Generating consistent and reliable traffic, leads and customers with content marketing is the end goal for marketers, and it can be made considerably easier through the deployment of a predictable marketing funnel.
Content can be used during each stage of the funnel, from the initial ‘awareness’ and ‘interest’ to the subsequent ‘desire’ and ‘action’ phases that result in the purchase of a product or service.
Being aware of these distinct phases and being able to tailor content for each one will give you a better chance of pushing consumers along the cycle. It will also effectively create your own unique template that you can lean into and build on over time to drive more sales and client retention.
When attempting to build a funnel for the first time, considering factors such as what channels will customers use at each stage to find your brand and what content and information should be used to help them make the move to the next stage will stand you in good stead for the journey ahead.
The acronym ‘AIDA’ is used by marketing professionals to link the separate stages of the marketing funnel to content creation efforts. This memorable shorthand stands for attention, interest, desire and action.
The attention stage is when customers first realise that they are struggling with pain points but are not entirely sure what the root cause is. You can create content to highlight the fact that something needs to be done.
The interest stage is a step along from the problem recognition state as consumers will now be aware of the issue and be actively seeking information to address it. Content here can spark interest in an active solution to the problem.
Next up is the desire stage where consumers are trying to hone in on a solution and are comparing and contrasting the offerings available. Your job is to convince them that your solution is best for them.
Finally, the action stage is centred on the final purchase decision. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to opt for your solution. Content works here by including calls to action at the end of case studies and testimonials that will send them to a pricing page covering the various tiers of service and product offerings.
What content formats work best at each stage?
Awareness and interest
Content marketing is typically deployed during the awareness and interest phase. A study published by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) in late 2019 found that 50% of content is used by B2B marketers at the top of the funnel compared to 22% at the mid-funnel and 14% at the late stage.
The problem recognition and information search stage does align well with organic content marketing and SEO. This is because blogs, news and articles can be used in a variety of ways to provide immediate value to target audiences.
Content formats that can be deployed at this stage include regular company blogs that aim to educate the audience and social media posts that promote blogs and articles across various channels. You can also use SEO here, optimising your web copy for important keywords in an attempt to capture search traffic.
If you have already built a loyal audience and believe that it is best to focus your efforts on attracting and converting these customers, content marketing is perfect for pushing thought leadership and showing your expertise in a niche or industry and then reaping the rewards of greater levels of traffic to company webpages.
While making people stand up and notice your brand at this point is great, marketers can find it more difficult to sustain interest. CMI general manager Stephanie Stahl notes: “Getting attention is great, but marketers must keep that attention. Kudos to those who are creating lasting impressions and super fans.”
Email marketing can nurture the funnel at this point. You can send automated emails after a consumer has opted for a blog subscription, for example. These emails can include links to new blog posts and can be sent at regular intervals, once or twice a week.
Desire and evaluation
The evaluation phase calls for a greater focus on your website and the product page content therein. You should know when a customer has moved to this phase as they will likely have taken action in the form of requesting a demo or contacting you via email or a chatbot about what you offer. This means that they may now be comparing your product against other alternatives.
Content marketing still plays a role here. Customers will want information that highlights how your product is different from others. You could use an infographic showing product comparisons with relevant facts and statistics. Blog posts are also great. Titles such as ‘Hands on with’ a certain product are likely to be of interest.
Other content formats that can be of use include case studies based on specific demographics and customer types such as start-ups or large corps. Whitepapers with a more comprehensive look at an industry can also showcase your expertise.
Retargeting ads can also be used during this phase. Retargeting is when you serve targeted ads to people who have previously visited your website.
The CMI study shows that the latter stages of the funnel are overlooked by marketers, but content can make the difference when attempting to make the purchase process as quick and seamless as possible.
Web copy on your website should be updated at the checkout pages to make it as clear as possible to prospects about what they need to do to complete a purchase. As noted earlier, case studies can also give customers the final push.
Experiment and outsource
All of the guidance thus far can be tailored to your brand and its objectives. There is a wide range of viable content formats that can be used to build your marketing funnel.
The CMI report found that 89% of B2B marketers use blog posts and short articles, but more than half are also using eBooks and guides, online events, infographics and video to get the job done.
Creating all of this from scratch can be difficult. If you want to get things up and running quickly, outsourcing could be the answer.
Around 84% of B2B organisations say that they now outsource content creation to an agency. With the right mix of tools and resources, you can set up a funnel that will convert a first-time visitor into a regular paying customer.