How to Properly Deploy Content Marketing in Your Sales Funnel

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How to Properly Deploy Content Marketing in Your Sales Funnel


Content Marketing Sales FunnelThe sales funnel as it relates to Internet marketing has been defined in many different ways over the years, but without content marketing as the backbone of the funnel, it’s a wasted sales exercise that only produces a site map and wire frame for marketing. Contrary to popular belief, a company’s online sales funnel should not be artificially defined by the company, but rather defined by the content its prospects and customers consume over time.

However, the sales funnel has to start somewhere. So upon initial website launch, redesign or campaign launch, companies should take their best stab at developing a working sales funnel strategy; keeping in mind that it will evolve based on the behavior of website visitors over time. Generally, the content consumed online by a prospect will be different based on where they reside in the buying cycle and what perceived challenges they're trying to overcome.

Barriers to Content Consumption

By continuously sculpting on-page barriers to content consumption, marketers can identify, qualify, segment and score website conversions. This is also necessary to build a true, working content marketing sales funnel. Some of these barriers can include privacy, time, work, money, topic and inbox.

Website Visitor

Just because someone visited a website doesn't mean they're in a sales funnel yet. They need to convert first. According to HubSpot, 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy. Most visit websites to consume some type of content in order to solve a problem or be entertained. The content consumed by a visitor who has not yet converted can be described as having no on-page barrier to consumption. Content of this nature can be blog posts, press releases, company news or standard web pages.

Content Marketing Funnel

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

Website visitors aren’t officially at the TOFU until they opt-in to consume content. Otherwise, the visitor is just an IP address and not a person. TOFU could be someone filling out a form to establish a free membership for content access, to watch a short video or to download a guide, whitepaper, cheat sheet, etc. This type of content can be characterized by having a low barrier to consumption. To access it necessitates pertinent visitor information defined by the form fields and its consumption is generally quick and easy.

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

Offering up MOFU content is a way to test the interest level of a website visitor and can allow for the identification of possible actionable leads. MOFU content should have a moderate barrier to consumption. The form can be longer and ask more qualifying questions, and the level of commitment to consume it should be greater than TOFU content. Some examples include subscriptions, ebooks, webinars, longer videos, etc.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

BOFU content has the greatest barrier to consumption and should represent a major buying signal to the campaign. This can represent a greater time commitment, but often times it's content that is only desired by someone trying to make a purchasing decision. The content could be an executive summary, a sales kit, a free assessment or signing up for a demo. When BOFU content is consumed, the website visitor is either a real opportunity or a rival looking for competitive intelligence.

By analyzing the past online behavior of current customers, companies can identify which content was consumed at each stage of the sales funnel and when consuming led to prospects moving from one stage to another; eventually becoming a customer.

Inbound Marketing Sales Funnel Widening

Once all of the TOFU, MOFU and BOFU content is identified and segmented based on persona or category, a true multichannel (email, social media, mobile, website, etc.) lead nurturing campaign can be deployed; delivering the right content, to the right person, on the right channel, at the right time. By properly leveraging content marketing and lead nurturing, a company’s sales funnel will widen and the prospects' journey through it will be accelerated.

Funnel Images: @DanielUlichney

Learn How to Deliver the Right Content, to the Right People at the Right Time.

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Consider a scenario where you compete with someone who consistently has lower barrier (ie costs) to consumption and experience than you do. Wouldn't this put you at significant disadvantage? Isn't this EXACTLY one of the key ways Salesforce disrupted Siebel? Now fast forward to today, I believe we are going to have to rethink barrier, speed to experience and replace the sales funnel with a buying for thought!
Posted @ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 8:17 AM by Ken Rutsky
I can definitely see where you're coming from. I think the counter point for barriers shouldn't be an either or proposition, but rather how much content has a barrier to consumption.  
The vast majority of website content should have no barriers, but without some how do you capture leads? How do you know who is a prospect? How do you know how "hot" the prospect is? 
Without any barriers a website is the old generation one brochure website w/ a contact us form and phone number only. Companies w/ these websites are essentially crossing their fingers and hoping someone calls or emails them. 
Out of Kuno's 3K + website pages less than 75 contain a barrier to consumption. Our customer acquisition and prospect to customer velocity is directly correlated with the amount content behind a barrier because the barriers allow us to identify and segment leads. The last two years has reflected this.  
Once this is done we can reach out to them via email, social media, mobile and phone with the right content at the right time so they can make a purchasing decision more quickly. 
However, if we created a barrier for the majority of our content we'd definitely be at a strategic disadvantage. 
Posted @ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 8:58 AM by Chad H. Pollitt
Great article, Chad. You guys are living proof of how this process grows a busines. As is HubSpot and many of our other customers and partners. The rest of the industry can continue to debate. We have data and experience to prove it.  
That said, I do think there is opportunity for us to help prospects self diagnose quicker. You guys blogged about personalization of content and calls to action based on a customer's lifecycle not to long again. There's an opportunity there and probably other ways we can help prospects more easily educate themselves into becoming buyers quicker.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 10:42 AM by Peter Caputa
Thanks for pointing out the examples and citing us as one. Our industry always has opportunity. . . and I like a challenge. Always up for more personalization and self diagnostic velocity! Time to blog more :) 
Coincidentally, we were talking about the industry debates over lunch. Internet marketing is quickly usurping traditional ad agencies, but I see another casualty around the corner, too. 
Generation one agencies (website development companies) that produce brochure sites, might do a little SEO and/or social. That type of work ignores the content marketing sales funnel above. As soon as business figures this out the gen one model is in trouble.  
However, the work you guys are doing at HubSpot is saving those who are ready to drop the debate and make the change to gen 2 and/or gen 3 online marketing. 
Keep fighting the good fight, we'll keep on evangelizing :) 
Posted @ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 11:36 AM by Chad H. Pollitt
A few years ago we transformed our marketing agency into an inbound marketing agency thanks in large part to you and HubSpot. Now we're moving forward with Phase 2, which is to focus our expertise on lead conversion and sales funnel optimization through marketing analytics. It's working. This is the missing link between marketing and sales performance, and our clients and prospects are eager to learn more. We look forward to working closely with you to lead the way in this new emphasis.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 2:59 PM by John McTigue
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