The power of content in your digital marketing strategy has only become more amplified as consumers become more engaged in their purchase decisions and the buyer journey becomes more defined.
According to a recent research report by Forrester, 74 percent of B2B buyers do extensive research before making a purchase decision. Understanding the stages of the buyer journey and leveraging content to guide them through the various stages of the marketing funnel, leading them towards purchase decisions is the key to unlocking conversions.
Unless you can comprehend the stages of your marketing funnel and successfully map out your content in accordance with it, ensuring that relevant traffic lands on your website and converts is going to be a huge challenge for your team.
A revenue centric content strategy needs a comprehensive understanding of the content marketing funnel and the ability to map the content produced with the prospects’ needs and queries in every stage to facilitate conversions.
Understanding the stages of a content marketing funnel
Every piece of content that the buyers consume during the decision-making process of purchasing a product or subscribing to a service can be divided into distinct stages of the marketing funnel.
1. Awareness stage
The top of the funnel comprises of the awareness stage where the customer is simply performing a high-level search of the product/service. This happens when the buyer realizes that he has a problem and needs to look for a solution.
The realization may be intrinsic, i.e the customers themselves recognize that they are facing an issue. Conversely, the awareness may also be a result of the customer interacting with the top of the funnel informational content that you post and realizing it. The awareness stage typically comprises “what/why” queries so the content you create needs to be educational and not salesy.
Content mapped to the awareness stage of the marketing funnel casts a wide net. If you focus on delivering real value, chances are that the prospects would organically progress through the buyer journey and move towards consuming the middle of the funnel content that you publish.
2. Consideration stage
The consideration or evaluation stage of the marketing funnel comprises of a prospect who is aware of the problem and is actively on the lookout for the possible solutions. The middle of the funnel content needs to function as a bridge between the high-level information that the prospects consume in the awareness stage and the final decision stage.
The content in the consideration phase is focused on conveying the value you can provide, nurturing the leads and finally moving them towards making the purchase decision. This includes specific insights and comparisons with other options available in the market. It also addresses the “how” queries as the prospects become more aware and start looking towards specific solutions.
3. Decision stage
The bottom of the content marketing funnel comprises of the decision stage when the prospects have completed their research and are ready to make the final buying decision. Just because the prospects are ready to buy doesn’t mean that they would make the purchase form you and content targeting this stage of the marketing funnel helps nurture them to the final decision.
Case studies, reviews, pros and cons, and how-to content that showcases actual usage scenarios for your product and service can go a long way in helping the prospects with their final “buy” decision. All they need is a convincing nudge in the right direction and you have managed to convert them into paying customers.
4. Retention stage
The customer’s relationship with content does not cease to exist once they make the purchase but rather goes much beyond that. Content can be leveraged to forge lasting customer relationships by successfully engaging the existing customers. Optimizing for the entire content lifecycle can also open unique opportunities for upselling and cross-selling to your customers.
The retention phase of the content marketing funnel becomes all the more crucial in industries like SaaS where the value on ongoing subscriptions is much higher than one-time purchases. Content in various forms can be used as a tool to boost customer engagement and nurturing them even beyond conversions.
Converting your marketing funnel into a conversion engine
The content you produce has to be guided by a robust strategy that gets the leads flowing right into your sales pipeline. Publishing one piece of content after another isn’t an effective move when trying to generate quality leads.
Here is the step by step strategy that ensures that your content produces relevant leads for your business who have the best potential to convert into paying clients and bring in revenue.
Step 1. Take a bottom-up content approach
To formulate a marketing strategy that results in higher conversions, your content has to focus on the conversion aspect as well. Prioritize on creating content that targets the prospects in the decision stage of the marketing funnel and brings about conversions.
How do you accomplish that?
Target the buy-intent, bottom of the funnel (BOFu) keywords and make sure you create content for the specific queries that the prospects are searching for. Understanding the target audience, their needs, pain points and actions is important to create content that targets the BOFu keywords.
Reverse engineering your organization’s approach to the content marketing funnel requires the involvement of all the stakeholders and their collective efforts for its successful execution.
Step 2. Optimize your landing pages for conversions
Whether you are a B2B SaaS company or a B2C website, your landing pages are the point of conversion where prospects become customers. Optimizing them for conversions is ,therefore, a no-brainer if you want your content strategy to succeed.
How do you accomplish that?
Make sure that the content, design, user experience all converge towards facilitating conversions on your landing pages.
- Optimize the landing page content to ensure that it targets a buy-intent, bottom of the funnel keyword. Overhaul the existing content or if the search volume is justifiably high, create new landing pages to target specific keywords
- Conduct a website audit to ensure that your search engine rankings are not bogged down by duplicate content and broken links.
- Follow the web design best practices to make sure that the loading time is low, the website is easily navigable and offers visitors a good user experience.
- Incorporate responsive design principles to ensure that the landing pages are conversion optimized irrespective of the device they are viewed on.
- Forms, call to action buttons
Step 3. Layer the landing pages with MOFu content
Once you have added conversion-optimized landing pages in your arsenal, the next step forward is to make sure they rank and are discovered by the prospects in the decision stage of the content marketing funnel. Layering the landing pages with the middle of the funnel content can help in getting them to rank while organically sending referral traffic in the consideration stage over to the decision phase.
How do you accomplish that?
Zero in on the middle of the funnel keywords in your keyword research and create content around it. This ensures that the prospects in the consideration phase of the marketing funnel interact with your content. This also acts as a bridge to build links back to your landing pages and boosting your rankings in the search engine results pages.
Determine what the prospects in the consideration stage of the marketing funnel are looking for and create comprehensive content around it. Link back to the landing pages organically from these content pieces to get the referral traffic flowing.
Step 4. Build backlinks to get your content ranking
In an ideal scenario, you would only need to create authority content and publications would organically link to it like the ideal white hat SEO scenario. Unfortunately, that seldom happens like that and a lot of factors like website authority, domain rating, topical authority that factor into your content ranking.
Building backlinks from high authority industry publications to your MOFu content pieces ensures that the link equity eventually passes on to the landing pages getting them to rank while driving referral traffic at the same time.
How do you accomplish that?
There are several publications that welcome insightful, thought leadership content from guest bloggers. Pitch to the publication that shares the same target audience as yours and offer to write content for them. Include a link to your blog content in a manner that adds additional value to it.
Targeting the middle of the funnel keywords for these guest pitches ensures that the audience in the consideration phase of the content marketing funnel gets another avenue to interact with your content. Since you are writing for high authority publication, the chances of your content ranking and bringing in valuable leads flowing right into your funnel gets compounded.
Step 5. Prioritize the lower half of the funnel first
But what about the top of the funnel content you ask?
Realistically speaking, there are no limits to the high-level information addressing the prospects in the awareness stage of the content marketing funnel that you can publish but the amount of returns those efforts would bring in isn’t promising.
In order to bring in a consistent return on investment in your marketing efforts, you need to prioritize on creating content for the lower half of the funnel first. This is exactly what the hockey stick content growth strategy promises.
Top of the funnel (TOFu) content does have its own set of advantages. It has the potential to send the right signals to the search engines and subsequently increasing your topical authority. Since the search volume of the TOFu content is significantly larger, ranking for them has the potential to drive a huge amount of traffic down your content marketing funnel.
So you can add the top of the funnel content to the mix occasionally to spruce things up a bit. However, if you want to minimize the leaks in your funnel and ensure a high conversion rate, prioritizing on creating the middle and bottom of the funnel of the content is something that is highly recommended.