All marketing managers are familiar with a traditional sales funnel that aides their customers through a purchase journey to the point of conversion. This funnel can be used for a broad scope of marketing activity both online and offline and often helps marketing and sales teams align to convert more sales.
But what about a sales funnel in content marketing? How do we ensure we’re serving content that helps the user at each stage of their journey?
Before you do anything, ensure you know your audience and what they’re looking for from a brand. Tools that explore insights such as Global Web Index and You Gov can provide granular data on your audiences’ digital behaviour. It’s also important you keep an eye on your key competitors, commercially and organically, to ensure your content strategy is unique and cuts through the noise of the market landscape.
Here's the funnel, broken down into five key sections, including a stage after purchase, so that you can serve content to nurture and retain those customers.
Once you have a clearly defined sales funnel, you can begin to overlay content types that engage the user at each phase. Content flow to hit each of these phases is crucial as it allows a natural user journey to filter further down the funnel.
What does that look like overlapped with the initial segments?
Awareness: Content and this stage should be interesting and visually pleasing to attract new audiences to feed the top of the funnel and spark and interest in what you are saying.
Familiarity: This stage in the funnel is a perfect opportunity to develop your search led long-tail content strategy. By using long-tail keywords you can identify pain-points and successfully answer them and suggest subtle solutions linking out to commercial content or by including a CTA.
Consideration: Content within this phase can be much more commercially focused, the audience are expecting you to help them make a decision. How-to-guides or webinars and explainer videos that explicitly focus on the products or services are perfect for this stage.
Conversion: This is the stage where it’s crucial that your commercial content and landing pages are optimised for commercial keywords and offer a seamless user experience. Being descriptive and giving all product information and descriptions to instil trust in the user is vital.
Nurture and Retention: Content should build brand loyalty and advocacy. Newsletters with relevant and interesting information are important as well as longer-form content. The user will invest their time because they have a relationship with you and it adds value to their lives.
It may seem daunting even thinking about creating that amount of content for five different stages of your purchase funnel however, by being strategic you can create a really efficient content strategy that serves every single phase.
By creating one bigger piece of content - such as conducting a survey and publishing the results, long-form content or an eBook - you give yourself a starting point that makes it much easier to create the other pieces of content.
From the bigger piece of content, you could turn the data you already have into a visual piece of content for awareness. From survey data or interviews you’ll be able to identify pain-points and attitudes to overlap with keyword research and will be able to add personality and unique information into search-led content. Newsletters will then begin to self-populate themselves as you repurpose existing content and link to it to encourage website traffic.
Before you know it, you have multiple resources that have all been based around one main piece. This helps to tell a story, introduces content flow to your site and helps maintain brand messaging and company focuses.
One key consideration you must also think about is how you intend to promote each piece of content. Without content promotion, your content will sit dormant and won’t matter which phase of the funnel it’s serving.
There are two ways to approach this; content distribution and content discovery.
For content serving the Awareness phase, it’s almost certain that you’ll need to distribute some content off-page (not on your own site) via owned, earned and paid channels.
As mentioned, your main asset should include unique data or be something that your audience doesn’t know - you're looking to create noteworthy and interesting content. This gives you leverage to be able to reach out to other sites with visual data, press releases and infographics which will get picked up, promoted and increase awareness. Don't forget that social media is also a key platform for increasing awareness when boosted with paid.
When you move down to the Familiarity, Consideration and Conversion phases, a key promotion tactic is to optimise for organic search to ensure that the user can discover you when they need to. You can also use distribution tactics for some of these pieces of content to further their reach.
To nurture your audiences again, you need to promote your content. It’s likely that you have your audience’s data if they opted in at the point of conversion, so you can promote content to them directly via email and remarketing.
Below is an example of how you can create a fully rounded content strategy that serves all stages of the purchase funnel in an efficient way that maximises the reach of each piece of content.
By creating content for each phase of the user journey in the purchase funnel as part of your content strategy you are ensuring that you are ‘there’ when your audience need you the most. You start to develop a relationship right at the top of the funnel which you can nurture at the bottom of the funnel to create long-lasting brand loyalty.
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