Where are they in the buying process?

I've often said that you should deliver high-quality content consistently to your market, to demonstrate your expertise and prove your ability to solve their problems. But what content do you deliver? Well, that depends where they are in the decision-making process.

You've probably heard of the "sales funnel", where you attract many people at first, and then it narrows down as you lead them further along the buying process. We can use the same sales funnel to look at your content marketing.

Broadly, your marketing breaks down the funnel into four stages:

Let's look at these four steps in detail ...

1. The Top of the Funnel (Attract)

Your prospective client has a problem and wants more information about it. You can help them by providing high-quality information that solves that problem. Your goal at this stage is to get their e-mail address (and permission to continue the relationship). In other words, your aim is to get them into the funnel.

This is often done with a special report, checklist, survey, white paper, or something else they value. You promote it on your Web site or social media, and give it to them in exchange for their e-mail address.

2. The Middle of the Funnel (Convert)

Congratulations, you now have their e-mail address! That means you have their trust, but that still doesn’t mean they are ready to buy. In fact, they might not yet even be thinking of using your services at all. So in this stage of marketing, you show them how you can help them, and then help them choose who to work with (you, of course!).

You do this by sending them regular e-mail, still providing high-value content, but also including some promotional material.

3. The Bottom of the Funnel (Close)

At this stage, your prospects have strong awareness of what you offer, and you’ve earned their trust as their preferred provider. Now it’s time to persuade them to make a commitment.

This is an important step, but it depends on the person involved, because you don’t know exactly when they will be ready. So you can’t interrupt them with a sales call too soon, because it will annoy them. On the other hand, you can’t wait too long either, because you might miss the opportunity.

The solution is to include offers and opportunities during your content marketing. Prospects who aren’t yet ready can ignore the offer, but won’t be upset because you’re still providing value in the rest of the e-mail.

Keep in mind that some offers take more time, money and effort than others. So you will only offer those to the most qualified prospects. You can still offer them in your e-mail, but might ask prospects to do more to get the offer.

4. After the Funnel (Delight)

Your marketing doesn’t end when somebody buys! Everything you do afterwards to serve, support and delight your client is also part of your ongoing marketing efforts. It can help in three areas:

  1. Renew: Clients remain loyal to you, even when they have the choice to switch
  2. Repeat: Clients give you more business in the future
  3. Referral: Clients recommend you to friends and colleagues

In all these cases, the extra business you get starts from a trusted relationship. You don’t have to start all over again at the top of the funnel. The marketing is easier, cheaper and faster. So do your best to delight your clients!

How is YOUR content marketing funnel?

Are you thinking about your sales funnel when planning your marketing? And if so, are you creating high-quality content to feed into the funnel at each stage?