As a small business owner, the Internet provides a valuable opportunity to introduce your brand to the world, share your products/services, and increase your sales. But simply creating a website isn’t enough to start seeing results. You need to find a way to break through the online “noise” and direct traffic to your website, and a content marketing funnel is a great way to do it!
But what is a content marketing funnel, and how can you create one that will deliver a worthwhile return on investment?
In this article, we will walk through the content marketing basics, including why you need a funnel, how to build out your funnel effectively, and the funnel content you will need to address each of the four key stages.
Table of Contents
What is a Content Marketing Funnel?
Before we dig into creating your marketing funnel, let’s start with the basics. What is a content marketing funnel, and what purpose does it play in your greater marketing plan?
A popular tool in marketing and online advertising, a content marketing funnel is a visual illustration of your potential customer’s journey, from first discovering your business online to becoming a loyal repeat buyer.
This journey is divided into four stages, each representing your potential customer’s mental state at that point in the journey. By understanding this, you are empowered to create content that will support and guide your potential customers through each step of their journey, increasing the likelihood that they will make a purchase (or multiple purchases).
The four stages of the content marketing funnel are as follows:
- Consideration (Evaluation)
- Conversion (Purchase)
How Can a Content Marketing Funnel Help Your Small Business?
A well-crafted content marketing sales funnel will not only offer you some insight into the thought process of your potential customers, but it will also identify opportunities to improve conversion. This is done by identifying and addressing any questions or concerns they may have at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
For example, when a potential customer first hears about a new dog food brand, they know nothing about the product or how they differ from every competitor on the market. At this stage, presenting them with your price and a ‘buy now’ button will not likely generate a sale.
Instead, you need to raise their awareness about the unique value-added features of your product. Why should they consider your dog food over the other options? What sets you apart in the industry? In what ways will your food benefit the potential customer and their dog?
By moving people through the funnel, focusing strategically on each step and the information they need to feel comfortable moving forward, you will increase your conversion rate.
Potential customers that feel heard and informed will be more comfortable purchasing because they see how it will bring value into their lives. They are also more likely to return for repeat purchases as well as to develop enough loyalty to your brand to recommend it to others.
Building Your Content Marketing Funnel Step-by-Step
Now that you understand why a content marketing funnel is a critical piece in the success of any marketing plan, it’s time to start building an effective funnel for your small business.
To do this, you must identify the information your potential customers seek during each stage of the buyer’s journey. You can then create content to answer their questions and educate them on your product/service through short- and long-form content such as blog posts, social media posts, videos, infographics, case studies, and other digital content.
Awareness Stage Content
The first stage, known as the awareness stage, is when someone first hears about your brand or product/service. At this step in their journey, they know very little (if anything) about what you offer. Awareness stage content should focus on reaching out to people unaware of your company and making them aware that your business exists.
If the buyer’s journey is a conversation, the awareness stage is the introduction. So, introduce yourself!
At this stage, your potential customers aren’t searching for business. Instead, they are searching for information or solutions to a problem in their lives. Take a moment to consider how your content may provide this solution.
For example, returning to our dog food example – your dog food may be formulated to work for dogs with allergies. This would mean that your ideal customer is a dog lover whose pup is suffering from allergies. To reach them and introduce yourself, you may consider creating evergreen content that discusses topics relating to dog allergies, such as the most common allergens or ways to reduce seasonal allergies in the home.
While you can introduce your product/service in the equation, don’t spend too much time at this stage getting into detail about what you offer. The goal is to introduce yourself and move them to the next stage for more information.
Content types that perform well in the Awareness stage include:
- Educational/informative blog posts
- Social media posts
- Podcasts & videos
Awareness stage content needs to reach your potential customers versus expecting them to come to you, as they don’t know you exist! You want to consider shareable, engaging content or leveraging search engine optimization.
Consideration Stage Content
Now that you have introduced yourself, the next stage of the conversation is to better educate your prospective customer about your product/service. The goal is to help them see why your product/service is the solution to the challenges that they are faced with.
During the consideration or evaluation stage of the content marketing funnel, you will need to create content that highlights what you offer and connects it with the needs identified in the Awareness Stage.
Once again, let’s return to the dog food example. You identified your ideal client and the main problem that they are concerned about – dog allergies. Now, you want to create content that illustrates how your dog food can help to address this problem.
This content is generally more detailed and specific. Examples include:
- Case Studies
- White Papers
Don’t be afraid to link out to your Awareness Stage content. This will continue to build your trust and authority as an expert on the topic.
Conversion Stage Content
Your potential customers are now aware of who you are, what products/services you offer, and how they can solve their most common problems. During the conversion stage, you are now actively focused on making them feel confident in pulling the trigger and purchasing.
This is where you make the “hard sell” or direct sales pitch. Of course, simply saying “buy from me” isn’t going to work. You need to give clear, concise reasons why it will be an intelligent decision.
Conversion Stage content doesn’t focus on the broad educational topics that came up before. They have already seen this content from you and are confident that you are an expert – so this is your chance to highlight why purchasing your product or service is the right thing to do.
Content in the conversion stage may include:
- Closing portion of a Webinar
- Emails to subscribers and lost cart emails
- Sales pages
- Product comparisons to similar competitors
- Demos and free trials
Loyalty Stage Content
While the traditional content marketing funnel ends with the sale, many marketers (me included) believe there is one more step. The Loyalty Stage is designed to focus on retention by building loyalty among your customers.
You don’t want your customers to feel like you are “done with them” the moment that you have their money. Instead, you should put effort into connecting and engaging with them, building a community that will continue to follow what you are doing and support your brand moving forward. This will lead to return sales and word-of-mouth referrals.
To do this, you must create content that continues to offer value while keeping your brand at the forefront of their minds. You don’t want them to forget you!
Examples of effective Loyalty Stage content include:
- Insider guides and tutorials for using your product/service
- Special offers for upgrades, new products, or repeat purchases
- Email newsletter for customers
- Early previews of new products and launches
- Advance notice of (or access to) sales
Allow your customers to share their thoughts and feedback by collecting and sharing reviews or highlighting User Generated Content (UGC) on your social media channels. Seeing their photos/videos or opinions shared and credited back to them makes them feel special and heard.
How to Track, Analyze, and Improve Your Content Marketing Funnel
When tracking the success of your marketing efforts, most small business owners focus on the obvious benefit of a content marketing sales funnel – an increase in sales. But there are other ways your content may benefit your business.
To effectively track your content’s performance, you will need to start by setting some SMART business goals. This style of goal setting focuses on creating goals that are:
By following these guidelines, you will set clear, measurable goals, allowing you to identify when your chosen content strategies are moving you forward toward your goals and when they are falling short. This is essential in maintaining a content marketing funnel that will continue to benefit your business in the foreseeable future.
What precisely you are tracking will depend on your goals. Ask yourself what the content marketing funnel is leading your prospective customer to do and how you can see they have taken that action.
It may be sales, and that is okay! But it may also be tracking the number of people who signed up for your community, joined your email list, subscribed to your YouTube channel, or downloaded your new eBook. Each of these goals can be tracked and analyzed.
Use tools like your social media insights on each platform or Google Analytics for website traffic.
If you notice that you aren’t getting your desired results, don’t give up. Step back and look at where your potential customers are dropping off. Ensure your messaging is clear and that you are addressing their questions/concerns. You can make changes or introduce additional content to assist in moving people through the funnel effectively.
As a wise business coach once told me – you should always write your plans in pencil. You will ultimately succeed by being open to change, adjustment, and growth!
Are you interested in building a content marketing funnel for your small business? If you feel overwhelmed or unsure that you have the time to do this on your own, I’ve got you covered. Contact Me to set up a discovery call and discuss how I can help you get started with your content marketing efforts today!
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