How to Create a Content Marketing Funnel that Converts
Is your business struggling? Are you not making sales? Part of the problem is likely your content marketing funnel and overarching content marketing strategy, or lack thereof.
Gone are the days when companies put an ad in the local newspaper and, voila, more customers. In fact, like newspapers and TV, traditional advertising is going the way of the dodo. For small- and medium-sized businesses: the future is content.
You’ll often hear the word used for streaming services and online magazines. But for marketers, it has a different meaning. Content is everything you put up on your site: it’s your social media, your blog posts, interviews, and customer testimonials. Content can be a company case study or a how-to video.
“[Content] brings[s] the voice of the customer into your marketing,” explains Brian Becker, VP of content marketing at JPMorgan Chase. “That’s when you sound so much more authentic.”
As with any change, some companies are hesitant. Creating a content marketing strategy can be costly. And there’s a cornucopia of jargon to wrap your head around: ‘top of funnel content‘, ‘content marketing funnel‘, or ‘full content funnel‘. But failure to develop a full content funnel will hurt your company.
Here’s the truth – if you’re not producing content, you’re missing out on customers, sales, and a boost to your reputation.
In this guide, we’re going to put to rest the confusion. We’ll describe what content marketing is, how you can develop a content marketing strategy, and, most importantly, why content is so important.
Let’s get started!
How to Build A Content Marketing Funnel that Converts
What is content marketing funnel?
Every single leading brand has a strategic content marketing funnel built into their content marketing strategy. From Microsoft to John Deere, they’re all churning out content day after day.
But what is a content marketing funnel?
In a nutshell – a content marketing funnel is the creation and circulation of helpful content – blogs, social media posts, videos, newsletters – to current and prospective customers. You’re not trying to give them the hard sell. Nor does a content marketing strategy even stress your business.
The goal is to become an authority in your field, to be the go-to source for everything relevant to your industry. And so, you funnel existing and potential clients into buying your service or product by raising brand awareness.
Your business can use a content marketing funnel to create a meaningful connection with your customer base. You can generate interest and even loyalty. Remember the words of JPMorgan Chase’s Brian Becker: when you include the customer’s voice in your content, “that’s when you sound so much more authentic.”
The role, reason, and purpose of content marketing funnel are to provide value, and eventually, drive leads.
How do you do that? How do you build a content marketing strategy customers find useful? Consider these simple buzzwords:
A Content Marketing Funnel is made to Inform.
Inform. Whether it be blog content or how-to videos, educating your potential and existing customers is a critical step to racking up purchases. After all, if your customers don’t know there’s a problem and a solution – why would they buy your product?
A Content Marketing Funnel is made to Connect.
Connect. Content can reach out through social media or blog content and form a meaningful relationship with your clients. Customers might hit up your social media account if they have a question or need a solution. (Remember – it’s about being an authority.)
A Content Marketing Funnel is made to Entertain.
Entertain. It’s got to be fun!!! No one wants to read bland and boring content. Plus, it’s easier to do a soft sell if your customers enjoy what they are reading/watching. (Think about this piece – without getting too meta, we’re trying to teach you about content. But we’re also selling why our services are essential.)
How content marketing works
Think of content marketing as persuading a buyer to buy your product – without the hard sell. To do so, you need to understand the buyer’s journey. Nobody just wakes up and decides to purchase a product. Nor do customers pick brands at random. As the stats above demonstrate, customers rely on recommendations and content to inform their decision.
The buyer’s journey comes in three stages: (1) the awareness stage, (2) the consideration stage, and (3) the decision stage.
The buyer’s journey begins with awareness about the brand. They’ll read a blog article or see a social media post. Content should be educational and informative at this point, as you’re making them aware a problem exists.
Sooner or later, a buyer will consider the different options available on the market. Content here is a hybrid between helpful info and marketing. You’re making the buyer aware there is a solution to the problem: your product or service.
Finally, the buyer needs to decide which product they want to buy. Sometimes this is called the closing stage. You need to drive home why your product is the best choice, as opposed to the other brands on the market.
You see how content was vital at every stage in the buyer’s journey. It was always nudging the buyer along – sort of like a funnel. In fact, the buyer’s journey is also known as the ‘full content funnel‘ – it’s the same thing from a marketer’s perspective.
Understanding and developing a full-funnel content strategy is critical to solving your sales crisis.
What is the full content funnel?
Not all content is created equally. Think about it – you’ve got new customers, old customers, loyal customers, potential customers. All these different groups don’t need the same message. That’s where a full-funnel content strategy comes in.
Content Marketing Funnel Infographic
To make things a little easier to understand, we put together a content marketing funnel infographic. Take a look below and feel free to read below for more detailed bit of information about the individual elements of the content marketing funnel infographic:
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The full content funnel comes in three broad parts:
Top of funnel content = awareness stage
Middle of funnel content = consideration stage
Bottom of funnel content = decision stage
Top of funnel content marketing
Top of funnel content is all about creating awareness. Your goal is to let as many people as possible know about your brand and generate interest. You’re not giving them the hard sell. Rather, it’s all about passive engagement; it’s about building trust.
Top of funnel content marketing includes:
SEO blog posts
Social media videos
Round-ups and interviews
Middle of funnel content marketing
Middle of funnel content speaks directly to your target audience. Most people who engage with top of funnel content won’t buy anything. Middle of funnel content is about targeting those who will. You begin to discuss why your product is useful and compare it to other brands on the market.
Middle of funnel content marketing includes:
How-to articles & videos
Gated guides (subscription-based)
Welcome series emails
Webinars and events
Bottom of funnel content marketing
Bottom of funnel content is all about sealing the deal. The full content funnel has narrowed as more and more potential clients have dropped out. With bottom of funnel content, you aim to nudge potential customers into purchasing or prompt existing customers to come back.
Bottom of funnel content marketing includes:
Case studies/customer stories
What is an example of content marketing?
Now you know all the jargon. You’ve learned about blog content and full-funnel content strategy.
Enough talk – let’s explore a few impressive examples. We’ll go through a couple of different types of content to spark your creativity and get you thinking about building your content marketing funnel.
Example of Content Marketing #1: Blogging with Rip Curl
Surfing company Rip Curl already boasts an impressive social media profile, with over 100,000 YouTube subscribers and millions of Facebook followers. But why? They’re not all super loyal to the brand.
The answer: Rip Curl adds values. They’re providing a service with their content.
Just look at their blogging efforts. Not only are they churning out content at a steady pace, but they’re also writing exciting and engaging pieces. They’ve got ultimate guides to key surfing products (they also just happen to sell) and interviews with top surfing pros.
It’s fun, engaging, and they’re hitting every part of the content marketing funnel.
Example of Content Marketing #2: Social Media with Superdrug
Superdrug doesn’t exactly fill you with excitement. They sell cosmetics and beauty products. But don’t be too dismissive – with 1M followers on Instagram, they’re doing something right. With top make-up tips and short video tutorials they’re… CREATING VALUE. It’s the service customers want. It INFORMS, CONNECTS, and ENTERTAINS.
It’s absolutely gold-standard content creation. Little wonder they’re so popular.
Plus, they also add in some fun posts with their customers. You couldn’t find a better example to follow.
What are the three pillars of content marketing?
No content marketing funnel can succeed without the three pillars. Keep these in mind as you plan your content and develop your full-funnel content strategy. The three pillars of content marketing include creation, optimization, and promotion:
CREATION: Content Creation
OPTIMIZATION: Search Engine Optimizations (SEO)
PROMOTION: Social Media Marketing
1. CREATION: Content Creation
You don’t have a content plan without videos, podcasts, webinars, testimonials, and blog content. You need to be producing a steady stream of useful and relevant content for your customers to use. Otherwise, you’ll drift off into the digital ether. Customers are loyal; they aren’t that loyal.
Try to build a full-funnel content strategy for the next six months. What do your customers want to know? What can you offer?
Will you make blogs? Can you write insightful guides exploring your industry? Keep in mind the role of content marketing: Inform, Connect, and Excite.
2. OPTIMIZATION: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
We’ve not talked a lot about SEO in this guide. However, SEO is one of the two ways your content gets seen. When a customer has a question – like ‘what’s the best food blender?‘ – your blog content needs to rank in Google (or another search engine) for them to find it. SEO means keywords, engaging content, images, and titles. It’s a way of writing and formatting content to maximize visibility. After all, the more your content is seen, the more potential sales.
Because of the importance of SEO, there’s a lot of misinformation. Here are the core facts:
Don’t keyword stuff. Contrary to many SEO “experts” and software packages, stuffing your content with keywords won’t increase your ranking. Focus on 1 or 2 keywords to get maximum impact. They should be simple phrases customers use when searching. Always put your keywords in your title and throughout the blog content.
Keep it relevant. All too often, companies assume the point of SEO content is to rank. It’s not. The point is to inform. Remember, you’re trying to convert visitors into customers.
3. PROMOTION: Social Media Marketing
No modern business can survive without social media. It’s the #1 place to promote your content and build brand awareness. You can use Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Medium, Instagram, and others.
You can build a loyal brand following through fun, informative videos or links to your latest blog post. It’s critical to drive customers through your content marketing funnel.
Here are a few tips:
What’s your tone? Your copy and content should fit your brand’s tone. Fun and zany content isn’t likely to attract new customers if you’re a pharmaceutical company. But it’s the perfect voice for a marijuana business.
Hone and refine. You should constantly tweak and edit your posts to gain greater traction: experiment and test. See what works – then double-down.
Focus your resources. Few companies can maintain a social media presence across half a dozen platforms. Find the platforms that work for your business and forget the rest.
Content marketing and the buying cycle
Content marketing has been mapped across several stages of the customer experience. From the customers very first impression to the point where they convert, a strategic and well-executed content marketing strategy can create a significant ROI for your business.