How to Create a Content Marketing Funnel That Actually Works
Engaging potential customers with a powerful content marketing strategy
Having great content is one thing, and it’s another to have a deep enough understanding of your target audience that it influences your content creation. But, without having an effective content marketing funnel in place to set up and manage your lead nurturing process, you’re going to be missing out on some serious revenue.
Here at The Brains, we’ve been working with clients to produce bespoke content marketing funnels that have proven to generate high-quality leads and fantastic ROI over the years. These funnels, backed by extensive research, content strategy workshopping and analysis of the customer journey, are highly powerful tools that are proven to influence a customer’s purchase decision – before they have even thought about purchasing.
In this blog, we’ll be revealing the secrets to creating funnels that actually work, by driving your potential customers to becoming actual customers through the creation of highly-targeted content. Let’s get started!
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What is a content marketing funnel?
The concept of a content marketing funnel is relatively simple. It refers to the process of nurturing prospective customers through different stages of the purchasing journey towards a conversion using a very basic formula, starting with brand awareness, then to education and ultimately leading to a purchase.
Much like a physical funnel, a content marketing funnel starts with a wide berth of potential leads and eventually bottlenecks to just a few SQLs (sales-qualified-leads). This is a natural process, and it’s to be expected that even with powerful marketing funnel work, only a select few potential leads become paying customers.
However, depending on your industry and the types of products or services you offer, the length and complexity of your content marketing (or customer acquisition) funnel will differ. For example, if you sell plain t-shirts, your prospects’ journey from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel might be fairly short. In other words, potential customers may not take too much winning over before they commit to becoming a paying customer. In fact, they might just buy on impulse.
On the other hand, if you’re a B2B business that provides software costing upwards of a million pounds, the journey from the top to the bottom of the funnel will likely be longer and more complex. This is because you may have to appeal to multiple decision-makers. In which case, the marketing messages you use in your content will be more varied as you will be catering to prospects across several unique stages of the funnel.
At The Brains, we work with a number of industry-leading B2B clients to create conversion-driving campaigns, and we often find that it takes a multichannel marketing strategy to produce results. For instance, we will often produce lots of educational content early on to entice audiences, accelerate brand awareness and generate interest. This content might be a single long-form blog post (or multiple shorter pieces of relevant blog content), a how to video or guide on your main website or YouTube channel, or even an educational landing page.
Our research has shown that these content ideas are more successful for lead generation at the top of the funnel, as highly sales-focussed funnel content had the potential to scare off new leads if used too soon or too frequently.
To create content your prospects will respond well to, you must be prepared to analyse the trends of your existing customers, conduct vast amounts of audience and keyword research, and use SEO tools for best results. Although most marketing funnel stages will require a similar formula at a top level, it is still fair to say that no two strategies are the same. With each new campaign, your marketing team will have to create a new funnel that caters to the unique needs of your existing and potential customers.
How do content marketing funnels work?
As previously mentioned, a content funnel works by bringing in new leads and nurturing them through a customer journey using relevant content such as blog posts, targeted landing pages and educational resources. In short, funnel content is produced in line with three core stages:
Although all funnels are unique, and will depend on your brand, your business goals and the needs of your prospects, these three stages essentially form the backbone of any successful full funnel content marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at what each stage of the funnel means and how creating content that is specific to each point in the user journey will help your business thrive.
- The awareness stage (top of the funnel)
This is your first real opportunity to create and distribute user-generated content for the benefit of your business. At this stage, savvy content marketers will focus on generating leads and helping these new prospects to discover your brand. Related content at this stage will generally include blog posts, relevant posts across your social media accounts, videos and podcasts. Typically, a sales team won’t create content at the top of the funnel – instead, it will focus solely on assisting your prospects in becoming familiar with your products or services, rather than selling them.
- The education or consideration stage (middle of the funnel)
Here, you should focus on engaging leads that are looking to find out a more about your brand, what you have to offer and what makes you different from your competitors. Leads at this stage aren’t ready to commit to a purchase, and are most likely browsing similar offerings from your main competitors to see where they can find the solution best suited to their needs. Create content that builds trust at this stage – it’s essential that you avoid a pushy, salesy tone. The primary aim at the middle of the funnel is to show your target customer why they should choose your business, and not your competitor.
- The decision stage (bottom of the funnel)
Now, your leads are ready to choose who they will purchase from. Unlike at the middle of the funnel, this is where you can be relatively certain you have grabbed their attention – all that’s left to do now is cinch the deal. Unfortunately, if you fail to hit the nail on the head here, all your previous efforts at the top and middle of the funnel will amount to nothing. However, while it might be tempting to go in for the hard sell, it’s important to be patient. Perhaps try using a ‘Free Consultation’ or a trial CTA to prompt a confident purchase decision.
We will go into more depth about what is needed from a content perspective at each stage in the funnel later in this post. For now, let’s consider the customer’s journey. Why is it that we create content that takes user’s on a ‘journey’ from awareness to purchase? How can a blog post help to drive sales? How does having a detailed contact information page and pricing page generate leads?
The importance of the customer’s journey
You cannot underestimate the importance of the buyer’s journey. Understanding it and taking advantage of it is a fundamental step towards better lead generation. Remember, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is – if you don’t provide your prospective clients with seamless user experience, and a journey that caters to their unique needs, you’re going to be missing out on organic traffic as well as the vast majority of your conversions.
Think of it as buying a new car: you go to the showroom, and you see the exact model gleaming in the front window, and you know it’s the perfect car for you. But when you try to speak to the sales assistant, they ignore you and walk in the other direction. Suddenly, buying that car doesn’t seem so appealing – in short, your experience, or customer journey, has been ruined by lack of attention and poor salesmanship.
This analogy is comparable to when your prospects go in search of your services and products. It’s not simply a case of sticking some listings on your website and expecting people to make an immediate purchase. To secure qualified traffic, and eventually conversions, you have to draw prospects in and nurture them with product information and related content before they will commit to a sale. The vast majority of prospective clients will not be immediately certain what they want or why they want it. The purpose of mapping content into a well thought-out buyer’s journey is to change that.
For instance, your prospects might need your products or services to solve a problem, and no doubt you have competitors who offer something similar that can solve these problems just as well as your services can. In which case, it’s your job to convince your prospects why they should choose you over someone else.
To do this takes a deep understanding of your target audience and knowing:
- Who they are
- The problem they are looking to solve
- What their motivations are
- What their online habits are
To attain an even greater understanding of your prospective customers and provide a first-class buyer’s journey, consider creating marketing personas, which are essentially fictional portfolios of people who have an interest in purchasing from you (we typically recommend having between 2 and 4 different personas).
By using personas to ascertain how you will create your strategy across various marketing channels, you can nurture your prospects from the top to the bottom of the funnel and also benefit from useful insights in terms of what content customers typically respond well to.
What you need at the awareness stage
The types of content you produce in the awareness stage should focus on generating interest around your company. Think of the awareness stage as your shop window — the aim is to present yourself well enough to bring shoppers into your store. It’s important to remember that at this point, your potential leads may have no information about your company or what it offers – in this case, you need to mostly focus on introducing your brand, your USPs and your accreditations.
To do this, consider why your prospects are looking for your products or services in the first place. More than likely, they have a problem that they’re looking to solve, therefore you should focus on creating content (such as topical, question-based blogs or dedicated service landing pages) that displays exactly what you provide and how it can help them. Your middle funnel content should also demonstrate your industry expertise, as this will help to build trust.
One of the best ways to please a potential customer at this stage is to create blogs that focus on answering a question. For example, if you sell pianos, you could create a blog titled “How to choose the right piano for beginners”. Not only does this help answer their question, but it will most likely correspond with their search intent.
Another effective way to bring in new leads here is by utilising other marketing channels such as social media advertising. Studies show that up to 3.81 billion people around the globe actively use social media, and a large portion of those users are finding products or services they are interested in via this channel.
The beauty of social media is that you can use it in almost all content marketing funnels; whether it’s B2B, eCommerce, fintech, Saas, or healthcare, you can be confident that your prospects will be active on at least one form of social media.
Bonus Tip: Up to 70% of new leads could enter your marketing funnel through organic search, so if your content at the awareness stage is created in line with keyword research, and mapped out alongside a wider SEO strategy, you’ll have a much better chance of maintaining those leads from the middle of the funnel and onto the next stage.
What you need at the education / consideration stage
By this stage of your content marketing funnel, the number of leads will likely be much less than you originally started with. However, the leads that have made it to this stage will be nicely warmed up with your previous content efforts, and ready to find out a little more about your business before they make a final purchase. This provides you with some unique opportunities to help educate and move these potential leads closer to a conversion.
Your leads now know that they have an issue that needs solving and will be researching different solutions. As a result, the successful content at this stage would focus on educating the target audience and producing assets such as how to guides, case studies and product overviews. The detail you provide with this content will go a long way when your prospects make a decision further down the line. For example, if you can provide quantifiable data on why your product can help save your prospects money whilst also solving their problem, this could certainly help sway their final decision.
In addition to educating your audience with how to guides and other topical pieces, you should also be focusing on engaging them and maintaining their interest. A proven way to do this is by creating email marketing campaigns that provide prospects with unique pieces of content and also allow you to send follow up messages.
Email marketing also allows you to add a touch of personalisation which helps further build trust and establish a relationship with your prospects. It’s important to remember that your prospects want to feel valued, and by spending time to build relationships via relevant, and hopefully successful content, you put yourself in a better position to achieve the final conversion.
What you need at the decision stage
Leads who have made it to this stage of the content marketing funnel have collected all the information they require and are looking at choosing a vendor. This stage is what your content marketing funnel has been leading towards, so the everything you produce now must be laser-focused on generating that final conversion. At this stage of the marketing funnel, you can begin to detail pricing and contact options, as this information will likely be a huge deciding factor for your leads.
Given that your leads already have a large amount of information regarding what they’re looking for, you can now afford to become very specific, going into much greater detail about your product or service and why it should be the first and only choice for your prospective leads!
A good move here is to create a series of case studies that demonstrate how you’ve helped customers in the past – if you have several examples already, it helps to separate your case studies by sector so that your prospects can find those most relevant to their industry.
One of the main advantages of case studies is that you can include a number of different content elements, including infographics, stats and graphs to showcase the benefits of your product or service. this not only helps to give your case studies more value, but also makes them more digestible for the user.
You can also include customer testimonials within your case studies to help provide proof of how you can solve your client’s problems. Alternatively, add a personal touch with direct insights from key stakeholders in your company.
Last but not least, at this stage in the funnel you now have to opportunity to reach out to your prospective leads and contact them directly to answer any questions they may have. Often marketers and business owners can worry that this approach is too forward, but it will largely depend on your sector and the type of service offering you have. With the right approach, direct contact could be your key to getting the sale over the line.
Developing a marketing funnel for your target audience: The Brainy way
Here at The Brains, our content marketing team has been working in tandem with our SEO, PPC and automation experts to help our clients create laser-focused content marketing funnels. We’re one of the UK’s leading marketing and SEO agencies, offering a variety of SEO copywriting services to help you create content and SEO link building services to help with content outrach.
Over the last few years, we’ve assisted B2B, B2C, fintech, SaaS and healthcare businesses dramatically increase their website traffic, generate unlimited high-quality leads and maximise conversions, all with a strategic, funnel-based approach to content marketing.
To start developing a marketing funnel, we firstly analyse our clients’ existing customer base and aspirational customers (if applicable). From this initial analysis, we can determine what types of content will have the best chance of moving prospective leads through the content marketing funnel, with the end goal of generating a conversion. We will also look at the online habits of your target prospects – which channels and platforms are they using, and will be the best ways to reach them?
As a full-service digital marketing agency, we’re channel-agnostic, which means that we often implement multichannel marketing strategies to help our clients achieve their business goals. We have seen the most lucrative benefits from multichannel strategies, and it is through initial audience research and website audits that we develop a clear picture of where will allow your business to see the best results.
Whether it’s through our SEO services, PPC, social media advertising, email marketing, or any other digital marketing service that we offer, we’re committed to maximising your budget and generating the best ROI possible.
Hire a specialist content marketing agency to produce and manage your content funnel
If you’re looking to create a marketing funnel that will guarantee to attract high-quality leads, boost conversions and increase your revenue, we can help. Over the past several years, we’ve worked with hundreds of clients from a vast number of industries to create laser-focused content marketing funnels that have produced unbeatable ROI.
We always work transparently with all of our clients to ensure that we have shared goals, KPIs and metrics, and we also provide regular reports so that our clients know how their campaigns are performing at all times. We can help to analyse your target customers and their needs, produce targeted, informational pieces in a variety of different content formats and integrate with other channels that will benefit your overall marketing strategy.
So, what are you waiting for? If you’d like to know more about the wide range of digital marketing services that we offer, or if you’re interested in finding out how we can improve your current content marketing strategy, book a free consultation with one of our content marketing specialists today. We’ll provide insights into what we think will work best for you, and help you get the ball rolling.