“Content is king.” Yeah, yeah. You’ve heard. But what you might not realize is that there’s a good reason why.
The digital age has changed the way we consume information. In turn, it has changed the way we make purchase decisions.
These days, you can simply pick up your phone, go online, and educate yourself before buying a product. Today’s consumers are savvy, and they don’t want to be sold. They want to be informed.
Enter: content marketing.
As defined by The Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
But what does that really mean? It means content is a powerful and valuable tool. Here’s why:
Content helps drive sales by being an invaluable inbound marketing tactic. According to Demand Gen, 80% of B2B buyers consume at least 3 pieces of content before talking to a salesperson
According to SnapApp, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times more leads
78% of consumers prefer getting to know a company by way of articles rather than ads, and 70% believe organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. In short, great content helps improve brand reputation by building trust with consumers
Optimized content helps improve your SEO efforts
20% of the time that internet users spend online is spent just reading content, and 68% spend time reading about brands that interest them
Enriched or personalized content offers a wide array of benefits including (but not limited to!) higher response and engagement; increased brand recall, retention and differentiation; increased conversions; and enhanced appeal to Millennials and Gen Z
Are you sold on the value of content marketing? Perfect! Now, in order to understand how content drive sales for your business, let’s take a look at how it fits into the marketing funnel.
Top-of-Funnel (TOFU): At the top of the funnel, your prospective customers are just starting to become aware of their challenges, needs, or problems. They are also starting to become aware that there are solutions available. During this stage, content can help educate them and get them the information they need to decide which type of solution might help.
Middle-of-Funnel (MOFU): At the middle of the funnel, leads are evaluating their options for products or solutions. Content during this stage of the funnel is meant to educate leads on what their different options are so that they can start to narrow their choices and come closer to a final purchasing decision.
Bottom-of-Funnel (BOFU): Once leads reach the bottom of the funnel, this means that they are ready to convert. Content during this stage is meant to give a final nudge of encouragement to the buyer and empower them to make an informed purchasing decision.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the basic content marketing tools and tactics you can use to help guide prospective customers through each stage of the funnel.
4 Basic TOFU Tools
TOFU leads are in search of general information that helps them better understand problems and solutions. It’s important that your content marketing approach at this point in the funnel is informative and avoids being too pushy. You should be addressing a specific question, need, or pain point that the prospect is looking to address, but without a sales tie-in. At this point, you’ll want to implement tools such as:
Helpful Blog Posts - This is the most common form of content used at this stage of the game. The goal with your blog posts is to provide helpful, non-salesy content that will get the lead onto your website – and the first step of the sales funnel. At this point, they’re just trying to get started learning about a problem or situation they’re facing, so developing top-level helpful tip or insight-based content which is relevant to your product or service offering (aka the challenge they’re curious about or the question they have) is a great place to start. They also often come across articles through search engines as they begin digging into a topic of interest, so strategically utilizing relevant SEO keywords is important in driving the visibility of your article.
Social Media Updates – Today, social media is the new marketplace. In fact, one in four social media users are following brands from which they might make a purchase. By developing quality social media content that resonates with your audience and showcases your product or service in the context of their lifestyle, you build your brand’s presence, drive awareness, and increase the odds of converting leads into sales.
Audio and Video Podcasts – Podcasts are a great, engaging alternative to written content as it allows your audience to tune in by listening or watching rather than reading. Using podcasts, you can interview interesting and relevant people in order to provide interesting and helpful insights to your leads. This builds your credibility – and helps position your brand as one that your audience comes to for useful information.
Case Studies – These are hugely beneficial in generating credibility with TOFU prospects. Case studies examine times you’ve successfully solved challenges for your customers, and they play a big role in inbound lead generation and the sales process. By providing in-depth case studies on past or current customers, you’re effectively providing real-life examples of how your solutions could benefit prospective new customers.
Your TOFU content should contain targeted Calls-to-Action guiding your prospects to engage with your MOFU content – for example, “For More Information on Topic X, Download Our Comprehensive White Paper!” (More to come on that…)
3 Tools to Implement at the MOFU Stage
Leads at the MOFU stage are evaluating their options. So, content should be crafted to educate them on their options. This content should be designed to nurture and qualify leads. This will help them hone in on their choices and grow closer to making a final decision. At this point, you should continue to educate but begin the process of positioning your company as the solution to their needs and challenges. Here, you can guide them in the right direction with tools like:
White Papers, Educational Resources, and eBooks – You can think of white papers, educational resource, and eBooks as comprehensive and authoritative reports on a subject of interest to your prospective customers – they’re like massively extended and in-depth blog posts. You can actually use supporting blog posts to drive readers to this type of content. Doing so also helps boost your SEO rankings. This type of content is meant to help readers understand an issue in-depth, solve a problem, or make a decision. Think: “The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Great Talent” or “How to Take Your Company from Small Business to Massive Success in Six Months.” Thorough checklists and pre-made templates are also a great bet. But unlike blog posts, white papers should be available for download only. This way, you can offer them in exchange for useful information about your lead, such as an email address or phone number. This way, you’re helping to establish your credibility while gathering valuable contact information from people who are genuinely interested in a very specific kind of solution – namely: yours.
Webinars and Events – This follows the same ideology as the past point but kicks it up a notch and makes it interactive. Webinars and events are a great way to gain valuable information from prospective customers in exchange for a helpful and engaging experience. For example, you can work with relevant experts to host webinars or events in which they disseminate wisdom, tips, and knowledge, and then take questions from guests in real time. You can also pre-record webinars – or shorter, five-minute “webinies” to keep the attention of your leads – so that they can live on in perpetuity on your website.
Targeted Marketing Emails – According to Act-On and Gleanster research, 70% of companies use email marketing for customer acquisition and retention. These can be company updates, industry news, or useful tips and information. It’s a great way to engage one-on-one with your clients and prospects. It’s also the perfect vehicle for your other content assets.
The more you can build your credibility in the MOFU stage, the better your odds of guiding leads into BOFU.
3 BOFU Tools to Help Drive Home Conversions
This is the promised land. Once leads hit BOFU, they’re ready to convert. Content at the BOFU stage should give a final nudge of encouragement to the customer and empower them to make an informed decision. At this point, you can utilize things like:
Brochures and Spec Sheets – By now, you know your lead is ready to convert, and you know they just need a little bit more information. Brochures and spec sheets are the perfect way to provide them with all the nitty-gritty details of your product or service to help paint the fulsome picture of what they’re in for – and how it will benefit them.
Product Demos – For leads that still need some convincing, quick product demo videos are a great way to show them your product or service offering in action.
Testimonials – These are key in establishing social proof and credibility. Whether they’re included on a product page, a dedicated testimonials page, a pricing page, or in your brochures and spec sheets, their value shouldn’t be underestimated.
At this stage, you will also want to look at offering a free assessment, an evaluation, or a trial – depending on your product or service offering – to start the dialogue and begin the process of closing the lead.
Content marketing is an incredibly effective tool when used correctly. To learn more about how we can put content to work to drive leads and conversions for your business, get in touch!