Think about your online buying behavior.
Do you buy from the first website that you stumble upon? Or, do you like to first educate yourself by reading a couple of articles? I’m pretty sure you fall into the second category.
How can I say that?
Research proves that 53% of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of content before they actually contact a seller or make a final purchase decision. The same research found that the amount of time buyers spend on research increased by 37% in 2019.
Image via Isoline Communications
Buyers are becoming more discerning and web-savvy. The ocean of content is becoming larger. It’s going to be harder than ever to swim to the top.
Smart marketers know this fact. That’s why they create content marketing strategies and funnels. Content marketing funnels come with content assets to target buyers in different stages of their journey.
Are you behind the curve?
If you are keen to reap the benefits of content marketing but don’t know where to start, this article is meant for you. I’ll share a data-backed strategy for creating a powerful content marketing funnel from scratch.
But first, you need to know the basics.
What is a Content Marketing Funnel?
A content marketing funnel is a system where you drive leads step-by-step through a content flow until they convert into paying customers.
A typical content funnel can be divided into three stages, each with a unique aim and supporting content assets. Once a person qualifies a stage, they move to the next stage.
The stages in a typical content marketing funnel include:
- Discovery stage or top of the funnel (ToFU): In this stage, your aim is to attract leads by sharing attention-grabbing content. People become aware of your brand and products.
- Consideration stage or middle of the funnel (MoFU): In this stage, your aim is to foster trust from leads by means of educational content. People evaluate your brand, often by comparing and contrasting it with competitors.
- Conversion stage or bottom of the funnel (BoFU): In this stage, your aim is to convert prospects into paying customers by providing them with product-focused content. When the content flow in the funnel culminates, people arrive at a final purchase decision.
Image via SEQUEBB
Once you attract, nurture, and convert leads through the three stages, they become trusting and paying customers of your business.
Why Do You Need a Content Marketing Funnel?
In the plethora of content floating about, your useful and unique content might get lost if it’s not marketed well. Plus, content marketing helps Google index your pages better. It also earns you valuable backlinks and word-of-mouth publicity.
No wonder why 59% of B2C and 50% of B2B brands are planning to increase their content marketing budgets in 2020.
But content marketing is easier said than done.
Why, you ask?
Because many marketers don’t understand the buyer’s psyche perfectly. They don’t grasp the fact that prospects need to be identified, assessed, and nurtured well before they are converted.
For instance, a person who downloads a whitepaper may have no transactional intent. So, there’s no use in sending them exclusive product deals.
86% of marketers focus on ToFU activities that help create brand awareness and attract leads. But they are unable to leverage content to deepen and monetize customer relationships.
A robust content marketing funnel can give direction to your content marketing efforts. If you funnel leads efficiently, you won’t lose them along the way. A “leak-proof” funnel will help bind customers to your brand and convert them into loyal advocates and promoters.
Content marketing funnels also help track your investment in content. You can project returns in advance and secure management buy-in for your next marketing budget.
Even if you use automated platforms for content marketing, you need to create a content marketing funnel to keep your campaigns on track. The moment you detect a deviation, you can realign your content marketing strategy or adjust your KPIs.
Lastly, content marketing funnels help with customer retention and advocacy as well. Delighted customers will keep lapping up your free ToFU content and also spread the word about your brand for free. In this way, your one-time effort in funnel creation can give exponential returns.
Compelling reasons, right?
I know you’re getting impatient to get to the funnel creation process, so let’s get started.
A Step-By-Step Guide for Creating a Content Marketing Funnel
Now that you’re convinced about the efficacy of content marketing funnels, I’ll walk you through the process of creating a funnel.
I’ve divided the whole process into the following three broad steps:
Set the Goals and KPIs
For each stage of the funnel, identify goals and metrics that matter to you as a marketer. The aim is to allow only qualified leads to reach the next stage.
While setting goals, be as specific as possible. You don’t want to shoot in the dark when you’re making such an investment in content marketing.
Keep your goals SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, real-time, and timely.
Some examples of great content marketing goals are:
- Key pages will figure on the first search results page on Google. (ToFU goal)
- The number of newsletter subscribers will double in a month. (MoFU goal)
- Sales revenue from promoted products will reach $5000. (BoFU goal)
It’s a good idea to keep a track of the expenditure incurred on acquiring leads as well as creating and distributing content. Only then can you understand the net gain from the whole exercise.
Know Your Audience
This one is a no-brainer.
How can you hope to create effective content without knowing who is going to consume it?
Knowing your target audience is not the same as knowing their location or income bracket. That’s basic information. You’ll have to dig deeper and get answers to questions like:
- What is your audience talking about/searching for?
- How can your business solve their problems?
- Why do they abandon your business and opt for a competitor?
- On which channels are they active?
- What is their preferred mode of content consumption?
- What kind of content do they dig?
Why are these questions important?
A generic approach to content creation, distribution, and marketing will not get you the desired results. You need to crystallize your buyer persona and align everything to it.
If you’re going to target stay-at-home moms, their challenges and needs will be different from working women. They will be active on different social platforms and consuming content differently.
You get the idea…
You can use web and social media analytics to get these answers.
If you have the budget, invest in social listening tools. You can get a sneak peek into the conversations around your brand and your competitors. You will also learn about the brand affinity of your audience.
Before you jump into content creation, research content ideas. Remember, the key to making a powerful content marketing funnel is high-quality and useful content.
Social media analytics will highlight content ideas that are trending in your domain and popular among your target audience. You can ride the wave by creating unique content on the same lines. Include content that the other content creators have missed.
Another way to eliminate the guesswork out of content creation is to follow influencers in your domain. Check out the content they are creating and sharing. Then, replicate their approach and style for your brand.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the content types that work for different stages of the funnel.
The aim of your ToFU content is to grab attention and put your brand in front of your target audience. All the content should be ungated and shareable.
Here are the best formats to work with in the ToFU stage:
- Blog posts
- Repurpose high-ranking content to save time and effort.
- Curated content works well on social media. Share only quality and relevant content.
- For organic distribution of content, social channels are the most widely-used by B2B marketers. Sponsored posts on social media are good for paid distribution.
- Tap into trending news items to improve your visibility.
- Videos and infographics earn more social shares and backlinks than plain-text posts.
- Instead of listicle posts, focus on the following headline types:
Image via BuzzSumo
MoFU content is educational and useful. It’s also gated, which means people can access it only after providing you with their email address or contact details, (which is why this content is also called a lead magnet). Your audience should find the content good enough to feel they’ve scored a big win.
The best content formats for the MoFU stage are:
- Case studies
- Ebooks and guides
- Worksheets (to go with how-to articles and explainer videos)
- Your lead magnets should be completely free.
- Use research-backed whitepapers and test-driven case studies to convince people that your products are the best solution to their problems.
- Prioritize LinkedIn for paid and organic distribution of content, just like 76% and 95% of B2B marketers.
BoFU content should be a bridge between unpaid content and paid products/services. It should be personalized and compelling. Targeted email workflows are the best way to nurture warm leads and groom them into paying customers.
Opt for personalized emails with dynamic content. Pitch exclusive offers that are relevant to recipients. Since email marketing delivers $40 on every $1 spent, you can hope to draw good returns if you follow the best practices.
You can also use the following content formats:
- Customer testimonials
- In-person events and webinars
- Exclusive discount codes and deals
- Create urgency by including time-limited offers.
- Include multiple compelling CTAs (calls-to-action).
- The more interactive your BoFU content, the more engagement you will get.
Are You Ready to Create a Content Marketing Funnel?
I believe an effective content marketing funnel’s job doesn’t end at conversions.
Once you convert a batch of leads, extend the funnel. Delight your customers with more free content. Your extra efforts will pay off eventually as satisfied customers make great brand advocates and promoters.
Do you have any questions about content marketing? Drop them in the comments section. I’ll get back to you soon.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant for 15 years with an emphasis on Influencer Marketing in the last 5 years. He is specialized in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions.