Breaking Down the Content Marketing Funnel, Part 3: Educating to Sell

Content marketing is not publishing a blog post and hoping it turns into a sale. For any content marketing tactic to be effective, it has to be thought about strategically in relation to its place in a greater funnel. In part one of this series exploring the content marketing funnel, I discussed how blog posts provide a wide reach at the top of the funnel. In part two, we looked at more direct forms of content, such as social media content and email marketing, and how they serve to move people along from awareness at the top of the funnel to conversion at the bottom.

Finally, in part three, we’ll address how key it is to produce specialized premium content at the bottom of your funnel to generate qualified leads and make the whole thing work. As you move people from the broad top with blogs, past the middle with targeted content, and towards the smaller bottom of the funnel, you lose your wide appeal, but you gain the ability for people to start self-selecting and sorting along paths that match their needs and interests. At the bottom of each funnel should lie a downloadable piece of premium content that lies behind a lead generation gate. Premium content can help guide that process, and it’s so important that it’s where we usually start when charting out a new campaign.

Whether you’re producing case studies, how-to guides, or in-depth explorations of important industry issues, your downloadable premium content has to be enough to provide your readers real value, even if they never buy anything from you.

The Bottom of the Funnel, the Start of the Campaign

We’ve spoken a lot about the top and middle of the funnel from the beginning of this series, but it’s absolutely critical that before you produce any content for your brand, you take a step back and strategize from the bottom up. We tend to think about our clients’ campaigns–connected collections of content, including blog posts, social content, email marketing, web pages, premium pieces, and more–as expressions of the key concepts in a given piece of premium content.

When you choose a topic for a downloadable piece of premium content, consider how you’ll piggyback off its central themes to produce broader content for specific audiences along the middle and top of your content marketing funnel. Each of those blog posts and targeted pieces at those stages will eventually point to this premium content, and that should all feel organic.

Whitepapers and How-To Guides

The most common form of premium content we produce takes the shape of what you may call a whitepaper or a how-to guide. Some clients prefer to use the term “eBook,” too, but it’s all a matter of semantics. When we talk about these kinds of premium content, we’re usually talking about 5-10 page downloadable pieces that have been designed and laid out in a PDF format.

Think about where your audience is at the moment they decide to do business with you. What are they trying to figure out? What is their pain? What is your unique perspective? If you promise to offer them solutions and practical value at that exact moment, your audience will happily exchange an email address for that content. Then, your sales staff has a qualified lead, and because you know what that lead downloaded, you know exactly what they’re looking for and exactly what to sell them. It’s a beautiful thing.

Case Studies that Teach

Alternately, it can be very effective to produce less practical premium content that either educates your prospects about your products or services, or helps them to think differently about their needs. You can produce case studies (which, by the way, you still might refer to as whitepapers or eBooks because, as I said, these terms are all basically meaningless) that prove a point, whether that’s the ROI of your solution, or how much of an impact you can make on an organization, or why your perspective is best.

It’s important, though, that these case studies still promise something. Your audience should know that if they choose to download this premium content, they’re going to gain something, whether it’s insight or evidence.

When planned thoughtfully and executed well, a content marketing campaign can help you connect with new audiences, engage them, and build new relationships. Most important, though, is the execution. It’s easy to sit back and think up a few blog post topics, or to commit to publishing a newsletter once a month. More challenging is writing content that will truly provide value and connect with your target audience, and without that connection, the content marketing funnel is broken.

Visit our content marketing knowledge base for more articles on effective content marketing, and download our premium case study (see what I did there?), Just Write Great Content, an in-depth look at what happened on Metonymy Media’s blog when we focused solely on the quality of our writing. We saw engagement with our audience skyrocket to 18 times the industry average, and we can help you find the same success.

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