From a content marketer’s perspective, it would be great if the typical sales funnel looked something like this:
A web user searches for tips on networking for creatives.
The user finds a blog post called “How to Master Networking as a Creative Professional” and clicks on it.
The user is awe-inspired by the tips in the article and checks the author’s bio. They see that the author is promoting a networking book she wrote, and they immediately drop $30 on a copy.
There may be some situations where the conversion process is this quick (especially for smaller purchases), but in most cases, movement through the funnel is slower. Content marketing is a long game that depends on building trust with your audience over time. To build that trust, you must be consistently useful to your audience. And to be useful, you must tailor your content marketing to the sales funnel.
For our purposes, we’re going to define the content marketing funnel as having three sections:
- Awareness (Top-of-Funnel Content)
- Consideration (Middle-of-Funnel Content)
- Decision (Bottom-of-Funnel Content)
There are no strict rules about what types of content to produce for each section of the funnel. However, we do have recommendations for content types that are well-suited to each stage.
Awareness Stage Content
Your top-of-funnel content should be tailored to potential buyers who have little or no familiarity with your brand and products. At this stage, the shopper is:
- Looking for an answer to a question
- Trying to figure out how to solve a problem
- Looking for a tool or resource to meet a need
Your content needs to provide the solution the web user is looking for, in an easy-to-digest format. Content types that work well at the Awareness stage include:
When planning blog topics, think about the problems your customers are typically trying to solve with your product or service. If you’re stuck, the question database Quora can be a good place to start. Search for key terms related to your business to find out what real people have been asking.
Once you’ve decided on a question, give a concise answer in the first paragraph of your blog post, and then use the rest of the post to elaborate. This format can increase your chances of landing in a Featured Snippet (i.e., the content box that appears at the top of many Google search results pages.
Webinars provide an opportunity to educate and start engaging with your audience. As with blog posts, your top-of-funnel webinar content should focus on solving a problem for your potential customers rather than promoting your products or services. You may also want to build in a Q&A component where webinar viewers Tweet or message you questions to answer at the end of the webinar. This allows you to interact with your audience directly and get ideas for even more Awareness stage content.
Single-page guides, checklists, or tip sheets are great resources to attract potential buyers at the top of the content marketing funnel. They can also be powerful lead generation tools: simply make them downloadable and ask readers to enter their email to get the PDF file. We tested this at Leverage and found that we get a steady stream of leads from a downloadable list of 40 questions to ask before hiring a digital marketing agency.
Video tutorials appeal to visual learners and can be a useful tool to walk your audience through a process that’s difficult to describe in words. Videos are also highly shareable on social media, making them a key content type for the Awareness stage.
If your company produces video tutorials for your website, you should also upload them to YouTube. YouTube is the second largest search engine and has 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users, so it can be a powerful platform for growing brand awareness.
Consideration Stage Content
Your middle-of-funnel content is for potential buyers who are starting to search for the best solution to their problem. They may already be actively comparison shopping. This is the point in the content marketing funnel when you need to convince them that you can deliver something your competitors can’t. You can do this with content types such as:
Case studies provide cold, hard proof that your product or service has helped real people. You should incorporate data, but your focus should be on telling a story. Each case study should reveal the problem your customer or client was facing and how your product or service helped them.
Downloadable Long-Form Content
Have you come up with a topic that’s too in-depth for a single blog post? Turn it into a whitepaper or eBook that site visitors can download when they enter their email. Focus on providing information that your audience can’t easily find elsewhere online (after all, there must be an incentive for them to share their contact info). If possible, include original research.
Product Demo Videos
Shoppers typically want to see how a product works before they buy it, especially if it’s a type of product they haven’t used before. Product demo videos give you a chance to show your product—and your brand voice—in action. One great example of a successful product demo is Blendtec’s long-running Will It Blend? series, which has given the Total Blender a chance to pulverize everything from iPhones to glow sticks.
It may not be the most glamorous piece of content on your website, but the FAQ page serves an important role. It gives you a space to publicly answer some of the questions that customers commonly ask you when they contact you. Your FAQ page can also address objections or concerns that potential buyers may have. Use your FAQs to reduce friction so that buyers can move to the decision phase of the sales funnel.
Decision Stage Content
Bottom-of-funnel content is intended to sell buyers on your product or service. At this point, the buyer has done their initial research, become familiar with your brand, and compared you to your competitors. Now you can encourage them to convert with content types like:
Make it easy for buyers to see how your product or service packages compare—or how your products stack up against competitors’. A comparison chart or table lets buyers review the pros and cons of each option without toggling between multiple pages.
85% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Let your current customers become your salespeople by featuring reviews or testimonials on your site. If you’re a smaller B2B company, you may want to reach out to clients directly to see if you can feature them on your site. If you’re a bigger company, use social media and email surveys to encourage your customers to share their thoughts.
Email Drip Campaigns
Email series are ideal for people who have engaged with your company (think: added items to their shopping cart or downloaded an eBook) without completing a purchase. Run an email campaign with an offer your potential buyers can’t resist, like a free trial of your software or a discount on their first order.
Producing content for every stage of the content marketing sales funnel can help you nurture leads and increase conversions, but it also requires a lot of work. If you need help creating content for the entire buyer’s journey, contact Leverage Marketing. Our content marketing team is ready to help you meet your business goals.