It’s a big promise: perfect content marketing.
But, for the software company Freshbooks (as an example), this web page represents perfect content marketing for a prospect that needs pricing information to make an informed buying decision.
Yep, a pricing page is content.
The big misconception is that content marketing is blogging.
While blogs are a major component of content marketing, they’re only a part of the bigger picture. In fact, in most cases, a blog is not the most lucrative form of content marketing.
But we’ll come back to that.
First, let’s get clear on the six characteristics of perfect content marketing and why it’s essential that you get started.
1. Perfect Content Marketing is Full Funnel
I know this is Marketing 101 stuff but stick with me for just a second before I get into the more advanced content marketing concepts we’ll be covering.
For an ice-cold prospect to become a customer, they will need to travel through three stages.
- Awareness – The prospect must first become aware that there is a problem and that YOU or your organization have a solution for it. (This is where your blog EXCELS.)
- Evaluation – Those that move through the Awareness Stage must now evaluate the various choices available to them, including your competitor’s solutions and, of course, taking no action at all to solve the problem.
- Conversion – Those that move through the Evaluation Stage are now at the moment of truth — purchase. At Infineca, our goal at this stage is to convert leads into frequent and high-ticket buyers.
A cold prospect cannot evaluate your solution until they are first aware of the problem AND your solution. And conversion is impossible until the prospect has first evaluated the possible courses of action.
To move a prospect through a marketing funnel, they will need content designed to satisfy their needs at each of the three stages.
In other words…
- They need content at the top of the funnel (TOFU) that facilitates awareness.
- They need content in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) that facilitates evaluation.
- They need content at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) that facilitates conversion.
Blogs are fantastic facilitators of awareness, but they do a poor job of facilitating evaluation and conversion. And, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, evaluation and conversion are super critical to your business.
To move prospects through the middle (MOFU) and bottom of the funnel (BOFU) you’ll need other content types.
It looks like this…
We call it The Content Lifecycle.
Let’s look at each stage of the funnel and the content needed at those stages…
Top Of The Funnel (TOFU) Content Marketing
The prospects entering the top of your funnel are completely unaware of your solution and, often, completely unaware of their problem.
As a result, you need content with a low barrier to entry — because they have little to no motivation to put skin in the game (think giving your contact information or money.)
You need freely available content at the top of the funnel (TOFU) that…
- or Inspires
…and you need to make it readily available using content types like:
- Blog posts
- Social Media Updates
- Digital Magazines/Books
- Audio/Video Podcasts
- Print Magazines/Newsletters (You’ll need a bigger budget here)
- Primary Research
Do you need all of these content types at the top of the funnel?
Most businesses will post content to a blog and to social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. Once you’ve mastered these two content types, you’ll want to add more top of funnel content to the mix like a podcast or a print newsletter.
Remember, the big goal at the top of the funnel is to make prospects “problem aware” and “solution aware.”
Notice how Whole Foods, using their Whole Story blog, raises awareness for a sea scallops offer while providing valuable content (recipes and cooking instructions)…
At Infineca, we provide educational content our prospects are interested in — raising awareness of our training products and services…
Notice how this kitchen remodeling company uses photographs of remodeled kitchens to make prospects “problem aware” and “solution aware”…
Unfortunately, the top of the funnel is where most organizations begin and end their content marketing efforts.
Smart content marketers know that, with a bit more effort, they can move prospects from awareness to evaluation in the middle of the funnel.
Here’s how it gets done…
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) Content Marketing
The big goal in the middle of the funnel is to convert “problem aware” and “solution aware” prospects into LEADS.
We use free content to incentivize prospects to submit their contact information and opt-in to receive future marketing.
We call this type of content a Lead Magnet.
Lead Magnets can be…
- Educational Resources (Case Study, White Paper, etc)
- Useful Resources (Swipe File, Checklist, etc)
- Software Downloads
- Discount/Coupon Clubs
This piece of content (a White Paper) from Cloud Margin generates “solution aware” leads…
But you can’t deposit leads in the bank.
A third content type is required at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) to convert leads into customers…
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) Content Marketing
OK, it’s point of sale time.
What types of content will your new lead need to make an informed purchase decision?
Here are a few…
- Demos/Free Trials
- Customer Stories
- Comparison/Spec Sheets
Your lead may be reading your blog and downloading Lead Magnets (and it will help convert her), but you’ll need content that helps her decide between you and your competitor to move her through to purchase.
Notice how Salesforce supplies leads in the bottom of the funnel with plenty of customer stories to prove that their product can handle that lead’s circumstances…
Salesforce.com has dozens of these customer stories — one for every major industry, product offering, and size of business.
Customer stories are content that converts — and they are the responsibility of the content marketing team.
Consider this piece of content designed to assist prospective Quickbooks customers in choosing the right solution…
Google would suggest a comparison sheet between Quickbooks and their competitors (such as Xero) is another piece of content that should be on the radar of the Intuit content marketing team…
And while we’re at it — look at all the bottom of funnel (BOFU) content Xero’s content marketing team has built…
Is creating top of funnel (TOFU) content on a blog important?
But failing to build a full-funnel content plan will leave you disappointed in your content marketing results.
2. Perfect Content Marketing is Intent-Based
Some businesses and marketers get hung up on the wrong metrics, particularly when it comes to their blog…
The key to perfect content marketing is understanding existing intent and anticipating future intent. Then, creating the content “assets” needed to address that intent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In our Freshbooks example, a customer that is deep in the funnel might have the intent to compare Freshbooks to Quickbooks.
This content asset addresses that intent:
And you’ll have to run paid traffic to your content to maximize your results or you risk leaving money on the table.
The truth is the most lucrative content assets you’ll create (if you have an existing business) are assets that meet intent at the bottom and middle of the funnel. Optimize for this existing bottom and middle of funnel intent before going to work on generating awareness at the top of the funnel with an expensive and time-consuming blog roll out.
That’s not to diminish the power of a business blog. Over the last 24 months, we’ve been adding content assets (articles and podcasts) at the top of the funnel and we’ve increased website traffic (think awareness) by 1053%.
That said, the quick wins in the content marketing game are in the middle and bottom of the funnel.
3. Perfect Content Marketing is Ascension Focused
Failure to provide an ascension path from every piece of content you create isn’t just bad marketing — it’s a bad user experience.
Smart content marketers anticipate the next logical intent and remove as much friction as possible to create a clear path to conversion.
In our Freshbooks pricing page example, notice that Freshbooks has created a clear ascension path to a “Risk-Free Trial” of the software.
From blog content, prospects can be given the opportunity to opt-in with their email address to get more information about a topic.
Check out this ascension offer embedded in a blog post. Clicking on this banner ad will take the prospect to a landing page to enter their email address and ascend to a lead:
They get more information about a topic they are interested in — you get a lead.
4. Perfect Content Marketing is Segmented
You can run surveys and polls until you are blue in the face. But you won’t know what they are truly interested in until they give you their money or time:
When a prospect visits a piece of content (spends time) they have raised their hand and indicated interest. And, because of the magic of ad retargeting you can follow up with these prospects with a relevant ascension offer without even acquiring their contact information.
5. Perfect Content Marketing is Cross-Channel
Perfect content marketers publish content that meets intent in any channel where groups of prospects are searching for and sharing content including:
Chances are a single content asset could be published across numerous channels to maximize exposure.
For instance, could that video demo of your product be republished on your YouTube channel?
Can that article on your blog be repurposed as a webinar? Can that podcast become a written article for LinkedIn Pulse?
6. Perfect Content Marketing is Avatar-Based
Last, but certainly not least, perfect content marketing assets are produced to satisfy the intent of your customer avatars. A content asset can satisfy the intent of multiple avatars or it can be published to target a single avatar:
Content Marketing Planning: The Content Campaign
To execute perfect content marketing, you’ll need a plan.
The planning document includes fields for:
- Marketing Funnel – Is this asset addressing intent at the top, middle or bottom of the funnel?
- Avatar – Which avatar(s) will this asset target?
- Vehicle – Will this be a text, image, video or audio asset?
- Channel – Where will this asset be published?
- Ascension Path – What call-to-action will be used in this asset?
The is used to align content marketing with business objectives like generating leads and sales.
Want to create content that converts prospects at all stages of the funnel? Create a Content Campaign Plan and execute on it. It works.
Let me know what you think in the comments!