What we will cover
When we work closely with businesses we often discover when they are working out how to create a sales funnel for the first time is understanding the difference between their sales funnel and content strategy.
Without the funnel to channel their content delivery they start looking at other businesses for clues about what type of content they should be putting out there, how frequently they should be posting and how much money they need to spend.
That approach rarely works since all businesses have different target audiences and what appeals to one persona (e.g. multiple short videos and ephemeral content for college students) would be a waste of time and effort to another (e.g. if your site sells medical equipment to professionals).
Working out the sales funnel should help you identify the content you need to create for your marketing
The Basic Sales Funnel
Let’s first revisit the concept of the sales funnel, traditionally this is made up of 3 or 4 phases of grouping potential customers:
We’re not really here for the debate over the naming convention, the main thing here for most small businesses to understand is the stages of “customer thinking”, from the point they first make contact, the bits in between to whether they say yes or no to buying your product.
The wide mouth of the funnel is for capturing as many leads or potential customers as possible. Sales is largely a numbers game so the more people you can get into the funnel, largely the more sales and profit you will make out the bottom.
Initially, you may not even know when your customers become aware of you, it could be a kind word from an existing customer, them reading an article, seeing an advert or attending a sponsored event.
Leads who have shown sufficient interest (e.g. taken advantage of a lead magnet such as a free eBook), now become prospects within the neck of the funnel. At this stage, they may not have sufficient trust to buy from you (they may not even want to speak to you yet) the goal is to build awareness about the benefits of your product or service and how it (favourably) stacks up against similar offerings.
At the spout of the funnel is your checkout process. By this time, your prospects are convinced you are the guys to solve their problem and it’s just a case of nudging them to hit the buy button. Your leads have become customers.
An example of the funnel and the marketing activities that sit within it
How to create a Sales Funnel or is it a Content Marketing Funnel?
In reality, your content strategy and your sales funnel are part of the same system. If the sales funnel is a symbol of the buyer’s journey then the content you produce is the fuel that moves them along.
You might as well re-label your sales funnel as a content marketing funnel!
At the mouth of the funnel, your content should attract leads. In the middle it should convert leads into prospects and at the end it should close the deal, turning prospects into buying customers.
Different businesses will have different lead times, and require different content through the sales funnel. For example a low-ticket item will require far less consideration compared to high ticket and more focus will likely need to be spent on the top end of the funnel (things like advertising), rather than worry about losing people in the middle (things like informative blog articles or events) which are valuable for high-ticket, considered purchases.
To maximise the chances of customers staying with you for the long haul, a further stage can be added post-sale. Here is where you delight your customers so that they come back to you for more or refer you to others.
Mapping your Content to your Buyer’s Journey
Now it is just a case of mapping the right kind of content to your new content marketing funnel. To ensure a seamless user experience, your brand message needs to be consistent across platforms.
Whether a lead has arrived at your website from a PPC ad, a YouTube video or a Facebook post, they should feel they are connecting with one business. Pay careful attention to colour schemes, tone of voice and formatting.
To attract leads you can use online advertising campaigns, work on a clean, powerful website home page and landing pages with perhaps some overview explainer or demo videos. Handy freebies such as calculators, cheat sheets and templates are ideal for collecting email addresses and building your prospect list.
Examples of content used to convert leads into prospects are more in-depth blog posts and product pages (linked to via social media), eBooks, case studies and interactive webinars.
Content can also help with the final push towards closing the sale. Positive ratings and reviews and persuasive emails can be effective.
Lastly, don’t miss out on the all-important sale by offering a mixed message about how your customers buy or a poor user experience through your checkout.
Website structure and content plan
Obviously maximising purchase is all about your e-commerce and user experience, however it highlights the value of your blog, which covers the awareness, interest and decision phase. For example, consider the search pattern of someone searching for a new camera…
“How to take the perfect picture?”
“How much for an DSLR?”
“Canon 4D or Nikon 3500?”
“Canon 4D Best price”
Understanding the different intent from keywords highlights the different kind of content you will need to create
Let’s put this into practice then. This kind of data could highlight the following potential strategy:
- 3 x blog posts – “How to take the perfect picture?”, “How much for an DSLR?”, “Canon 4D or Nikon 3500?”
- Optimise product page – Canon 4D
- Setup adwords campaign for “Canon 4D Best price”
Don’t forget repeat custom
Customer satisfaction surveys, special offers and additional product information can all be used in the post-sale phase, helping to build loyalty and encourage repeat sales.
Creating raving fans can help feed the top of the funnel with more customers and save expense in marketing and advertising.
Using your analytics software, you can find out where most of your leads are along the buyer’s journey.
By combining this knowledge with what you already know about your target audience you now have a recipe for creating content with a purpose rather than for its own sake.
If you are still struggling with how to create a sales funnel then just get in touch, we have a monthly marketing subscription to tackle all of these phases and help you generate more sales.
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