Producing unique content takes time, research, and energy. To set yourself apart from the millions of blog posts written each and every day, an investment into your content has to be made. If a significant amount of resources is going into content production — whether that's through blogging, infographics, or email blasts — you want to make sure that it's going to help customers convert. That conversion can be a product being purchased, collecting an email address, or even just spending a certain amount of time on your website.
How the Sales Funnel Relates to Content Marketing
The best part about content and the sales funnel is that it's applicable to all industries. Whether you're a lawyer, marketer, ecommerce store, or manufacturer, there are a variety of ways to position your content in front of potential customers, pooling them at the top of your funnel.
Content in the Discovery Phase
My favorite type of content during this phase is a well-researched and well-written blog post. If you can find a piece of tangential content that may not directly relate to your product, but touches on your industry, that works great. Try pairing an infographic with blog posts at this phase as well — mainly because infographics are 3x more likely to be shared across social media channels.
Other common pieces of content we see during this phase are videos (and video ads) and podcasts, although that's not to say there can't be additional options.
Goals of the Discovery Phase
It's also important to note that content at this point should be free. Asking for an email address can be acceptable if necessary, but I would advocate against it. Customers don't know (or trust) your brand at this point, so putting any barrier to entry here is going to dissuade people from even entering your funnel. Earning the trust of a visitor by answering a problem or giving information for free will go a long way.
- Increasing traffic to your site while providing awareness about a solution for a problem. The main metrics we watch for this goal are website traffic (by all channels), social media engagement, time on site, the amount of inbound links (and in turn keyword rankings), and branded search volume (although this is usually a better KPI for deeper in the funnel).
- Growing your retargeting lists. Through your retargeting list, we'll be able to stay in front of potential customers to ensure they don't leave your funnel.
- An increase in social media engagement. If someone is engaging on social media, this is a sign that you've started to earn their trust.
It's a rookie mistake to try and sell your product during the discovery phase. People don't trust you yet, they're JUST getting to know your brand. Instead, solve a problem and move customers onto the next part of the funnel - the consideration & evaluation phase.
Real World Example: Lakefront Brewery - Brewery Tour
*As a side note - I would also suggest adding a blog with content to the Lakefront Brewery website. Being industry leaders, they would be able to produce extremely well written content.
Content Goals For Consideration and Evaluation
Alternatively, if your content in the discovery phase is done well enough, you may already garner emails or social media follows. In that case, the goals are still the same - you may just have potential customers a little further down the funnel. Either way, they're still evaluating you as a company and considering if they should give you money.
Goals of the Consideration and Evaluation Phase
- Email & Lead List Growth. If you can obtain a visitor's email address in return for the piece of content your providing, that's ideal. It qualifies that visitor as someone who is interested in a certain industry enough to let you send messages directly to them. That's a potential customer who has a higher-than-average purchase intent.
- Retargeting List Growth. Paid advertising (search & display) is up 44% since 2014, and remarketing plays a large role in that. Keeping your brand or product in front of these visitors is going to be crucial (to a certain extent - this is why you can set a max impression cap). They've shown interest, now make sure they don't forget about you.
The take away from this phase of the funnel is you want to acquire a list of potential customers. A few KPI's to keep track of here are the number of email addresses (or leads) in your list, the size of your retargeting audience, and the open rate of your emails/social media engagement rate if you're at that point.
Depending on your content at this point in time and where you expect your customers to be, you can start to include CTA's to see if you can produce conversions at the end of these. Regardless of that, you should be providing value without forcing a sale at this point in time.
Real World Example - Lakefront Brewery - Bus Ads
What Lakefront Brewery does after this is ingenious - they have their billboard plastered across the city buses, which acts as a real-world Display Advertisement. Whether you're walking through the city, bar hopping, or enjoying the Lakefront, you're reminded of the hour you spent with them and the experience they provided on a daily basis. Being a well-known attraction, they're using the residents of the city of Milwaukee, as well as anyone visiting, as their 'retargeting audience'.
Finally, the Conversion Phase
Goals of the Conversion Phase
- Nurture the customer into converting. At this point, customers know (and hopefully trust) your brand, your unique selling proposition, and how you can help them overcome their problem. It's time to offer an easy-to-use sales system to offer a seamless experience. We don't want any reason for them to back off at this point.
- Continue to grow your retargeting list. Keep building audiences - this time an audience of converting customers. We may not have an idea of how we're going to use or market to that list at this point in time, but it's definitely not going to hurt to have and it can save a ton of time in the future.
- Increase customer retention & frequency. By making sure your customer is happy with their purchase, it will make them more likely to come back again later or refer a friend.
The main metric to keep an eye on at this point in time? Sales, of course. Other than that, I would continue to monitor social channels to make sure customers know how to use your product, email open rates, coupon code use rates and lifetime value of customers.
Something to keep in mind - it's great to use an offer people can't pass up.
"85% Off - Today Only!"
"$15.00 for the next 24 hours!"
Your customer has made it this far, it's time to close the deal.
Real World Example - Lakefront Brewery - Beer Finder
- "Beer Finder" - It's simple! All you do is enter your address and the Lakefront Brewery website will tell you the closest grocery, convenience, or liquor store that sells their beer.
- "The Tour" - a page on the Lakefront website showing pictures of happy - or drunk - customers (serving as testimonials), a full schedule of available tours, and the ability to sign up online.
Your Funnel Isn't Over Yet - It's Retention Time!
Some of our favorite types of content for this are surveys, social media follow ups (this can also help personalize your brand and give it a real voice!), how-to guides, and personalized thank you emails. The goal here is to make sure your customers are satisfied. I'm not just talking about 'that worked well' satisfied, I'm aiming for 'That experience was amazing, I need to tell someone about it' satisfied.
Real World Example - Big Surprise - Lakefront Brewery
- A tip jar. What better way to understand how the tour goes?
- A comment sheet. A real life, physical piece of content that, if online, could be emailed to customers.
- Real people to answer questions. Often times owners and workers at Lakefront Brewery are walking around, talking to people finishing these tours. No need to ask questions online when you have the owner standing in front of you!
Lakefront also has a strong and active social media presence, covering all of their bases.
Word of mouth is a strong sales tool that is very hard to come by. At this point, though, it's up to you to make your customer want to talk about you.