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3 Content Marketing Sales Funnels & How to Use Them

In this post, how to build a successful content marketing funnel that converts, and what types of content should be included at each stage of the funnel.

Diana Bajraktari

Senior Content Strategist

3 Content Marketing Sales Funnels & How to Use Them

Whether or not we like it, much of the content we consume online serves a single purpose: to convince you to buy. Or register. Or find out more. Why? Because most of the content we read and engage with every day is part of the content marketing funnel.

 

As a marketer, you’ve probably heard of a sales funnel. Essentially, it includes everything that happens before someone becomes a client of your business. From the moment they learn about you or visit your website, to the moment they make a purchase.

 

So, how do you guide customers strategically to your products and services? In this post, we’ll look at what a content marketing funnel is, how to build a successful content marketing funnel that converts, and what types of content should be included at each stage of the funnel.

A content marketing funnel is a model that can help a business visualize how to use content to draw in potential customers and lead them from the initial interaction to conversion into a customer who pays. It’s usually part of a larger content marketing strategy.

 

There are three stages to the content marketing funnel. Different experts have different names for each stage, but the order they appear in the funnel typically identifies them. The content at each stage supports the customer journey, and good content moves your leads closer to making a purchase. Each stage of the funnel serves a different purpose, such as drawing attention, generating high-quality leads, and closing conversions.

 

A marketing funnel can help brands understand where they may have content gaps along the customer journey. For example, if a brand has a lot of content for buyers in the awareness stage but not enough content aimed at buyers in the decision stage, they may want to change their efforts to create more bottom-funnel content.

 

We specifically refer to how we use various types of content to engage and convert users when analyzing and building a content marketing funnel. The stages of the content marketing funnel are: 

 

  • Top of the funnel (TOFU): Awareness stage. Potential customers are looking for information at this point.
  • Middle of the funnel (MOFU): Interest and consideration stage. Potential customers are looking at your products or services and reading customer reviews at this point.
  • Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): The stages of intent, evaluation, and conversion. Buyers are ready to make a purchase decision.

 

So, what content will meet the needs of your potential customers and help them build a relationship with your brand at a specific stage?  Let’s take a closer look at the stages and see what content is best suited for each one.

Top of the Funnel Content

The buyer’s journey starts at the top of the funnel, which is also its most populated stage. At this point, customers are not ready to buy and most likely they are not familiar with your company.

 

Your goal is to capture their attention, provide the best answer to their questions, educate them, and then introduce them to your brand.

 

The most effective content for this stage is more educational and offers something of value, which inspires visitors to your website. These are the top types of content that work best for the top of the funnel:

 

  • How-to guides (72%)
  • Landing page (35%)
  • Infographics (28%)
  • Checklist (27%)
  • Ebooks/White papers (26%)
  • Video tutorials (23%)

 

In this stage, organic search is typically the primary channel used to find guides, infographics, checklists, videos, and ebooks on a topic. 

 

If they are followers or subscribers, social media and email marketing are also useful interaction points to gather customers at the top of your funnel.

 

Top of the funnel content is usually tracked using the following metrics:

 

  • Organic traffic, referral traffic, and total traffic.
  • Engagement on social media.
  • Mentions from influencers and the media.
  • The bounce rate and time spent on the page. 
  • Subscriptions to newsletters and social media.

Middle of the Funnel Content

At the middle of the funnel, the number of people engaging with your content drops slightly. But, given the right encouragement, they are more willing to interact with your content. 

 

You should focus on creating content that inspires potential consumers further down the funnel. They might look for customer or product reviews, or video tutorials.

 

The most commonly used content types at this stage are:

 

  • How-to guides (44%)
  • Product overviews (40%)
  • Case studies (34%)
  • Landing pages (31%)
  • Webinars (31%)
  • Success stories (30%)

 

These potential customers were already introduced to your brand during the discovery stage and should not be presented with discovery stage content. Personalizing content for your audience is part of an effective content strategy. According to research, 71% of consumers expect businesses to provide personalized interactions.

 

The content types are more product-focused in order to help prospective customers see the true benefits of your product or service. They have a chance to interact with your brand more as well. However, as motivation can differ at this stage, you should show many different ways to use your product. 

 

Middle of the funnel content is usually measured by the conversion rates and the number of leads. Typically, content in the middle of the funnel generates the most organic search traffic. 

Bottom of the Funnel Content

When a potential customer reaches the bottom of the funnel, they’re looking for content to help them make a purchase decision. At this stage, the content you create should answer very specific questions about your product or service. 

 

Because these customers have moved past the awareness stage and are looking to convert, the content you present to them is essential for earning their trust and completing the purchase.

 

The information you offer to potential customers during the consideration stage could make the difference between a conversion and a lost sale. In this stage, the best-performing content types are:

 

  • Product overviews
  • Customer reviews
  • Success stories

 

Bottom-of-the-funnel content is measured by free trials and demo requests, conversions to registered and paying clients, revenue, and content marketing ROI.

Before you invest time and energy in blog posts, articles, and case studies, you need to do research. It is important to find out what people are looking for. In any content creation, keyword research should be the very first thing. You should come up with a list of keywords when you find out what people in your industry are searching for. 

 

Following your keyword research, look for gaps in the existing online content. Once you have a complete picture of the content that already exists for each stage of the journey, it’s time to identify the gaps. You also need to decide what content types you need to create. What are people looking for but can’t find? Which questions remain unanswered? If you can figure that out, you’ll be well on your way to creating successful top-of-funnel content.

 

Divide your ideas into top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of-funnel, and determine which format is best for each topic. Then, check to see if there is a logical connection between your content.

 

To find options for new content pieces and ways to improve your content, it may also be beneficial to perform a competitive analysis of your competitor’s content marketing strategies.

The first step is to create an outline of the content you’ll need to produce for each stage of the buyer’s journey, from brand awareness to purchase decision. 

 

Then, from the very top of the funnel, start creating that content. However, keep in mind that different businesses need different types of content based on their goals.

 

One of the simplest ways to attract attention is to solve a prospect’s problems. You might also help a customer in resolving a problem at no cost to them by providing educational and valuable content. You should be authentic and honest in top-of-the-funnel content, speak to the main issue and provide a solution to the problem, and only make brief mentions of your services.

 

While positioning yourself as an expert, you can mention a service that relates to the topic or issue. This will give the idea that your brand is knowledgeable and your product is worth considering.

 

You’ll want to keep drawing potential customers in now that you’ve sparked their interest. And one of the best ways to entice people is to offer something for free first. It’s a win for the customer if it’s free and useful. Always consider how your product or service will make your customer’s life easier. 

 

At the bottom of the funnel content, now that you’ve captured your customers’ attention, you’ll need creative ways to persuade them to choose you. This is where user-generated content can help you attract more customers. You can hyper-target your leads at this stage by using: CTAs, free trials, product comparisons, demos, and testimonials.

A deep and consistent content strategy is essential for creating a rewarding buying experience. With each piece of content you create, keep your audience in mind. You’ll also want to understand your target customer’s mindset, what they’re looking for, and how you can solve their problem. It takes time, testing, and patience to perfect an effective content marketing funnel, but it is necessary to succeed.

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