How to Match Content Type with Appropriate Sales Funnel Stage
‘Digital’ is the hot phrase in terms of promotion right now. We are gradually seeing outdated methods of advertising like TV and print being replaced with ideas including search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM), both of which are subsets of an ‘umbrella’ category: content marketing.
We can’t deny that content marketing is huge. It’s everywhere. Experts claim that businesses who utilize content marketing well can benefit from almost 8 times more site traffic than firms who either don’t use content marketing or who use it badly. Poor utilization of content marketing is actually very common amongst e-commerce businesses. It is tricky to understand when to use specific content to ensure it has a significant effect on users.
In this context, the dictionary definition for ‘content’ is ‘information made available by a website or other electronic medium’. Information. Not blogs, posts or promotional materials. Just Information. This includes anything that is available on a website, ranging from something as small as your contact details to something as big as an image or an embedded video. Anything you publish is deemed to be content.
What is ‘Relevant Content’?
So we’ve determined what ‘content’ is; it’s everything. But in terms of content marketing, we can filter out non-promotional content, such as contact details for example. Ultimately, what we want is to be left with relevant content, and this is where things get even trickier. Relevance is often highly subjective, so how can we create content that is relevant?
Despite common belief, there is no such thing as the perfect content. That’s because a single piece of content won’t be relevant to each and every user. Imagine you visit the website of a department store looking for shoes, but are inundated with content advertising toasters. While this might be relevant content for someone redoing their kitchen, it’s not going to be much use your feet., is it?
We need to realize that different customers will have different content needs. Unlike a physical store where customers can see where their desire products are located, we don’t have the same luxury. You need to navigate your customers using your content.
And that’s where the importance of relevance and ‘content matching’ comes into play. To achieve success with a content marketing campaign, it’s important to consider what different customers will deem to be appropriate content, and match this content to the corresponding part of the sales funnel.
The Sales Funnel
The sales funnel is classic. We’ve been talking about the sales funnel for years, but it’s only recently that we’ve really started to look at the sales funnel and content marketing together in relation to one another.
As you may know, the sales funnel is an upside down triangle, and looks a bit like this:
- Top of the Funnel — The top of the funnel is all about awareness, not only of the brand but also about the types of products and services on offer. The top of the funnel is generally the largest, attracting a large volume of customers at the very beginning of their online purchasing journey.
- Middle of the Funnel — The middle of the funnel is all about evaluation. It is smaller than the top of the funnel. At this stage, that customers have decided whether or not this company offers what they’re looking for. Customers will be evaluating and comparing products.
- Bottom of the Funnel — The bottom of the funnel is all about conversion; a time when customers will take some form of action, whether it’s signing up for more information, trailing a product, or even making a purchase. The bottom of the funnel will always be the smallest.
So what does the sales funnel have to do with content marketing? Everything!
We can clearly see that each part of the funnel is its own distinct stage, with its own distinct set of customers. Content that is relevant to those in one stage is unlikely to be relevant to those in another. Create diverse content pieces and ensure these pieces are expertly matched with the right funnel stage.
The big question is, how do we match the right content to the right part of the sales funnel? Actually, it’s not all that difficult to determine how and when to use your content for maximum effect.
Consider that pushy salespeople are one of the biggest consumer complaints. While the world of e-commerce notably benefits from a lack of physical salespeople, content can act in this capacity, performing a similar function.
If we want to encourage customers to move from the top of the funnel down to the bottom, we can’t dive in head first with a hard sell. We need to take it slow and give the customer what they want when they want it. Experts are saying that the focus on ‘content marketing’ will soon shift to a focus on ‘context marketing’.
Let’s delve into content matching in more detail-
Top of the Funnel Content: Awareness & Problem Solving
We have to assume that, at the top of the funnel, your audience knows very little about you. They may have found you via word of mouth or SEO or simply by pure chance. At this stage, the audience is not looking to make a purchase; they don’t want to be sold to. Instead, they’re looking for useful information about the company, the brand, and about how this brand can help them, or have an impact upon them.
Relevant and appropriate content at this stage of the funnel would be that which focuses on what you do, how you do it, and how your products and/or services can solve the particular problems that your audience are having. However, it’s important to remember that this is a ‘recce’ stage. The audience doesn’t want to know all the ins and outs; they want an easy read summary. So provide them with one!
Blog posts outlining products and services, associated news stories from the industry, and a look at products and services in the real world, solving real-world problems, are what’s needed here. Top of the funnel content could even touch gently upon beginning to build a relationship. This can be done by retargeting through social media, acting as a way to improve brand recall.
Remember that research shows that 70% of customers would rather read about and learn about a company through a series of articles rather than adverts, so don’t be afraid to create posts that focus on your business.
A brand that’s already doing this — and doing this well — is WholeFoods. They are successfully attracting new visitors by demonstrating how their products can help solve common problems experienced by the nation. For example, the WholeFoods blog contains posts relating to eating healthy while sticking to a budget. And how simple food swaps and small changes can make a big difference to the daily diet.
Middle of the Funnel Content: Research & Specifics
Naturally, some visitors will be lost at the top of the funnel; those who learn more about the brand and decide that the products and/or services on offer are not suited to their needs. However, others will move down towards the middle of the funnel. It can be by requesting further information either through direct inquiries, newsletters sign-ups, social media interactions, or simply by visiting a specific product page.
When visitors are in the middle of the funnel, they no longer want to know about you, or about how you can help them; they want to know more about the specifics. It is likely that your audience may be shopping and comparing your offerings with those of your competitors. Content here should focus on your unique selling point (USP), as your audience will be considering different options.
Suitable content for the middle of the funnel includes anything which provides more in-depth information about a product or service, along with details relating to features and characteristics of products which can address common concerns. Examples may include research-backed white papers, informational videos, interactive quizzes, and educational resources that provide additional insight.
Together, Hallmark and Walmart demonstrated that they had their content matching skills on point. They received recognition for their content marketing program in the retail sector at the 2017 Content Marketing Awards. With video integration to add dimensionality to images, Hallmark and Walmart used their content to inform and advertise, creating an engaging experience between brand and consumer.
Bottom of the Funnel Content: Action & Conversion
Once again, a number of visitors will be lost from the middle of the funnel. They may have decided that a product or service wasn’t right for them based upon the additional information provided, or they may have opted for an alternative brand or provider. While the bottom of the funnel will be smaller, the good news is that the users that make it this far are more likely in a position to take some form of action.
At this stage, you may have already built some form of relationship with a visitor. Whether you’ve obtained contact details to send promotional material or had an interaction via social media. This is the time to focus on these interactions and continue to nurture the relationship, encouraging further action and conversion with the ultimate aim of driving a sale.
At this stage, we need to consider what Google calls ‘micro-moments’; short windows of opportunity when a potential customer decides that they want something. Micro-moments are about real-time decisions, which means that content should be encouraging a user to take action right away. Short snippets relating to the benefits of buying now, such as reductions, free postage, limited time offers, customer stories, comparisons, events should be projected.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of the bottom of the funnel content comes from Coca-Cola and their well known ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. Coke used various techniques to encourage visitors to proceed towards the bottom of the sales funnel, and then gave them a massive push to buy by enabling customers to personalize a bottle with their own name, or own message (and provided free delivery, too!)
Timing is Everything
Content marketing is a technique that, when it works, it can work remarkably well. Unfortunately, it’s also a technique that is very easy to get wrong. And one of the biggest mistakes is that businesses use the right content at the wrong times.
Reports show that 70% of marketers do not have a content marketing strategy in place, which can result in misplaced content. Misplaced content can be detrimental. At best it will have no effect on an audience. At worst it could actively deter a user from taking measures to move through the funnel. That’s why matching content type to the appropriate sales funnel stage is so crucial. It gives visitors all the information they’re looking for, exactly when they need it. Check out this article by the folks at Ahrefs to know how you can create evergreen content on your e-commerce store.
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This article is a guest post by Dario Supan of PointVisible.