 🚀 product category, then a lot of education is needed. One way can be to communicate to users that there are alternatives to the current processes or tools. White-papers and introduction webinars–and in normal times also events–can help users to realize the need.
Also, blog articles as an introduction to the topic or pages that are less product-related but solution-oriented such as Guru’s Reference Page or the thought leadership content from C3.ai can create awareness and educate. Word of mouth and virality as channels can also function as content carriers.
Problem unaware / Solution aware
This is an interesting combination. For example, there are users who know a product but do not know that it can solve their problem or how to use it. I have seen this several times at AR / VR startups where users knew the solutions but did not see that they can solve the problems in their own company.
If users are fascinated by new technology or come from the innovation area, a solution is recognized without knowing for which problem. Here it is important to build a bridge to actual business and value. Live demos, use case descriptions, concrete transfer of the technology in problem-solving are in the foreground. In addition to the pure fields of application, practical examples from other areas help.
The job of marketers is to connect to the user’s problem. The risk is that users don’t understand the product properly and quickly jump off. Exemplary representations of how the product creates value and clear communication of what works and what does not ensure clear expectations. Live demos and case studies in image and video form help to understand the solution. The HR platform company Zenefits has an own portal called Workest where users can learn from a solution perspective.
Problem aware / Solution unaware
That’s a grateful category. The users know that they have a problem and are looking for a solution. Now it is up to us marketers to place the right content. The user knows the pain points and looks for alternatives. For the content, it is important to pay attention to your own category and to show the advantages compared to alternatives. This refers to real alternatives, not only competitive products.
In order to draw attention to alternatives, ads can be helpful to give the content and the message a basis and then to show where the advantages of the solution are. When it comes to the courage to clearly communicate the alternative, there is hardly a better example than Salesforce’s “No Software” campaign with the famous ad. Comparisons, references, concrete implementation examples, or solutions focused on company areas help to show the value of the solution. Self-serve products such as Dropbox have an advantage since they can be tested by the users without much effort or talking to sales teams.
Problem aware / Solution aware
At first glance, this appears to be the simplest category but also the one with the greatest competitive factor. The users are aware of the problem and know what solutions are available. Users in this category expect details and insights into the solution.
Product details, features, roadmap, reviews are used here. The more the content is “trusted”–especially coming from third parties–the better. Guru uses overviews of the product but also of the integrations and a page “Why Guru”. The product factor is crucial here because the problem and solution have already been identified. Known for its content approach, HubSpot makes the difference with courses, certificates, and a ton of inbound marketing material that gives users a good overview of whether HubSpot is the right product.
Where are your users in the 🎯Content-User Fit Model?
Of course, we want to know which type of user we have and how the users go through funnels and loops so that we have the right content ready. This may not be perfect at the beginning and classifying users correctly requires effort.
The 🎯 content-user fit model should help to think about the right content because every company, every product, and every user is different. The model is definitely not perfect but offers the guardrails for a successful content strategy.
Here are ways to identify the user categories:
- User research with surveys
- Bots on the website (e.g. Drift)
- Polls in webinars and events
- Check user behavior on landing pages
- Call-to-action buttons
- Online search behavior
- Audience and stage in webinars, courses, events
A few indicators can be used to determine whether the content fits the user stage or not. The mentioned indicators can also have other reasons, but in combination, they give a reliable picture:
- High bounce rates of new users
- User flow on website is interrupted
- Downloads at a specific point do not work
- CTAs not clicked by users
- Low conversation rate of free trials
Combining Customer Journey and Content-User Fit Model
The best content is worthless if it is not consumed by the users. The user stages can be linked to the customer journey in order to define which type of user and stage is given. The 🎯Content-User Fit Model can be applied to all stages in the funnel or to the steps in loops.
Dirk Schart is CMO of the Augmented Reality startup RE’FLEKT. His focus is on B2B enterprise software and SaaS models with early-stage technologies like AR, AI, IoT—from market engineering to thought leadership and go-to-market. Dirk is a startup mentor at the German Accelerator in the Silicon Valley and author of two books about Augmented Reality for Marketing.