Understanding The Content Marketing Funnel

It is a common belief that a good content marketing campaign is all about presenting high-quality, authentic information that is of educational or entertainment value to a target audience. But is this enough to generate authentic leads for a specific product or service? Not unless all that content being churned out is correctly mapped to the various stages of the traditional “purchase funnel” (also called sales funnel, marketing funnel etc.) which themselves are based on customer interest levels at a given point in time.

The ‘funnel’ is after all a time-tested tool for businesses to systematically identify and filter potential customers. In a digital context, when designed correctly with content as the anchor, it can be a valuable source of data for an online marketer on traffic, behaviour, customer profiles and leads.

The graphic below provides a framework for a Content Marketing Funnel:

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On the left are the levels of customer interest using the popular definition of ‘demand’ from Economics 101:  “Demand is the want or desire to possess a good or service backed by the capacity and willingness to pay for it”. We can thus broadly filter a potential customer at three distinct levels – Wish (Desire to purchase), Want (Desire + Ability to purchase) and Demand (Desire + Ability + Willingness to purchase). On the right is a typical sales model of the transaction stage, which attempts to create awareness, prompt an evaluation and finally generate genuine leads via an action.

The information that needs to be put into the funnel at every level should thus address the requirements of the customer at different interest levels in a way that facilitates the final transaction. Let’s elaborate on the scope of the information at every stage of the funnel with the example of say, a particular smartphone model.

Top of the Funnel :
At this stage the audience primarily decides whether he should pursue this wish and more importantly whether he should build the capacity to purchase it. Thus the content should concentrate only on satisfying his curiosity about the industry/ecosystem and make him aware of the benefits of participating in it. Here, a good strategy is to try to form a relationship by providing authentic, unbiased information. For instance, news and reviews of various “apps” that a customer can use on a particular software platform. Or a selection of interesting photographs shot with smartphones that have a high “shareability” quotient.

Middle of the Funnel:
At this stage the customer has decided that he would like to pursue this wish and now also has the ability to purchase it. The Wish is now converted into a Want.  For the marketer this stage acts as the first filter to narrow down a general audience to potential customers. At this stage, content that helps evaluate different options in the product category should be provided. For instance an explanation of how processors inside a phone consume power or why sensor quality in a phone camera is more important than Megapixels. In short, this stage should give enough information to set the parameters for making the final decision.

Bottom of the Funnel:
This is the stage where the conversion happens: Audience to Customer. This level is critical as it is here that the purchase decision is made. This is the stage where the marketer makes a case for his product and openly promotes it to the customer, but with the advantage of having been a trusted advisor handholding him through the decision making process. The content provided here should include specific data about the marketer’s product and provide him with detailed information about how it scores on the parameters that were discussed earlier, and if possible a (video) demo.

A lead that is generated through a well designed funnel is thus as authentic as it gets – it’s usually only a matter of figuring out the mode of sale since the intent is clear – as against leads generated by “spray and pray” campaigns that have not been ‘prepped’ through the various stages of the funnel and have no conversational relationship with the brand that is trying to sell to them.

Understanding The Content Marketing Funnel: Reproduced with permission from i420 Digital Media.