How to Create a Content Marketing Funnel

You’ve heard of marketing funnels, but what about a content marketing funnel? How can you tailor your content to inspire more conversions from your target audience?

To understand the growing demand for content marketing funnels, you’ll also need to understand the role that content plays in the buyer journey. According to studies, the average person consumes around 11.4 pieces of content before they make a purchasing decision. While some of the content your customer views will inform them of the value behind a product, others might help them to understand how to use it or give them information about your brand. 

Your traffic and leads aren’t just seeking out your content as an excuse to buy something. The people who interact with your company online want to educate themselves, which is why blogging and article-writing have become such a valuable investment for today’s companies. 

A content marketing funnel is how you make sure that you’re answering your customer’s questions every step of the way on their path to purchase. With the right funnel, you can ensure you’re getting a clear path of return on your content marketing investment. 

What is a Content Marketing Funnel?

Let’s start with probably the simplest, yet most crucial question you’re likely to have:

“What is a content marketing funnel?”

Essentially, a content marketing funnel is a system of content assets that introduces your leads to your company and convinces them to buy. Through each stage of the buyer funnel, the content changes to progressively improve your customer’s chances of converting. 

The main components of the content marketing funnel split into 3 parts:

  • Top of the Funnel, “ToFu”: Not to be confused with a popular meat substitute, ToFu in the content marketing world focuses on brand awareness and encouraging greater traffic on your site. This top-of-the-funnel content captures the audience’s attention and makes a lasting impression, increasing the chances that your audience will want to learn more. For instance, look at this example of ToFu content from the dollar shave club:

It’s eye-catching, easy to understand, and it introduces you to the personality of the brand immediately. It’s a great way to earn customer attention. 

  • Middle of the Funnel, “MoFu”: Middle-of-the-funnel content is all about lead generation and nurturing your leads. With MoFu content, you educate your audience and help them to see that your product or service is the solution to their problems. Think of all those videos you see of companies using their own products to overcome specific issues. A great example of MoFu content is this video from Hubspot. As a marketing company, Hubspot wants to teach users how to make the most of their service, so it ensures you have the lessons you need:

Notice how Hubspot even teamed up with other companies, like Wistia, to help create a more immersive article for their users. 

  • Bottom of the Funnel, “BoFu”: Finally the bottom of the content funnel is all about convincing customers to show you the money. This is where you get to work on converting your well-educated and engaged leads into paying clients. Converting leads into customers isn’t always easy, but there are a lot of ways that you can boost your chances of success. For instance, how about offering a free trial of your software to get users started?

MailChimp encourages people to sign up for their software by telling them that they can get started for free. However, the content on their purchasing page also highlights the benefits of upgrading to a premium plan. 

Why Should You Care About Your Content Funnel?

So why should you be thinking about creating a content marketing funnel?

Well, according to one study, content marketing produces up to 3 times more leads for every dollar that you spend than paid search. In other words, great content is just good value. 

Content marketing leads to more backlinks, more indexed pages, and more awareness for your brand. It’s one of the easiest ways to lead as many customers as possible back to your website. A content marketing funnel simply means that you consider all the stages in a customer’s buying journey carefully. 

With your content marketing funnel in place, you can ensure that your customers are getting informative blogs when they have questions that they need an answer to, or case studies when they’re worried about the return on investment. You can even use things like social proof to convince your BoFu customers that your services are better than your competition’s. 

So, how do you set up a valuable content marketing funnel?

Setting Up Your Content Marketing Funnel: Start with the Audience

There are many components to consider when establishing your content marketing funnel, and we’ll cover each of them in a moment. 

However, before we get started, the first thing you need to do is identify the audience that you’re creating your content for. If you don’t have your user personas ready, this is the time to make them. 

The only way a business can possibly make sure that they’re delivering the right content to their audience is to understand who they’re speaking to. Ask yourself:

  • What are the biggest pain points your customers are facing?
  • What kind of problems can you solve?
  • What questions might stop a customer from buying your service?
  • How can you make the customer journey easier?
  • What does your customer do before they make a purchase?

Ultimately, the content requirements of a 30-something entrepreneur are going to be a lot different from the needs of a 50-something parent climbing the corporate ladder. Knowing your audience’s day-to-day challenges will help you to determine the content that you need to create. 

Researching Material for the Content Funnel 

Got your buyer personas in mind?

Great, now we can really get to work on the content for your funnel. 

There’s a lot to consider if you want to create truly successful content, and you’ll need to make sure that you’re paying attention to every stage in the buying cycle. 

Before you start writing or shooting videos however, you’ll need to start with research. With your target audience in mind, head over to Buzzsumo and conduct some searches for the kind of questions or keywords that your audience will be looking for. 

screenshot of BuzzSumo content analyzer

This will help you to see what other companies are ranking for, so you can create content that you know will have a universal appeal. 

Crucially, while tools like Buzzsumo give you a launching pad for content ideas, it’s important not to simply copy and paste the highest-performing articles. Focus on creating something that helps your audience in a way that previous articles might have missed. For instance, maybe your competitors have written an article on how to set up a WordPress website, but you can design a video guide to go alongside your content that’s even more useful to your customers. 

While you’re still on BuzzSumo, search for the topic you want to write under the influencers tab too. Looking at the top-performing content in the “Search Content Shared” section will help you to figure out what kind of content you need to produce to encourage influencers to help share your posts. 

The more you can boost your chances of word-of-mouth marketing and promotion, the easier it will be to ensure that your content funnel materials reach the right people at the correct times.

Writing Content for your ToFu Marketing Funnel

With your research in place, alongside your user personas, you’ll reach the point where it’s time to actually create some content. 

Since the easiest place to start is at the beginning, let’s start with the top of the marketing funnel. Remember, the aim of the game here is to attract the widest range of customers to your site as possible. The content for the top of your marketing funnel comes in a lot of different forms, from curated content that you share on your social media accounts to highlight your position as a thought leader, to blog posts and infographics. 

Blog posts, infographics, and other content on your website help to strengthen your position in the search engine, which means that you’re more likely to be found by the right audience. However, you’ll need to make sure that you’re using the right keywords to capture customers at the top of the funnel. 

Tools like the Google Keyword planner:

Image result for google keyword planner

Will help you to look for low-competition, high-reward keywords that you can center your ToFu content around. 

Remember, you’re not just looking for an opportunity to rank with ToFu content, you also need customers to start realizing that they need your products to solve their problems. Did you know, for instance, that 131% of customers would prefer to purchase from a brand after reading educational content? 

The campaign monitor blog is packed full of content specifically designed to highlight the importance of email marketing, why companies need it, and how they can use Content Monitor to create effective campaigns: 

Ask yourself, how can you use content to convince your customers that they need your products or service? 

Making Material for the Middle of the Funnel

Now we move into the middle of the funnel, where the need for educational resources deepens, and customers find themselves evaluating your products and services. Although the focus can be on education again in this part of the content funnel, you’re specifically drawing attention to your product, rather than just the industry or niche that you’re in. 

Most customers will check out at least 5 pieces of content or more before they interact with a brand. As you begin to create content for the MoFu part of your campaign, make sure that you think about investigational keywords. For instance, if you’re a marketing company that focuses on social media, your customers might be asking questions like:

  • What is the best marketing tool for small businesses?
  • How can I use social media to grow my company?
  • How do I get started with social media marketing?

Respond to each question your customer might be asking carefully. Remember that you’re not just answering their queries here, you’re actively showing them why you’re the answer to their problems. For instance, Sprout Social show their followers how to get started with social media marketing with examples from other brands in this blog post.

However, they also use case studies and references to their own software to help businesses see that they can make their lives easier with Sprout Social:

In the Middle of the Funnel, concentrate on things that educate and inspire, such as:

  • White papers that answer customer questions while demonstrating your thought leadership with statistics and facts. 
  • Free guides and eBooks that help your audiences to solve a problem, while drawing attention back to your service or product.
  • Case studies that demonstrate how previous companies have worked with you to overcome the problems your customers are currently facing. 

Mastering the Big Finish with Bottom of the Funnel Content

Finally, the bottom of the funnel content is your personalized strategy to convert every visitor into a customer. This content needs to bridge the gap between the free value and information that you’ve been offering up until now, and your paid product or service. 

The bottom of the funnel content is there to tip your customers over into the next stage of their buying journey. It’s about getting them off the fence and ready to buy. For instance, a lot of customers will be far more willing to buy something from a new company if they see that other businesses and consumers already trust that brand. Social proof in the form of reviews and messages from satisfied customers can go a long way towards helping people trust you.

For instance, Fitbit lets tech and health industry experts judge the quality of the products for themselves by including a list of reviews from leading brands at the bottom of their content pages:

Social proof is just one of the ways that companies can convince their visitors to transform into buyers. You can also think about offering discount codes or limited-time deals to take advantage of the concept of “FOMO”. Today’s customers are terrified of missing out on a great offer. If you convince them that they don’t have long left to make a purchase, then they’re more likely to jump into action. Look at how Amazon reminds customers on product pages that they can get free delivery if they order within a specific time.

You can take the same urgency and put it into your content, reminding them that they only have a limited time to click on your CTA and buy a product. 

Retaining Customers Post-Purchase

Remember, once you’ve used your content marketing funnel to convince your customers to buy something from you, there’s one last step that you need to take – and that’s making sure that you can retain your customers in the long-term. 

Research shows that repeat customers spend up to 67% more than new ones, so it’s worth developing your relationship with your followers. 

Once your customer has made a purchase, follow up with them using regular emails to let them know what kind of new products you’re investing in, or whether there are any additional products that would complement their initial purchase. 

You can also create follow-through by:

  • Giving discounts to customers who refer a friend to the site
  • Providing free trial codes that customers can give to their friends. 
  • Making sure that your existing customers are the first to know about sales and deals
  • Asking for feedback from your customers so you can improve your service

You could even give your existing customers the option to sign up for a weekly newsletter that updates them on your latest blogs, whitepapers, and other content, to take them back through the content funnel again. 

Designing the Perfect Content Funnel

Having a content strategy that you can use to guide your customers through the sales funnel one step at a time is key to effective marketing. Keep in mind that creating an effective content marketing funnel isn’t a set-it-and-forget its strategy. There’s a lot of time and effort involved in tracking your content’s performance, getting to know your marketplace, and understanding your customers. 

The more you learn about your audience, the more you’ll be able to adjust and upgrade your funnel, making sure that you speak their language. Keeping a close eye on each stage of the content funnel will help you to figure out where you need to make changes to ensure that the buyer’s path is as streamlined and friction-free as possible.

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