Q&A: what is the content marketing funnel and how can I use it?

To some degree, content marketing is still in uncharted territory. How does content marketing affect ROI? How does it align with who purchases your products? We know it works—creating content can help draw traffic, leads, and attention to your brand—but a lot of this is still maturing as a practice. Through much trial and error, we now have a science to pair the sales cycle and buyer’s journey with content. It’s called a content marketing funnel.

Here’s what you need to know about using a content marketing funnel to enhance your content marketing efforts.

What is a content marketing funnel?

A straight-and-to-the-point question deserves a straight-and-to-the-point answer. A content marketing funnel is designed to create different types of content for different people depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. It focuses on mapping content needs to various stages of a consumer lifecycle. It tracks how familiar your customer is with your brand and uses specific content to convert them into purchasing. Content created for the top of the funnel assumes less familiarity. The deeper down the funnel the content is, the more familiarity, authenticity, and trust are assumed of the readers. This applies to both B2B and B2C organizations.

What do TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU mean?

There are three main parts of the content marketing funnel: top of funnel (TOFU), middle of funnel (MOFU), and bottom of funnel (BOFU).

The top of the funnel is known as the awareness stage. Its goal is to educate a large audience about your brand and its products and solutions, or to address a specific question your audience has. It works to build a community around the lifestyle of your brand. This is done through content that is never salesy, but rather informative, educating, and entertaining. The content offers answers, resources, data, opinions, and/or insights on a particular topic. Light, lifestyle editorial is a good example of TOFU content for a B2C brand.

The middle of the funnel is known as the consideration stage. The goal here is to continue to educate your audience with relevant information they are searching for, but also to start positioning your brand as the solution to your customers’ needs. You want to get customers to like you, so you show authenticity and relatability. This invites your audience to form a deeper relationship with your brand. At this point, your customer is more educated on the topic and is deciding on whether or not your product or service is a good fit.

The bottom of the funnel is known as the purchase or trust stage, in which the goal is to convert—to convince your audience to buy from your brand. At this point, your customer is figuring out what it would take for them to purchase from your brand. Content, discounts, and more can achieve this.

It’s worth noting that advocacy or loyalty—in which a consumer makes multiple purchases and helps spread the word about your brand—can also be considered BOFU. For the purposes of this post, we’ll cap the lowest part of the funnel at a conversion.

What kind of content should you create at each stage of the content marketing funnel?

Your content marketing funnel’s success lies in what type of content you create at each stage and how accessible it is to your audience. Each stage of the content marketing funnel has different considerations.

TOFU content

Remember that the goal of TOFU content is to increase reach and visibility and create awareness with a target audience that helps direct them toward solving a problem/goal. To do this, your content needs to be easily accessible and free to read, watch, and/or listen. Good examples of TOFU content are:

  • Blog posts
  • Syndicated posts
  • Guest posts
  • How-to content via infographics, videos, or blog articles
  • SEO-driven content
  • Social media content

TOFU content must not only provide valuable information that helps a consumer solve a problem or work toward a goal, but it should represent a brand’s core beliefs, values, style, and tone. For example, this blog post is a TOFU post.

MOFU content

If you want your audience to form a deeper relationship with your brand, you will need to create content that tells a story that represents your brand values. That story can be around your business, or it can show why your brand’s solutions and business are the best fit for your audience’s needs and problems. Some examples of MOFU content are:

  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • E-books
  • Whitepapers
  • Newsletters
  • Webinars
  • Conferences
  • FAQs
  • User-generated content

Unlike TOFU content, your MOFU content does not have to be easily accessible. Often MOFU content requires a show of interest, like signing up for a newsletter in order to download a whitepaper. Additionally, this content is great to distribute and promote on social platforms.

BOFU content

The bottom of the funnel is the end of a two-tube tunnel: your audience will choose whether to purchase something from you or not. Many of your customers will choose the latter, but if you create the correct kind of content and initiatives, you can increase the number of soon-to-become customers. The goal here is to convert, and gating content can be a good way to qualify that your target audience is indeed at the bottom stage of the funnel. To do this, you want to continue to build trust through consistency and transparency with:

  • Presentation materials for a prospective client that they can share with their internal stakeholders
  • Case studies
  • More personalized emails (often used to nurture leads who are already in the consideration phase)

Sometimes, the best BOFU content isn’t even content at all. Since the bottom of the funnel is known as the try stage, many marketers offer some kind of free assessment, trial period, or discount codes to entice their audience to take the next step.

How do I know how much content to produce for each stage of the content marketing funnel?

The simple answer: you don’t. Really, it’s a science and an art to figure out how much content to produce for each stage of the content marketing funnel. There are a lot of considerations to make, like where your content lives in your editorial calendar and coverage matrix, who it’s for, how much you can produce, etc.

Work with a content marketing partner to discover how to plan out your coverage and use the content marketing funnel to gain big leads and purchases.

Image: faithie/Shutterstock

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