A Beginners Guide to
Content Marketing Funnels

If you’re in tune with the marketing industry, then you’ve seen the term “content marketing” floating around quite a bit over the past few years. While it seems like content marketing is just another buzzword in the business world, re-think that mindset because it’s a concept and strategy that is making waves and is here to stay. In 2015, almost 90% of B2B marketers expanded their efforts to create custom content to generate leads, engage users, and attract new audiences, and even more, companies are tackling this strategy head on and achieving exponential results.

If your brand is new to content marketing, you may be unsure how to create or curate new content to meet sales and marketing goals. In the past, companies used sales funnels to attract customers and increase their profits. These traditional tactics are now being replaced with softer selling content that adds value to the user and gains their trust before resorting to a hard sell, forcing brands to get creative in the ways they drive sales, and many are finding success using content marketing funnels.

Unlike sales funnels, which were intended to be a hard sell from the beginning and continue to up-sell along the way, content marketing funnels drive sales through an indirect approach of targeting audiences through different stages of the buying process and adding small pieces of value to the consumer for free before closing the deal.

These funnels held brands to generate quality leads, nurture and convert them into brand advocates, and end with a sale and new superfan of the brand.

What exactly is a content marketing funnel?

This type of funnel takes original content, created by your brand, and staggers into in various stages that ultimately end in a sale. The funnel can come into play at any step in the buying process, and leads can be converted into customers at nearly any stage, depending on where they first interact with your content. You’ll gain insight into what types of content generate what kind of users and you’ll be able to use that information to create even more content to widen the funnel and expand your brands reach.

The four primary steps in a content marketing funnel are “attract, convert, close, and delight.” These four variables are what keep your audience engaged, and your leads nurtured throughout the life of the funnel. Once you break down the process into these four phases, it will paint a clear picture of the purpose of all of your content, and the sales process will fall into place.

Attraction phase

You want your content to attract potential customers and mostly serve as a lead magnet. So the first step to doing this is to create content that your audience wants, or better yet, doesn’t yet know they need. There’s no need to resort to clickbait, but the material does need to be compelling enough that someone who is not familiar with your brand will want to click. Don’t be afraid to narrow your focus to one or two platforms when first starting your funnel.

This is also a great time to take a look at content you’ve already created and assess what’s worked well for your brand in the past. The material in this phase can range from a blog post or infographic to a Facebook ad or valuable email. Whatever it is, it has to be able to entice users to click something and urge them to want to learn more on the way to the next stage of the funnel.

Conversion Phase

In this second phase of the funnels, potential customers are evaluating your brand and deciding what additional actions they want to take. This step might ask them to sign-up for a free course, email newsletter, download a guide or something else that captures more of their information. The information they gather from this step will help a user determine whether or not they trust your brand enough to make a purchase.

The conversion phase is an excellent place to evaluate the success of your funnel so far. Take a look at what conversions you see from the initial click in stage 1, and what information users are giving in phase 2. If there’s a definite disconnect between the number of users clicking and the number of users downloading, you may need to re-evaluate the content you’re offering or even consider an alternative platform to the one you’ve been using.

Always make sure your content is aiming to solve a common pain point for your users. This is where your research skills will come into play as you’ll need to have done sufficient industry research to discover what your users are struggling with to offer solutions they’ll want to try out and eventually pay money for.

A few ways to convert clicks into solid leads at this point is to offer something a bit more robust than in stage one. That can include an ebook, a free consultation, invitation to a live webinar, or something else. It’s important not to lose momentum and to continue to increase the amount of value you’re adding at every step in the funnel.

The Closing Phase

Now we’re getting deeper into the funnel and closer than ever to making a sale! You’ve been able to attract users, and they’ve taken action to make it this far. Here’s the time to take those nurtured leads and finally make the sale. You’ve been able to gain the user’s trust and based on their past actions, there’s a good chance they’re ready to make a purchase. Take a look at what pieces of content they’ve interacted with the most. If you can’t identify this data from your analytics, don’t be afraid to send out a survey or ask them directly how you can help. They’ve come this far for a reason, so be patient, be consistent and don’t stop creating valuable content. After all, it can take up to seven touch points for a prospect to make a buying decision.

The Delight Phase

Once the sale is made, take a quick break to celebrate, but keep in mind that the work isn’t done yet. The core of content marketing is relationship building and creating a genuine trust between your brand and your audience. This means continuing to nurture that relationship even once the check clears. This step is all about thanking the customer for their support and continuing to build the relationship. Use this time to gather testimonials, offer exclusive access to new services or products, or conduct surveys to get to know their thoughts on your customer experience. If you continue to nurture the relationship, your customers will become your brand ambassadors and in turn, spread your brand message organically.

When successful, effective content marketing engages audiences, generates sales and transforms users into brand ambassadors. As you continue to create high quality materials and content, your funnel will widen and naturally expand your reach. As a concept, content marketing is here to stay and continuing to explore new avenues to connect with your audience will help your brand thrive and grow.

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