How often do you immediately make a purchase from an organisation after encountering one piece content? Probably, somewhere between not often and never. It’s important to create content that can nurture your customers through their journey.

At any given time, your target audiences are at different points in their buyer journey.

A content marketer’s job is to understand that journey and provide information that reflects the buyer’s current relationship with your brand. You build a relationship of trust, pushing that audience closer to conversion and advocacy, on valuable content. To do this you need to know your customers inside out.

The marketing funnel is not a new concept, but with 51% of B2B buyers relying on content when making buying decisions, building content into that funnel is more essential than ever.

Mapping the customer journey

When planning content you need to know how well your desired audiences know you, what expectations they have of you and what information they want. While your customer will rarely follow the neat, linear journey suggested by an illustration of a marketing funnel, that ideal can nonetheless be used as a framework to form relevant messaging and, ultimately, deepen your relationship with audiences.

Here are some examples of content tied to each stage.

create content marketing funnel

Inspire: the awareness stage

At this exploratory stage, the goal is to grab attention and awareness while simultaneously providing value. Show an understanding of your audience’s challenges, and provide thoughtful and interesting content that answers these problems. Content that works includes big thought leadership pieces like white papers, ebooks, in-depth explainer videos, podcasts and search optimised blog articles. It can also include earned media where your ideas are exposed to a new audience.

Microsoft’s The Anatomy of a Breach shows the various stages of a company security breach from a hacker’s point of view. The interactive infographic explains the systematic weaknesses hackers look for, accompanied by key statistics on data security and solutions for these security gaps.

If a customer was having difficulties with data security, or had identified it as an area that their organisation needed to improve, the infographic would be compelling. The unique point of view makes the problems accessible and demonstrates Microsoft’s authority in the area. Perfect for the awareness stage.

Involve: getting to know you

Once you have your audience’s attention you can move onto the next step the relationship – getting people actively involved with your content and your brand.

The middle of the funnel needs content that covers a broad audience section at different points in their relationship with your brand, from those who have read one article to those who are more involved. For this reason, content must perform many functions including educating customers on factors that differentiate your brand, nurturing leads towards purchase and continually inspiring an emotional connection with audience segments. Shorter, snackable content such as repurposed versions of your thought leadership work well here, particularly when used in retargeting campaigns on social media or lead nurturing email campaigns.

Mahlab’s retargeting campaigns for Engineers Australia’s conference, AusEngCon, is an example of a middle of the funnel tactic. Once a customer interacted with our awareness content we retargated them with similar content that included a link to the registration page.

This middle of the funnel content was more direct – we knew they were interested in what we were discussing, so were receptive to content that would help them stay involved in that discussion at the event, with topics like ‘how to convince your boss to send you to AusEngCon’.

Inform: crossing the line

At the bottom of the funnel, when all your courting is done, your messaging should focus on answering basic needs to drive prospects over the line. It’s about showing your customers that you can help them even before you do business. For some, your prospects are already comfortable engaging one-on-one with your sales team. However, others may need more of a push from content when making a decision.

This stage of the funnel may involve ‘how to’ pieces that clearly demonstrate how your organisation can help with industry issues. It may also involve testimonials and reviews from other customers.

Salesforce gave interested customers a nudge to attend their annual conference, Dreamforce, with an ROI calculator. The calculator addresses the audience’s pain points – time out of the office, investment in travel, registration and accommodation, and the difficulty of working out whether it’s all worthwhile – by providing clear return on investment figures.

At this point, your content can also help qualify leads, so that your sales team can focus its energy on the prospects that are likely to convert.

Conversion and beyond

Once you’ve dedicated time and effort into nurturing your audience to the point of conversion, it would be a shame to forget them. This is particularly important for businesses that operate on incremental revenue, with subscriptions rather than one-off high-value sales, but across the board Harvard Business School found that even a five per cent increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits between 25 and 95 per cent.

Loyalty content is about keeping in touch, and it must be fueled by relevant and insightful information. Distribution channels may involve enewsletters or social media.

Content can also be used to create brand advocates – someone who likes your brand, product or service so much that they are willing to sing it from the rooftop. And brand advocates can bring in new customers. A recent survey of consumers found that 76 per cent were more likely to trust content shared by ‘normal’ people than content shared by brands. GoPro takes advantage of this quirk of human nature with its video of the day – passionate community members submit shareable content such as this video of a fireman saving a kitten, and GoPro scores content that advocates, entertains and showcases product capabilities.

Hannah Dixon contributed to the writing of this piece.

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