You have probably heard the phrase marketing funnel (or sales funnel) a lot.
But right now we’re going to get a bit more specific.
We’re going to talk about your content marketing funnel.
What is a Marketing Funnel?
Let’s just remind you (because we’re not going to make those assumptions) what we mean by a sales funnel.
A marketing funnel is a visual representation of the buyer’s journey. Each of your prospective customers starts at the top of the funnel and ideally you want to get as many as possible to the bottom of the funnel, which is where they actually buy something.
The funnel has the following stages:
You can see how that reflects the typical customer journey. We use a funnel because it’s inevitable that there will always be a lot more people aware of your product than actually purchasing it.
After all, there are going to be people who know you exist but have no need for you.
Let’s say you’re a landscaping company. It doesn’t matter how many apartment dwellers know about you!
So, how does this apply to your content marketing strategy? Let’s talk about how each stage of the funnel might be affected by and affect content marketing. Of course, we’re going to start at the top.
Content marketing is the king of brand awareness! At its best, content marketing is not just about selling your product but about positioning yourself as an expert and expressing your knowledge (and your values) to the world.
Awareness starts by meeting your customers where they live.
This is where your social media posts live. Having a funny Twitter account is a challenge, but it can make a huge difference when getting potential customers to know you exist.
They don’t necessarily need to know why you matter at this stage, just that you do.
This is also where your blog starts to come in. At the awareness stage, your content marketing should be a little divorced from your company and it should not be about selling stuff but rather about starting to educate people.
Some companies have had success with a blog on a separate, well-regarded platform. Cross posting to LinkedIn is also good.
SEO also comes in at this stage, although don’t overdo it. You don’t want your blog posts to ever read as if they were written for Google’s robots.
Those aren’t your customers, and “stuffed” posts will tend to drive people away. Make sure that you are always blogging for real people.
Welcome can help by making it easier for you to make the great content you need for all of your marketing efforts.
This is when your prospects are starting to develop an actual opinion of you. It’s a continuation of the first phase (and some funnels combined the two into one).
They know you exist…and now they know you’re good.
Your blog really comes into its own here. High quality blog posts and white papers educate your audience and show your expertise.
These types of content are what you need to coax people into developing a good opinion of you.
Remember, coax, not force. You might not get direct sales from this stuff, but people will remember it.
Another amazing way to handle the opinion stage in today’s climate is a podcast or video podcast! Podcasts tend to get spread around, get a lot of word of mouth, and are a great way to express your knowledge and personality.
You do need to have somebody on your team who sounds good on audio, and they can be a little more expensive, but people will know your podcast if it’s any good.
You will collect a lot of subscribers, and while a good number won’t be your future paying customers, they will still know you are good and might mention you to people who are going to buy your product.
Then when they realize they have a problem you can solve, they will go there to find out more about you. Another content format that works well at this point is webinars (and presentations at live events when those are a thing again).
At this point you are still putting out content to inform, educate, and share. You need a good editorial calendar (which Welcome can help you with) to make sure you send out content regularly, and that it’s the right content for your business.
At this stage, your prospective customer realizes they have a problem. In the middle of the funnel, it’s about showing that customer that you are the solution to their problem.
This means you need to work on “mofu” content that addresses their pain points.
This is where blog posts about specific problems your product solves come in. For example, if you are a pest control company, you might post about things people can do to get rid of bed bugs.
However, you don’t want them to walk away with a foolproof way to get rid of bed bugs! You want them to be thinking about calling you to get rid of them.
This can take some balance. You want to provide useful information about bed bug prevention without making it too easy for them to DIY.
Case studies and testimonials also start to come in here, where you explain how you solved a very specific problem. These won’t catch a lot of people, but the ones who do get hooked are likely to move on to the next stage very quickly.
This stage is where your prospect has worked it out. You are the solution to their problems. However, they are still somewhat hesitant.
They might be starting to worry, for example, about the price at this point.
With most of your content written for a target audience near the top of the funnel (so-called tofu content, which has no soy in it, promise), you aren’t talking about price.
Content marketing is not about promoting your latest sale!
At this level, though, you are starting to get into the nitty gritty. They think they want you, how do you make them sure?
One way to do this is with content that talks quite specifically about your process.
Often, this comes into the same case studies and testimonials that help at the consideration stage. Maybe you have posts with photos about exactly how you built that amazing deck for a recent customer.
But it also means content that tells your customer what to expect when they call you, for example, how you determine quotes. It means highlighting your techniques and skills.
They need to know exactly why you are the one they should talk to. Sales call people at this point “qualified leads” and they tend to convert well.
At this point, sales are yours to lose, not win.
The very bottom of the funnel is when the customer makes a purchase decision. With the traditional funnel, it ends here.
Except that it doesn’t. You see, you still have to send content to customers who have already bought from you. For one thing, you want them to come back. Retention is a lot easier than attracting new customers.
For another, your existing customers are now part of your sales team.
Yes, they really are. You got rid of their bed bugs, and now they tell all their friends that you did.
Content at this stage is about reminding customers you exist, and this is where fluff comes in. Existing customers are the ones who want to hear about how the cute dog that hangs out in your store is doing.
Bofu content is about keeping yourselves in their memory as a good thing, something they might want to repeat in the future. Yes, even if you’re the plumber who fixed their toilet.
But you also need to remind them of your awareness and opinion-related posts so that they can share them with new people.
When you are posting stuff in your email newsletter (which we hope you have and really hope you are encouraging people to sign up for when they buy something), you need to think about both the top and the bottom of the funnel. At the same time.
Keeping the Funnel Moving
So, we’ve talked about what content does at each stage of the funnel, but how do we make sure that customers keep moving through it?
Nobody is going to have a perfect conversion rate, but you do want to make sure that your funnel doesn’t get clogged somewhere near the top.
Part of this is metrics. You need to keep good records of what content is getting people to the next stage of the funnel so that you can ditch things which don’t work and improve things which do.
Welcome is great for this because we can help you with all the analytics you need to help you work out exactly what is working and what isn’t.
You also need to make sure that your entire digital marketing strategy is organized and planned. The best metrics won’t help you if you have no idea what you’re going to be doing next month.
Also, you need to understand that with a lot of content marketing you may not get those metrics right away because you are building awareness and improving your reputation.
The top of the content marketing funnel tends to be broader than with other sales techniques just because so much is focused on awareness and opinion. Successful content is anything that gets people talking about you.
So, you need to make sure you have all of these different types of content and that they’re going out in the right way.
You need Welcome. We can help you streamline your content creation, create the best content, track your lead generation and landing pages and just make sure that everything is in order.
Our content marketing platform is everything you could need!
Up for giving it a try? Create your free Welcome account today.