We often get asked about what content is best for the different stages of a client’s sales / marketing funnel.

A few years ago, most marketers would associate content purely with top of the funnel activity, using it to attract attention. But they’ve recently realised the value of using content throughout the journey – guiding a contact through the process of becoming a lead (middle of the funnel) and ultimately, making a purchase (bottom of the funnel).

To help convert your newly attracted audience into buyers, you need to create content specifically designed for each stage of the journey.

But let me point out, creating a load of content and then retrospectively assigning it to an audience persona and funnel stage isn’t going to cut it! You need to map out your audience personas, along with the content required at each stage of their buying journey / the marketing funnel, before you set about creating it!

I’ve just read a report by SEMrush, based on a comprehensive survey they carried out with 350 marketers around the world, and it raised some interesting insights.

Highlights from the survey:

1. Top of funnel

72% of the marketers said that ‘how-to’ guides are the best traffic drivers. Other content types were far less successful.

Remember, at this stage most people aren’t ready to buy and may not have even heard of your company. Your goal is to get their attention, offer practical, educational content which has genuine value, and introduce your brand as a credible and trustworthy voice. Resisting the temptation to bombard your audience with sales messages too early in the relationship is key.

The ‘next best’ types of content were also educational — infographics, checklists and eBooks.

2. Middle of the Funnel

At this stage, your goal is to keep people engaged with your brand and nurture the relationship while they gain a more in-depth understanding of your company and its products / services. Many marketers start to utilise email marketing more heavily at this stage.

Surprisingly, ‘how-to’ guides were also ranked top when it comes to lead generation, according to 44% of those surveyed.

Product-oriented content was also highlighted as useful — success stories, product overviews and case studies all proved to be effective in generating leads.

3. Bottom of the Funnel

By this point, content needs to help position your brand ahead of your competitors, building trust and credibility. Content should also answer specific questions about your product or service.

Customer-generated and case-oriented content are best at convincing someone to make a purchase. Over half (51%) of marketers surveyed use product overviews, 49% customer reviews and 43% success stories.

Almost two-thirds (73%) said that email marketing is still effective in moving a purchase forward by this stage of the journey. Also interesting is that organic search (61%) is the second most efficient channel that brings payments, so you can’t afford to ignore SEO.

Don’t forget: a purchase isn’t where the funnel ends. You should be creating content that keeps on nurturing the relationship, building loyalty and advocacy.

Don’t view each stage in isolation

Rather than considering each stage of the content marketing funnel, it’s important to understand how the stages relate as a whole journey.

The survey results showed that one of the biggest challenges (50%) was pushing leads down the funnel towards a purchase. 

Connecting / linking pieces of content, or creating a series of assets around a topic, can be a really effective way to draw the audience down the funnel.

Do your research and get the foundations right!

So, in conclusion, just in case you’ve never heard me say it before (where have you been?) …

Effective content is based on research, knowledge and understanding – not assumptions (where have I heard that before?).

Without getting the right foundations in place, you can’t expect to deliver content that properly supports each stage of your funnel by giving your audience what they actually need, at the right time, in the right format and via the right channel.

To read this great survey by SEMrush in full click here >>

If you’d like to chat about how our team could help you with either your content strategy or creation, please get in touch >>

Ben Hollom

October 27, 2020