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So you’ve heard: a staggering 91% of B2B marketers leverage content marketing to reach their customers. 72% of them also say it has increased their number of leads.
But is content marketing delivering the expected results for you?
Chances are you’re churning out content that’s driving traffic. But, there’s little content to engage leads further. Or, there’s no content that answers questions interested leads might have when they’re ready to buy.
Whatever the case may be, fret not. Because a content marketing funnel packed with content types for each stage of the buyer’s journey will solve your problem.
So without further ado, let’s dive into today’s topic.
Briefly, you’ll learn:
A content marketing funnel is a system that nurtures visitors with the aim of converting them into customers using content.
Think of it like this: you realize you have a productivity problem at hand. Let’s say, you can’t seem to complete your to-do list. So you google the problem and read a blog post on how to manage your to-do list better. You find the stuff you read is valuable so you either read more content from the same source or return to it whenever you have a to-do list problem.
At this point, you’ve realized this blog from productivity app X thoroughly answered your question. So you become an interested lead – not a random visitor.
As you read through more content on their site, you understand how their app can help you create, more manageable to-do lists. This way, you move down their content marketing funnel.
Eventually, you realize you need a to-do list-making app. So you start exploring your options. And, in your search, you come across more content – content like comparison posts between different to-do list apps and case studies of people who’ve used the app to 2x their productivity.
So, you finally decide to get the app for yourself. At this point, it’s possible that a discount code pushes you to take the final step.
Even after you’ve become a customer, content, like (for example) emails on how to use the app’s features, can keep you excited about your purchase.
See what’s happening? You turned from a visitor to a customer with nothing but content that was relevant to you and answered your questions.
And, that is an example of a content marketing funnel — a step-by-step content plan that answers its target audience’s questions in each stage of their buyer’s journey.
Related: How to Create & Measure Your Content Marketing Funnel
In this section, we’ll give you an overview of the content type for each funnel stage, followed by specific content examples:
To understand what content works in which stage of the content marketing funnel, you need to be clear about its goal.
Content in the discovery stage intends to attract visitors so they can gradually become familiar with your brand and return to it.
It’s also a fruitful goal to use content in this stage to position yourself as the expert in the topic(s) relevant to your brand. This, again, familiarizes your visitors with your brand and helps gain their trust too.
According to roughly 60% of respondents, social posts help achieve these objectives. About 54% also think videos and ads help achieve the goals you set in the first stage of the content funnel.
Educational content follows next with 50% applauding its usefulness in the discovery stage.
Other content types that help include landing pages, blog posts, infographics, checklists, and eBooks (in this order).
Fewer than 15% of our contributors also think research studies, analyst reports, and white papers are also effective content types to create.
Content in the consideration stage works to nurture leads, gaining their trust so they buy from them.
Here, 60% of our respondents think that email content like newsletters works best since it helps build relationships with leads. 50% credit how-to content for this job. The same number also commends comparison papers and articles for this reason.
Some 48% say case studies help in the consideration stage too while 44% and 42% credit expert guides and videos for the job, respectively.
To add, 40% agree webinars are important content for the consideration stage of the content marketing funnel. And, 38% say social media posts also help. Other content mentioned includes podcasts and eBooks.
Finally, content in the last stage should push people to buy from you.
An overwhelming majority, 23%, think special offers help the most in this stage. On the other hand, 17% say product reviews are useful, whereas, 15% think testimonials are helpful.
What’s more, 13% recommend product literature and demonstrations and 10% recommend case studies.
Others vote for product/service-focused articles (7%), promotions and loyalty programs (7%), user guides, product/service updates, and vendor and product comparison content (3% each).
Related: Content Marketing Goals: 15 Ways to Set, Track, & Measure Your Efforts
Now, for some prominent content types for the first stage in the content marketing funnel:
“The discovery (attract) stage of a funnel is completely attention-focused, meaning there should be no selling, and subtle branding,” observes Matthew Layton from Rewind Creative.
Infographics can help achieve both – offer value as well as introduce your brand to your audience using visual elements.
In Layton’s words: “Infographics work amazingly well by bringing value to your audience early on, and sets the pace of creating a sense of authority by being an expert in your field.”
In fact, visitors are 30 times more likely to read infographics from top to bottom than blog posts. The reason? Infographics pack in information in a visually appealing manner, which makes them easy to read.
Layton also points out, “it is important to understand that at the discovery stage, there will be a number of interactions before the user can progress to the next stage and this level of nurture can be extremely impactful. Infographics also allow you to inject your branding, subtly enough to help build credibility.”
Our brains are wired to enjoy a good story.
This means sharing a good story with visitors can help your business stand out from the rest and leave a memorable impression on them.
Naturally, this encourages visitors to return – helping you convert them into leads so you can move them down your content marketing funnel.
Zen Media’s Mehvish Patel echoes the same. “One type of content in the attraction stage is storytelling. Providing your brand’s backstory to your guests is a good way to reinforce your mission and values which build loyalty.”
So which content format should you tap into to tell stories?
“Depending on your business and the funnel you intend to create, some content types to consider include videos, educational content, social posts, landing pages, and ads,” answers Jackie Kossoff.
The key, however, is to create content that’s relevant to your audience – whether you leverage storytelling or not.
“The goal of the discovery stage is to attract interest from your target audience, so the content that is created and shared must be relevant to each audience’s content consumption behaviors (i.e. some audiences love video where others prefer images or infographics),” Kossoff explains.
“In my experience, educational content is crucial in the discovery stage,” opines Victor Antiu from Custify.
“Some niches are more developed than others, you might have 100 competitors, or you might be the first product of your kind,” Antiu writes.
“If the latter applies, you need to focus on explaining to your customers that they have a problem first before you can present your product as the solution.”
“If you’re in a very competitive niche, producing educational content will help position yourself as an industry expert (and customers often tend to go for the ‘experts’),” adds Antiu “For instance, in my experience, what works well for SaaS are videos and ebooks that address complex issues.”
Structured Agency’s Nick Shackelford is of the same opinion. “The top of the funnel – the attract stage – is about inviting your audience in and addressing their pain points.” As you address these pain points, introduce your business as the solution to their problem.
As Shackelford puts it: “be the solution rather than a solicitor.”
So what content can you create with the intent of educating visitors and leads? Here are two formats:
“In the attract stage, creating a blog that solves a specific pain point can be a valuable way to help your ideal clients work through a challenge they have been having and show them that you are a knowledgeable resource who can assist them with this challenge,” recommends Tiffany Lewis from More Meaningful Marketing.
“Doing SEO research ahead of time is a great way to make sure your blog answers your ideal clients’ questions, plus to make sure your piece of content is searchable.”
Track the number of leads generated from your blog posts using this marketing automation dashboard.
Editor’s note: Optimize your blogging strategy by identifying which blog posts perform best. Then double down on similar topics or replicate what’s working. To this end, use this Organic Blog Traffic Dashboard template to identify sessions each post drives, the time people spend on each post, and the action readers take on each post.
Shackelford advises using video. In their words, “you can cater to the buyer’s needs directly with a short monologue, clever content, and appealing footage.”
At this point in your content marketing funnel, you need to start nurturing leads. Layton says it’s at this stage “where prospects will be less in number, however more focused and more engaged.”
The following content types will help move the needle:
Layton says these deliver fantastic results when used correctly. “The key for case studies to really work here is relevance (and combined with how amazing the results are) and can also be a great place to show user-generated testimonials to reinforce your product/service.”
“The nature of case studies can allow you to go really in-depth about how a particular problem was solved, however, the real-life context used within case studies is where the magic happens,” Layton reveals.
Text Request’s Jessica Ayre recommends writing blog posts that answer your target audience’s questions – ones that they start having deeper into their buyer’s journey.
“When customers are considering your product, they’re going to have a lot of questions,” Ayre says, giving context.
“You need to provide them with the resources they need to make an informed decision. At this stage, your content should paint a picture of what life would look like if they worked with you and your product/service.”
So here’s the type of blog posts you should be writing: “Blog posts that are a great way to demonstrate ‘x ways to accomplish tasks’ or ‘x ways to solve problems that are relevant to them. The content in this stage should show what kind of value we can bring to their lives.”
Editor’s note: Get a complete overview of the engagement your blog is driving using this Blog Performance Tracking Dashboard template. It shows you the blog’s total subscribers, engagement by click-through rate, and engagement by pageviews – all on one screen.
An important aspect of nurturing leads is building relationships with them “with value-building content positioning itself as a credible authority and solution,” insists Charlie Patel from Content Funnel.
“During this stage, customer reviews work consistently well. Though customer reviews can be used in the purchase stage too – it all depends on what the product/service is and the buyer persona,” Patel explains.
“For example, if you’re selling a consumer product, customer reviews in text and within videos are a great way to build trust, connection, and brand authority. Couple this together with a product comparison page that highlights the pros of your product to help visitors make a decision.”
“A value-packed download or how-to guide gated for contact info can be a great lead generation tool to gauge further interest in your offering in the engage stage,” Lewis suggests.
“If someone is willing to exchange their contact information for the value your content brings, a level of trust and a way to retarget with additional marketing are achieved.”
You can also share ungated how-to content if you prefer.
Tom Berry from Autus Consulting Ltd. recommends personalized content for the engagement funnel stage.
“The aim should be to position your authority and leadership in your field and share knowledge and value-add through various methods” according to Berry.
To this end, create “personalized and dynamic email and landing pages” These are “a great way to nudge the engagement stage forward. Or free discovery calls, as by this point, they might know you a little through awareness/attract stage.”
Finally, video content is helpful for this stage as Eden Cheng from PeopleFinderFree says.
“In this consideration stage, 47% of B2B shoppers look into 3-5 types of content before participating with a sales rep,” Hence, Cheng shares “as a reliable expert, your final goal is to make video content in this stage to engage your customers.”
Related: 14 Types of Sales Enablement Content Your Sales Team Needs
“If you are selling leather goods like tactile products or something more intricate like software, videos are helpful for you. It lets you narrate a story that articles or blog posts can’t.
Video content in the consideration stage tends to provide more engagement and conversion too,” adds Cheng.
The take-home message? “Make longer videos, like more than 20 minutes, to grab buyer’s attention rather than making short ones. It is proven that 20 mins or longer videos account for more than 55% of total video consumption time on mobile phones.”
In this final stage, you need content that encourages people to call the shots in your business’s favor. To this end, the following content helps:
These bring social proof to the table – the psychological phenomenon that if others are buying from you, they should too.
As Melanie Musson from InsureABQ.com puts it: “Testimonials give your audience reassurance that what they’re hoping for is possible. You want them to know that they’ll be satisfied and hearing what other satisfied customers say can be just what they need to close the deal.”
Natalie Slyman from BenchmarkONE agrees. “Case studies or testimonials are crucial at this stage. Showing your prospects real-life examples of how your product or service has helped others in their position is basically a guarantee that you’ll deliver for them as well. It’s just what your brand needs to take a prospect from consideration to purchase.”
“Publications should talk about your products and their characteristics, including price, so people that are about to buy the product have the information in plain sight,” Dealers League’s Miguel Gonzalez.
In this regard, Paige Arnof- Fenn from Mavens & Moguls recommends leveraging incentives to push people to buy. “Using content with incentives to help the buyer finalize their purchase decision like bonuses and giveaways is very effective in converting.”
Darren Nix from Steadily Landlord Insurance is on the same page as Arnof-Fenn. “Offer any available discounts.”
But Nix tops this advice with a useful tip: “When creating content based on the purchase stage of your funnel, keep a few things in mind: keep the content slim and free of distractions [and] the user interface needs to be top-notch and easy for the customer to make the decision. Your content needs to reflect this.”
It’s also crucial you don’t miss adding a call to action (CTA), the action step you want content consumers to take.
“Your content should include CTA-driven copy so users know exactly how to take the next step, how to convert, or how to move forward with your business,” advises Elizabeth Weatherby from Xtractor Depot.
“This is usually listed on websites where users are ordering/purchasing/converting. It’s usually best done with CTA copy, ample forms listed on the site to convert, detailed product descriptions, and detailed product reviews.”
That said, your content efforts shouldn’t stop there though. You’ll need more content to delight customers with the aim of retaining them. Here, you’ll need the following type of content:
“I think the post-purchase stage is actually just as important as any other,” opines TopSpot Internet Marketing’s Nicole Wolfe.
“Few companies can survive on one-off purchases. This is your chance to keep your customers happy and be front of mind for referrals. How-tos and product demonstrations are good for this and should be easily shareable.”
“Once they have converted and purchased, now thank them for it!” Krystal Diaz from Green Rx Inc. advises.
“Send the customers special offers over email or a review to your company. Even a small email. Keep them engaged and maybe consider other items they might want.”
Related: Content Marketing ROI: The Best Tools, Methods, and Metrics to Measure Content Success
Now when you have learned which type of content you need to create for each stage of your marketing funnel, you also need to learn how to track your efforts.
In the video below, our product experts show you how to use Databox and Google Analytics to identify website pages that drive the most conversions. The following content marketing dashboard will not only help you understand better what type of content helps visitors to convert to customers. but also where exactly those conversions happen most often.
Essentially, you will learn the following:
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If you need help tracking content conversions or setting conversion goals, our Support team can actually help build your first marketing dashboard for free.
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