A sales funnel is the process through which a lead is acquired, nurtured, and converted into a customer.
In the shape of an inverted pyramid, leads are filtered as they progress through the funnel, en route to being turned into customers.
With email and content marketing, it is crucial that the content you distribute to your leads matches the stage they are at in order to maximize their chances of conversion.
You do not want to send beginner’s content to someone who has been on your email list for some time now, or worse, to someone who has already showed interest in your services. Similarly, you want to be careful not to push for a sale too early on with a lead or they might just unsubscribe from your email list.
Content mapping can be a great help if you have researched your target audience well. Here are some ways in which you can create content that matches your sales funnel, and ensure you are sending out the right kind of content to the right kind of people at the right time.
Start With The Aim To Help (Top Of The Funnel)
A visitor may subscribe to a blog for a number of reasons, but primarily it is because they liked the content and want to receive regular updates.
At this stage, making a purchase could be the furthest thing on their mind. It would be a testament to the quality of your content if they opt to receive new blog updates or any other kind of communication from your company. Their interest at the moment is in gathering knowledge.
That is how content marketing works.
It works by understanding the needs, aspiration, likes, dislikes and pressing issues of a certain target audience and creating content that speaks to them on all levels. This content has to match where the prospect is at in their purchase cycle.
At the initial stage of sign-up, the visitor is intrigued by what they have just read on your blog -- they have checked out the archives and want more!
So give them that.
- Honest opinions, your experiences, tips and tricks – the kind of stuff that made them sign up in the first place.
- Give your expertise freely. Focus on helping the lead with resourceful content.
- Create personalized content where possible. Certainly do address them by their first names.
- Encourage them to follow you on social.
Content That Nurtures The Lead (Middle Of The Funnel)
If someone continues to be on your email list month after month, chances are they are happy with your content and find it relevant. You are obviously helping them, especially since unsubscribing is easy and only takes seconds!
If you have ever heard back from them, or have had them comment on your blog/YouTube channel, you know they are interested enough to take some sort of action.
Make use of this momentum and gear their interest towards a purchase, but be subtle about it.
Some ways to do this:
- Share client stories that demonstrate how you made a difference to their lives or business. Having customers speak of their experience with a company has deal-clinching powers!
- Move from general to specific content. If you sell coaching services, for example, start talking numbers. How can your readers make a profitable year? Give them something concrete to work with.
- Host free webinars or live sessions and offer to answer your readers’ questions
- Offer discounted or a certain number of free tickets for events.
Content That Helps Seal The Deal (Bottom Of The Funnel)
Now we are at a stage where a prospect has said, “All right, I’m convinced yours is the best course on the Internet. Where do I sign up?”
Do you still need to impress them with content at this stage?
Yes. Because they haven’t converted into customers yet, and because people are known to change their mind all the time.
Now is the time to directly talk about your products and services, along with the pricing, and re-demonstrate how they have helped clients address specific problems.
Reiterate the features and benefits at length, but make sure this content is compelling, too, without being boring. You may create an infographic for this purpose, or a video, because you want the content at this stage to be short in length and to-the-point – something which leads towards a crescendo. You want to leave the prospect, who is so close to making a purchase, feel absolutely confident in their decision (it’s normal to have jitters right before making a purchase, especially if the stakes are high for them).
Moving Through The Funnel
It’s important to have clear goals and objectives during each stage of the sales funnel. Craft content around that so that prospects are naturally led through the process to the desired outcome.
Of course, it isn’t always a smooth movement down the funnel. Some prospects may jump to the buying stage soon as they have checked out your brand, some may take a long time convincing, others may drop out. Prospects may also enter this funnel at any stage.
For small businesses or startups that are growth hacking their way to success, the sales and marketing teams must work closely. For content to make an impact, the two teams have to work in cohesion and convey a consistent message to the prospects. From the prospect’s point of view, he or she does not care who is approaching her as long as they are making a valuable and honest offering, and are moving with her along the purchase cycle in synchronicity. Content marketing allows you to do that and sales people need to be tuned into this gradual build-up of interest in order to be able to seal the deal.
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