You probably didn’t think of it, but everyone on the internet is ‘selling’ something. No, not the snake oil type of stuff, but content with a specific purpose.
Are they giving you detailed information? Free video tutorials? Perhaps, even tips? They need you to subscribe or need your email — maybe both? Oh, they’re not asking for anything in return yet? That’s probably because they’re nurturing you before pitching you a product.
It’s not a bad strategy, considering that 73 percent of companies that invested ten to 70 percent of their total marketing budget into content marketing recorded tremendous success. How did they achieve that? They created and stuck to a documented content marketing strategy.
To replicate this success, you’ll need a content marketing funnel to help you guide website visitors to the point of purchase. Here’s how to create and leverage a winning content marketing funnel for your brand.
What is a Content Marketing Funnel?
Content marketing funnels are documented strategies that help move potential customers from awareness of your brand to conversion. The content funnel employs different content formats and distribution strategies to guide visitors towards a specific action at each stage.
This action may vary based on a specific customer and industry. It might also be influenced by your end goal and the specific steps that lead to it. For instance, it might be to purchase or sign up for something. When your visitor performs any of these actions, it becomes a conversion.
Let’s take a look at the stages of a content marketing funnel.
What Are the Stages of a Content Marketing Funnel?
Although different visual representations exist for a content marketing funnel, they all have three main stages. Wordstream, for instance, likens a marketing funnel to an ice cream cone.
Following the image above, it’s apparent what these three stages are;
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU) with content targeted at Awareness.
- Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) generates leads with content targeted at Educating and Nurturing.
- Bottom of the funnel (BOFU) with content targeted at Conversion.
Every level of the funnel is a means to organize your content marketing strategy. The crucial question is, what content format would yield the best results for content marketing efforts, and at what stage of the journey?
A little disclaimer here: some content types are just as useful for the top of the funnel as they are for the bottom when presented correctly.
You’ll find that some content types work better in certain stages of the funnel than others, even though (technically speaking) they can be used for each of these stages. For instance, you can employ a case study at the TOFU stage to attract your audience and use another case study to get them to sign up at BOFU.
So, how exactly do you create a content marketing funnel?
How Can You Build a Winning Content Marketing Funnel?
To make your marketing funnel effective, tie your content to a specific purpose that ‘heals’ different pain points in a buyer’s journey. What challenges are they facing? How can your products and services solve them?
Next, identify where your target audience hangs out online. Instagram may be an excellent place to start if you’re selling home goods. In that case, social media content could be an effective part of your content marketing strategy.
When you’ve figured these things out, map out your content touchpoints for each stage from top to bottom:
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU) — Awareness or Attraction Stage
For the TOFU stage, you must assume your potential buyers or target audience are unaware of your brand. Hence you should focus on inbound marketing to create awareness. TOFU content addresses people looking for insights and free resources on the internet to help them solve a unique problem.
Your goal when creating content for this stage should be to attract these prospects with educational and helpful resources. The awareness shouldn’t be “salesy.”
You may also point your site visitors to your content hub for more related valuable information. Content hubs are great for storing accessible curated content like in-depth articles, infographics, or videos you can use for your content marketing funnel.
Efficient examples of awareness stage content are;
Blog posts to answer the most pressing questions of curious potential customers. Use AP style to write articles clearly and consistently. This consistency will help to build trust in your audience.
Ebooks and shareable infographics to attract visitors with high-value resources and drive organic traffic to your website. Do this by creating custom landing pages for your most valuable resources.
Source: Spoon Graphics
Comprehensive how-to guides to position yourself as an authority in your niche. This content type can come in different forms, such as pillar blog posts, videos, and interactive content. But it typically covers a broad topic in detail as longer-form content.
To get visitors to convert using this content type, you could offer 95 percent of the content for free and have them get bonus content by joining your mailing list.
Other top-of-funnel content examples include short, engaging videos, informational podcast episodes, and social media posts.
- Middle of the Funnel – Educating
At this stage of the funnel, you need to nurture the leads you obtained from the top of the funnel. The leads here are considering your products and services as a potential fit. The content strategy here should be to educate and demonstrate how your product or service can meet their needs.
Again, no need to be super pushy. The quality of content you use here would speak for itself. You need to send trickles of ultra-targeted content that relates closely to your product or service.
You can do this through the following relevant content types:
Marketing email newsletters are a great way to move prospects from the awareness stage to the educating stage. Although, depending on their purpose, they can work well in the TOFU or BOFU content stage. Marketing emails can also influence 50.7 percent of your subscribers to convert.
These newsletters allow you to educate your target audience by sharing case studies and success stories that inspire trust and encouragement. This can help move your prospects through the next step in the content marketing funnel.
How-to content, showcasing your products
Some customers may not be convinced you are the best fit for them until they see your product in action. Creating content that shows them how your product works will help them make an informed decision that will move them down the content funnel.
Source: Kelty Linger YouTube
For example, the video makers for the side table above made the how-to video short and straightforward. They included everything users would need if they decided to buy the product.
Present your product at its best, then provide customers with a call-to-action to buy it.
Demo or explainer videos are more factual than commercials but not as detailed as how-to content.
Source: What a Story YouTube
Fronter, a project management software, uses concise explainer videos to educate users on the features and functionalities of the software without going into detail. Your demo videos can inform potential customers in the middle of the funnel without boring them.
Social media posts, buying guides, case studies, and gated content are other middle-of-the-funnel content types you can try.
- Bottom of the Funnel – Build Trust
The bottom of the funnel is the final stage of the content marketing funnel and hosts leads who are ready to buy but may require an extra nudge. So, the goal here should be communicating with that sale in mind.
Of course, you also want prospects to remember you even after the purchase. Hence, the bottom of the funnel content should help build that trust so they’ll convert now and consistently in the future.
Some BOFU content types are:
Assessments and consultations can help you portray yourself as an industry expert and demonstrate how your company can solve potential customers’ problems. During a consultation, make sure you offer prospects valuable advice, noting both robust features and places where they can improve.
Reviews and testimonials are customer-led marketing efforts that encourage customer conversion. They include photos, videos, written reviews, and user-generated content from existing customers that showcases social proof.
Product features and use-case pages are a hit-the-nail-right-on-the-head kind of content. Because it is ultra-targeted, this type of content is ideal for people looking to buy a product for a specific purpose. The content should straight-up show prospects your product’s most important benefits.
Mention has a dedicated page for use cases that are both industry and need-specific.
Towards the bottom, a testimonial reinforces the credibility of their product.
Like Mention, sell customers the outcome of each benefit — not solely the features. That way, you can present a convincing use case that’ll convince prospects to convert at the bottom of the funnel.
The number one goal of an effective content marketing strategy is to create content that converts. Your company will be able to interact and influence clients at every level of the content marketing funnel if you have a sound content strategy in place.
Send your customers email tips and insights to help them use your products more effectively. You can also consider email automation to maximize outreach and identify more audience segments.
If you are not meeting your goals, run a funnel analysis and work on a content optimization strategy until you reach your desired results.