Getting Through the Sales Funnel: Does Your Content Marketing Strategy Take Your Buyers Across the Goal Line?

Preface: The Sales Funnel and Buyers Journey

Every sales funnel consists of the same stages, regardless of business type, industry, or target market.  The Buyers Journey is referred to when your potential customers are seeking a sale, ie: those who are in your sales funnel are going their Buyers Journey.  It’s the goal of the Marketer to get these potential customers the right information at the right time in their Buyers Journey.

It is the job of the marketer to educate prospective clients via informative materials.  These informative marketing materials should outline their audiences problem, potential solutions, and the business’s past success and process overview.  Having a comprehensive content marketing strategy not only keeps prospective clients engaged with the brand, but it also builds trust, helps qualify leads, improving brand awareness and evokes a sense of thought leadership – all things which help reduce the sales cycle and improve engagement and conversion.

Note: I’ve read a corpus of blog posts regarding this subject and it’s become clear that many authors don’t explain the differentiation of content types vs content promotion platforms.   I’ve worked really hard to develop this blog as a resource which will effectively explore and differentiate between content types and the platforms available for promoting it to the right audience. Enjoy! 

Buyers Journey Content Types

Content Types and Promotion For Each Phase in the Buyers Journey

This section will outline the 6 phases in the Buyers Journey and the content associated with each.

Awareness

Raises brand awareness of your business services, products, location, what makes you unique and what problems your business solves. These are leads who know they have a problem and are in the first phase of finding a solution.

Alternatively, audiences who don’t know they have a problem would be considered in this phase.

Let’s say I have a business which can improve the energy efficiency in your home or business.

Here are a few examples of types of content which will raise awareness of my audiences problem.  

  • Blog Post: How my clients save on average $50 a month on their utility bills.
  • Webinar: 30-minute free webinar which saves 75% of viewers at least 30% or more on their electric bills.
  • Videos: I could create a video archive of all my webinars and add them to other blogs and landing pages.
  • Landing Pages: ROI calculator which estimates cost savings per month. The user is now understanding they have a problem.
  • Infographic: Visual representation of how most homes or businesses leak conditioned air and decrease operational efficiency

These content types all serve to raise awareness and push the audience down the funnel to the next phase in the buyers’ journey.  Similar to how Game of Thrones leaves its viewers on a cliff hanger, your content should promote engagement and have your audience wanting to find solutions to the new found pain they are just realizing they have.

Consideration

Prospective clients in the Consideration phase are aware of their problem and are educating themselves on solutions. Consideration level content will identify the options available to fix the problem as well as the process, timeline, budget and solutions available.

Information on statistics, product demonstration, resources are good examples of content people are looking for in the Consideration Level Phase.  Here are a few examples of types of content which can educate and inform the audience of their problem.   

  • Blog Post: Tax credits available, or soon expiring for those who utilize my businesses solutions
  • Webinar: A Case Study or product demonstration which educates viewers on how the solutions improve efficiency
  • Videos: I could create a video archive of all my webinars and add them to other blogs and consideration level landing pages
  • Landing Pages: Resources with a checklist of common inefficiencies. The prospective lead can evaluate their own situation to better understand what solutions will be most beneficial
  • Infographic: Visual representation of each solution and the typical results and ROI of each

Decision

At this point, the prospective lead is well informed of their problem and criteria to fix it. At this point, the prospective client is looking for the best business to solve their problem and is looking for information on reputation, referrals, testimonials, pricing and timeline. Decision level content explains how your business has solved their problems in the past in the form of testimonials, case studies, referrals and reviews.

Information on pricing, location and reputation are types of content leads want to read about when in the Decision Level phase.  Here are a few examples of types of content which let users know how more about my business. 

  • Blog Post: A recent case study
  • Videos: Video testimonials
  • Landing Pages: A special price or offer to expedite a sale

Retention

You’ve got the sale and are in the process of fulfilment.   Retention is the first step toward increasing retainers and getting referrals. Retention is a blanket term which encompasses everything from performance to communication, two things which aren’t exactly part of the marketing department – but are still critical factors when generating revenue.  It’s important to remind your clients of your performance via good communication.

Here are a few examples of content your business can develop to communicate performance.

  • Surveys: Are you performing as well as you think you are? If not, it’s best to find out before it’s too late. If it is too late, your survey can at least give your client an outlet to voice their concerns so they don’t tell their network or try to tarnish your reputation online.  Sometimes your clients just want to be heard.   Alternatively, when clients give an excellent response on your survey it reinforces high performance psychologically. Regardless, surveys are an important part of retention and insight to your business’s performance.
  • Analytics Reports: Surveys are the qualitative measure of performance whereas Analytics Reports are the quantitative measurements. You could be crushing it for a client who has absolutely no idea. I have heard it a million times – clients complain about account performance because they are ill-informed of how well it’s actually doing. Reporting can make or break your business, for this reason, don’t “set it and forget it” either. Spend time understanding their metrics and telling stories with the data. This is the part of the business where you have a deeper understanding than the client, use your time presenting the reports to present yourself as a thought leader and build trust and a rapport with your client.
  • Meeting Format/Notes: Communication is one of the cornerstones of success in business. Having routine meetings with a repeatable format will improve the efficiency and efficacy of your client communication. Your notes should be documented and delivered in a repeatable format so they can be reviewed, compared and contrasted side by side to gauge performance.
    • Your meeting notes should answer the following questions:
      • Are we on schedule?
      • Are we one budget?
      • What did we review last meeting/what will we review next meeting?
      • What are our goals and desired outcomes for next meeting? 

Re-Conversions

We’ve heard this statistic a million times; “It’s 7x cheaper to close a sale with your current customer then a new acquisition”. Upsell opportunities are generated via great customer service, positive reporting, clear communication and big wins for your accounts.  Does your business have the sales collateral needed to pitch additional products or services? It’s a lot harder to sell a product or service without a well-articulated offering.

  • Sales Sheets: Sales sheets are an important part of any sales cycle, but explaining the features and benefits of your business offerings is a critical step in growing a contract. It’s important to have these readily available when your client shows interest so you can strike when the iron is hot. Often times clients lose interest and move on if the opportunity grows stale which is why it’s important to have a well designed and articulated Sales Sheets which can be provided the same day – even if your business offering is custom.
  • Product/Service Matrix: Do you have a graph explaining the features and benefits of all the option in your service sets? If your business offering has upsell options (it should), you should articulate them in a Matrix so your client can compare and contrast the cost-benefit of each feature.

Referral

I had a boss who had a huge piece of artwork in the office which said: “word of mouth is still the best form of marketing”. I’m pretty sure that piece of artwork was several decades old, yet, it will never go out of style. Clients who give you referrals are the crown jewel of your marketing team. There is no secret sauce to getting referrals, except excellent performance on their account and some schmoozing now and again. There is one exercise that I know of for creating referral-generating-content. If anyone has an additional method I’d love to hear it!

  • Testimonial Requests: Do you ask for testimonials with an open-ended request, or do you send a thought-provoking questionnaire? Having high performing clients fill out a questionnaire will remind them of how well your business is doing on their account. Outlining this testimonial in a case study which shows their business in a positive light will not only render a great article for your marketing but also drive your client to share it with their network. Humans are creatures of vanity, they like to show off their success.

This concludes the different content types in most Content Marketing Strategies. However, Generating the content is just beginning. In order to get your materials in front of your audience you’ll need a promotion strategy.  Creating content without promotion is like building a Maserati without any fuel – it’s not going to go anywhere.

Content Promotion

Below are the common strategies you should consider when promoting your content. I could write volumes on each, but since this blog is already quite lengthy, I will only be listing and explaining the benefit and typical cost of each.

  • SEO: Publish your content on your website and remember to optimize your pages with best practices for on-site SEO! This is by far the cheapest, highest ROI method for getting your content out to your audience. However, it is fairly passive and can take time to get rankings depending on your competition.
  • Social Media: Instead of publishing on your website, you’ll be publishing on platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can use a publisher like HootSuite to syndicate posts across multiple platforms at once.
    • Like SEO, publishing on Social Media is inexpensive but extremely passive – and without a paid promotion strategy, it’s often times ineffective. However – the paid features offered in social media are some of the most cost-effective options currently available and I would highly recommend pursuing social media when developing your budget.
    • Check out this blog on best practices. 
  • PPC: Pay to get the top listings on search result pages. Don’t want to wait for search engines to populate your links in front of your audience? PPC is your quickest solution to get your brand in front of an audience who already understands they have a problem and are just beginning to look in search engines for answers.
  • Remarketing: If your prospective clients aren’t aware they have a problem, they won’t be searching for solutions – which means SEO and PPC won’t be effective. In this case, it’s important to get your brands solutions in front of them via banner ads on social media and ad networks.
  • Influencer Campaign: Marketing promotion is essentially vying for attention.  Leveraging an influencers network by guest posting, or paid plugs can often times be a cost-effective way of getting your target audiences attention in the Awareness level stage.  There are tons of agencies who specialize in this service, but if you’d like to bootstrap it yourself you can check out platforms like:
  • Strategic Partnerships: Collaborating with other businesses in your vertical can be a great way to tap into your target market. Typically, Strategic Partnerships are forged between two businesses who work in the same industry at different levels in the supply chain. For instance, a Graphic Design agency could partner with a Print House to cross-promote and reach each others audience. This is a strategy utilized by old school business developers, but it’s still very effective.
  • Database Marketing: Have you ever heard the adage “you’re only as good as your database”? Building and leveraging prospective client databases through Direct Mail and Email marketing tactics.   I suggest using a tool like Hunter.io coupled with Hubpsot to generate and organize a prospecting database of leads. Part of my Hubspot blog is focused on this integration – https://syndicate.marketing/hubspot/hubspot-freemiums/ 
    • Direct Mail: Did you know MailChimp offers an option to purchase “lookalike” audiences? You can upload a database of leads within your target audience and MailChimp will double it with similar leads. I’m actually a big advocate for Snail Mail since it’s lost so much momentum in the past few years. It’s a bit expensive, and I’m not a huge fan of waste, but it could be a great way to get your audience’s attention and raise brand awareness.
      • MailChimp says you can send a postcard for as little as $0.75 – Check it out
    • Email Marketing: Raise awareness of your new products or services by promoting via personalized email marketing eblasts from a service provider like MailChimp.  Email Marketing is great because it’s cost effective when compared to paid ads and is agile enough to promote content to leads at any stage of the Buyers Journey.
  • Radio/Podcasts: Radio isn’t part of many typical digital marketing campaigns but it’s surprisingly effective at raising brand awareness especially if your niche product or service is promoted on a niche radio station. I wouldn’t recommend this for all businesses, but I have seen outstanding results in certain scenarios. Podcasts are a much easier method of reaching a niche target audience since they have been gaining popularity over the past 5 years.  Costs are quoted by CPM (cost per thousand)
  • Affiliate Marketing/Referral Marketing: You can pay to have people sell your product or service for you. There are many software platforms which can help manage the entire system for you.
  • Platform Marketing: This is a term I am coining which means every other platform available to sell your product or service under the sun.  You’ll need to do some serious Google-ing and find all the platforms and directories related to your niche.
    • If your business is local, or brick and mortar, you’ll want to be on Google My Business
    • If your business is ecommerce, you’ll want to be on Google Shopping, Etsy, eBay and Amazon
    • If your business sells apps, or games you’ll want to be on all the App Stores
    • Cost structures vary wildly based on the platform model.
  • Local Directories: Local directories are similar to social media in the sense that they allow you to post articles, but users don’t typically engage with the same type of personal information as they do with Social Media. For instance, Yelp is a directory where businesses and customers both engage with each others profile – but it’s far different than Instagram. Most of the posting can be done in-house, but creating the accounts can be automated with paid software.  You’ll also want to make sure your listings are all accurate and consistent. Here are some best practices:
    • You can use YEXT, WhiteSpark, Synup or BrightLocal, and MOZ to help with this.
    • There are also major database aggregators which syndicate creating/updating listing info to all the major Local Directories. Learn More about Local Aggregators 
    • Typical cost start from $30 a month and many of these software options have some nifty features like reputation management features, reporting and posting.

Conclusion

There are many types of content in the Buyers Journey, and many ways to publish and promote your content online and offline. The next steps in developing your content marketing strategy include organizing your efforts in a production schedule to outline what content will be developed, when/where it will be published, how much it will cost and what the expected outcomes are.