Sometimes we spot something online or in-person and we know we have to have it. It might be an impulse buy or a purchase made based on something you know you need, but either way, you don’t need any convincing to take you from awareness through to purchase. More often than not, however, there’s a process involved with our day-to-day buying experiences that allows us to learn a little more about the products and services we invest in. Experts call this process the “sales funnel,” and it’s one of the most essential tools in a marketer’s arsenal.
The sales funnel references each of the stages a buyer goes through leading up to their purchase. It begins with looking at a website for the first time and goes all the way through to subscribing to an email list and coming back to your store for repeat purchases.
Using Content in the Sales Funnel
Though the sales funnel focuses heavily on “sales,” the tool has existed at the heart of marketing since day one. Ultimately, at any time, your prospective customers are all wandering through the different stages in their journey, on their way to a purchase.
As a marketer, it’s up to you to give your leads the extra push they need to spend their money. Often, the easiest way to do that is to use content marketing. Indeed, 52% of buyers believe that content makes it easier for them to manage the “research phase” of their buying journey.
Unfortunately, around 65% of marketers still don’t know which types of content are most effective for each stage of the sales funnel. After all, your customers need specific forms of content for each part of their journey, including:
- Top of the funnel: The awareness stage, where people are searching for content that offers answers, education, insight, and opinion.
- Middle of the funnel: The evaluation stage, where your customers want massive research and comparisons between your product and your competitors.
- Bottom of the funnel: The purchase stage, where customers need the final push to help them spend their money.
So you’re better prepared to make the most of your content marketing campaigns in 2020, we’re going to explore the best content options for each stage of the buyer funnel.
ToFu Content: The Best Material for the Top of the Funnel
Around 81% of shoppers conduct research online before making a purchase, according to Adweek. At the top of the funnel, your customers are looking for answers and information related to a specific problem. Those answers should point back to a product or service that your customers need.
There are plenty of ways that you can introduce your audience to your product in an informative way. For instance:
- The Landing Page
A landing page is one of the most common ToFu content options available. Landing pages offer top-level educational content that highlights the key benefits of your products or services, without going into too much detail. It can encourage people to subscribe to a newsletter and move further down the funnel, or it can only send them to another part of your website.
For instance, look at this example from Basecamp:
Basecamp instantly focuses on the problem its customer is having and promises a solution. The head of the landing page is short, sweet, and straight to the point, prompting readers to move to the next stage in the funnel.
- How-to Blogs and Educational Posts
Landing pages are great, but they’re also somewhat limited in the amount of content they can offer. Some of your customers will need additional information to take them deeper into the buyer cycle, and that’s where How-to content and blogs come in.
You can even experiment with different kinds of content if you think that written posts aren’t particularly appealing to your audience. For instance, Campaign Monitor launched its “Campaign Monitor 101” series in 2018 to help customers learn more about the email marketing features that the company had to offer. The series includes a host of videos packed full of how-to information.
When it comes to how-to and educational content, try to focus on the questions that you usually get from customers straight away, such as:
- How does the product/service work?
- What does it do, or how is it beneficial?
- What’s the difference between this product and something else?
Remember to focus on your longtail keywords at this stage in the funnel too. People asking questions don’t usually have specific searches to put into google like “Email marketing tool,” instead, they’re looking for “How do I make my email marketing easier?” or something similar.
- Infographics and Presentations
As mentioned above, while written content is excellent for engaging your ToFu customers, it’s not your only option. Some consumers will respond better to visual content, particularly when they’re at the top of the funnel, and they’re looking for very high-level information.
While a basic image might not provide enough information on its own, combining that image with text-based information in the form of a presentation, slideshow, or infographic is a great way to capture audience attention. Infographics display essential information fast and give leads the boost they need to keep moving through your sales funnel.
Look at this infographic from Bob Jenson, for instance. It instantly offers information that customers can use to help them decide what kind of product they might need from the company:
Other kinds of quick and educational content you might use in the ToFu stage include:
Basically, anything that gets your customers started in their research phase.
MoFu Content: The Best Material for the Middle of the Funnel
You’ve successfully captured your audience’s attention, and they’re starting to feel interested in what you have to offer. When someone moves into the middle of the funnel, they already know that they have a problem, and they’re thinking you might be able to solve it.
While the top of the funnel is where you educate your prospects, the middle stage is where you can highlight why your solutions or services are the best for their needs. The middle of the funnel marks a period of extended engagement when you’ll be nurturing your leads and building relationships for your brand.
Most of your content will be focused on showing your audience why your offering is so much better than that of your competitors. For instance, you can try:
- Blogs that Offer Solutions
At the top of the funnel, your blogs and other content will be designed to educate your leads and answer their most common questions about how your product works. In the middle of the funnel, you’re educating them on how they can use your products to solve their problems and accomplish their goals. Not only does this content offer value to capture your audience’s attention, but it also shows that you’re better than your competition by demonstrating thought leadership.
If you can highlight your knowledge for your audience through informative blogs and articles, then they’ll be more likely to accept your status as an expert.
For instance, email marketing company Drip regularly publishes blogs about how to capture leads and book more clients with email marketing:
Remember, to get the most out of your MoFu content, think carefully about the problems that your customers face, and how you can help them solve those issues.
- Direct Comparison Content
When simply showing your audience that you know more than the competition doesn’t work, you can always try directly comparing your solution against whatever other brands have to offer.
One easy way to do this is to use videos to showcase customers using your products and have them compare that offering to the next leading brand. You’ve probably seen something similar to this in traditional commercials, where companies showcase the advantages of their items, while also highlighting how other products don’t work as well:
You can also write blog posts that compare the performance of your products to your competition or publish whitepapers when you’ve got a lot of in-depth ground to cover.
Just be careful that you’re not too slanderous with your material here. While it’s fine to compare your company to other brands when you know things that you do better, and you’re sure your information is accurate, you don’t want to make claims that you can’t back up.
Claiming that other products aren’t as good as yours when you don’t have any proof just makes you look unprofessional.
- Case Studies that Prove Your Solution
One of the easiest ways to compare your company to the other competitors in the market and make sure that you come out on top is to use case studies and customer testimonials. For instance, branding company Fabrik doesn’t just tell customers that its designs are the best; it shares regular case studies with companies like Macmillan to help you judge for yourself how effective a campaign was.
Case studies and testimonials are an excellent way to prove that people really do get benefits from your products or services – just like you promised. However, it’s important not to let your case studies become sales pitches. Don’t go off on a tangent with your case studies, focus on:
- What the problem your customer faced was
- The things you did to solve the problem (without any hyperbolic language)
- What the outcomes were
Remember, you’re eliminating any doubts here, not trying to push someone to make a purchase.
BoFu Content: The Best Material for the Middle of the Funnel
Okay, you’ve gotten through the middle of the funnel, and now it’s time for the make or breakpoint. The bottom of the funnel is where your lead goes to make their final purchasing decision. At this stage, your client is ready to buy, but they’re not sure whether they’re going to purchase from you – not yet anyway.
Typically, BoFu content is the tool that you’ll use to give your lead the final nudge they need to hand over their cash. Sometimes, this will be a compelling call to action, other times, it will be one last piece of content, like a review or a rating.
Options to try include:
- Ratings and Reviews
You’ve already covered some social proof with your in-depth case studies in the MoFu content stage. However, an extra five-star review from a handful of customers can be all it takes to convince your new lead that they can trust you.
MailChimp, a leading email marketing tool, displays its customer reviews right there on its home page, complete with a link to case studies, and a picture of the person leaving the review (for credibility).
You can also just use basic star reviews like the ones your customers see on Google, or list reviews in a scrolling box at the bottom of your product page if you prefer.
- Email Content
Sometimes, during the MoFu buying stage, your customers will sign up for an email newsletter so that they can collect more information from your company. This happens frequently with B2B brands that offer their clients whitepapers and case studies. In exchange for an in-depth piece of content, you ask for a customer’s email address, so that you can contact them in the future.
With email content, you can also push your customers through the final stage of the buying funnel. With properly segmented leads, you’ll know who’s ready to buy, so you can send them a little boost in the form of an email that offers a deal like free shipping, a voucher code, or a list of your top-rated products.
Look at this example from Headspace, for instance:
The email reminds customers of why they were interested in the product in the first place and pushes them to get started with a discount.
- Sales Pages
Finally, Sales pages might be a little old-fashioned in today’s digital marketing world, but they still have an impact. Similar to a landing page, a sales page encourages your customers to take the next step in their buyer journey, often with a focus on making an actual purchase, rather than just learning more.
Edupath uses a quick and easy sales page to give leads all the information they need to make their final purchasing decision. Signing up and getting started is incredibly easy, and there’s no exhausting content to scroll through to move to the next step.
If customers are still on the fence, they can choose to either go and learn more about the app, or they can continue with their purchase.
Make the Most of your Sales Funnel
Content may still be king in the digital marketing world – but only if you use it correctly.
Most of the marketing funnels that struggle to deliver ROI today don’t suffer from bad writing or poor sales tactics. The problem hat these companies have is that they don’t know which kind of content to serve to their audience at each stage of the buying funnel.
Every job has its own perfect tool, and the same applies to selling and marketing. Using the information above, you can ensure that you give your funnel the best chances of success, with carefully tailored content to support every member of your audience.