Here’s a truth for all content marketers: connecting your content marketing to the sales funnel is easy to ignore, but important to do.
You need a sales strategy for your content if you’re trying to generate brand awareness, increase engagement, or sell more products or services from the content you publish.
Have you heard about my all-NEW writing course? We’re about to open enrollment! See more here.
And now, to continue my habit of staying brutally honest with you, here’s a second truth when it comes to content marketing and a typical sales funnel…
- Written online content, when done well, is valuable, relevant, and attractive to your leads (a.k.a real humans)
- Many “sales funnels” are sleazy, downright annoying, and sometimes paint a false picture just to gain your money
So, today, we’re not talking about the sleazy kind of funnel built inside of software with a surrounding campaign of 15 annoying emails and a “timer” on your money. (See my vlog on the Content Strategy & Marketing Course site to learn just how anti- sleazy sales funnel I am.)
We’re talking about the physical strategies behind attaching your content marketing to sales.
This sales funnel is critical. Having a low or zero connection from your content to sales can mean low or no sales. And that’s something you (or/and your boss) definitely don’t want to experience after investing in and publishing content.
Never fear, we’ve got you covered today with a new, engaging way of looking at how content marketing drives sales, sure to help you achieve your marketing goals.
Ready for the big reveal?
The Bucket List: 3 Way to Stronger Sales Through Content
Who doesn’t love a bucket? Buckets are fun!
You can fill them with sand at the beach to build a sand castle, use them to carry your shampoo into the shower, plant them with flowers, or use them in any number of creative ways to enhance your life.
But in content marketing and sales conversion, buckets are critical.
Using our unique three-bucket strategy to fill in your online strategy and built a well-developed intricate castle of content will help supercharge your sales and boost your content’s ROI. Read my full post explaining the three-bucket topic strategy.
Each bucket represents a goal you need to achieve for outstanding keyword research and online content success.
As the image shows, you’ll want to work on filling your buckets with strong content for three main goals:
- SEO rankings
- Sales and connections
- Brand awareness
This is the step that most brand strategists gloss over in a hurry to get out there and start creating content.
But skipping the bucket step would be a mistake.
This is the foundation for your content marketing sales process and the one that’s going to make sure your return on investment (ROI) is sky-high.
Let’s look at it this way.
According to Wolfgang Digital’s 2017 report on e-commerce, the average conversion rate was 1.56%.
That means in order to get high ROI content out there, you must assist your visitors at every lifecycle stage — even the one that comes before the funnel!
So, let’s see what we should put in each of our buckets.
Bucket #1: SEO Rankings
At this stage, you’ll want to fill your bucket with all the keywords you want to rank for.
You don’t have to be super-focused, but you do want to have a good understanding of keywords that are hot in your industry.
Want to learn the ins and outs of SEO content writing? You need to check out my new writing course!
After you get a solid number of keywords, you can fill your bucket to the brim by including broad match or broad stem keywords for this task.
Broad stem keywords are relevant variations of your keywords that will help your website attract more visitors.
They’ll also save you time on building lists of keywords before you get a good persona in place (more on that later).
These keyword variations include singular and plural forms, synonyms, stemmings (such as make and making), related searches, and even possible misspellings.
You can generate these on your own or use a Keyword Variation Tool, as shown below.
Once you’ve filled this bucket, move on to the next step.
Bucket #2: Sales and Connections
Here’s where you start to delve into the area where sales and content marketing become fully integrated.
This is where you’ll build the kind of engagement and connections that drive sales and keep clients coming back for more.
Take time here to focus on how you’re going to build trust. To do this, you can put a wide variety of things in this bucket, including:
- Company announcements and product reveals
- Interviews with top influencers
- Spotlight on how your employees work as a team
- A case study focused on customer success
- Customer-focused interviews or articles
There’s really no end to this kind of content that focuses on developing a personal relationship with your prospects.
A personal relationship is going to give a tremendous boost to brand awareness — which brings us to the final bucket.
Bucket #3: Brand Awareness
This is one big bucket.
Brand awareness helps your content generate more sales leads per impression and leads to enduring customer loyalty, which then translates into repeat business.
In fact, working hard on determining how to fill this bucket properly ensures you’ll get the maximum Lifetime Value (LTV) from your customers.
In a nutshell, LTV represents the amount of money generated by a customer over their lifetime.
The screenshot from smile.io shows an easy way to calculate this for your business. You start with the first calculation:
Then build on it, for the final figure:
But, to get high LTV, you need to boost loyalty. To boost loyalty, you must become a resource that your customer trusts.
You can increase loyalty through a number of tactics, including:
- Outstanding customer service (and content that promotes it)
- Rewards and loyalty programs
- Customer content marketing that focuses on trust-building
A great example of a company that wows in the loyalty department is Apple.
Apple has filled their third bucket with extensive brand-awareness-focused content that perpetuates their stronghold on owners of their products.
In fact, their brand awareness campaign is so effective that 59% of iPhone owners responding to a survey claimed they bought their phone out of “blind loyalty.”
As this screenshot demonstrates, die-hard Apple customers buy Apple products — no matter what.
Now that’s the kind of loyalty — and sales — you want your content to generate.
This is only possible by building a strong pre-funnel strategy that will help your content follow your customers, hand-in-hand, guiding them through the sales funnel.
Now that you’ve gotten a broad outline of what you need to know before you even consider building a sales funnel, you’re ready to move from the bucket to funnel itself.
If you want more details on how to develop a strong three-bucket topic strategy — and a sales-producing funnel — visit my comprehensive course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
The 4 Fundamentals of the Content Marketing Funnel
Sales and marketing are not only about crunching numbers and researching tactics. They’re dynamic and ever-changing – just like your audience.
And there’s no reason that content marketing that drives sales, even for dry, data-heavy businesses — can’t be creative and out-of-the-box.
In a word, fun.
As Pratik Dohlakiya of Copyblogger so aptly put it:
There is no boring content, only boring content creators.
The idea of creating content brings us to the very top of our funnel – the widest part.
Before you peek over the lip of that funnel, though, you’ll want to tackle the most critical task for this segment — finding your audience.
1) Build It So They Will Come
You want to build your funnel so that your audience is irresistibly drawn to take the next step in the customer’s journey — the journey that will lead them directly to your product or service.
The first step in this journey is a doozy — and it’s one of the most interesting and fun parts of how a sales funnel works — determining who your audience is.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the most often-missed steps in building a content marketing funnel that converts.
So, how do you figure out who you’re creating content for and connect them to sales?
You build a persona. The one, below, is from xtensio.
A persona is a conglomeration of attributes that make up an “average” member of your target audience. It includes demographic and psychographic elements.
But here’s the thing — even those content marketers and brand strategists that make it this far often use outdated information for their persona.
Don’t do it.
Get out there and interact with your real audience. Explore forums and chat rooms. Meet them in person. Ask them questions on your website. Develop surveys to find out what makes them tick.
Then — and only then — can you create marketing content that leads to sales.
Examples of great content marketing formats for building brand awareness are:
- Blog posts
- Long-form content
- Interactive content
- Email newsletters
Want a real-world example of persona-centered marketing content?
You’re reading it right now.
At Express Writers, we’re not trying to only sell you a service or two in our blog posts.
We truly want you to succeed at content marketing and build an awesome sales funnel that drives traffic better than a cowboy moves Longhorns down Exchange Avenue.
Because – surprise! – that will actually prepare you to be a great client when you come our way. 😉
But, if you ever get stuck creating or need more content than you can generate, we hope that you’ll see us as a knowledgeable source of crazy good writing.
You know, the people who know so much about the realm of content marketing that you won’t have to waste time — or money — telling us how to do it.
Anyway, enough about us. So, now, you’ve defined your customer and created an entire array of targeted content just for them.
It’s strong. It’s sturdy. It’s a houseful of authoritative content.
They’re interested in you.
You’ve demonstrated your authority and they feel comfortable relying on you for accurate information on what moves them.
Time to squeeze down into the next funnel level, pulling your audience even closer to you. Think of it as a content marketing bear hug.
2) They’re Here — Now What?
You’ve got your audience thinking hard about what you offer.
But buyers are taking even longer to educate themselves before making a sales decision, so don’t rush things here.
They already buy into your authority, but now you want them to really focus on the ways that you stand out from your competition.
Often called the “consideration” phase, this time period is the perfect opportunity to publish hard-core authority pieces like how-to content, tutorial videos, and even case studies where your product or service was able to help someone just like them.
I say, “and even case studies,” but I mean, “You should really think about using case studies.”
Here’s why. In an RSW/US survey of US agency executives, client case studies and website-resident content marketing were most often used promotional tactics for generating leads, with 62.6% of respondents using them with success.
Influencer Neil Patel would agree, as he claims to have increased his ratio of deal closings by 70%. In fact, he says sales grew 185% overall by testing three case studies on his site.
If case studies don’t seem like a good match for your business, don’t sweat it. This is supposed to be fun, remember?
Besides, a brief customer success story with statistics can make a great mini-case study.
Like this one:
If you don’t have any testimonials, dig deep into product benefits and create some content that showcases them.
Put yourself into your customers’ shoes and ask:
“What would make me buy this product/service?”
Then, create content that helps them reach the decision that they need your help.
Think interactive (fun!) content, as it packs more punch.
This kind of content, which can include quizzes, configurators, apps, assessments, and more generates conversions at 70%, rather than the 36% seen with passive content.
And, let’s face it. Interactive content boosts the fun factor on your website — and boosts sales and engagement as well.
There are easy ways to create stunning infographics and interactive content without having to spend hours searching images only to end up with something that looks cobbled together.
Here’s a link to some of those tools. You’re welcome!
And here’s an example of a piece of fun, interactive content made up by Orbitz to appeal specifically for their business traveler persona.
Remember, you can still be picking up cues regarding pain points at this point of the funnel.
This isn’t the time to be shy — step right up and tell your clients how your strategy can help them tackle their pain points and problems.
During this phase, you’ll start narrowing your focus, honing your product or service down to its most important attributes.
This narrowing process further squeezes your audience through the funnel, weeding out the tire-kickers and ho-hum shoppers and leaving you with a core group of hot prospects.
Now, the real fun begins! Ready?
3) The Big Finish: How Content Marketing Leads to Sales
Your audience is primed.
They know they’re interested in what you’re selling — you just need to offer them a bit more content to get them to take the final step in the sales funnel — conversion.
You finally get to make a direct pitch.
It’s the place that puts the “sales” in “sales funnel.”
Here, you can show how your products or service clearly help your clients solve their problems by outlining your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as clearly as possible.
This is the perfect place to put all those glowing testimonials, video clips of satisfied clients, and screenshots of online reviews. Like this one:
And don’t forget a clear call-to-action (CTA).
For content marketing to increase sales, you must include direct requests for customers to purchase, click, download, or engage.
4) The Fun Never Ends — How to Increase Retention and Sales with Content Marketing
Strong relationships with your customers are not only fun — they’re profitable.
While you a new customer might buy something 5% of the time, a repeat customer will make a purchase 60%-70% of the time.
That translates into higher ROI, so repeat customers should be a goal. This picture from smile.io gives you another way to look at it.
There it is. The more customers buy — the more they buy!
And there are other things you can do at this stage to improve ROI.
For example, even if you reduce customer loss (when your customers decide to stop doing business with you) by just 5%, you will increase revenue by 100%.
And marketing costs? Check this out — a customer retention rates of just 2% more translate into 10% less cost in marketing.
Now, that’s ROI in action.
And when you’re learning how to design a sales funnel, it’s the cherry on the top, or in this case, the bottom, of the funnel.
Content you create for your die-hard fans is some of the most rewarding of all, a nice way to celebrate helping your clients achieve their dreams and solve their problems.
Examples of content that drives loyalty includes:
- Special offers
- Email outreach
- Insider tips and tricks
- Special offers
- Customer support and help documentation
And what’s totally cool about this final process is that through learning more about your audience through outreach and support, you’re adding to an environment where sales and content marketing become fully integrated.
Because the new pain points and problem areas you discover through outreach will allow you to create even more targeted content that can drive future sales.
This screenshot from Wordstream says it all:
Your outreach may even touch a nerve for some of the clients you lost in the middle of the funnel and sweep them back along for the ride.
From Bucket to Funnel: Your New Roadmap for a Content Marketing Sales Cycle that Performs
Now you’ve got a new, exciting way to guide your visitors through your sales funnel with dynamic, proven content marketing strategies.
Take these tips and individualize them to your process for best results!
If you want to really dig deep into how to create — and deploy — this kind of sales-producing strategy, visit my comprehensive course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
You’ll find everything you need to know laid out for you in brilliant detail to make getting sales-funnel savvy easy — and of course, fun!
Don’t let an uninspired content marketing and sales funnel interfere with getting the highest ROI possible — learn to create content and planning for all stages of the customer sales funnel lifecycle and watch your business boom.
If you’re in the market to learn more about SEO content writing, you need my new course. Sign up to get notified when it launches here.