This article goes out to all of you who want to ensure you are squeezing every last pip out of each piece of content you produce, distribute, track and refine. It’s also for you marketers who feel you don’t have the hours in the day or endless zeros in your marketing budget to achieve all your goals. Whether you are new to content marketing funnels or you need to fine-tune or completely overhaul your current way of working, this article on creating the perfect content marketing funnel is for you.
By the end of this extensive guide, you’ll have a deep understanding of how to create the best content marketing funnel for your business. We’ll explore the stages, content types and practical tips that will empower your sales and marketing efforts and significantly increase ROI — all while preserving brand integrity.
Like all worthwhile things in this world, crafting a content marketing funnel takes a bit of time and effort, but the rewards both in the short and long term are well worth the investment and the extra challenge. What’s more, when you get it right, it’s a great feeling, and the process can be enjoyable, too. So — *cheesy pun alert* — let’s start putting the fun in funnel and get your content marketing, and your brand, in front of the people who need it, right when they need it most.
What is a content marketing funnel?
A content marketing funnel is a strategic framework that guides potential customers through a journey from initial awareness to conversion. Think of it as a roadmap that ensures your audience moves smoothly from being casual observers to devoted customers.
Creating a content marketing funnel is like constructing a bridge between your brand and your audience. It ensures that your content serves a purpose at every stage of the customer journey, from grabbing their attention to sealing the deal.
What are the benefits of creating a content marketing funnel?
The great thing about using a content marketing funnel is that the benefits just keep on coming. Here are just some of the pros this essential component in your marketing strategy offers.
- Enhanced audience engagement: A well-crafted content marketing funnel acts as a guide, capturing your audience’s interest and maintaining their engagement throughout their journey.
- Resource optimisation: It helps optimise your marketing resources by ensuring that content is strategically tailored to each stage of the funnel, making the most of your time, efforts, and investments.
- Improved conversion rates: A properly executed content marketing funnel acts like a magnet, gradually pulling potential customers closer to conversion, resulting in significantly improved conversion rates.
- It helps you get ahead of the competition: According to Salesforce, 68% of brands have not identified or attempted to measure their sales funnel, so this is your chance to get the competitive edge.
- Increased customer loyalty: Through personalised and valuable content, the funnel fosters a sense of trust and loyalty among customers, increasing the likelihood of repeat business and referrals.
What are the different stages of the content marketing funnel?
Now that we understand the importance, let’s break down the content marketing funnel into its essential stages. Each stage has a specific role, and we’ll explore how best to navigate them.
Top of the Funnel (TOFU): Sparking an interest
The top of the funnel is all about creating awareness and sparking initial interest. It’s the “discovery” phase, where potential customers become aware of your brand.
Content types and tips
- Blog posts that address common pain points, trends, or questions in your industry.
- Informative infographics or explainer videos that simplify complex concepts.
- Social media content that engages and entertains your audience.
Practical tip: Conduct keyword research to identify the topics your target audience is searching for. These primary and secondary search terms can be included at natural points in your headers, metadata and throughout your TOFU content. Not sure about these terms and how to use them? Check out this guide to primary and secondary keywords from ahrefs.
Real-world example: Airbnb’s travel guides serve as an excellent TOFU example. By offering valuable destination information and insider tips, they attract potential travellers at the awareness stage.
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): Guiding and educating
The MOFU stage is where you nurture and educate your leads. Your audience is interested, but they need more information to make informed decisions.
Content types and tips
- In-depth ebooks or whitepapers that dive into specific industry topics.
- Webinars or video series that provide in-depth product demonstrations.
- Email campaigns that offer valuable content and personalised recommendations.
Practical tip: Implement marketing automation to deliver tailored content to individual leads based on their interactions with your previous content. You can still use personalisation tools at this stage, so you won’t lose that all-important connection.
Real-world example: Salesforce excels in the MOFU stage with its comprehensive library of webinars, ebooks, and case studies that guide potential customers towards informed choices.
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): Driving conversions
The BOFU stage is just before the finish line, where your leads are ready to convert. Your content here should make the conversion process seamless and irresistible while building that all-important trust.
Content types and tips
- Free trials, demos, or product samples.
- Customer testimonials and case studies showcasing success stories with real-life customers.
- Limited-time offers and persuasive landing pages (using personalisation where possible).
Practical tip: Implement A/B testing to optimise your BOFU content. Small tweaks in the messaging, CTAs, or headers can have a significant impact on conversion rates. Only test one thing at a time, though!
How to target customers at each stage of the content marketing funnel
Now that we’ve dissected the various stages of the content marketing funnel, it’s time to explore the practical aspects of how to create the perfect content marketing funnel in more detail. With over 570,000 websites using at least one sales funnel-building tool, we’ll also recommend some great tech to support your activities, some of which are free or low-cost.
Top of the funnel – Attracting attention
As we’ve mentioned, at the top of the funnel (TOFU) your primary goal is to cut through the noise with content and messaging that gets your prospective customer’s attention. Here’s how to do it effectively:
Educational blog posts and guides: Articles, how-tos, light-touch ebooks, and fact sheets are great formats for explaining concepts, reporting on new developments in an industry or sector and showing that you are knowledgeable about a subject. They are also very effective for sharing on social media and for driving high-quality traffic to your website.
Top tip: Make your headlines super-catchy and use eye-catching and engaging visuals to capture your audience’s attention. Make sure both are truthful and accurate, though. Your readers won’t appreciate being taken to a piece of content that isn’t relevant to them.
Social media content: Utilise social media platforms to share informative and entertaining content. Enticing images, short videos, and shareable infographics can be incredibly effective in conveying your message.
Top tip: Use relevant hashtags to expand your content’s reach and encourage shares among your audience. Best Hashtag can help you find the right ones to employ.
Recommended tools for TOFU:
- BuzzSumo: Identify popular topics and trends in your industry to guide your content creation. Not familiar with this handy content marketing tool? Check out this guide to using BuzzSumo.
- Canva: Are you a marketer who struggles with producing great designs? No problem. Canva helps you create eye-catching visuals and infographics for your social media posts in seconds.
- Typeform: Design interactive quizzes and polls to engage your audience — for free!
Middle of the Funnel – Nurturing leads
In the middle of the funnel (MOFU), your content is all about nurturing leads, building trust and demonstrating expertise.
In-depth guides and ebooks: Offer comprehensive guides or ebooks that delve deeper into specific industry topics and position your brand as thought leaders. These resources should provide valuable insights and actionable solutions to your audience’s problems.
Top tip: Consider gating this content behind a form to capture lead information, allowing you to continue the nurturing process.
Webinars and tutorials: Host webinars or create tutorial videos that educate your audience on industry-related subjects.
Top tip: Promote your upcoming webinars through email campaigns and social media to maximise attendance. You could also consider partnering with other non-competitor organisations with shared values and audiences to co-host. Their promotional activities could help you reach even more eyeballs.
Email drip campaigns: Implement automated email drip campaigns to nurture leads further.
Top tip: Segment your email list to send tailored content to different audience segments, increasing relevance and making it easier to nurture through the buyer journey.
Recommended tools for MOFU:
- HubSpot: An all-in-one inbound marketing platform to automate email campaigns and lead nurturing.
- WebinarNinja: An easy-to-use webinar platform to host informative webinars and engage your audience.
- Mailchimp: A popular email marketing tool for creating drip campaigns and email segmentation.
Bottom of the Funnel – Sealing the deal
The bottom of the funnel (BOFU) is where your leads are ready to make their choice. You don’t want all your hard work to go to waste so here’s how to convert them effectively:
Product demos: Offer free product demos or trials to prospects who are primed for purchase during the sales funnel. Provide hands-on experiences that showcase the unique value of your offerings.
Top tip: Personalise the demo based on the prospect’s specific needs to demonstrate how your product addresses their pain points.
Case studies and testimonials: According to HubSpot, 13% of marketers use case studies as one of their primary sales tools. So, why not highlight real success stories from satisfied customers? Case studies and testimonials provide social proof and build trust and they can bring your products, services, brand, and team to life.
Top tip: Use before-and-after data to illustrate the positive impact of your product or service, making it irresistible to potential customers and always try to use real customers to demonstrate authenticity and build trust.
Limited-time offers: Create a sense of urgency with limited-time promotions or discounts. Encourage leads to take action immediately, rather than delaying their decision and make it worth their while.
Recommended tools for BOFU:
- ClickFunnel — This is a firm favourite among markers and sales people, in fact in 2022 it had over half (52%) of the market share. It’s good for all stages of the sales funnel.
- Calendly: Schedule product demos and trials seamlessly with prospects.
- Trustpilot: Gather and display customer reviews and ratings to build trust.
- Deadline Funnel: Create countdown timers and limited-time offers to drive urgency.
Beyond the funnel – Retaining your customers and showing you value them
Congratulations! Your hard work paid off and you have a new customer on board. But now’s not the time to rest up. You need to cultivate loyalty and make sure they know they have made the right choice. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Exclusive customer content: The probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60 and 70%, so why not show your appreciation by offering exclusive content? This could include access to premium resources, early product updates, or loyalty rewards.
Top tip: Create a members-only section on your website for easy access to exclusive content, fostering a sense of belonging.
Educational newsletters: Send regular newsletters to your customer base, providing them with valuable insights, tips, and updates related to your industry.
Customer success stories: Regularly share success stories of existing customers who have benefited from your products or services. These stories reinforce trust and keep your customers engaged.
Top tip: Include user-generated content, such as testimonials and photos in these stories to make them relatable and authentic.
Top tools for creating a content marketing funnel
As you can see, there is a tool out there for pretty much everything you need to do to deliver a great content marketing funnel strategy. The tech you decide to use will depend on your budget, goals, and the needs of your business and your team. Here are some of the best tools to help you create and manage the whole funnel.
Marketing automation platforms: Platforms like HubSpot, Marketo and Mailchimp are invaluable for automating various marketing tasks, from lead nurturing to email campaigns. These platforms allow you to create personalised workflows that respond to user behaviour.
Content Management Systems (CMS): A robust, easy-to-use CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal, simplifies the creation and management of content across your website, blog and landing pages. These platforms offer user-friendly interfaces and a range of templates.
Top tip: Install SEO plugins to optimise your content for search engines, improving your visibility and organic traffic.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software: CRM tools like Salesforce or Zoho CRM play a pivotal role in managing leads and customer interactions efficiently. They help you keep track of leads, nurture relationships and track sales opportunities. They also help to streamline internal working processes and communication.
Top tip: Integrate your CRM with your marketing automation platform for seamless data syncing. This integration ensures that your marketing and sales teams are always on the same page.
Analytics and reporting tools: Platforms such as Google Analytics and Kissmetrics provide valuable insights into user behaviour and campaign performance. These tools help you measure the success of your content marketing efforts.
Top tip: Set up custom dashboards to track key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to your funnel stages. This allows you to monitor progress and make data-driven decisions and helps you focus on the metrics that matter rather than getting bogged down with every bit of data.
How to measure success in your content marketing funnel
Naturally, you want to know how you’re getting on as your content funnel evolves. In this section, we’ll explore how to effectively measure the success of your content marketing funnel.
Key metrics to track
Traffic and engagement metrics: Monitor website traffic, page views, bounce rates and time spent on your pages to gauge user engagement. Understanding user behaviour at this level helps you identify what’s capturing their attention.
Top tip: Dive deeper by tracking traffic sources to discover which channels are driving the most visitors. Then focus your efforts on the most effective channels.
Conversion rate: The conversion rate measures the percentage of visitors who take a desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase. This metric is crucial for assessing your funnel’s efficiency in turning leads into customers.
Top tip: Create conversion goals in your analytics platform to track specific actions. This allows you to pinpoint areas for improvement and optimisation.
Lead nurturing metrics: Analyse email open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates within your email campaigns. These metrics provide insights into the effectiveness of your lead nurturing efforts.
Top tip: Implement lead scoring to identify the most qualified leads. Prioritise your follow-up efforts based on lead scores to maximise efficiency.
Customer retention metrics: Customer churn rates and retention rates are essential for assessing the effectiveness of your post-conversion strategies. They’ll help you understand how well you’re retaining and expanding your customer base.
Top tip: Conduct customer surveys to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement. Use this feedback to refine your post-conversion strategies and enhance customer satisfaction.
Best practices for optimising your content marketing funnel
Optimising your content marketing funnel is an ongoing process that requires dedication and a commitment to improvement. In this section, we’ll delve into best practices that will help you continuously refine and enhance your strategy.
Continuous improvement strategies
Regularly update content: Keeping your content fresh and up-to-date is essential to ensure it remains relevant and valuable to your audience. Regular updates not only improve the user experience but also signal to search engines that your content is current and authoritative. Time tends to fly by, as you know, so consider creating a content calendar to schedule updates and refreshes.
A/B testing: Experiment with different elements of your funnel, such as headlines, visuals, and calls to action. A/B testing allows you to identify what resonates best with your audience and refine your approach accordingly.
Top tip: Test one variable at a time to isolate the impact of each change. This approach provides more precise insights and lets you know what to change and what to do more of.
Personalisation: Implement personalisation techniques to tailor content to individual user preferences and behaviours. Dynamic content blocks can help customise emails and web pages based on user data.
Top tip: Use data-driven personalisation to recommend products or content based on past user interactions, increasing relevance and engagement.
An example of a successful content marketing funnel
Learning from real-world cases can provide valuable insights into crafting your content marketing funnel and give you the inspiration and motivation to make yours the best it can be. Airbnb is a great example of a successful implementation. Here’s what makes their content funnel so effective.
Airbnb’s content marketing funnel plays a pivotal role in guiding users through various stages of the buyer journey, from initial awareness to booking confirmation:
- Awareness stage: Compelling storytelling and inspirational content serve as powerful tools at this stage. By sharing stories of hosts and their unique properties, Airbnb captures the attention of potential travellers, planting the seed of wanderlust.
- Consideration stage: As users move deeper into their travel planning, user-generated content becomes vital. Reviews, travel guides, and authentic experiences shared by fellow travellers help prospects evaluate their options and build trust in the platform.
- Preference stage: Airbnb’s localised content and consistent brand messaging come into play here. Tailored content resonates with specific markets, while the brand’s emphasis on unique, local experiences helps users define their preferences and priorities.
- Intent stage: Strong SEO practices ensure that Airbnb’s content appears prominently in search results, guiding users who are actively seeking accommodation options. Effective email marketing keeps Airbnb top-of-mind as users make their final decisions.
- Decision stage: Community-focused content fosters a sense of belonging and trust, crucial factors when making a booking decision. Airbnb’s content also addresses user concerns about safety and payment security, helping them feel confident in their choice.
- Booking stage: Finally, Airbnb’s multi-platform presence ensures that users encounter their content at different touchpoints, reinforcing their decision to book through the platform.
Common mistakes to avoid when creating a content marketing funnel
Avoiding pitfalls is just as crucial as knowing best practices. In this section, we’ll highlight common mistakes that can derail your content marketing funnel and provide guidance on steering clear of them.
Neglecting mobile optimisation
Failing to optimise your content and funnel for mobile users can lead to high bounce rates and lost opportunities, so make sure that your website and emails are mobile-responsive and that your content performs well on all devices.
Top tip: Perform regular mobile testing to identify and fix any usability issues.
Overlooking lead nurturing
Neglecting the middle of the funnel can result in lost leads. Don’t rush leads to the bottom; nurture them with valuable content to build trust and credibility.
Top tip: Create automated email drip campaigns that cater to leads at various marketing funnel stages.
Ignoring post-conversion engagement
Many businesses focus solely on acquiring new customers, neglecting the potential for upselling and retaining existing ones. Ignoring post-conversion engagement can hinder growth.
Top tip: Develop post-conversion strategies to keep customers engaged and encourage repeat business. See our tips above…
Lack of data analysis
Failing to track and analyse data means missing out on valuable insights. Without data, you won’t know what’s working and what needs improvement.
Top tip: Implement robust analytics tools and regularly review your data to inform decision-making.
Content marketing funnel FAQs
We’ve covered a lot in this guide, so here are a few FAQS to refer to as your journey continues. They are also handy for educating other team members about what you are up to.
What is a content creation funnel?
A content creation funnel, often referred to as a content marketing funnel, is a strategic framework that outlines the stages a potential customer or reader goes through as they interact with your content, from initial awareness to conversion and beyond. It’s a structured approach to lead generation and nurturing, guiding individuals from being unaware of your brand or content to becoming loyal customers or avid readers. The funnel typically includes stages like the top of the funnel (TOFU), the middle of the funnel (MOFU), the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) and post-conversion or retention.
What is a content conversion funnel?
The term “content conversion funnel” is often used interchangeably with the content marketing funnel. It specifically focuses on the funnel stages where potential customers or readers convert into tangible actions, such as signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or subscribing to a service. The content conversion funnel is a critical aspect of content marketing because it directly measures the effectiveness of your content in turning viewers or readers into engaged and loyal consumers.
What are the essentials of a content marketing funnel?
The essentials of a content marketing funnel strategy revolve around understanding and catering to the needs of your target audience at each stage. Here are the key elements:
Top of the Funnel (TOFU): Create awareness with educational blog posts, engaging social media content and interactive quizzes.
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): Nurture leads with in-depth guides, webinars and email drip campaigns.
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): Convert leads with product demos, case studies and compelling limited-time offers.
Beyond the Funnel (Retention): Retain and expand your customer base with exclusive customer content, educational newsletters, and customer success stories.
It’s vital to tailor your content to the unique requirements of each stage, using tools like marketing automation platforms, analytics tools, and CRM software to streamline your efforts and measure success.
Crafting the perfect content marketing funnel
As you can see, a well-structured and executed content marketing funnel not only attracts potential customers but also guides them through a seamless journey leading to conversions and loyalty. It’s the key to efficient lead generation, nurturing and retention.
Understanding each funnel stage and applying best practices can optimise your content strategy, drive engagement and deliver exceptional ROI. In a world where every brand is pulling every trick to get in front of its ideal customer, a well-crafted content marketing funnel sets you apart, establishes your brand as an authority, and maximises value to your audience.
But remember, the customer journey extends beyond the funnel into the critical phase of retention and expansion. It doesn’t end at conversion, that is just the beginning. To navigate this phase effectively, establish a robust customer feedback loop.
This invaluable tool provides insights into evolving customer needs and preferences, allowing you to tailor post-conversion content for better resonance and engagement. Listen to your customers, keep your eye on your competitors and developments in both your sector and the world of digital marketing and keep devoting time to improving your funnel and you’ll continue to reap the benefits.
Ready to take your content marketing to the next level with content that will leave your competitors in the shade? Contact our team to find out how Contentoo can help you achieve your goals.