Let’s not pull any punches here. Content is the hardest working resource available to your sales and marketing organization today. A well-produced piece of content can be deployed at multiple stages of your sales and marketing funnel, helping you to achieve many different objectives. As long as that content is relevant, it will remain fresh and engaging in the eyes of new prospects and customers, creating new opportunities for your business many weeks, months, and potentially years after it was first produced and deployed.
But content creation doesn’t come without its challenges. Content can be difficult to produce and may not always deliver instant results. As a result, it can be undervalued by sales and marketing teams, who perhaps naively value lead volume over lead quality.
Remember: The very best marketers focus on delivering the highest-quality leads. They do so knowing that low-quality leads delivered in volume are costly, difficult to manage and deliver little return on investment. Modern sales and marketing isn’t a numbers game. It’s far more sophisticated than that.
Why is Content So Important?
Content’s primary job is to solve problems for your prospective and existing customers. When customers refer to your content before taking the next step and more formally engaging with your business, they are essentially self-identifying as potential customers. Equally importantly, this filtering process also removes the tire kickers and lukewarm leads that block your sales funnel. This helps your sales team stay focused on the prospects most likely to become customers and cements the relationship between your sales and marketing teams.
This simple strategy can be deployed at various stages of your sales and marketing funnel, guiding and delivering leads to your sales team at the best possible moment for conversion.
What Does Your Sales and Marketing Funnel Look Like?
While there are various models of the sales and marketing funnel, they typically follow a similar journey to the following five-stage process:
- Awareness: The lead generation stage is where potential clients search for a solution to a specific problem and discover your business.
- Consideration: When potential clients start evaluating your business against competitive offers.
- Purchase/Decision: The moment a prospect becomes a customer or decides to leave your funnel in favor of a competitive offer.
- Retention: Creating opportunities for recurring revenue and generating Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
- Advocacy: When customers are so satisfied with your business, they actively promote it to their peers.
There are so many opportunities to deploy content throughout these various stages that it would be impossible to cover them all in a simple blog post. But even these simple blog posts play an essential role in the process.
So, let’s break down the various stages of the sales and marketing funnel and highlight how content can be deployed to maximum effect.
Stage 1 – Awareness
The most challenging stage of the process is pre-relationship.
The biggest problem facing marketers at this stage is discoverability. First, you’ll need to create content that helps potential customers understand how your business can help them solve a particular problem. But you’ll also have to create something that can be found on the major search engines and social networks.
Highly visual social media content, including videos, images, and short-form content supported by relevant hashtags and a little ad spend, is a great way of driving prospects to more detailed and engaging blog posts.
Those blog posts also need to be SEO friendly, so remember to include all those all-important keywords and phrases while ensuring the text reads like it was written for a human (nobody said this was easy). Your blog posts also need to offer a compelling call to action (CTA) to encourage readers to formally enter your sales and marketing funnel by offering a subscription to your email lists, offering access to the next stage of the customer journey.
Stage 2 – Consideration
Once you have captured your potential customer as an email subscriber, you can start targeting them with more detailed content.
This content could range from more timely blog posts to more detailed whitepapers, eBooks, podcasts, videos, and webinars. The investment in time and expertise in producing this content will be considerable. However, the value of this content will mean it can be deployed over an extended period of time. Remember, once a compelling piece of content has been produced, it will be much easier to update that content than to create it again from scratch. It’s incredible how a minor edit or design tweak can breathe new life into an old piece of content.
More sophisticated marketers will want to harness marketing automation technology to trigger specific campaigns based on particular actions, such as clicks on email campaigns and blog/website visits.
During this consideration phase, marketers may wish to attribute a “lead score” to individual subscribers based on their engagement with your content-led campaigns and other factors such as company name, job title, etc. (We will be talking more about this later this month.)
Stage 3 – Purchase/Decision
This is the point when the marketing team believes the prospect is ready to become a customer. At this point, you can start targeting subscribers with emails enabling them to either make an appointment with your sales team or make a purchase via your website.
Because your customers will never be more engaged than at the moment of purchase, now is a great time to offer added-value purchases or ask for a product/service review (see Stage 5). Prospects who are not quite ready to make a buying decision will drift between Stages 2 and 3 before either making a purchase or removing themselves from the process by unsubscribing from your email lists. Prospects who, along the way, have stopped engaging with your content should also be removed as part of your list management/cleansing process.
The power of content marketing stays strong after a customer has made their first purchase. In fact, it can become even more valuable and potentially lucrative.
Stage 4 – Retention
Retention marketing isn’t just about offering up-sell opportunities and building Customer Lifetime Value. It’s also about helping your customers stay engaged with your business and not have their heads turned by a competitor.
Remember, the grass often looks greener on the other side of the fence. Therefore, the content marketer’s job is to highlight how your business is moving with the times and can continue to solve your customers’ problems better than your competition long into the future. The good news is much of the “thought leadership” content you produce for Stages 1 to 3 of your sales and marketing funnel can almost certainly be deployed as part of your retention strategy.
Stage 5 – Advocacy
When customers become advocates for your business, your marketing becomes more authentic and believable.
User-generated content like customer reviews provides a great insight into what it is like to work with your business. As such, at this stage, identify happy clients (they’ll probably tell you how much they have enjoyed your service) and ask them to post a review. Case studies and testimonials take this process a step further.
People buy from people they like and are inspired to buy by people they identify with (their peers). A good testimonial or case study published on your website and social media channels can rapidly progress new prospects through Stages 1 and 2 of your sales funnel before becoming customers themselves.
Low-Cost, High-Return Options
While there is a lot marketers need to do to keep their prospects and customers engaged while they are in their sales funnel, they don’t need to spend vast amounts of money to stay ahead of the game.
Content marketing’s strength is supported by low-cost, high-return marketing strategies like email marketing, social media marketing, blogging, podcasting, and good old industry expertise (which you already have in bundles).
If you need help in translating that expertise into actionable marketing content that can be deployed throughout your sales and marketing funnel, contact the content marketing experts at emfluence today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also recommend downloading our Customer Journey Worksheet to help map out needed content for each stage of the funnel.