The Content Marketing Funnel

Online content should focus on Awareness through to Loyalty

If you have ever been to a sales and marketing course you will be familiar with the sales funnel.  You were told to go and drum up some leads that get qualified and converted to prospects and then through sales techniques closed to become new customers. You start with 100 leads and end up with 5 new customers for a close rate of 5%. Terrific!

In some organizations this is a highly structured process from building awareness, to cultivating leads, to identifying prospects to understanding their problems and delivering the perfect solution. And it should be – after all, nothing happens in business without the transaction and sale.

So now let’s look at today’s reality – the online business environment. We now look at new ways to attract customers to our products and services and we want the following;

  1. To do this efficiently  with few resources
  2. To get results in a shorter period of time
  3. To expand beyond our traditional service area
  4. To leverage the connectivity of everyone through the internet

This makes sense for many businesses as they do not have a dedicated marketing person and do not have a formal marketing budget to work with. (and often don’t have a plan to follow)

In the past few years there has been an explosion of methods to reach new leads. Phone and web applications like snapchat, pinterest, instagram, and online tools like twitter, youtube, facebook, linkedin, the list is constantly growing and changing. But they all have one constant denominator  – they all feed off of content. Without written content and supporting materials you are at a standstill.

So let’s take a closer look at the Content Marketing Funnel and the basic strategy for content marketing online. We will use a 5 stage process and pick a Banff boutique hotel as an example.

contentfunnelIn stage 1, at the top of the funnel, is the mass market. (The group that types in “Travel” when they want to go on a vacation) There is no specific understanding at this point and your job is to build awareness. It is a PR situation and you are casting the broadest net possible through the tools at your disposal. Results at this level are held by industry leaders like Expedia or Tripadvisor.

What can you do? Make sure you are managing the fundamentals well. You must be developing and managing your core written content to be competitive. For your website pages they should be written for search and structured properly. You need to clearly understand your customer types and develop content for these groups. You must use your product and services keywords effectively in order to create pages that get indexed properly by the search engines.

Stage 2 is the phase just after awareness has been created. The user has considered what they are looking for and wants to learn more. They will arrive from different points of entry so we now have to pay attention to social media tools available. Perhaps our Tourist is now looking to go to Banff and hike in the Rockies and has a young family.

You need to research here and understand your buyer’s habits online. We recommend using Personas and clearly identifying their online preferences. Are they on Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin, are they professionals, tradesmen, pet owners. Are they fifteen or sixty-five. The great thing about the internet is there is a huge amount of data available for you to use in understanding your personas habits and preferences.

In Stage 2 you write content and develop media, like videos, that talks specifically about one of their problems or issues. You may write a blog about the Hike that is available from your resorts front door up to the lookout.  It should include great photography and a short video and let the users know it is an easy path to walk, even with toddlers.

In Stage 3 you are distributing your content out to the points of entry that you have identified with two key considerations. You want to have this link back to your website to find the original copy and you want to look for opportunities to share the piece out in the social media space. Content is king when it comes to your long-term ranking in the search engines so make sure what is posted of site originates from a place on your web site like the blog.

The Content Marketing Funnel has your user following a path online. They are aware, they have considered you and now they are going to analyse and compare your stuff against others. This is a qualification step in your path to completing a sale. In our case we may just want them to check for a booking time. We need content here that is written to task. We want this to be focused on our users issue and provide them with a solution. It may be a video, webinar, product review, testimonial, demo, or offer.

For our Banff resort we may have a landing page with Tripadvisor ratings, a beautiful picture, a testimonial and a short video clip of the view from the look out. If we can get the emotional  “I want to be there” response we have done our jobs.

Love the view from the lookout!

A note in stage 3 is that your content must connect on an emotional level. All transactions occur from an emotional state. The research stage is over and people now use their feelings for the final decision. This is also a good opportunity to repurpose your content. You could share your lookout video on Facebook and draw people into your page to watch it and explore what your resort has to offer. Or write a little excerpt and post it on your Facebook and Google+ page. “View from the Lookout is Awesome! – Book your stay today”

In stage 4 the user moves from a passive visitor to an active customer. They book a room for the weekend or buy a product, or sign up for a webinar. This is the transaction stage and also needs to be well managed.

Make sure you keep your customer informed on the fulfilment process and what to expect as their order gets filled. Your content here is also part of your brand image and is valuable. You should be requesting a product review or ask for comments or ratings from your new customers. Your confirmation emails should also be carefully written.

Stage 5 is the loyalty stage. You want to keep this customer happy and liking you. They are a powerful force online if you manage them well. This is your opportunity to create your own alumni and market specifically out to this qualified group. You should be offering seasonal promotions, new product details, requests to share, viral marketing efforts, rewards and more. This group is active online so take advantage of the tools they use and keep them in the loop on what your company is up to. They may become advocates for your business. Frequent posts and content from your blog is a great place keep the awareness high. Remember top-of-mind positioning is the result of providing worthwhile content out to your customers.