Getting into the development of a content marketing strategy can be daunting. A well-constructed content funnel is a powerful tool for establishing thought leadership and generating leads, but a quick glance at many content marketing procedures can be an overwhelming experience.
There are apparently thousands of good (sometimes contradictory) practices, frameworks, infographics, theories and case studies. But while most of them explain why content conversion funnels work, they fail to answer the question, « What should I do now to give myself the best chance of generating income from my efforts? » ? «
The sole purpose of this article is therefore to answer this exact question.
The stages of the content funnel
Did you know that most customers average seven interactions with your content before you even make a purchase?
Using what you know about your target audience to provide unique and valuable information is a powerful way to influence and enhance that experience. In fact, having the right content in the right place at the right time can be one of the biggest differentiators for your brand as a potential customer gets to know you better.
That’s why it’s so important to have a well-planned content funnel. But before we start talking about creating one, let’s take a minute to understand the purpose of each step in this funnel.
What are the stages of a content funnel?
The stages of the content funnel include Top of Funnel (TOFU), Middle of Funnel (MOFU), and Bottom of Funnel (BOFU). We also like to add one under the funnel.
- TOFU content introduces new prospects to your business with valuable information that helps them solve problems or achieve goals related to your product.
- MOFU content generates leads and nurtures them using content that clearly establishes your brand as an expert and starts showing people how your products can help them.
- BOFU content supports the conversion of leads into paying customers with product-oriented information that clearly establishes your products as the best choice for your ideal customers.
- The content under the funnel helps you delight your current customers, helping to prevent churn and generate growth through upgrades and referrals.
In the examples in the graphic above, you can see the very specific types of content that work for each stage. There are many approaches and strategies designed to help you decide what type of content will work best and help you achieve your goals.
The key to good content is to do your research. Make sure what you write is client-centric and solution-based, answering your clients’ questions and solving their biggest challenges. If you can do it, you’ve laid the groundwork for a frictionless content funnel experience.
When should you start building your content funnel?
It’s really never too early to start thinking about how a content strategy can boost your business. There are, however, specific events in the evolution of your business that may indicate that you may be ready to invest in content:
- You have a strong product / market fit and understand your target audience
- You must increase your sales to meet your growth goals
- You have exceeded your current growth strategy
Deciding to no longer rely solely on early growth drivers like customer referrals, word of mouth and outbound sales is an important step in the growth of many businesses. Recognizing that a content marketing program can support these growth channels in addition to becoming one of its own is the first step.
But remember, when it comes to content marketing, patience is a virtue. A successful program can take a long time to produce results and will require a relatively large investment of time and resources. We show you how to deal with it with an incremental approach in the next section.
Which part of the content funnel should you build first?
Once you decide it’s time to implement a content marketing strategy, the first question is often « Where to start? »
Many marketers might recommend starting at the top with TOFU content. This is usually the place where you can generate big numbers of traffic that makes your program look like an early success. But businesses don’t run on traffic, they run on revenue.
That’s why we recommend that you start at the bottom instead.
Content like competitive comparisons and customer testimonials will not only help you begin to lay the foundation for your content funnel, it will also help your sales team build trust and close deals. This will help you make sure your content is working to generate income from day one, before your content funnel is even full.
To get started, choose one or two key pieces to build. If you are unsure of what could be most valuable, ask. Talk to your customers and your sales team. Figure out what makes your customers buy and what keeps them in the sales process, then try to create content for those areas.
For example, if customers often compare your product to that of a competitor, a product comparison guide can be a good first step. Or, if potential customers’ IT teams frequently delay the purchase with questions about specifications and implementation, a product data sheet can be helpful.
You’ll likely find that one or two pieces will be thanked by your sales team, provided the content is well-crafted and based on the actual opportunities you discovered in that research discussed above.
Pro tip: Make sure your sales team is included in this process from the start. This will be essential in getting them to use the content you create and in establishing the feedback loop you need to consistently create great content.
How to create a content funnel?
Once you’ve got a few pieces of valuable BOFU content in place, it’s time to start working your way up the funnel.
Then work to create a few pieces for the middle of the funnel. Most of the time, this content will also be duplicative for your sales team just like the BOFU content. A good salesperson can always use a good case study or a good research report in their communication.
MOFU content is also better suited for generating its own leads, so you can start tracking some success directly in your content marketing efforts.
As you’ve probably guessed, the next step is to start building your TOFU content. It might feel like the wild west after spending some time with the much more focused stages further down the funnel.
Make sure that your first pieces at the top of the funnel are closely related to the value provided by your business and are well aligned with the pieces you have already created. Ask yourself, « If someone is reading this, is they also likely to be interested in the MOFU content that we have already created? » «
So what about this “under the funnel” step? Most companies have created content here before, they just maybe didn’t call it content marketing. This is because many organizations delegate this content to a support team or product marketing team rather than the content marketing team. No matter how your business handles it, your content marketers should at least be aware of what’s going on under the funnel.
Whenever there is an opportunity to create content that will help or delight a current customer, it needs to be created. Then try to see if that content can be reused for other stages of the funnel as well.
Creating a content funnel that gives people a top-notch experience with your brand at every step should be approached methodically. Starting at the bottom ensures that you have the content you need to close leads. Once that foundation is built, moving the funnel back up will allow you to generate the new traffic and leads that are essential for growth.