The “old” marketing funnel works by pulling everyone in, qualifying them, and then throwing away whoever’s not needed. It’s like casting a net over the sea; you’re going to catch some seaweed and maybe some plastic cups that you didn’t want in the first place. And with so many content marketing agency services claiming to be the best fish hook – how do you know what actually works?
Now that you’ve got an understanding of building a content strategy, let’s dive deeper. Have you heard the saying, “content is king”? This came from a famous essay written by Bill Gates in 1996, in which he outlined why content is a major driving component of revenue in almost any industry. Interestingly, that still rings true 24 years later. That begs the question: how has content changed in the last decade?
Nowadays, there are many ways to interpret and build a content marketing funnel, but the crux remains the same: every single person that enters the funnel is considered a potential customer. Because of this, it can seem overwhelming to even get started. Our content marketing agency, Sparxoo, is here to guide you the whole way.
How do I start creating a content marketing funnel?
Because every business is different, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. However, the funnel structure looks similar because all customers can be adapted to follow a standard sales journey.
There are three main categories when it comes to a content marketing funnel: Let’s call them TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU (bear with me here).
TOFU (Top of Funnel)
Introduce the Problem/Solution
Once potential customers come into the funnel, they enter the awareness phase. People who know your products exist and can solve their problem should know what you do even if they don’t end up becoming loyal customers. This is the initial phase of any content strategy. If you don’t get any eyes on your company, it doesn’t matter how good your offerings are — no one will know your brand exists.
There are multiple ways to launch a brand into the market and start getting more recognition. This is the right time to make prospects aware of the problem your product or service is attempting to solve. Keep in mind that this can be done consciously or subconsciously. Some individuals might not even realize they have the problem until it’s presented to them.
As far as what type of content you should focus on, it’s best to stick to information that is easier to consume — think blog posts, videos, infographics, and podcasts. This gives the freedom for potential leads to sort through the content as they see fit and become familiar with the brand first.
MOFU (Middle of Funnel)
It’s in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) where content really starts to shine. This can be where we turn those that were simply seeking more information into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). So in TOFU, you present the problem; in MOFU, you present your company or product as the best possible solution.
MQLs are now warm leads that need just a little more information. Great TOFU content is critical to MOFU, because it draws MQLs in with the perception of your brand being a thought-leader in your space. More importantly, MOFU is where we capture contact information, once leads raise their hand to access content like a newsletter, ebook, or whitepaper.
Collecting contact information lets you start nurturing campaigns that provide more information, or offers that can move leads through your funnel (if they’re qualified). Ultimately, the goal of MOFU is to keep moving MQLs down the funnel to eventually become Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).
Segmentation is Key
By far the simplest and most effective way to nurture your MOFU strategy is through segmentation. Age, gender, and location are all valuable segments, but when it comes to content, behavior-driven segments have the most potential to connect in a relevant and valuable way.
Newsletter subscribers will follow a different path than those who entered your funnel through a LinkedIn ad, and will thus expect different material. Similarly, podcast subscribers will respond differently to product and service offers than someone who prefers to read web copy (like this post).
What’s at the center of these unique patterns? Determining who you are talking to, where they came from, and what they are seeking allows you to deliver targeted content at the best time to engage them (remember, there are people on the other end of those Gmail and Outlook addresses).
BOFU (Bottom of Funnel)
Bottom-of-the-funnel or decision-stage content is the content that you can use to position your brand above competitors and start building relationships. During the decision stage, potential buyers are looking to evaluate and compare specific products or solutions in the marketplace.
Up until this point in the decision journey, the prospect wasn’t ready to see this kind of information. And sending decision-stage content to prospects before they’re interested will likely get you ignored, or even worse, annoy them. Think of someone proposing on the first date — it’s likely not going to succeed down the road.
This is the time to get into the nitty gritty of content. At this stage, you should be serving content that is personalized or relevant to every lead.
BOFU content should showcase your product, demonstrating how it works, showing off features, and outlining specific benefits customers can expect. Now is the time to demonstrate how your product or service solves specific pain points and leaves the competition in the dust.
Here are some ideas for BOFU content:
- Product demo: Allow customers to see how your product actually works. According to a survey by WyzOwl, 95% of video marketers say video has helped increase user understanding of their product or service. Whether on-site, live or in a video, showcase features and relate them back to their own company. Make them feel like they are already a part of the product.
- Product comparisons: Present detailed graphics or documents that go in-depth with the product. Particularly if you know a customer will likely seek out comparative information between you and a competitor, it’s a great idea to be ready with content to answer that search. Here’s a great guide from the Weidert Group about this specific approach.
- Free trial: Let buyers test your product out without making a big commitment and let them decide for themselves without pressure. Benchmarks differ based on your method, but free trial products requiring a credit card have shown paid conversion rates of up to 30%.
- Testimonials and case studies: Customer success cases are also important in this final stage, as they provide tangible external validation. And according to Big Commerce, 88% of consumers trust online testimonials and reviews as much as recommendations from friends or family.
Decision-stage content is a critical part of your inbound marketing strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked. A common mistake is to assume that once someone becomes a customer, their journey is complete. Truth is, it’s just as crucial to keep nurturing them through content to convert them into brand advocates and life-long patrons. This is an ongoing cycle that doesn’t have a finish line.