The relationship between content marketing and sales isn’t 1:1. Nobody who reads one article on your website is going to then immediately buy something from your brand.
But with each piece of content they read, their chances of converting go up.
According to Forrester, the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase decision. The question is, how can we make sure that the content they read increases the likelihood that they will buy something from your brand?
The answer? Create a content marketing funnel.
A content marketing funnel ensures you’re answering your customers’ questions while simultaneously improving their opinion of your brand. It’s the part of your content marketing strategy that tells you when and how you’ll serve your content to prospects.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to build your own content marketing funnel so that your content drives more high-value actions. To start, let’s explain what a content marketing funnel is.
What is a Content Marketing Funnel?
A content marketing funnel is a roadmap for how to systematically attract new prospects and turn them into leads through content. It’s a way of crafting the buyer’s journey around content.
When customers first encounter a piece of content by your brand, they enter your funnel. If done well, every piece of content they’re served thereafter helps progress them through the funnel toward a sales decision.
We call it a funnel because your goal is to attract as many prospects as possible, narrow them down based on who is most qualified/interested, and turn them into customers.
Some brands treat content marketing simply as a way to attract leads. But brands that know how to use a content marketing funnel can attract, nurture, and convert leads using only content (which, by the way, is ranked as the most effective online tactic).
Chances are, you’ve been pushed through a content marketing funnel yourself‚ whether you realized it or not. You may have read a few blog posts from a brand you like, and then agreed to opt into their email newsletter because you found their content helpful.
Suddenly, they start sending you more exclusive content, while also gently pitching their product to you. Finally, you receive additional content that entices you to buy their product—and you do! That’s the content marketing funnel.
Let’s learn more about how the content marketing funnel works by breaking it down into three parts: top, middle, and bottom.
The Stages of the Content Marketing Funnel
If every person who read a piece of content on your website made a purchase, your funnel would look more like a tube—everyone who enters comes out the other side.
But the reality is, a majority of prospects drop off at some point. By breaking down your content marketing funnel into stages, you can understand exactly what type of content you need to serve to each type of lead, thereby minimizing the chance of dropoff.
Here’s what each stage of the content marketing funnel looks like, and the type of content you should serve leads at that stage.
Top of Funnel: Awareness
Most content is designed for the top of the funnel. This is where you’re trying to make prospects aware of your brand through the creation of educational and engaging content.
Good top of funnel content entertains a prospect, answers a question they may have, or makes them aware that there’s a problem that needs to be solved (and that your product may be able to help them solve it).
Top of funnel content shouldn’t be overtly transactional; however, it should help generate some interest in your brand. After prospects have interacted with your content, you want them to remember your brand and what you do.
To create good top of funnel content, consider who your customers are and what sorts of problems they may have (our content strategy guide has more advice on creating customer personas). You may also want to research popular content to give you some ideas.
Then create content designed to help prospects and provide value. Most importantly, use SEO best practices so that prospects can easily find your content.
If successful, prospects will generate positive sentiment toward your brand.
Furthermore, by educating your prospect through content, you help them understand what your product or service could do for them. This in turn creates a more qualified lead who is more likely to buy your products or services.
Examples of top of funnel content include:
- Blog posts (utilizing SEO best practices)
- Email newsletters
- Social media content
In fact, what you’re reading right now is considered top of funnel content. By reading this guide, we hope that you foster some positive sentiment toward Knotch, and learn a thing or two about content marketing. Maybe sometime in the future, when you’re ready to take your content marketing strategy to the next level, you think of us again.
That’s the power of top of funnel content.
Middle of Funnel: Consideration
Once you’ve attracted a prospect to your brand through content and they’ve seen value, it’s time to push them further down the funnel to the “Consideration” stage.
Here’s where the sales tactics begin. In the middle of the funnel, you turn that prospect into a lead by pitching your product or service as a solution to their problem. To do this, offer the prospect some kind of incentive in exchange for additional contact details, or a meeting.
Once you have more contact details, nurture them with a combination of educational content and content that helps them evaluate the benefits of your product or service. You don’t want to be too pushy, as this could cause the lead to drop out of your content marketing funnel. Instead, gently offer your lead the following types of content:
- Case studies
- How-to guides that feature your product
- Demo videos
- White papers
- Data-driven reports
- Explanation of product/service use-cases
Your middle of funnel content should help them verify that they have a problem, understand the solutions available to them, and consider if your solution is their best option. This approach helps foster trust between the lead and your brand, and increases the chances that they’ll do business with you.
Bottom of the Funnel: Decision
If you’ve gotten your lead to the bottom of the funnel, it’s time to close the deal. Here’s where it’s okay to be overtly sales-y because you know the lead is very interested—otherwise they wouldn’t be at the bottom of the funnel.
To deliver bottom of funnel content, transition the email content you send to leads from educational to transactional. Content types that work well for the bottom of the funnel include:
- Free trials
- Customer testimonials
- Product reviews
- Discount offers
This content should be personal and speak directly to their needs. You want to clearly communicate the value proposition of your product or service, as well as details on how it works.
At this point it’s also okay to be heavily focused on your product or services. Keep in mind that a clear and transparent sales process is also required to help bring the lead across the finish line.
If you’ve pushed the lead through the bottom of your funnel, congratulations—you have a new customer! But that doesn’t mean you should stop serving them with content.
In fact, it’s more important than ever to serve new customers with content so that they can learn how to use your product and get the most out of it. Retention content can take many different forms. Here are a few formats you should consider:
- Customer help center
- Exclusive customer content
- Technical documentation
- Product tutorials
- Online courses
You may find that your customers also return to your top of funnel content for more education and insights. They may even opt to share your content with their social networks, thereby bringing more new prospects into your funnel.
Turning customers into spokespeople for your brand should be the ultimate goal. This is where the content marketing funnel becomes really powerful. It not only turns prospects into leads, but also generates new leads from customers, turning your funnel into a self-replenishing customer pipeline. This helps lower customer acquisition costs (CAC) while increasing content marketing ROI.
To help your customers become brand advocates, consider offering them additional incentives. Here are some examples:
- Discounts for customer referrals
- Referral codes to send to friends and family
- Inclusion in your customer advisory board (CAB)
Of course, one of the most surefire ways to turn customers into advocates is by providing excellent customer service.
Keep in mind that content marketing, and the content marketing funnel, is a long-term strategy. At first the amount of leads working their way through your funnel may be small. But as you create more customers, you should start to see compounding results. If you’re doing things right, your lead generation from content will increase.
But you need to have patience. It takes a few months for SEO content to rank in Google search results. And it takes even longer to start seeing a constant flow of traffic. If you’re willing to put in the work now, you’ll set yourself up for success in the future.
Knotch Can Optimize Your Content Marketing Funnel
How can you tell if your content marketing funnel is delivering results? Here are some ways to measure content effectiveness at each stage of the funnel.
Top of funnel:
- Referral source
- Overall views
- Unique views
- Time on page
- Scroll depth
- Bounce rate
Middle of funnel:
- Email subscribers
- Click-through rate
- Video completion
- Pageview-to-lead conversion rate
- Purchase intent
Bottom of funnel:
- Conversion rate
- Average selling price
Retention & advocacy
- Life-time value (LTV) of a customer
- Acquisition costs
- Positive product reviews
The Knotch Content Intelligence Platform can help drive all of these metrics. Our technology informs you of how your content is performing in real-time, and offers insights to help you maximize ROI.
Customers who use Knotch are able to create content that more accurately addresses their customers’ needs, allowing them to more easily move through their funnel toward a sale.
To learn more, sign up for a free content marketing demo of Knotch.