To successfully convert leads into customers, you need an effective content marketing funnel. This is different from a sales funnel in that it’s driven by your marketing content, and is most likely completely digital.
To set up an effective content marketing funnel, start with sales funnel basics. Then, use the six steps outlined in this guide to create your content marketing funnel.
What is a Content Marketing Funnel?
While a sales funnel illustrates the theoretical journey that your customers take from the lead stage to an end purchase, a content marketing funnel is the system you use to make that happen.
The content marketing funnel can be broken down into three key phases:
- Top of the funnel (TOFU): Awareness and discovery. This is when consumers learn about your brand or service and discover that it might meet their needs or solve a problem they’re facing.
- Middle of the funnel (MOFU): Research. Consumers in the funnel then do further research about you and your competitors. This is when they start to make decisions about the brand they want to support. This is a crucial time to create a connection with a lead by sending them a notification about your newsletter or a promotion.
- Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): Conversion and action. The final stage is when a lead converts. However, if a lead fails to make a purchase, you’ll need to go back to the previous stage and try to reach out in another way. After a sale, it’s time to start the follow-up process, which restarts the funnel.
In this type of funnel, you are guiding your customers with your marketing content. A marketing funnel aims to nurture happy customers so that they will continue to engage with your content and refill your sales funnel on an ongoing basis. For example, if you have a newsletter subscriber, you can use your content marketing funnel to turn them into a paying customer.
Not only does this funnel repeatedly engage with consumers who have already expressed interest in your brand, but it can also provide you with crucial audience data to help you further adapt your content marketing plan.
Now that you know the fundamentals of content marketing funnels, you can use these six simple steps to creating your own:
1. Know Who You’re Talking to
Without specific, detailed knowledge about your audience, your funnel won’t be effective. Before you start writing, be sure to get to know the people you’re trying to reach. This involves researching and asking questions like:
- What does my audience care about?
- What does this group respond to?
- What is my niche?
- What problem does my audience have that I can solve?
- What are my competitors doing?
As you manage your funnel over time, you’ll learn more and more about your audience and what makes them tick. This is a crucial first step, as the content you produce must be interesting to your demographic in order to engage them and get them into the top of your funnel.
That first funnel phase — awareness — requires that you get your message in front of people who care and want to know more.
2. Produce Quality Content
Now that you know who you want to talk to, it’s time to focus on the content itself. If you’re not sure where to begin, start by reading content published by your competitors and others within your industry. When reading, keep in mind the tone, style, content length, keywords, and sources used. These considerations are all going to factor into your own writing.
Then, make sure you have the means to produce high-quality content. You can’t just stuff your text full of keywords and links and hope that Google starts ranking you highly. Google rewards websites that produce quality content, and your readers will be instantly turned off by poor writing that makes false, unsupported claims or is packed with errors, typos, and excessive keyword usage.
To improve your content:
- Always use an active voice.
- Keep page content brief.
- Use short paragraphs.
- Alternate sentence structures and lengths for a more interesting read.
- Use a thesaurus.
- Incorporate keywords in a natural manner.
- Use spell check.
- Read your content out loud before publishing.
- Write a catchy title that appeals to readers.
These rules apply to any content you’re posting, whether on your social media accounts, website, newsletter, or blog.
<div class="tip">If you aren’t the most confident writer, hire a freelance writer with experience producing web content. Any investment you make in this area is going to pay off when your engaging copy starts converting customers.</div>
3. Send the Right Content at the Right Time
So far, you know what a content marketing funnel is, who your audience is, and how to create killer content. Now it’s time to think through which types of content are best for each stage of your funnel. Let’s break it down:
First impressions are important, and content marketing is no exception. The marketing material that you first present to leads should be attractive and succinct. This will include material they can find through search engines or shared connections, and can include:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Landing pages
Now that you have your customer’s attention, it’s time to engage. That first interaction with your content has provided an opportunity for you to share longer, more informative materials. These can include:
- White papers
- Reports and statistics
- Online courses
- Informative videos
- Case studies
Now it’s time to focus on making the sale by surprising your customer with something positive. How do you get your customer to take that last step? Here are some content items to consider:
- Discount codes or promotions
- Reviews and testimonials
- Content comparing you to competitors
- Demos or free trials
The quality of your content is important, but it’s only one part of the puzzle. Make sure you’re placing each piece of marketing content strategically in your funnel to maximize its impact.
4. Use Multiple Channels
You have a plan in place to produce great content at each stage of the funnel. But how many channels are you using to post your content? Unfortunately, you won’t see as much activity in your funnel if you don’t engage with all available channels.
Key outlets to incorporate include:
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn)
- Website and landing pages
- Email newsletters
- Blogs or news pages on your website (HubSpot data shows that businesses that use blogs see 126% more monthly leads than those that don’t.)
Sometimes it’s effective to release content across multiple channels at the same time. For instance, when you publish a new blog post on your website, have your blog platform automatically post to your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.
Now that Facebook and Instagram have the 24-hour Story feature, be sure to post a quick story about your new content in addition to a regular post.
Even if you have all of these bases covered, there’s another layer to keep in mind: mobility. A true cross-channel marketing strategy engages users across multiple devices.
Pew Research shows that 92% of mobile internet users go online daily, and 32% are almost constantly online. This means they’re interacting with brands not only from their home and work computers, but also from their smartphones and tablets.
It’s important to present a consistent brand message with your content marketing strategy across all of these devices, and to cater your content to be effective and readable across channels.
5. Gather Metrics
Now that you’re posting your content across multiple channels, it’s time to gather important data about your activities. This is crucial to the success of your content marketing funnel — you won’t be able to gain or hold the attention of customers if you’re not focusing your energy in the right places.
Be sure to keep an eye on these key metrics::
- Response and interaction: These metrics tell you exactly how your ideal audience is responding to your content. Examples include website visits, click-through rates, subscription rates, and others.
- Performance: Performance metrics tell you how the funnel is doing as a whole. Where are leads getting stuck? How long does the whole process take?
- Cost: The ROI of your marketing funnel can tell you a lot about where you should be putting your energy. Metrics in this category include the conversion rate at each stage, customer lifetime value, cost per acquisition, and churn rate.
To gather these key metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs), you need an analytics solution in place that will provide you with insights in easily digestible ways. A solution like Google Analytics is extremely helpful in keeping an eye on your funnel.
Remember that you need to be aware of these KPIs for each of your content marketing channels in order to make the right decisions about where to invest more time and money.
6. Focus on Retention
You’ve created your marketing funnel, produced great content, sent that content out at all the right stages, and have seen more conversions. But your job isn’t quite done.
In order to continue to grow your business and maintain lasting customer relationships, you need to focus on customer retention. This is how you refill your funnel.
While your efforts to re-engage existing customers may look similar to your initial lead contacts, there are a few differences to keep in mind.
First, your content should be less about brand introductions and more about other products and services that will interest your current customers. Try upselling another product by offering a discount after a lead has converted and made a purchase.
Similar to the last stage of your funnel, where you created goodwill by providing leads with something of value, the content required at this stage will include elements like:
- Email notifications
- Thank-you emails
- Promotions and special offers
A customer cannot experience disappointment after they make a purchase, or else they will be unlikely to return. Provide personalized messages at this stage by using their first name or referencing the product or service they purchased.
Using a survey tool will help you reconnect with customers right away and give them an opportunity to describe their experience. This not only lets them know that you care about their satisfaction, but it also brings in more information and data for you to keep improving your marketing strategy.
Once you have these six steps down, remember that you'll need to revisit your funnel and strategy regularly to keep up with your ever-changing industry. Just as you should continue following up with clients to build repeat relationships, you need to make sure your funnel is always up-to-date and relevant.
To create your own killer content marketing funnel, you must:
- Know your audience.
- Focus on producing great content.
- Send the right content at the right time.
- Use multiple channels.
- Gather metrics.
- Focus on customer retention once a sale has been made.
Your funnel must be strategic, genuine, and based on facts about your audience. Taking what you already know about sales funnels will help you create a similar concept that's solely focused on your content marketing efforts.
Now that you’re familiar with these tools and best practices, you’re well on your way to increasing lead conversions and growing your business.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Meredith Boe.