Today consumers are more empowered with knowledge than ever. They do not make any purchase without conducting proper research and evaluation of the product and its brand. Nearly 17% of online shoppers visit a brand's website to purchase, while others visit to compare prices or search for a product.
Many businesses find it challenging to write content that answers customers’ inquiries and eventually convert leads into paying customers. According to a study conducted by HubSpot, before committing to a sales call, an average consumer reads at least three to five pieces of content before moving on from one stage of the purchase journey to the next.
Companies need to understand that every piece of content might increase traffic to their website, educate leads about their brand and products, and bring new leads one step closer to taking action concerning the sale.
In fact, 69% of B2B marketers believe that content created for their audiences proves to be more valuable than producing content "for their brand". This is why companies need a solid and effective content marketing funnel.
A content marketing funnel is a system that draws new leads to the business. It visualises the customer journey from knowing about a product/service/brand to finally completing a transaction. These leads then become possible customers when businesses encourage them to purchase using different types of good content. Even companies like Coca-Cola invest more in their content marketing than traditional marketing.
Here are the three main stages of the funnel -
1. TOFU (Top of the funnel) - focuses on tactics being used to draw the prospect's attention and increase awareness about the product/service.
2. MOFU (Middle of the funnel) - focuses on generating new leads and educating prospects about the product/service so that they may make an informed opinion about it.
3. BOFU (Bottom of the funnel) - focuses on converting leads into customers by giving them the reasons why the product is the solution they are looking for.
A strong content marketing funnel is not about a one-time purchase; it intends to understand the needs of each visitor, provide step-by-step content and convert prospects into customers. It is essential to have compelling content that varies according to user preferences, behaviour, needs and data at all these stages.
A business must develop a content marketing strategy that will help them produce the right content delivered to the right person at the right stage of the funnel to help them make the apprised decision.
According to a survey conducted by Semrush, TOFU content is created by 95% of the marketers, 86% of marketers create MOFU content, and 76% of the marketers create BOFU content. Here is a detailed strategy for creating content for every step of the funnel:
Stage 1: TOFU (Top of the Funnel)
This is the first stage of the marketing funnel where prospects are not ready to buy, and they might never have even heard of the company. Here is where a company must draw their prospect’s attention with some impressionable value-adding content that may solve their problems, answer queries and gently introduce them to the brand without asking anything in return.
At this stage, the brand needs to create top-level educational content that may direct the prospects towards a solution. If the brand successfully shows its expertise by solving their problem related to the field, the visitor will take further interest in the product or services.
According to the Co-Founder & Operations Director of Caveni, Alexander M. Kehoe, a business should not promote the brand too much at this stage. Instead, this stage should have a vast majority of the content that is informational and relatively dense. The content should also feature multiple calls to action, which can carry the customers to other stages of the funnel, where they can begin the purchase process and receive sales-related information.
Companies like Buffer consistently produce in-depth, engaging and helpful top-of-the-funnel content that relates to everyone. Through their content, they gain a lot of followers and subscribers who trust their insights. Another example of a company that is creating brilliant top-of-the-funnel content is Farmers Insurance. They make funny, short and teachable videos for their audience to solve their queries and also help them to understand how opting for Farmers Insurance will be the right choice.
Here are some content formats that can help the business generate brand awareness:
● Ads: Samsung Taiwan had reached 60–70% of its intended audience in the 20–44 age range for its previous campaigns. To optimise its current marketing strategy for better results, they conducted a study.
For the launching of its new Galaxy A9 smartphone, Samsung created short 15-second videos highlighting the features of this phone's camera. The targeted audience were aged between 18–34. At the end of the campaign, Samsung found that by showing these short video ads twice a week, they increased the chances of viewers remembering their ads. It was an important discovery that they applied to future campaigns to improve performance.
Ads empower businesses with an easy way to get listed on top of the search results page for specific keywords and searches. A study shows that companies could increase brand awareness by up to 80% with search ads. They might use Google's display network, a traditional PPC approach to target their audience. They could also advertise their products and services as banner or text ads across different websites to increase brand awareness and traffic.
● Landing Pages: A landing page should be crafted in a way that encourages the audience to make a purchase, subscribe to the newsletter, begin a free trial, set an appointment or take any other intended action.
According to a study conducted by HubSpot, companies that increase their number of landing pages from ten to fifteen see a 55% increase in leads.
Pandora designs, manufactures and sells contemporary jewellery made from high-quality material at affordable prices. Pandora increased its conversion rate by 130% by creating a landing page free of distractions.
● Videos: Customers are more likely to respond to videos than any other form of media. A study states that 80% of people recollect a video ad they viewed within the past 30 days, and 64% of them are convinced to buy a product or service online after seeing a video about it. To generate leads using video marketing, the company should create videos that answer three questions:
What is the product or service?
What are the benefits that come with the product? It should include features, comparisons with other brand's products, showcasing how it is the better choice.
How does the product or service work? A short demonstration of the product.
When it comes to video marketing strategy, PandaDoc is a great example. Panda Doc's overview video explains all the above three points. It covers challenges or problems of the target customers and queries related to the product and then describes how PandaDoc's product is the solution. Given the short attention span of viewers, the less than 2-minute video manages to convey the most relevant information.
● Infographics: In terms of content marketing, infographics are the fourth most used content type. They are responsible for tripling the social media engagement and may increase the traffic on any site by 12%. Today 65% of B2B marketers use infographics to grab attention and compel the audience to engage with them. People these days want to gain knowledge through text and illustrations that have eye-catching designs because it takes only 50 milliseconds to form a first impression. It is easy to follow instructions if the information is presented in the form of images, illustration and text.
It is worth observing how content marketer Ryan Robinson used a compelling infographic on “How to create a blog using text, illustrations and infographics”. He used vital elements such as a catchy headline, plenty of white, free space, minimal text, visual elements, streamlined flow and compatible colours, along with his brand logo and website.
Stage 2: MOFU (Middle of the Funnel)
At this stage, the brand has successfully captured its audience’s attention. It’s time to show them the “why”. The content should now include accurate and relevant evaluations of the options available to the prospects to extend engagement and earn their trust. This is the time when prospects must be informed about:
● The problem they are facing
● How the business provides an inexpensive and efficient solution
● How their product is better than others in the market
Let us look at what type of content works best in this stage:
● Blog Posts (How-to or Guides): Blogs are effective to increase traffic on the website. However, traffic, likes and comments on the blogs are not enough; converting this traffic into leads is the ultimate goal.
Businesses that blog generate 126% more lead growth, just like how lead generation service brand OptinMonster swelled to over 300,000 users. All they did was document some of their top marketing strategies and case studies on their blog. For a service brand such as them, telling their audience about how other businesses are using their software to grow their brand or business was the most logical way to build trust and generate leads.
Along with sharing success stories of their clients, they also provide some actionable tips to marketers in the process.
● Social Media: There are 3.484 billion users worldwide who use social media today, growing up to 9% over a year. Businesses run marketing campaigns in almost all these social networks. This is because social media enables marketers to introduce their brand to the world while executing strategies, measuring consequences and eventually turning their target audience to act in a precise manner.
Starbucks recently used social media to promote their new drink - Unicorn Frappuccino - a neon-coloured pink and purple fruity drink that changed colours while consuming. It was targeted at their younger customer demographic. Starbucks posted a photo of this limited-edition beverage with a persuasive caption on Instagram using the hashtag #unicornfrappuccino, which generated nearly 155,000 posts and directed a lot of foot traffic to the physical stores. Soon, several posts began surfacing on social platforms with people sharing their selfies with the drink, further creating awareness about the new beverage. Starbucks knows how to trigger their audience.
Social media campaigns can produce outstanding results when they are created with a vision and implemented as planned.
● White Papers and e-books: White papers or e-books provide in-depth and collected information about a product's features. They address specific problems or use cases and provide more details than a case study.
Companies like DocuSign have a massive library of white papers that explain how the company's services may influence different elements of the business and cover a wide variety of topics ranging from financial processing to customer experience. DocuSign white papers and e-books also include the impact of electronic signatures in different industries such as health care, insurance and banking. Their material has complex concepts broken down into simple ideas that benefit readers of any experience level.
Marketers create white papers to educate their audience, who are filtered through a gateway beforehand. So the white paper should present evidence in support of the information offered. Unlike a sales pitch, it is a well-researched document backed up by a lot of data.
● Case Studies: As many as 73% of the prospects say that case studies made decision-making easier for them. Let us understand with examples of the type of case studies that get better responses:
The CodeInWP case study on how MonsterLinks helped them increase conversions by over 1000% was intended for a niche readership. The case study presented relevant statistics and suggestions on how their product can be used effectively.
● Webinars: According to a study conducted by 99firms, 73% of B2B marketers view webinars as an effective way of generating high-quality leads. Approximately 20% to 40% of webinar attendees are more likely to turn into qualified leads.
When a webinar helped close a deal
A retail consulting and training company, The Friedman Group, completed a million-dollar contract with the help of a webinar. Back then, the group wasn’t much known. ● But fortunately, they had valuable content from the past 30 years that they decided to repurpose through the webinar. Their prime objectives were to:
● Address decisive problems
● Present a path to a more favourable consequence
The title of the webinar was Culture Shock: How to Shake Up the Company and Maybe the Sales Will Follow. Executives from a few big-box retailers were attending too. The webinar led by Harry J. Friedman came to life when Harry told a story about how to improve retail sales. His story hit a nerve with the audience, and as a result, the Friedman Group closed a million-dollar deal by engaging with the executives of a big-box retailer.
● Emails: As much as 23% of sales across industry verticals result from email marketing, proving it to be one of the most effective marketing channels. To generate sign-ups, a business needs to create interest in the audience. To attract the audience to sign-up for the email list, brands should send out promotional emails and regular email newsletters. This approach worked for:
The Clymb, e-commerce, fitness and adventure retailer that provides outdoor clothing and gear at affordable prices. They wanted to find out how to get the correct information to the right people who read their email. They updated their email templates to display content based on the customers’ gender and changed the tiles’ size to make more exciting content appear more prominent than others. Personalising their email newsletter boosted The Clymb's email revenue by 71%.
Stage 3: BOFU (Bottom of the funnel)
The prospects at this stage are already aware of the products and services a business is providing. But will they buy? We do not know yet. The prospects might need a final nudge towards a purchase. If a company offers the right content at this stage, they may raise the conversions significantly. Businesses must not forget to nourish the relationship with the customers even after the purchase because word-of-mouth referrals might generate more leads.
● Contests and Giveaways: According to a study, giveaways result in a conversion rate of 34%. A company that mastered the art of giveaways is KnivesShipFree. On their new product launch, they organised a rolling monthly giveaway. They created a set of lightbox popups to collect registrations from contest participants. When people entered this contest, they became participants and were added to the company's newsletter.
The result of this giveaway contest was that after only three months, over 5,000 new emails were added to their list, so when the product was launched, it made over $10,118.20 in sales.
● Testimonials and Reviews: The people who leave comments or reviews are either those who love the product or those who hate the product or are loyal to the brand. According to a study conducted by Moz, reviews are considered a ranking factor with Google, while local search gives a 6.5% weight to customer reviews. If the brand has positive reviews, they earn trust as well as visibility.
A company called StoreBoard uses FAQs and customer reviews to optimise their review system. Lately, their revenue for search traffic increased from $1.5K to more than $30K. So, it is a good idea to monitor all the customer reviews and ratings frequently in order to respond and engage.
A business should not push prospects to buy from them. All they can do is help them progress through these steps with relevant, high-quality information while continuing to grow. If the customers have a great experience in their buying journey, they will go out of their way to boost the brand's credibility. So it is safe to create an effective content funnel to serve the audience better and leave word-of-mouth marketing to them. It is high time that businesses figure out what kind of content would resonate best with the customers and lead the brand to an ever-increasing number of sales and revenue.