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The Content Marketing Funnel: The 2020 Buyer’s Journey Guide

If you’ve come across the terms like buyer journey vs sales funnel or website funnel, you’ve probably also heard about the content marketing funnel. In this article, we’ll give you the fundamentals of what a content marketing funnel is, how it works, and how it’s the best way to affect the buyer’s journey in 2019. We’ll start by discussing some vital aspects of the modern buyer’s journey.

Introducing the buyer’s journey

Marketing and sales are integral parts of running any business, and the concept of the buyer’s journey is a popular approach for attracting sales. In essence it describes the different stages a customer goes through from first knowing about a company or product until a transaction is complete. There are many different strategies for influencing the buyer funnel. One of the most effective ones is the content marketing funnel.

the content marketing funnel - influencing the buyer's journey

If you’re looking for more information, please continue reading. Our complete guide to the 2019 content marketing sales funnel will give you far more details and greater insight into how it works and what you can do.

Why the content marketing funnel is so important today

Content marketing and the presence of a well-formulated content marketing journey can make a huge difference in optimizing the sales process. In fact, when it comes to turning higher profits, Inc puts content marketing above any other marketing or advertising strategy.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, whether you sell B2B or B2C, you need sales in order to survive, let alone become profitable. In order to do that you need to be seen – people need to be aware of your business, product, and service.

The internet is influencing the buyer’s journey

No less than 55% of shoppers report that their buying decisions are influenced by testimonials and reviews. This alone is a pretty telling statistic. Coupled with the fact that 26% of adult Americans are almost always online, it means that online marketing, website content, and sales go hand in hand.

This is why it’s crucial to have a strategic plan behind your online presence, activity, and brand.

How to tap into the modern, 2019, buyer’s journey:

  1. Get a website

    Gives you a basic online presence.

  2. Have a good website

    Provides useful product and company information easily accessible.

  3. Have a performing website

    Results in a site that actively works to increase your profile and sale/lead generation.

At the heart of it all is the buyer journey funnel. The funnel itself is made of pages of content that you host on your site. This should be built on a foundation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which will maximize how effective you’ll be at attracting new visitors and leading them into your funnel – resulting in leads and sales. Don’t worry, all of this will be covered in more detail soon.

Search engine optimization is important for your buyer’s journey funnel strategy and implementation. This is because SEO allows you to align your content efforts with competitive terms and search queries. In turn, this will improve how effective your lead generation funnel can be overall.

Before you dive into the content marketing funnel

Before jumping into what the content marketing funnel is, and how you can create different forms of content for your digital marketing funnel, we want to quickly cover the value of a buyer persona and how you should go about creating your content marketing strategy.

Establishing your buyer persona (ideal customer) before creating your content marketing strategy is extremely useful. We recommend that you also do thorough keyword research before creating your first piece of content. Doing this will dramatically improve how effective your content marketing efforts will be.

Buyer persona

Having a solid and well crafted buyer persona for your business will help you achieve a couple of things:

  • More effectively create content and information that will be useful to your customers.
  • Create more persuasive content, improving how likely it is to convince your potential customer that you provide the solution to their problems.

Your buyer persona includes basic demographic data, like age, gender, professional title, income base, etc. You should also look to establish as many facts as possible about your buyer persona. For example:

  • Interests
    • Sports (what type of sports)
    • Politics (left-leaning/right-leaning)
    • Hobbies (Exercise, gaming, dancing, DYI projects, etc)
  • Device preferences (mobile, desktop, tablet)
  • Primary media outlets
  • Knowledge level

This is just an example of the types of information you’ll want to establish, and it would be different if you’re selling B2B. Then you’d be asking different questions when establishing your buyer persona in order to hone in on your target audience.

At this point, you’ll have a well established buyer’s persona which will enable you to create a much more effective content marketing strategy.

Content marketing strategy

The very first step in kicking off your content marketing strategy is making sure it aligns with your business goals. There should be a clear hierarchy when setting up the different parameters of your content marketing activities.

Your content marketing and SEO goals should be aligned with your business goals. Once you know what the end goal is, it’s much easier to set successful marketing goals that can help you achieve your business goals. You’ll also be much more capable of setting Search Engine Optimization goals that build up to your main objective.

If you don’t align SEO and marketing to build up toward your business goals it’s unlikely that you’ll actually achieve anything “real” for your business. Let’s look at a quick example of how to do it right:

  1. Business goal: increase your online membership sales.
  2. Marketing goals:
    1. increase “ready to buy” visitors to your site,
    2. improve your name recognition, and
    3. increase overall traffic to your site.
  3. SEO goals:
    1. achieve ranking for high-probability, high-conversion keywords
    2. rank and gain visitors from high volume, low difficulty keywords, and
    3. create share-worthy content that engages valuable influencers.

Once you’ve established the goals you want to achieve, it’s time to look at the particulars.

Keyword research

Ranking in Google and other search engines is extremely useful for gaining new visitors that will be interested in your business and products. This is where good keyword research can be invaluable to your online content and promotional efforts. That said, keep your goal hierarchy in mind when conducting your keyword research.

Once you’ve established what you want to achieve, you can start researching keywords that will help you reach your goals. In order to successfully conduct keyword research, you’ll want to use some tools. While there are a huge number of tools available, we’ll recommend using one of our favorites: Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. We won’t go into detail here, but if you’d like more information you can check out our article on keywords, keyword strategies, and keyword research. There we explain how to do keyword research and compile a great list of keywords to target.

Keyword research will provide you with a list of keywords that can offer you the highest value. Keep in mind that you want to target highly relevant keywords with a good amount of searches a month, and with the lowest difficulty level possible. This is going to be a judgement call based on the data your tools provide.

Shotgun summary of how keyword research, buyer persona, and strategy work together

The buyer persona will give you a good overview of what type of person your ideal customer is. This will help you get a firm understanding of what questions and problems they have, and that you can solve for them. It will also help you create content for your funnel that resonates with them.

The content marketing strategy is vital, as it dictates whether your activities will actually help you achieve your business goals. Without a strategy you might end up getting traffic and ranking for keywords that have no “real life” effect on your business.

Keyword research will help you specify exactly what keywords and topics you stand to gain the most from. It will help inform your content, and you can use it to make sure that you’re targeting people with the right content depending on their stage in the buyer’s journey.

What is a content marketing funnel

The content marketing funnel focuses directly on affecting different stages of the buyer’s journey through content. The content marketing funnel also looks beyond the sales funnel. It includes creating content that will help you retain customers (in addition to content that helps you gain new customers). In other words, it looks at customer acquisition and retention, whereas the sales funnel focuses more expressly on acquisition.

Different stages of the content marketing funnel

The content marketing funnel generally consists of three primary stages. However, we believe it would be incomplete without also including the retention stage of the buyer’s journey.

The awareness stage focuses on increasing the awareness of your brand and company. It’s the stage where potential customers become aware of your products and services.

The consideration stage is where you’ll focus on demonstrating that you know your stuff. Here you’ll prove that you have the expertise or product quality that will solve your customer’s problem. In this stage you want to showcase what you do and how your products work. In turn, this allows your potential customers to create an informed opinion about you.

The conversion stage focuses on truly demonstrating your unique value proposition. You’ll show your customers what they can get from your product or service – and why they should spend their money on you.

The last stage – retention – focuses on content that helps you retain your existing customers and create a loyal customer/client base.

The ideal vs the realistic content marketing funnel

Regardless of whether you use the term content marketing funnel, lead funnel, or sales funnel, they all consist of the same stages. The utopian dream of every business is that the buyer’s journey looks more like a cylinder than a kitchen funnel (see below).

The utopian funnel

In a utopian funnel, everyone who enters your funnel in the awareness stage goes through the entire buyer’s journey and converts in the conversion stage. This means that all the different stages are equal in size (as you can see in the representation on the right).

However, this is extremely unlikely. People inevitably drop off along the way through the buyer’s journey.

Illustration of a utopian content marketing funnel

A more realistic funnel

As you can see on the right, this graphic more closely resembles a literal funnel. The further down the funnel you look, fewer people are involved. This is because the number of people aware of your business is greater than the number of people who consider buying from you.

The same goes for the number of people actually buying from you, and for how many end up becoming repeat customers.

Illustration of a realistic content marketing funnel

This is why it’s important to consider each stage of the funnel, and how you can best create useful content for different parts of the funnel. Ultimately, it should help positively influence purchase decisions while providing greater value to your customers.

Top of the Funnel – Awareness

What the awareness stage content should achieve: Acquire customers indirectly and increase brand awareness

How you can achieve this: Educational, viral, and engaging content

The awareness stage describes the very first contact between your business and a potential customer. Potential clients and customers enter the awareness stage when they see your content and arrive at your website or social media profiles. There are multiple ways to generate awareness and attract new customers and clients to your business. Content marketing funnels achieve this through content that’s created specifically to make your site more accessible to your target audience.

Having online content created specifically for generating awareness is increasingly important today – since no less than one in four Americans are always online.

Tactics for increasing visitor traffic and awareness

There’s a multitude of different tactics you can use to generate interest in your products and services. For the awareness stage the most important thing is to gently nudge your potential customers toward your site while demonstrating that you can provide value to them.

Awareness content type 1: Business blog posts/articles

In order to create content that’s creative, interesting, and provides value, you really should consider business blogging. Small businesses that write blog posts generate 126% more leads than small businesses that don’t. That’s a massive difference. The reason why business blogs generate so many more leads is simply that they offer value up front. This generates enough awareness to make people stick around and remember that business.

Awareness content type 2: Social Media

Social media is increasingly important for reaching out to your audience and potential customers directly – without being intrusive. Sharing your blogging efforts and original content is the best new way to broadcast your business. When done right, social media marketing will increase your website traffic and improve your sales. There is a full smorgasbord of tactics to use, from social media share icons to click to tweet quotes.

Awareness content type 3: Podcasts & video content

Visual and audio content are fantastic ways of creating buzz and gaining traction online and on social media. Videos outperform just about everything in terms of engagements, shares, likes, and click-throughs on social media. To be specific, 24% say they would share a video ad they saw on their social media feed.

Middle of the Funnel – Consideration

What the consideration stage should achieve: Acquire customers directly.

How you can achieve this: Demonstrate solutions to user scenarios and challenges.

At this stage, customers should be considering and evaluating your products and services in different ways. This is why it’s important to have the right value propositions and content in place. However, your potential customers are still undecided, so it’s important to keep in mind that they don’t necessarily trust your brand or product yet. It might prove valuable to have a light touch when it comes to your sales pitch at this stage.

Customer and client consideration tactics

In order to establish more trust, and demonstrate that you’re an authority, you’ll want to create content that clearly shows your expertise and the value of your products. This can be done through different types of content, like resource content, how-to’s, demo videos, and product descriptions with data sheets.

Consideration content type 1: Case studies, white papers, and resources

When done right, content geared toward the middle of the funnel is great at establishing you as an authority. For example, you can (and should) create case studies showing how clients or customers have benefited from using your product and services. Another alternative is white papers, which provide research or expert knowledge that interest a very specific audience.

Consideration content type 2: How-to content

The value of “how-to” content is twofold. Firstly, “how to” articles and videos are very popular and generate plenty of engagement and interest. Secondly, they can demonstrate how your products perform a task and meet a need. This can be highly effective in helping convert your visitors to customers.

Consideration content type 3: Demo videos

Similar to “how-to” content, demo videos substantially increase conversion rates. For example, you can embed demonstration videos on your landing page to show your potential customer what they’ll get and how to use your product. Demo videos certainly work for physical or software products, but you shouldn’t underestimate how effective they can be for less tangible sales like services or memberships. Videos help trigger the viewer’s imagination and help them see themselves using your product or service.

Bottom of the Funnel – Conversion

What the conversion stage, or decision stage, content should achieve: Result in customers making a transaction.

How you can achieve this: Provide unique value propositions, product descriptions, and proof of trust.

The conversion stage content, or bottom-of-the-funnel content, should be designed to clearly demonstrate your value propositions and show what the potential customer gets from your product or service.

Lead generation and conversion tactics

Conversion content type 1: Testimonials & Reviews

Testimonials and reviews are the new word-of-mouth. We strongly recommend incorporating testimonials and reviews into your content wherever suitable. Collecting reviews from happy customers and displaying them on your social media pages, on your Google my business page, or on your website is extremely useful. Similarly, having a dedicated testimonial page is a great way for experts and professionals to give you their seal of approval.

Conversion content type 2: Product descriptions, data sheets, and free trials

This type of content and offer can provide your customers with clear, detailed information about your product or service. As a consequence, they can make an informed decision on whether to buy from you, and whether what you offer meets their needs. It can also help you rank for keywords that are very specific to searchers with an express intent to buy. You should also consider adding a video to your product description pages, as this can increase conversion up to 80%.

Conversion content type 3: A streamlined, comprehensible, and trustworthy sales process

It might not seem like a content marketing aspect. However, it’s still part of how you create your website and set it up for success. Any page is a piece of content in one way or another.

It’s important that your customer-to-be can buy your products easily, without any reason for doubting the process or its security. The smoother the sales process, the less likely your customer will abandon their cart.

After the Funnel – Retention

What the post-purchase stage should achieve: Have a loyal customer/client base and increase client/customer retention rates.

How you can achieve this: Provide excellent customer service, support, and a well structured onboarding process

Retaining existing customers costs less than getting new ones. In fact, finding new customers can cost up to five times more than retaining existing ones. Cultivating post-purchase relationships isn’t just valuable in terms of saving money by offsetting your need to gain new customers. It also helps increase your word-of-mouth recommendations and improves your general brand reputation. To top it all off, by improving your customer retention by 5% you can increase your profits by 25% to 95%.

Client and customer retention tactics

There are many ways to maintain a good relationship with new and existing customers. This can be done through your onboarding copy, or your confirmation of purchase emails.

Retention content type 1: Customer support and help documents

Providing detailed customer support and product documentation can be a learning tool and a massive time saver for your customers. Supplementing this with phone support or an online chat support team can make a world of difference. It can easily be the difference between keeping or losing an existing customer.

Retention content type 2: Special offers

Upselling and offering new products to your existing customers can actually help you retain them. However, it’s important not to be too spammy. Offering special discounts and exclusive offers is a great way to make your customers feel valued and appreciated. The fact that this also increase the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is simply a happy by-product.

Retention content type 3: Email outreach and follow-up

The copy in your email communication can play a great role in keeping your customers happy. If you have a joyful tone and positive messages in your email outreach, confirmation emails, and follow-ups, you’re more likely to generate a positive reply in return.

Retention content type 4: Effective product user experience (UX)

One of the biggest contributing factors in retaining customers is how effective the product user experience is. As a result, no amount of support, happy messages, and helpful insights will be able to offset a poor product that doesn’t deliver what it promised.

Implement a content marketing funnel for your site today

As you can tell, quite a lot goes into creating a content marketing funnel (at least an effective one). You have content strategies, buyer persona’s, keyword research, goal and activity implementation, not to mention the actual creation of your website copy and content.

By using our guide, you’ll be able to create your own content marketing funnel. Not to mention you’ll start ranking for valuable keywords that will help your overall SEO.

However, if you’d like help, we’re more than happy to have a no-obligation talk about your business’ needs. As a small, local Buffalo SEO company ourselves, we know it can be a challenge diving into elements outside of your comfort zone. We’ll be able to provide you assistance and expertise at a budget that makes sense. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can schedule a call here or get in touch through our contact form below.