When escalating prospects to become customers we need to use a marketing funnel to take them through awareness, consideration and purchase. At each stage in this funnel we use can use content marketing to help with the process. The question today is what marketing funnel content to use at each stage.
What is a marketing funnel?
Before we look at what specific content needs to fit into which stage of a marketing funnel first we must make sure that we have concrete definition of what marketing funnel is.
Basically a marketing funnel is a set of processes to take a potential customer from awareness through consideration onto purchase.
Marketing funnels are also used to escalate customers onto other purchases of higher prices and/or continuing duration (i.e. subscription).
The BATON system that we use to teach online business is built implicitly upon the marketing funnel idea. In the Audience section we are building awareness of the value that we provide. In the Tribe section we are starting to get prospects to consider buying from us. And at the Offer section we are securing purchases.
Why do we use marketing funnels?
It is of course possible to simply have a single product that we put in front of potential customers and ask them to buy. This can work but it’s a relatively simplistic form of marketing and it requires the product to be very desirable!
Online businesses in particular need to first build up trust with our prospects before getting them to make a purchase.
We build trust by escalating prospects through a marketing funnel and getting them used to spending their time and money with our company.
Your specific marketing funnel will depend entirely on the structure of your products and services. However, there are some general rules that most marketing funnels follow.
In general they tend to start with lower cost offerings offered to a wider range of customers and then they escalate towards higher priced items which were available to a smaller subset.
Marketing funnel for yoga teachers
Let’s use a yoga teacher’s marketing funnel as an example here.
At the top, or entrance, to the funnel the yoga teacher will be using wide marketing techniques to build up their audience. The purpose of this stage of the marketing funnel is simply to build awareness of what they do and what value they provide. Often this will come in the form of content marketing like social media, a blog or a podcast. Content at this point is free and it’s designed purely to attract attention and build awareness.
The next stage of the funnel might use some form of lead capture. The yoga teacher wants to convert their audience into Tribe members. Doing so will allow them to build better bonds with their future customers whilst taking control of the communication channels. Often this is done by capturing emails or bringing people into some form of private group. At this point prospects are moving into the consideration phase of the marketing funnel.
The next step will be the first, low-cost, offer. This will be the first sale in the marketing funnel and generally is a low-cost yet high value product. As an example a yoga teacher might offer a short e-book or maybe a video course outlining some of their teachings.
Beyond this is the core offer. This is the main product that is the bread-and-butter of the business. In our yoga teacher example it might be a full 10 hour video course or perhaps group coaching sessions on a regular basis. If the yoga teacher has a physical yoga studio the the core offer might be in-person classes.
Beyond this are escalation products. These are the lower-volume high-cost online products and services that a business can offer their highest value customers. In our example of a yoga teacher this might be one-on-one training or perhaps an annual retreat. These products and services will be much higher cost and marketed to a small subset of the total customer base.
What’s your marketing funnel?
As we move through the marketing funnel we move from widely available content through to low-cost products before escalating to high cost premium products and services.
When putting together your business plan you should have an idea of what your full final will look like. This is a crucial lesson in the Business section of the BATON framework. You can access the entire course on Udemy: BBO Online Business Course
Even if you do not yet have all of your product and service offerings in place you should at least have sketched out what your full marketing funnel will be when they’re already.
Marketing funnel content
Now let’s loop back to the question of what content do we need at each stage of the marketing funnel.
We are going to be mixing content marketing and funnel strategy. The question here is what form of content do we use at each stage during the prospect’s journey through awareness, consideration and purchase.
We will not be using the same content marketing at each stage. This is crucially important.
The reason for this is that depending on how far they are down their journey these prospects would have very different interests and requirements in terms of content.
This said there are certain consistencies and best practices we’ll adhere to across all stages of the funnel.
Content marketing to solve problems
When deciding marketing funnel content we need to stick to the normal rules of content marketing. First of all ask yourself what problems are you solving for your prospects at each stage in the marketing funnel. Then use your content marketing to solve these problems. I’ve written about this at length as well so not cover it fully here.
Remember that businesses solve problems for their customers. You should already have a problem statement that describes the core issues and questions that your customers have. This, as always, will be the core thrust of your content marketing message: solving their problems. This is no different when we use content marketing to move people down our marketing funnel.
The way that we reconcile our marketing funnel and content marketing is to provide increasing levels of depth and specificity as we move our prospects down the funnel.
Remember that the majority of people entering the top end of our funnel will tend to be relative newbies in our particular niche. In our yoga example there are simply far more beginner students that there are high-level students. Early wide-appeal awareness building content should therefore be more general and written at a beginner level.
As we progress people down our funnel however the complexity of what we speak to in our content marketing can increase. We’ve already proven through our expertise that we are worth listening to and therefore we can transition into going more in-depth.
This means a longer form content and greater value delivery further down the funnel.
What content fits at what stages of the marketing funnel?
Top of the funnel Audience building content
First up, our general awareness building content marketing.
Often at this point some of our prospects do not even know their problem. We use wide appeal content marketing to build up awareness.
Generally this content will be free and come in the form of blog articles, social media posts and podcasts. We are using content at this point to build up an audience of people interested in solving the problems that we can speak to.
In the case of a yoga instructor it will be people who are interested in either starting yoga or have started already and are looking for more guidance on how to deepen their practice.
These are not people who we would immediately sell a £3000 mountainside retreat to. They simply i) hasn’t been enough trust building at this point and ii) a high level premium product like this is not going to be appealing for this broad interest market.
Instead, our content will be short form, attention grabbing and awareness building. It is content for maximum wide spread appeal in order to get the word out about who you are and what you do. Focus on simply helping as many people as possible at this stage and you can’t go wrong.
In terms of actual format this is where the social media channels shine. Content on social media tends to be short form and easily consumable whether it is in the form of text or video. When we’re talking video we’re not talking 45 minute long YouTube explanations but rather quick short form videos with handy tips and tricks for the broad appeal market.
Lead capture – entering the Tribe
The next stage of the marketing funnel is lead capture.
At this point we are bringing people into our Tribe, whether it’s by collecting an email or getting them to join some form of private group. The main action they need to take at this point is to “opt in” in some way. The exact nature of this opt in is not important; what is important is that they have actively raise their hand and ask to be marketed to. This is the basis of permission marketing.
At this point we use content marketing as a form of ethical bribe to capture information (Whether this is an email address or telephone number).
We call this form of content a lead magnet. It is a lead magnet because it attracts a lead.
Remember the many websites where you are offered something in exchange for your email address? It tends to be a resource pack, templates, checklists or an e-book. Whatever it is, some form of content is given to you in exchange for your email address. The marketing funnel content at this point is therefore the lead magnet itself.
Lead magnets come in many shapes and sizes. My personal favourites are checklists and resource packs. The type of lead magnet you create however will depend entirely on what is useful for your potential customers. This will in turn depend on your products and services.
Ebooks as lead magnets?
One piece of advice regarding lead magnets however he is not to go overboard. Too many people feel that they need to provide a whole eBook at this stage. This is incorrect. Resist the urge!
An e-book not only takes a huge amount of time to prepare but it is also not an easily consumable form of content for your potential customers. Think about how many times you have downloaded a free e-book, opened up the PDF, found it to be 200 pages and instantly left it on your desktop never to be read!
This is an extremely common occurrence and is why you should instead focus on making smaller, easily consumed lead magnets instead. Instead of making one long eBook make five or six smaller lead magnets. Then test them against each other to see which ones reverberate most with your potential customers.
First Sale : Tripwire offer
The next stage in the marketing funnel is the first sale. The marketing funnel content at this stage is the product itself.
Because you want to make sure that this small low-cost product is inexpensive and easily accessible to potential customers ideally it should be some form of information product.
This means an eBook, short video course audio product. All of these are forms of digital content and therefore fall into your marketing funnel content plan even though they are paid-for products.
If you have written an eBook for your digital marketing funnel this is the correct place to utilise it. Even if the cost is very low there is a world of difference between a free eBook and a low-cost eBook. Moving somebody from 0 pounds to £1 is a significant step!
Make sure that your first sale content is high-value and low-cost. This is the most important part of your funnel where you want to overdeliver.
Marketing cost liquidation
Ideally you should also use this first, low-cost offer as a way to liquidate your marketing costs.
Russell Brunson talks about this as a tripwire offer. Basically, upon signing up for your mailing list or group the thank you page immediately shows a prospect your low-cost tripwire offer.
They are on a roll in terms of supporting you (they just signed up remember) so this is a good time to introduce the first offer in the funnel.
If you can match the price of this first offer to the cost of acquiring the customer then the rest of your funnel will be pure profit. Ideally we use the tripwire offer to liquidate the marketing cost and become cost neutral in terms of marketing.
Core Offer : Email Marketing
The next sale is your core offer. The marketing funnel content used to move people to your core offer will generally be email marketing.
At this point in your funnel you should have captured an email and have a direct means of communication with potential customers.
This -more than anywhere else- is where email marketing shines. Now you have his direct line of communication you can continue to deliver value and move people towards your core offer.
The marketing funnel content at this point will therefore be a mix of content emails (containing no sales material) and sales campaigns.
Premium Offers : Sales Team and Phone calls
For the final stage of up-selling and escalating existing customers into higher premium products and services we use a combination of email marketing and more white glove custom outreach.
This is the point in your marketing funnel when you may want to consider hiring a sales team or at least reaching out on a personal basis to potential customers.
Again this will depend entirely on your particular industry and your product and service mix!
The content at this point should become specific and customised to the needs of the smaller, elite group of buyers still in your marketing funnel.
This could include free coaching calls, Facebook Lives addressing their questions and special invite-only webinars speaking directly to their needs.
You can absolutely charge for this kind of access. In fact we see this a lot with membership sites and Masterminds. Whilst these are paid offerings they also give direct communication with your top customers in order to continue the sales escalation.
Marketing Funnel Content in Summary
We’ve looked at different marketing funnel content and how you can vary it along your customer sales journey.
Once you know your marketing funnel it’s imperative that you align your content marketing with each stage.
Content at the entrance to your funnel will not be relevant to those who have progressed with you to your premium products and services. It is not specific or expert level enough for them to be interested. Therefore it is vitally imperative to match content marketing to the current stage in the marketing funnel.
In general we’ll deploy these different tools at differing stages:
- Audience building and awareness: Social media, podcast, blog.
- Lead capture: lead magnet content
- First sale: product is content
- Core sale: email marketing
- Premium sale: personal outreach, customised webinars/lives.