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content marketing and sales funnel

How to Connect Your Content Marketing to the Sales Funnel (Without Being Sleazy & Turning Off Your Audience)

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?

content marketing and sales funnel guide

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.

Three-bucket topic strategy

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.

Discover a new, engaging way of looking at how content marketing drives sales that is sure to help you achieve your marketing goals in today's blog via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Bucket #1: SEO Rankings

At this stage, you’ll want to fill your bucket with all the keywords you want to rank for.

three-buckets-goals-for-setting-ROI-1-circle

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.

Don't rely on an outdated persona. Get out there and interact with your real audience. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

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
  • Guides
  • Interactive content
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Courses
  • 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.

Put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask, what would make me buy this product or service? @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

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.

Don't forget a clear CTA with a direct link to a clear action. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

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.

Strong relationships with your customers are not only fun - they're profitable. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

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 courseThe 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.

website copywriting secrets

10 Website Copywriting Secrets to Get More Sales

Website copywriting matters.

Correction.

Your website copy REALLY matters.

Why?’ I hear you ask.

It matters because your business website is the only digital asset you truly own and have control over, making it the single most important online platform you have. Think about that one for a second.

While social media is a key part of an effective content marketing strategy, it involves using another organization’s platform, which means you’ll always be playing by their rules.

In contrast, your website is 100% yours to bend to your will, and a killer site will attract traffic, convert prospects, and keep your customers coming back.

That being said, not all websites are created equal.

There is a real correlation between the success of a business and the effectiveness of its website, particularly the traffic it generates.

In one study by Hubspot, the majority of companies exceeding their revenue goals had more than 10,000 visitors per month to their website. In comparison, 80% of companies not reaching their revenue goals had less than 10,000 visitors.

And you can bet your bottom dollar those visitors weren’t going to the websites by accident. They happened to be there because of great website content.

@JuliaEMcCoy shares her top 10 website #copywriting secrets to gain more traffic and, of course, sales! 📈 Click To Tweet

website copywriting secrets

Why & How Website Content Is The Great Differentiator

We know from experience that website copy, and high-quality content at that, can be what sets a brand apart from its competitors.

Don’t take our word for it, though.

More than 70% of marketers rate relevant content as their most effective way of obtaining website traffic, with content marketing generating three times as many leads as outbound marketing, and costing 62% less.

More than 70% of marketers rate relevant content as their most effective path to site traffic, with content marketing bringing in 3x as many leads as outbound marketing & costing 62% less. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

What’s more, small business websites that have blogs experience 126% more lead growth than businesses without, and B2B companies with a blog generate 67% more leads per month than companies that don’t have one.

blog leads statistic

Not Just Any Old Content Will Do

Like any other product or service, quality matters when it comes to website content.

A recent UK study revealed that 59% of people wouldn’t use a company that had glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website. In addition to this, a whopping 82% of people said they’d be put off by a website that featured content poorly translated into English.

The scary thing is that poor website copywriting, instead of generating sales, can actually cost your business.

That’s right.

Poor quality content can actually turn away customers and create additional costs for your business.

Writing expert and author Josh Bernoff says poor writing costs U.S. businesses $400 billion every year.

bad writing costs billions

From thedailybeast.com/bad-writing-costs-businesses-billions

He names websites and marketing materials as the worst offenders, pointing the finger at lack of clarity, overuse of jargon and poor structure.

Bernoff attributes the massive cost to the time that is wasted correcting and attempting to interpret poor writing.

This figure doesn’t take into account other expected costs to business in terms of lost leads, sales, and reputation.

Did you know? Poor writing costs U.S. businesses $400 billion dollars every year. Read more: Click To Tweet

Using poorly written content on your site can also have a significant effect on how Google ranks your site and your SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

People Don’t Read Your Content

So, here’s the thing.

You may go to the trouble of crafting what you think is beautifully written content, but people aren’t going to ‘read’ it no matter how good it is.

Numerous studies confirm what we already know. We don’t typically read much of the content we see.

We scan or skim it.

I do it. You do it. And so do your website visitors.

Our average attention span is just 8.25 seconds – that’s one second less than a goldfish!

goldfish

Image Source: Neil Patel

We read at most only 28% of the words on an average web page – 20% is believed to be closer to the truth.

So every single one of your words has to count.

Reduce your content to the smallest number of relevant, and necessary, words possible without sounding stilted.

10 Website Copywriting Secrets to Win More Sales & ROI from Your Online Presence

Want more in-depth tips? Check out my 365-page book on Practical Content Strategy & Marketing. You’ll learn the entire strategy for great web content. Bonus: Module/Section 5 is completely devoted to creation techniques – called Practical Content Creation!

Creating effective website copy is an art.

This is why many businesses turn to professional copywriting services or someone who specializes in online copywriting.

Whether you hire website copywriters or decide to go at it alone, it helps to know the factors and qualities of great website content.

Here are our top web copywriting tips.

1. Know Who You’re Writing For

With more than 200 million pieces of online content created every minute, it can be difficult to stand out.

One of the best strategies to cut through the competition and reach your audience is to create a target persona.

Once you have your target persona clear in your mind, writing your content becomes much easier.

Your target persona will guide what language and tone are most likely to resonate with your audience and inspire them to take action.

2. Create Eye-Catching & Skimmable Content

Since we’ve already established that our attention spans are worse than a goldfish, you should make your website copy skimmable, as well as eye-catching.

  • Start with an awesome headline. The headline is your hook and helps a reader decide whether they should click and read on. Make your headline clickable with power words.
  • Use lots of white space around your copy.
  • Incorporate subheadings and bullet points to break up space and create obvious landing spaces for the reader’s eyes.
  • Break up text with images. Photos and videos not only break up the text, but also create points of interest for the reader. Use a mix of visually striking images, informational visual content, and even entertaining GIFs where appropriate.
  • Write concisely. Never pad out your copy. Every word should have a purpose and need to be there. Try to write as concisely as possible.

Read our guide to learn “how to write and format” correctly in your online copy – not the way school taught you.

Our average attention span is just 8.25 seconds – that’s one second less than a goldfish! @JuliaEMcCoy shares how you can create eye-catching and skimmable content and other #copywriting secrets Click To Tweet

3. Keep It Simple

Your website copy is not the best place for showing off an impressive vocabulary.

In 9 times out of 10 times, the simplest word is the best choice.

A famous memo from advertising executive David Ogilvy to his staff on ‘How to Write’ champions the case for keeping it short and simple: ‘Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.’

For example, instead of ‘accordingly’, you could say ‘so’, and ‘next to’ is better than ‘adjacent to’.

Additionally, Ogilvy says to ‘never use’ jargon words, or what we may recognize as corporate speak. He cites words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally and judgmentally as no-go terms.

It may be appropriate for some businesses to use some industry jargon, especially if the audience is likely to use the same words, but in most cases, it should be avoided.

4. Choose the Right Voice

The voice is how an article sounds and feels. It’s characterized by word choice, language, and style.

It should reflect the voice your business wishes to portray and reflect the voice your audience may use or respond to.

For example, are you trying to sound conversational or formal? Does your language need to appeal to millennials or retirees?

5. Use Punctuation

We’ve already spoken about poor spelling and grammar, but punctuation deserves a special mention.

Bad punctuation can completely change the meaning of a word or sentence.

One of the biggest culprits is ‘its’ versus ‘it’s’ – just remember, ‘it’s’ is short for ‘it is’. Read your copy back with ‘it is’ to see if it makes sense with the apostrophe.

writing.com meme

6. Use Active Language

You should avoid passive language where possible.

Passive language focuses on ‘something having been done’, where active language is about ‘doing something’.

  • For example, passive language: ‘this report was prepared by us’, and ‘it is our recommendation that…’ 
  • Active language examples are ‘we prepared this report’ and ‘we recommend that…’.

A trick to making language more active is to use strong verbs or action words up front.

7. Use Keywords

The use of keywords is important in website copy as it’s a critical component of SEO, but they should never be over-used.

Keywords should only appear in your content if they appear naturally – that is, the sentence shouldn’t sound clumsy because of the insertion of a particular keyword.

Google is clear about penalizing content that is ‘stuffed’ with keywords:

google on keywords

If you’re planning on targeting keywords in your content, incorporate them in a natural way. Read our extensive guide on how to find and use keywords for more on this topic.

8. Include a Call-to-Action

Good content should never go to waste.

If you’re going to the trouble of creating great web copy and ensuring your audience reads it, don’t waste the opportunity.

There’s nothing worse than getting excited about what you’re reading, only to get to the end and find there is no answer to ‘what next?’.

This is why you should include a powerful call-to-action or CTA.

Tell your readers what to do next. Implore them to ‘register now’, ‘call us’, ‘sign up’, ‘buy now’, or ‘follow us on Facebook’ – give them something to do.

It’s best practice, though, to limit your CTA to just one. If you only give your reader one action, they are more likely to do it, rather than overwhelming them with too many choices.

Bonus tip: Consider matching your CTA to your content topic. Match the offer and the design.

For example, we usually theme our custom-designed CTAs to our blog topic. In our case study on SEO rankings, we created a CTA that matched the design of the blog header. The CTA offer was also relevant to the topic, which was all about inbound content. In our CTA, we talk about a matching service: the great content we custom write and deliver to our clients.

express writers blog and cta

9. Proofread

It’s always wise to ask a second person to proofread your website copy, as we often miss our own mistakes.

Think about proofreading the content in hard copy, as it’s much harder to spot mistakes on the screen.

10. Hire a Professional Content Writer

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when writing website copy, which is why hiring a professional content writer is a great option.