Understanding the Content Marketing Funnel
Content marketing is the most cost-effective and efficient means of marketing your business. It’s the new gold standard. And there are good reasons for having a well-planned content marketing funnel — for both B2B and B2C enterprises.
Businesses use content marketing to help build relationships with their customers.
Although content can take numerous forms, the intention remains the same: using captivating story-telling and guided messaging to take the audience on a journey from general consumer to happy and returning customer.
Churning out content without a purpose is about as useful as trying to solve algebra by chewing bubble gum.
The content marketing funnel helps you create meaningful content for each stage in the customer journey — filtering customers down through the different stages to the point where they’re ready to pay you for your product or service.
So, how does the content marketing funnel work? And what type of content should you be using at the different stages?
Let’s explore it together.
Why Is It Called a Content Marketing Funnel?
Borrowing from the traditional marketing model, the content marketing funnel is more of an inverse pyramid. But that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
The ‘funnel’ filters customers. It channels potential buyers through a system of touchpoints, designed to convert them from being aware of your brand, through to the point of purchase.
If you consider the shape of a funnel, the top is the widest part. This is where the largest addressable audience sits, aware of your brand. As you move down the funnel, it narrows. Around the middle, you’ll find fewer people considering whether they want to pay you for your product or service. And towards the bottom, the audience decreases further still as they reach the point of payment, with many of those who may have considered paying you, deciding not to.
Once you’ve filtered your audience through the funnel, and convinced them to buy, the final phase is retaining those customers. They’ve bought from you once, play your cards right and they’ll buy from you again.
These are the four stages in the content marketing funnel. They map the customer journey, identify their behaviour at each phase, and provide a framework for crafting the right type of content to drive sales.
Stage 1: Discovery – The “Seeing” Stage
Welcome to the top of the funnel. Here at the widest part, you’re engaging with the largest audience. At this early stage, brand awareness is the name of the game.
Your content marketing during this first phase is all about getting people to know you.
Content should focus on inspiring, entertaining, and informing potential customers. You’re not directly selling at this point. You’re generating interest and curiosity and establishing yourself as trustworthy.
You need to give without the expectation of receiving at this early stage. That’s why content at the top of the funnel (TOFU) is more generic, positioning you as a reliable source of industry knowledge — an authority.
Blogs, video guides, email newsletters, free templates, useful infographics, webinars, ebooks: these are all types of content suited to the Discovery Stage.
Figure out what your audience’s needs are and then provide informative content that fulfils those needs. You’re not talking about how you solve their problems yet. You’re simply identifying their questions and providing answers. For free. How benevolent of you.
Hopefully, this generosity won’t go unnoticed. If your content satisfies your audience’s needs for information, they’ll be grateful and keep coming back for more.
Top of the Funnel (TOFU) content at the Discovery or “Seeing” Stage, drives brand awareness. Inspire, entertain, and inform your audience. Get people to know about you.
Stage 2: Consideration – The “Thinking” Stage
It’s impossible to be everything to everyone. People will drop off between the Discovery and Consideration Phases and your funnel will naturally narrow. This is a good thing. Although your audience may be smaller at this stage, there’ll have some commercial intent behind their interest in your brand.
Content in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) offers consumers direct solutions. A reason to choose your brand over others.
Providing your audience with testimonials and case studies, product descriptions, demo videos, and how-to guides helps them to build an association between their needs and the solution you offer.
When your potential customers are thinking about paying for your product or service, you want to speak to them directly and reassure them that you can help them.
At the Consideration Stage of the content marketing funnel, you’re still not selling directly. Your content should give your audience an opportunity to evaluate your offering. Aid their buying choices.
How are you different from the competition?
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) content at the Consideration or “Thinking” Stage, drives consideration. Educate, inform, and inspire your audience to action. Get people to look for you, with some commercial intent.
Stage 3: Conversion – The “Doing” Stage
The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! We’ve reached the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) and our potential customers are ready to transact. All that hard working TOFU and MOFU content has primed your audience for action.
At the Conversion Stage, your content needs to make one final glorious impression on the customer. At this point, they’re full of commercial intent and very interested in what you’re offering. So it’s time to drive home the sale and convince them to make that purchase.
A clear and simple purchase process with good UX design is what you need here. Make it easy for the customer.
Keep your sales content straightforward. Include clear, no-nonsense descriptions of your products or services. Highlight their key benefits to the customer. Showcase their value by adding testimonials and reviews. Get them to commit.
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) content at the Conversion or “Doing” Stage drives conversions. Enable a seamless purchase for your customers. Get people with lots of commercial intent to buy from you.
Stage 4: Retention – The “Caring” Stage
Congratulations! You’ve carefully guided and nurtured your audience through the entire content marketing funnel, converting them into paying customers. Now what?
Next, the final stage in the process is keeping your customers.
They’ve bought from you once. Can you get them to buy from you again?
Better still, can you turn them into advocates for your brand?
Content marketing still plays a vital role in the Retention Stage of the funnel. Here, your content needs to turn one-time buyers into repeat customers, or convince subscribers to continue, not cancel, their subscriptions.
The type of content you should be optimising at the Retention Stage should be special offers and loyalty discounts, exclusives, email lists, and customer support documentation.
In essence, keep your customers happy. Ask for reviews and testimonials. Reward their loyalty. Give them access to exclusive content and promotions so they feel valued. Show them you care.
Content at the Retention or “Caring” Stage drives loyalty. Surprise, delight, and reward current customers (those with at least two commercial transactions). Get people to keep coming back to you.
Content Is Everywhere
Content frames every online action and interaction a customer experiences en route to making a purchase.
Web pages, search results, online reviews, videos, podcasts, case studies, infographics, product images, online adverts — all are forms of content that help guide the consumer’s buying decisions, from their initial search query to clicking the purchase button.
By 2020, it’s estimated that for every person on Earth, 1.7MB of data will be created every second. That’s a lot of content!
With that constant barrage of information, consumers can feel overwhelmed with purchase options. Content marketing allows your business to create a more meaningful, personal connection with your target audience, and guide them towards buying from you.
Every word, image, video, and audio recording you have created for your business is content. Whether it’s on your website (or someone else’s), in print, on email, or across your various social media channels, it’s content you can use to attract and convert potential customers.
So, where does all your content fit in your content marketing funnel?
Can you repurpose and reuse existing content in another format for different stages in the content marketing funnel?
Effective content marketing adopts a multi-channel approach, combining SEO, social media, and email marketing. Optimise your content across these various channels to reach the right target audiences. Your content marketing strategy should guide consumers through the funnel, moving them between your different channels, towards purchase.
Content marketing is only as effective as the time spent in planning and preparing the right strategy for delivery. Develop a carefully thought out content marketing strategy that targets customers at different stages in the funnel across different channels, and you’ll soon see positive ROI.