I’m going to lay it out plain and simple. You need a content funnel sequence for your startup. If you’re an online service provider and looking to build an organic content strategy, your strategy must include a content funnel sequence to capture and nurture quality prospects coming your way.
What is a content funnel?
A content funnel might looks complicated at first glance. It’s built into four main parts: Attraction, Consideration, Convert and Delight. We follow the HubSpot inbound methodology in that all areas of the content funnel need to be addressed (i.e. Attract, Engage and Delight) and each part of the content funnel is mapped to the customer journey.
It’s fun to create and map the journey of the buyer from first knowing about your brand to the moment they are ready to buy. It’s like identifying an individual’s story and adopting a storyline to fit their unique situation and to provide them with all the necessary information to achieve their goals.
Each part of the content funnel has several touchpoints. These touchpoints are areas where you interact with the ideal audience, build awareness, accountability, and acknowledgment until they’re ready to make the first ‘move’ with your startup.
Usually, in a content funnel, the first move is an ‘action’ on behalf of the website visitor. The marketer gives a ‘Call-to-Action’ that invokes the individual to produce a response. For example, the website visitor makes the move to download a content piece, sign up for a newsletter, or join a social media challenge.
You have multiple entry points to the funnel and need a nurturing sequence to accompany every entry point you create. For example, you need a nurturing sequence for the newsletter, an ebook download, or an infographic download entry points on the website.
Let’s choose one, an ebook download, and walk through the process.
The audience member enters the content funnel via the ebook download landing page. This is the entry point. Now you need a content funnel sequence to walk them through the buying journey from “hey, this is a cool ebook” to “oh, this startup has a solution to my challenge.”
What is a content funnel sequence?
I like to keep a content funnel sequence easy to handle, and I believe having something of quality (over nothing) is better than anything. Capturing audience information and learning more about them is key to the content marketing process.
With this in mind, a content funnel sequence is usually as long as it takes to turn a website audience member into a buying customer. The timeframe changes depending on the market, audience, and a B2B or B2C startup.
Knowing the time frame is an important nugget of information to get right when building a content funnel sequence. Because it gives insight into when to send the first email, how many emails, and at what time bracket. To do this, you need to know your audience.
For simplicity, I like to begin content funnels as three to four email sequences for a startup. Funnels do not have to be complex. They don’t have to be tedious. This is what a basic content funnel sequence looks like for an ebook:
- #1 – Introduction Email and ‘Thank you for downloading the ebook’
- #2 – Did you see these three blog posts about similar topics X,Y, & Z?
- #3 – Case Study (or B2C is better with testimonials or reviews)
- #4 – Sales representative introduction
Above is a basic 4-step content funnel sequence. In my experience, I built simple three- to four step processes like this one, or I have gone with more lengthy nurturing funnels.
These type of funnels are for startups with the challenge of long-buying cycles or selling high-cost assets. Again, it depends on the needs of the audience. Is the product or service a high-cost purchase? If so, it might take the customer longer to make the plunge. Here is an example of this.
I worked with a solar panel company targeting residential homeowners. The buying process is anywhere from one to six months, and it involves a lot of awareness building and convincing to the benefits of going solar.
For the client, I built a 15-step nurturing sequence that started from the very beginning of solar power basics and ended with product reviews and testimonials to test conversion. If they nabbed at the end of the sequence, great, then the candidate moved forward to a personalized call by a team member. If they didn’t, they entered a second nurturing workflow; usually a monthly e-newsletter with similar nurturing content.
Content funnel brainstorm
We have covered the basics of a content funnel and a content funnel sequence. Did it give you valuable insight? Now, I want to put words into action and conclude with a short content audit of an education technology website I came across called Klazz.
Klazz is a language learning service offering English language learners the opportunity to choose and book an English course experience in London.
My initial impression is they are in the B2C ed-tech market, and they are offering a high-cost service (i.e. in-class English learning). For a student, this offering is a large investment, and it most likely doesn’t result in impulse buying. Potential students are going to do their research, look at the benefits, compare costs, and in the end, will want to feel taken care of. (Build that trust and authenticity!)
After a review of their online content, I reviewed multiple facets of their website that were ‘spot on’ with the customer journey and content strategy.
- Klazz has a living and breathing blog. It produces quality content that targets basic London travel or English learning needs.
- Klazz has identified a series of FAQs that potential students ask.
- They have one (that I can see) content funnel entrance: ‘Get our Free Brochure!’
Klazz has a quality service, but after review, I didn’t see them address the top of the funnel with necessary content pieces. They’re addressing potential students that are already looking to approach an English course abroad.
I will put this into a hypothetical mindset. Let say, you are a student who just graduated high school. You took English courses. You want to continue your English-learning options over the summer, but you don’t know where or how. Or you are a student looking for a gap month trip between high school and university. How can we encourage these potential customers to become course buyers?
Identifying ‘top of the funnel’ or awareness-level pain points and challenges are much easier to identify when undergoing the intelligence gathering process with the sales team and current students. If you ask them direct awareness questions, you are likely to develop better insight into the mindset of the potential customer at this buying phase.
At this part in the buyer’s journey, I believe Klazz’s approach should be to build awareness and encourage students to dream of the possibility of going abroad. Let’s target English language learners who are currently taking an academic English course. How will I do this?
To begin, I need a ‘top of the funnel’ piece to capture prospect information. This is your ‘hook’ with the intention to pull them into the nurturing cycle. As it is B2C and a younger audience, I suggest to be creative and ‘speak’ to the buyer persona as closely as possible. Here is a basic approach.
Sequence #1: Test Your English: Are you an English-speaking rockstar?
- A 5-part online quiz testing basic English skills with a mapped character at the conclusion
Sequence #2: English Pro Challenge: Speak English like a Pro in 3 Steps
- A 3-part email series with tips and ways to improve English speaking (with videos). Email #3 can be a tip like “how to go abroad to learn from English speaking pros”.
Sequence #3: Introduction to Product (with 10% promotion value)
In three sequences, you created a basic content funnel with a nurturing approach. The ultimate goal is to attract potential customers to the content funnel through various channels (i.e. social media, email, and PPC), convert them, and have them undergo the nurturing process.
A quality content funnel concept and creation takes audience understanding, market understanding, and just a dusting of creativity. A content funnel is a quality approach to luring a potential audience to the website, building awareness with them, and being in the right place and time for their buying moment. Education technology can benefit greatly from adopting an approach such as this to funnel and attract quality high-cost product buyers.