How a Successful Content Marketing Funnel Works for Small Businesses

  • August 17, 2019
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As a consumer, you’ve been pushed through another business’s content marketing funnel whether you realized it or not. Let us explain.

You’re browsing online. Suddenly you become aware of the latest must-have device.

You instantly feel drawn to buy now. But you hesitate. 

As an informed consumer, you control that urge. Instead, you consider your purchase.

What processes do you go through before deciding to buy this item?

Are they already a brand you trust? Do you check reviews? Do you see if you can get a better price?

Each time a customer decides to buy something from you, they go through a buyer’s journey.

Understanding this journey allows you to design a content marketing funnel. 

It seamlessly guides the customer through this process. Along the way, it cuts costs, increases revenues, and maximizes your ROI.

Let’s look at how it works.

What Is A Content Marketing Funnel?

Sales funnel comes in various forms. Different experts and influencers may call the stages by different names.

They may even have different names for the funnel itself.

For example, you have the “Buyer’s Journey” in inbound marketing.

Each of these funnels describes the same basic process that customers go through.

But based upon their methodologies, they feed and nurture the funnel a little differently.

Let’s first look at a basic sales funnel.

The Basic Sales Funnel

You’re likely aware of a sales funnel. It includes the following steps:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Decision
  • Action

content marketing funnel

We call awareness the top of the funnel. You feed the top of the funnel by generating brand awareness.

You keep people moving through the funnel by getting them interested.

You give them information to make a decision. They then take an action.

A funnel that has a low conversion rate is called a “leaky funnel”.

Where the leak takes place in those four stages guides a small business to what layer of the funnel needs work.

The big problem with the traditional sales funnel is that it really doesn’t address how modern consumers buy.

The Content Marketing Funnel

content marketing funnel works much the same. It guides people through these stages with content.

But it has one very important distinction.

It recognizes the importance of delighting customers as a way to continually replenish the funnel.

This funnel looks more like this.

content marketing funnel

Let’s take a closer look at each of these stages.

Stage 1: Awareness/Discovery

When we use the term awareness, you might immediately think of brand awareness.

Brand awareness is an important part of building trust and name recognition with a target audience.

You also have problem awareness.

Feed the top of your funnel by creating content that both generates brand awareness and problem awareness.

Stage 2: Consideration

During this phase, a person considers the possible solutions to their problem. These solutions may all be provided by you.

They may also be looking at your competitors.

Stage 3: Conversion

This may seem like a single point in time. But, generally, it’s not.

It’s your entire sales process. Yes, you need content here as well.

Stage 4: Happy Customers

Businesses who act as if the sales is the end all be all will quickly find that their business is built on shifting sand.

You know this. Strong customer relationships are the foundation of any business.

Happy customers skip the top of the funnel where you’re spending time and money on awareness and consideration. They go straight to conversion.

The results are some phenomenal outcomes for small businesses. Let’s take a look.

  • You have around a 5% chance to sell something to a new customer. You have a 60%-70% chance to sell something to a repeat customer.
  • 65% or more of a small business’ revenues come in through existing customers.
  • A 5% reduction in customer defection can increase revenues by 100%.
  • Increasing your customer retention by a tiny 2% cuts your marketing costs by as much as 10%.
  • And yet, only around 32% of companies say that they have any strategies in place to retain customers.

That’s a serious competitive advantage for those who do.

We’ll show you how to do this with content. Not only increase your content marketing ROI.

You’ll also slash customer care costs as well.

Stage 5: Promoter Activity

Your existing customers can become your greatest advocates or your worst enemies. But most of them just stand on the sidelines.

They like your brand. They are happy with your product.

They just don’t feel the need to do anything about it.

If you can turn even a fraction of these benchwarmers into promoters, you can leverage their enthusiasm to feed the top of your funnel with new customers.

Content can do this.

Now your sales funnel looks like this.

content marketing funnel

content marketing funnel becomes a self-feeding funnel. Reinforce this funnel with the right content at each stage.

As you do, an amazing chain of events begins to take place.

  1. More people enter the top of the funnel
  2. People move more quickly through the funnel
  3. Costs plummet
  4. Revenues increase
  5. ROI is optimized

If you’re not new to content marketing, you’ve likely heard this stat. Content marketing produces 3X the leads for 67% cost.

Turning your funnel into a cycle is how content marketing accomplishes this feat.

Content Marketing Funnel Stages: Content For Each

Funnel leaks happen when we try to skip stages. If you try to take someone from awareness straight to conversion, you’ll lose them.

Because of this, you’ll not only use different kinds of content for different stages of the funnel.

Each piece of content will also have specific marketing objectives and metrics.

You’ll use these to measure its success. As we go through each stage, we’ll not only talk about what type of content works best.

We’ll discuss how you know when a content piece is successful.

Awareness/Discovery

Your objective is to expand your reach among a target audience.

This may include brand awareness as well as awareness of a certain problem that your product/service addresses.

  1. Strategies to Apply
  2. Types of Content
  3. Measuring Effectiveness
  4. How to Know When It’s Not Working

a. Strategies to Apply

Build a social media presence. Have a consistent sharing platform.

Create content around trending and evergreen popular topics. Content should be very shareable with a strong chance of going viral.

If the problem that your product solves isn’t well known, then this is your opportunity to demonstrate the need for your product/service.

Research your customers’ challenges. Address them directly in the content.

During this stage, there is no selling. In most cases, your brand or specific products are not mentioned. Instead, you’re providing highly useful information.

Get people curious about your brand. Rather than jumping right into how your company solves their problem, make them want to learn more.

Draw them further into the funnel.

At the same time, you’re building brand awareness. As you provide people with valuable information, they begin to trust your brand.

They think of you when they encounter the problems you address.

They begin to see you as the answer to those problems.

b. Types of Content

Certain types of content work well during this stage. They include:

  • Blogs
  • Games
  • Apps
  • Videos
  • Long-form high level yet actionable guides
  • Newsletters

A comprehensive content marketing funnel will use several content formats. Consider your target audience.

Which content format will best speak to them? Evaluate your competitors.

Build better content.

c. Measuring Effectiveness

What do you need to see to know that your awareness stage content is effective?

You need to see an increase:

  • Social media views
  • Downloads
  • Traffic

Traffic should come in from various sources. Some of it will be clicks from social media.

Some will come in from inbound links to your website. Others will come in through the search results.

website traffic

Quantity is important. It helps feed the top of the funnel.

But it’s important not to get too hung up on quantity alone. You also need to know that you’re reaching the right audience.

Use analytics to determine who’s viewing your content. Both social media and Google Analytics will give you basic information about your interactors.

Find out their age ranges, gender, and general interests.

But you’ll need to look even closer. How are they interacting with your content?

What you really want to know is: are they simply finding your content? Or are they actually interested in your content?

When people are interested in your content, they:

  • Watch the whole video
  • Read the whole blog
  • Attend the whole webinar
  • And so on

To whatever extent they do these things, you’re able to measure the effectiveness of your content.

For example, look at:

  • Time spent viewing a video
  • Dwell time — how long someone stayed on the page
  • Bounce rate — whether they clicked on anything else on the page
  • Number of webinar sessions attended or time spent

d. How to Know When It’s Not Working

These are 3 primary ways to know that this stage of your content marketing funnel isn’t working.

  1. Low traffic
  2. Reaching the wrong people
  3. People aren’t interacting with content

To fix it, reevaluate your content creation processes.

Learn from your mistakes. Create better content.

Consideration

Your objective is to acquire the customer. By the end of this stage, your customer should be ready to buy.

  1. Strategies to Apply
  2. Type of Content
  3. Measuring Effectiveness
  4. How to Know It’s Not Working

a. Strategies to Apply

Help the customer evaluate you as a brand. Share with them the various options they can choose from.

Give them the tools they need to make a decision to buy now and to buy from you.

This is where you use social proof to demonstrate that you’re the best company for the job.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that you can leverage to increase sales.

It stems from the fact that no one wants to be the guinea pig. Few people are willing to take the risk of being someone’s first customer.

Social proof reassures people that you know what you’re doing.

Don’t make them feel like this guy.

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If social proof is impressive enough, it acts like positive peer pressure. It compels someone to “not miss out” on benefits that others are experiencing.

b. Type of Content

The following types of content are very effective for this stage:

  • Case studies
  • In-depth how-to guides
  • User-generated content — 3rd party product reviews, videos of customers using your product/service, etc, stories all from real customers
  • Demo videos
  • Actual demos (Free consultation, trial software, etc.)
  • Feature comparison sheets

Give people what they need to make an informed decision. Further, demonstrate your authority on the topic.

c. Measuring Effectiveness

Measuring the effectiveness of consideration content is more straightforward. Measure the percentage of people entering the conversion stage.

For eComm, this would begin with adding something to the cart. For a service company, it may be scheduling an appointment.

For brick & mortar, this may begin with calling to start the order process.

d. How to Know It’s Not Working

You’ll know that your consideration content isn’t working if you have few people entering the conversion stage of your content marketing funnel.

You’ll, in turn, have a poor conversion rate.

To fix this, you’ll need to evaluate what you can do better to demonstrate that it’s time to buy. But it’s important to also look at the conversion stage itself.

If people are entering the conversion stage but then backing out, the problem is not with your consideration content but the conversion content itself.

Let’s look at that now.

Conversion

You have one objective. Carry the customer seamlessly through the conversion process.

a. Strategies to Apply

This should be the fastest part of the process. The decision is already made.

Make it so easy to continue down this path that it would seem silly to back out now.

b. Type of Content

First, you need a very intuitive sales process. This comes down to your website design.

The process should be very easy and as short as possible.

If a person is navigating between screens, each one should load quickly. They should each provide the person with what they need to keep going.

If some confusion causes a need to hit the back button, you could lose the customer.

If the customer is caught with a surprise charge or unexpected high shipping or sales tax, they may back out.

The content you provide avoids these last-minute second thoughts.

Additionally, these content types can aid the process:

  • Testimonials
  • Reviews
  • Coupons/Offers

c. Measuring Effectiveness

You will measure the effectiveness of your conversion process by whether the sale takes place.

d. How to Know It’s Not Working

If people actually enter the conversion process in your content marketing funnel, and then back out, something isn’t working. Scrutinize the entire process.

What can you do to avoid those second thoughts?

If you have an email address, you may be able to send a compelling offer to get them to resume the sales process.

Sometimes, special offer popups are effective.

You can automate your website so that it will remind a person if they’ve abandoned their cart.

Happy Customers

Delight your customers. Meet their expectations consistently.

Increase CLV (customer lifetime value). These are your objectives for the happy customer stage of your content marketing funnel.

a. Strategies to Apply

Provide the product or service that the customer expected. A marketer may not make the actual widget being sold.

But your marketing efforts do shape how people perceive their purchase. In short, don’t over-promise while under-delivering.

Provide customers with the support they need to use their product. This can come in the form of a helpful customer care team.

But it’s even more effective when customers can help themselves.

This may vary by demographic. But a surprising 91% of people say they would prefer to help themselves online.

If you give them the content they need to answer their own questions, they will use it.

The ease with which these customers can answer their own questions impacts customer happiness.

Picture the customer who spends an hour or more sifting through insufficient or disorganized content.

Finally, exasperated, they have to message customer service.

How unhappy will this customer be?

If the content is there, not only do you make the customer happy. You avoid that “unhappy person” tying up your customer care queue.

The right content can reduce incoming customer care volume by as much as 80%

But that’s not all. You can also use content to make customers feel special. Reward them for loyalty with exclusive access to certain content.

b. Type of Content

Content that aids you in this stage includes:

  • Chatbots that look information up for customers
  • Problem-shooting guides
  • FAQs & How-to’s designed specifically for existing customers
  • Automated follow-up emails

In addition to online content, arm your customer care team with easy access to the same content. This will not only help those who actually prefer a person.

It will generate consistency between what the online content says and what customer reps say.

c. Measuring Effectiveness

Measure the effectiveness of this stage by increasing:

  • Upsell potential among existing
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Promoter activity (Great reviews, sharing, referrals, etc.)

Plus lower:

  1. Acquisition costs
  2. Care costs

If you’re not getting this kind of result, evaluate the buying process. Hone in on where the dissatisfaction is coming from. Address it.

Promoter Activity

Happy customers don’t need to be persuaded to write you a great review or share your posts, right? Actually, they do.

88% of consumers today consider online reviews as reliable as a referral from a close friend.

Most consumers are smart enough to spot the outliers. They weigh your reviews as a whole.

But if you aren’t generating promoter activity chances are those very rare bad experiences will become the highlight of your review profile.

Your objective is to encourage existing customers to recommend you to others.

a. Strategies to Apply

Actively ask for reviews. Monitor your online reputation.

Address concerns quickly. Recognize that all businesses get a bad review sometimes.

In fact, 95% of people say that they are suspicious of a company’s reviews if they see no bad reviews.

content marketing funnel

Engage your existing customers through content.

b. Type of Content

Add these forms of content to your toolkit.

  • Automated emails reminding people to write a review
  • Website or App integrated review system
  • Contests that increase user-generated content

And don’t just stop after they’ve bought something from your business. Let them promote your brand for you too.

Here’s what you can do.

  • Offer discounts on their next purchase if they refer your brand to a friend.
  • Give trial codes that they can send to their friends and families.
  • Make them feel VIPs by giving them exclusive content in exchange for sharing your brand with other people.
  • A good impression lasts a long way so your customer support should always be great. Through this, your consumers will like your brand better and will recommend it to other people they know – for free!

c. Measuring Effectiveness

Monitor your reviews. You should not only see more reviews.

You should also see better reviews. As your reputation improves you’ll also see more new customers coming to the top of the funnel.

In the early stages of the content marketing funnel, you had to work really hard for these new top-of-funnel visitors.

But now your funnel is feeding itself.

All you do is maintain the funnel you’ve built.

Content Marketing Funnel Time Frames

content marketing funnel

Content marketing is a snowball effect. At first, you’re gathering all the snow yourself.

You’re shaping it into a ball. You may even be pushing it up a hill.

It’s a lot of work. But once you get your snowball to a certain size, your snowball becomes its own force.

It starts down the hill — growing larger and larger.

Many people get discouraged when they try content marketing. They see themselves doing all this work upfront.

They don’t see the immediate returns.

Content marketing is a cost-effective, long-term strategy that grows your results exponentially. At the same time, costs go down as you go into maintenance mode.

You can expect timeframes to look something like this. Notice how they correspond to the content marketing funnel stages we’ve discussed.

Months 1-3

Plan. Strategize. Execute your strategy.

Where are the customers? Is my content doing anything? These questions may run through your mind.

We talked about how to measure awareness earlier. Track those metrics to understand how you’re doing during this phase.

Increased revenues are not part of this stage.

Months 4-6

Google starts to realize you exist. You may start getting a little traffic in through searches.

More people are finding your consideration stage content.

Continue to very religiously execute your strategy. Create more and better content.

Months 6-12

Now the leads start coming in more consistently. More people are entering the conversion stage.

Revenues begin to climb. Content creation pace holds steady as you approach a tipping point.

Months 12-18

You begin to see significant revenue increases here. Your hard work is really beginning to pay off.

As it does, your ROI goes up and up.

Months 18+

Your funnel is now self-sufficient to a large degree. You begin to focus more on the narrow of the funnel as your awareness content continues to do its work.

You may update awareness content or weed it from time to time.

You won’t stop feeding your funnel. But you’ll spend most of your time delighting existing customers.

Are you ready to fix your leaky sales funnel? It’s time to switch to a more effective content marketing funnel.

Contact us and we’d love to talk to you about marketing strategies that work.



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