How to align your content strategy with your sales funnel
Nine times out of ten, a person will journey down a sales funnel prior to becoming a customer.
Whereas in the past you could count on single-touchpoint, bottom-of-the-funnel marketing strategies, it’s now increasingly necessary to push consumers down the buying funnel by creating omni-channel strategies.
Mapping content to buying stages can help you maximize the benefit of your omni-channel strategies.
From awareness of your brand or business via social media, to influencer recommendations, all customers generally need incentives to purchase. This makes aligning your content strategy with your sales funnel essential.
The anatomy of a sales funnel
To really hone your content strategy, you first need to know the stages your customers will journey through prior to purchase. This is the first step into mapping your sales funnel to your upcoming marketing campaign.
The most simplistic sales funnel has three very important stages:
This is the top of your funnel. The awareness stage is the point at which your target audience is looking for answers to questions, doing general research, and searching out opinions or insightful wisdom.
The evaluation stage is the middle of your sales funnel. This often involves your audience doing very focused research on your products or services, as well as how they measure up with your competitors.
This is the bottom of your sales funnel, where you convert potential customers into buyers. This often is when you give a little nudge by stating your position of authority in the industry. Discount codes and promotions also do wonders at this stage as well.
Each stage of your sales funnel is important. It is also very valuable to remember that not all your potential customers will enter at the top of your funnel. You will need to understand where they are in their buying decision, and what content is needed to take them to purchase.
Aligning your content strategy with your sales funnel
Having a plan in place when mapping out your sales funnel will significantly cut down on time and effort down the road. One of the biggest benefits of building a sales-minded content marketing strategy is that you can practically fill up your monthly calendar in a few sessions.
Defining your content needs for your sales funnel, developing foundational content, creating an editorial calendar, and repurposing are the four main staples. It all starts with partnering content with each stage of your funnel.
Step 1: Define content needs for each stage
Ideation is quite possibly one of the most important aspects of any content strategy. Having ideation neatly in place will ensure the content you are pairing with your sales funnel stages are impactful.
How do you do this? Well, first, begin mapping out your unique buyer personas. This data includes, audience interests, demographics (age, sex, location, etc.), and pain points.
This first step of mapping is vital, because by defining your buyer personas, you can personalize content for each buyer persona as they journey down the different stages of your sales funnel.
Top of sales funnel content strategy: Awareness
The awareness stage is just as the name implies. You are building awareness of your brand, business, products, or services through attention-getting content. This is when you begin building relationships.
Social media and blogs are excellent assets for building awareness. Posting awareness-geared content on your social media channels can get your buyer personas to like your post, page, comment and share your content with their friends and followers. They’re getting to know your brand, products or services so that, when they need what you have to offer, you’ll be top of mind.
Middle of sales funnel content strategy: Consideration
Now that you have permission, you can communicate with your target audience in a more meaningful way. With the buyer personas in mind, begin feeding your audience tailored blog content via emails, newsletters, and on social media.
This is a little more sales intensive. You will want your evaluation stage content strategy to highlight the benefits of your products or services to your audience. This is your value proposition.
You can even begin addressing a few pain points associated with your buyer personas to begin moving them down your sales funnel even faster. You want them to evaluate your products or services, and feel that they truly do need them.
Influencer marketing can be very helpful when it comes to the evaluation stage. Influencers have a very loyal following of pre-qualified buyers waiting for recommendations. Delivering your product review from an influencer can build instant confidence to buy.
Bottom of sales funnel content strategy: Purchase
Your purchase stage is the end of the sales funnel. This crucial step is all about conversions. To give your target audience a little extra push toward checkout, feed them content that showcases your authority in the industry.
Developing white papers, ebooks, case studies, and powerful testimonials are perfect content assets for leading your audience to buy. The goal is to educate them, give them valuable insight, which in turn will make you a thought leader.
Discounts and special offers are also a powerful way to get them to add to cart or to complete the checkout. Combine a discount with a limited time offer to put the principle of scarcity to work, and watch your conversion ratio increase!
Step 2: Create your foundational content
Foundational content will be at the core of your content strategy. This content is lengthy, in-depth, and if done right, can make aligning it to your sales funnel simple later on.
This in-depth core content can be drawn upon to develop future infographics, blogs, Facebook and YouTube videos, social media posts, email marketing campaigns, and much more.
However, how do you know where to begin? How do you create this for your content strategy? Well, with your sales funnel buyer personas in hand, you can begin piecing together keyword buckets for each unique buyer persona and sales funnel stage pairing.
There are a number of keyword research platforms online to help move you along. However, Google Keyword Planner is a very good tool to start with. Using their Ad Groups you can get made to order content themes for each buyer persona.
Competitor keyword search
You can also develop robust keyword buckets by doing a competitor keyword search. Ahrefs is a good competitor analysis tool for this. You can also turn to Google Search to find keywords your competitors are ranking for as well.
Next, combine your Google Keyword Planner keywords with those you identified via Ahrefs (or your preferred analysis tool) and you will have plenty of themes and subthemes waiting for content to be developed around.
With your healthy lists of keywords, mind map them into themes and subthemes. This will give you the foundational content pieces you need to move your content strategy forward in a very concise way.
Decide on content types
Knowing what type of content to create can be a challenging one. For example, how will you package and present your content to each of your buyer personas, and at different sales funnel stages too?
Consider the following to keep your sales funnel content strategy impactful:
- First off, is the content a blog, social post, infographic, video, etc? This is pretty self-explanatory, but important. You want to maximize your foundational content by having a clear picture of how best to use it.
- How can you package and present your content as unique? Thought leaders and industry experts are good for this. You can share fresh data, detailed how-tos, and best practices with your audience.
- What upcoming product releases or new service launches are in the future? This type of content is perfect for highlighting your innovation, and how that innovation solves a problem your target audience needs fixed.
- Do you have any upcoming events? This type of content could showcase your upcoming presentation at an industry conference, or even highlight your company’s philanthropy at the local level.
Establishing an in-depth content strategy that compliments your sales funnel is imperative. Deciding what types of content to create may seem trivial, however, it could prove beneficial when it comes time to start typing.
Step 3: Make an editorial calendar
All the tedious buyer persona analysis and keyword research will all begin to look like a clear content strategy as you begin to make your editorial calendar. Like the stages in a sales funnel, you don’t want to skip this one.
Having a detailed editorial calendar in place allows you to stay organized, stay focused, and create content with the most bang for the buck. One essential element to a successful editorial calendar is the ability to track all the moving parts.
Keep it flexible and accessible
Content type, themes, writer due dates, image development, and payments are all components of a working editorial calendar. It needs to be easy to manage and navigate.
Where do you start creating your editorial calendar? Well, Google Sheets is a seamless online tool to develop your editorial calendar, share it, and access it when you are on the go. If you need a little more flexibility and a few more features to work with than a spreadsheet can offer, a collaboration tool like Trello can also be adapted into a calendar with relative ease.
Fill in your schedule
This may seem like a huge task, but begin your editorial calendar by planning the whole year. Each month will have a different theme, which you already have developed from your foundational content research.
Each month’s theme can contain a number of subthemes as well. The key is to be as specific as possible. One way to really make the most of your editorial calendar is to have a foundational piece of content for each month.
With this in place, your buyer personas will have plenty of content for each stage of your sales funnel month after month. You can even use Google Calendar to bring it over the top.
Step 4: Repurpose that foundational content
Repurposing your foundational content will help stretch out each piece of content to support a variety of initiatives. The themes and subthemes you pull from your foundational content should provoke a lot of compelling sales funnel assets.
Let’s say you want to develop an ebook. Each theme you have identified can be a specific chapter of your ebook. Each chapter can be a monthly theme, while your ebook sub themes can be used for weekly blogs.
The data you use for each sub theme can also be placed in an eye-catching infographic. Infographics are great assets for any content strategy. You can repurpose that data for blogs, email marketing campaigns, blogger outreach, social posts, webinars and videos.
Breaking repurposing down
If one of your foundational pieces is an ebook, there are at least 30 assets within that core content you can repurpose. Then from each of those 30 assets, you can develop 10 social media posts. That will give you 300 social media posts for your sales funnel for just one month.
Those 30 assets from your ebook can also be whipped up into 30 blogs. That is a blog per day for that one theme. Within those blogs you are sure to have a few data sets. You can then turn that data into infographics, and so on.
The main aim when repurposing content is to develop as many assets, themes, and subthemes from one piece of foundation content as possible. This will give you the variety needed to connect with each buyer persona at different stages in your sales funnel.
For the biggest impact on your bottom line, it is essential to map your sales funnel to your content strategy. Knowing the stages of your sales funnel and identifying buyer personas is a valuable first step that you simply can’t afford to skip.
Your content strategy also needs to revolve around those foundational pieces as well, ensuring you get the most from each asset. And packaging it all in a clear and concise editorial calendar will keep your marketing efforts focused on reach and conversions, rather than daily content ideation.