Every online marketer should live by the funnel principle and create content to drive sales. A process like this is also known as a content marketing funnel and is a strategy you should certainly consider.
A lot of the content that we read online has a specific purpose: to convert users to a specific action. Whether it’s the purchase of a product, scheduling a demo, or signing up for a newsletter, all types of content online are crafted to influence a specific response.
In reality, marketers don’t often measure their sales funnels. The need for clear and optimized funnels for content marketing is big – they help a lot when it comes to navigating users throughout different stages of the process. But what exactly is a content marketing funnel? The answer is below.
What is a content marketing funnel?
The best way to describe a content marketing funnel is as a process that visualizes the entire journey that potential customers are taken through when considering a purchase or are expected to perform another action. Here, the content is placed in different stages of the funnel, and each piece of content supports a specific aspect of the customer journey. Moreover, good content is what pushes leads closer to taking action on the website and what converts new visitors to subscribers.
There are four main stages of the content marketing funnel, including awareness, evaluation, purchase, and delight. Each of these serves a specific purpose in the customer journey. On the other hand, a comprehensive content marketing strategy is the wider aspect of the funnel, which directly puts answers to the following questions:
- What type of content is needed?
- How can the success of the content be measured?
- Which are the areas where a content strategy can be improved?
One of the primary lessons in many courses on content marketing for beginners is to understand the funnel and its main function. A well-defined funnel is often described as a good vehicle for clarity, where the upper layers are meant for discovery and consideration, while the middle is reserved for conversion, leading to the bottom, where the primary objective is retention.
Driving sales with a content marketing funnel (Action Plan)
First of all, let’s explore the three main stages of a content marketing funnel. When developing a content strategy, you should have each of these in mind and create specific pages for each stage of the funnel.
The easiest way to start thinking about your sales funnel optimization is by breaking the funnel down into the major portions, which are the upper, middle, and bottom funnel portions. Content is part of every powerful sales strategy, and all of these layers have specific functions. For instance, the top of the funnel’s main function is to attract new visitors. The middle funnel is used to transform those new visitors into qualified leads, while the bottom funnel is where the macro conversions (or purchases) happen.
- Top of the funnel (awareness or discovery stage): Essentially a lead generation stage when you capture new and curious potential customers
- Middle of the funnel (evaluation and consideration stage): Here, you capture the interest of users that are more geared toward your offer
- Bottom of the funnel (decision or purchase stage): Reinforcing the idea that your already interested users are making the best choice
Therefore, in order to create content for each stage of the funnel, you need to consider your customer lifecycle and sales funnel. Ask yourself the following question:
“What are my audiences searching for at each stage of the conversion funnel?”
Consumers usually look to educate themselves through how-to articles, case studies, videos, or webinars – and when a potential customer gets to the consideration and evaluation phase, it means that they are narrowing down their options.
Now, there are some talks about recommended types of content writing for each of these stages between marketers. For instance, most B2B blogs are best geared toward top-of-funnel users that don’t have something specific in mind, while for B2C audiences, customers can move quickly from blog post to purchase. Similarly, an interesting webinar works great for bottom-funnel users looking for an on-demand sales demo.
The upper layer of your funnel is meant to help you with search visibility, brand awareness, and indirect customer acquisition. That is why here, educational and evergreen content works best as a vehicle that generates awareness of your brand among potential customers.
In other words, you should include as many blog posts (how-to’s, guides), ads, infographics, ebooks and whitepapers, how-to videos, or integrated video marketing (product demos, video scripts) to make the use case for your product obvious but also spark interest in each visitor and “nudge” users towards conversion by educating them instead of hard-selling them.
If you want to optimize the middle layer of your funnel, you should consider this area as one responsible for customer acquisition and education of your potential customers. Therefore, your strategy should be using as many use-case challenges as possible and helping users realize how they correlate to your brand and the solution it offers to solve their needs. If you have trouble getting leads at this layer of the funnel, you can always hire web scraping developers. They can help with lead acquisition, build an email database, scrape reviews and then export all data to CRM or database
A good strategy is to include case studies, social media posts, email newsletters, product descriptions and data sheets, testimonials, reviews, etc. You can also rely on the impact of AI – technology has evolved a lot over the past decade, and there are apps that feed off of users and their online behavior, interests, or past searches.
Keep in mind, however, that middle-of-the-funnel content should not directly focus on what you are selling – instead, it is designed to help users learn more about a specific area that is relevant to your business and make it more likely that they will do business with you. Also, it’s good to consider creating other funnels – a social media sales funnel can be a good path to facilitating the conversion of leads into actual customers.
Lastly, we have the bottom-of-the-funnel content, with the main purpose of informing users about your product or offer and selling it. Many see this touchpoint as the point of transaction (or conversion). That is why marketers include customer success stories, free trials, calculators, and live demos in their bottom-of-the-funnel content – all of these are meant to reinforce your internal and external marketing actions.
As you can see, the bottom layer of the content marketing funnel is more direct, which is why it is often seen as the sales material of content marketing. You can often see clear descriptions of products and the unique value they provide or charts that compare them to alternatives offered by competitors. You can always consider hiring experienced freelancers that specialize in sales copywriting to help you craft bottom-of-the-funnel content.
How should you think of content within the funnel?
We hope the tips from above gave you some sort of an idea on how to develop a solid digital marketing strategy and create your content marketing funnel to drive more sales. However, if you are still looking to figure out how you should think of content within the funnel, the rules are as follows:
- Try using the same marketing channel in many different ways (for example, you can do a social media audit to see whether a specific social channel can be used for both ads and organic social media posts)
- Think about customer retention, and plan content accordingly – it will help your customers “optimize their use of your product or service, and they will less likely look for alternatives elsewhere.”
- Start by developing one funnel at a time – once you develop all, you can move to conversion funnel optimization
- Start with bottom-of-the-funnel content first, and you will see that content marketing is not that linear. Work on brand awareness and start grabbing those low-hanging fruits.
- Put yourself in your client’s shoes and consider their emotional needs as well
- Talk to your customers and your customer-facing teams
- Use data and analytics to support your key business decisions
Content funnel optimization doesn’t end with the three layers – many focus on ongoing help, support, and onboarding as some of the best ways to retain existing customers and promote brand advocacy. These strategies are not only valuable to your brand and its legacy – but they are also good for SEO – happy customers are keener on leaving reviews and spreading the word about your brand, products, offer, or brand-client relationship with them.
Lastly, your content should be unique, differentiated, and optimized. All of your topics need to be validated before you even start writing or creating them – think about the topic, how relevant it is, but also how it aligns with the search intent and where it fits in your sales funnel. Once you create the content, you will want to keep your momentum going by periodically auditing it and updating certain elements when appropriate.
No matter what types of lead generation strategies you use to attract users to your website or landing pages, the real conversions are made based on how well your funnel and all of its layers are optimized.
In the end, all marketers know that understanding the audience is one of the first barriers to growth. If you know how your potential customers think, where they are looking for the answers they seek and what’s the exact path they are following, you will be able to navigate your content marketing funnel around it and begin crafting a well-documented content strategy.