Do you buy everything you see advertised? Or everything you see on display in a shop window or on a website?
Most of the time your answer will ‘no’ because that’s not how we shop. We’d quickly run out of money for starters, and research shows that 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases and B2B researchers do 12 searches on average prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site.
As marketers, this presents both opportunities and challenges for our brands. But the most important things to remember here are:
- when people are researching, they are asking questions
- they mostly ask questions / look for answers in the search engines (although this is not always the case)
- our content needs to help buyers to be helpful and answer these questions to be effective.
We also need to consider that people (let’s call them buyers) go through stages that ultimately leads to an action of some sort – typically buying something. However, this final stage might not be as simple as that. For example, it could be donating to charity, volunteering at a charity event, attending a protest rally, becoming a foster parent, committing to eating more healthily, etc.
Typically, people do not leap straight to that end-point unless the end-point is one that requires very low consideration.
There are many marketing lifecycle models that cover this process and probably the most well know is the AIDA model but I like to refine this to a three stage process that I typically work around with my clients:
TOFU? MOFU? BOFU?
Is that what the three little pigs were called? No!
They stand for:
- TOFU – Top-of-the-Funnel
- MOFU – Middle-of-the-Funnel
- BOFU – Bottom-of-the-Funnel
And by ‘funnel’ we mean the sales funnel.
At each of these stages, buyers have different needs and therefore asked different types of questions. As content marketers, how we answer these questions and meet these needs requires a variety of different appropriate content formats.
This is starting to get complicated and you might now start realising that your content is not answering your buyers’ questions, might not be in the best format, and might not address each stage of the buying cycle.
Well, there’s good news: sales funnel content creation doesn’t have to be that complicated. With the right approach and tools at your disposal, you could easily create useful, engaging and shareable content that raises brand awareness, attracts visitors to your website, and generates leads and sales.
Read my three-part guide to successful sales funnel content creation, starting with the top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content, and I’ll walk you through how to do it with some examples.
Ready? Let’s go!
Six Steps to Sales Funnel Content Creation
- Identify/Specify your buyer persona.
- Specify the topic that the content relates to.
- Specify the topic that the content relates to.
- State the buyer persona’s journey stage.
- Decide on the content format and structure you will create.
- Write your content, publish and share it.
Identify/Specify your buyer persona.
This is incredibly important for sales funnel content creation as you set out who your content is for. For more information on developing buyer personas, check out my previous blog post: How to Create Profitable Buyer Personas in No Time.
Specify the topic that the content relates to.
From an SEO perspective, you can think about this in terms of keywords and you should consider what questions the buyer could ask as part of their research.
I use a variety of different tools to help with this, my favourite of which is the MOZ Keyword Explorer, however, this is a paid for tool. Some others I use are:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Answer the Public
- Google’s Autocomplete or ‘search suggest’
State the buyer persona’s journey stage
Which of the following three stages are they at?
Decide on the content format and structure you will create.
For a massive list of options, check out this awesome resource:
I find The Content Grid v2 [infographic] extremely helpful for deciding on format and structure.
Write your content title/headline.
Your title/headline not only helps the search engines to link your content to your buyers’ questions/searches, it drives action – i.e. it needs to be interesting enough for your buyers to read and feel like they absolutely must see your content.
Check out this awesome resource: How To Write Headlines That Drive Traffic, Shares, And Search Results and Headline Analyser Tool.
Write your content, publish and share it.
I’m not going to cover this in this blog post, but if it’s covered in future blog posts we’ll add links here.
So that’s the theory, let’s take a look at some examples!
In this blog post, I’ll cover an example for the TOFU stage and my next two blog posts with cover the MOFU and BOFU stages.
Top of the Funnel: Awareness
Let’s put some more context around the content we’re going to create. At this stage, buyers are trying to solve problems, find answers, or meet a need.
This means that they don’t know what the solution is yet, so we need to provide them with top-level educational content to help direct them to a solution. Blog posts, social content, and eBooks are great for this stage.
We want the buyers that encounter our content at this stage to find it helpful enough that they are willing to consider our solutions to their problems/needs and progress to the MOFU.
Let’s imagine that I overindulged at Christmas and put on a few pounds… (it happens every year) and my clothing gets a bit tight (I like fitted clothing so this is a nightmare).
I’ve decided that I want to lose the flab and get hunky with some bigger muscles but I haven’t got the time, money or interest to go to a gym. I’m going to sort myself out with a home gym. The kind that clutters up my home and gathers dust while I burn calories just looking at it.
I’m new to this and I don’t know what I need and how much to spend (I don’t want to spend much).
A retailer of home-gym equipment would certainly want to attract someone like me to their store and they could create the following content to help me:
- [Video] How to choose what gym equipment you need.
- [Ebook] Beginners guide to buying home gym equipment.
- [Infographic] How to decide what to spend on your gym equipment.
Let’s say that my agency has just won some great new clients and we now need to expand our team and get bigger office space.
I’m going to sort this out but let’s say that I haven’t had much experience of finding new office space. I want a great location for clients and employees and obviously, I want to keep the costs down.
Commercial property estate/letting agents and property owners themselves will want me to buy from them, they could create the following content to help me:
- [Quiz Widget] What’s the right kind of office for your business.
- [Blog Article] What you need to know about before your next office move.
- [Ebook] How to find the perfect office for your marketing agency.
CSR is important to me and I want my agency to not just be about making a profit, I want to support the wider community.
Let’s say that I hadn’t yet decided about how to do this but I wanted to support charities that matched my agency’s brand values of delivering high impact measurable solutions.
Charities are going to want to target me, and they could do so with content like this:
- [Blog Article] The most effective charities in the world.
- [Infographic] High impact charities – who the help and what they have achieved.
- [Video] How your donations can save the most lives around the world.
I hope that this post has helped you to understand what is needed for successful sales funnel content creation, and we’d love to hear about the content you are offering your buyers.
When parts 2 and 3 of this guide are published, we’ll add links here and it would be great if you commented and added more TOFU content suggestions below.
About the author
Alex Hutson is one of Oxford College of Marketing’s lecturers and is also a consultant. If you would like to find out more about Alex you can connect with him on LinkedIn or contact him directly through his website.
If you are interested in learning more about content marketing, the Oxford College of Marketing Diploma in Digital Marketing may be for you. Find out more about this qualification and our range of digital marketing courses by getting in touch with our team today. You can call us on 01865 515 255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org