Ever wonder why everyone seems to be talking about their content marketing funnel?
It’s not just an online marketing buzzword. Content marketing funnels are a powerful way to guide customers toward buying from you, without being too pushy or resorting to shady sales tactics.
In this article, we’ll go over what a content marketing funnel is and how to create your own with a few easy tools and content you may already have.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Content Marketing Funnel?
A content marketing funnel is a model of your buyer’s journey and the types of content that supports each stage of that journey.
You’ve probably heard terms like top of funnel (TOFU), middle of funnel (MOFU), and bottom of funnel (BOFU). Let’s look at each stage of the funnel in closer detail:
Top of the Funnel
When potential buyers enter your content marketing sales funnel, the goal is to build awareness of the problem that you solve as well as interest in your solution. Top of funnel content is like a big shiny sign or waving inflatable outside your store that draws attention.
Middle of the Funnel
If the customer engages with your top of funnel content, they move into the middle of the funnel. The purpose of middle of funnel content is to help prospective customers evaluate your product or service and also build trust in your brand. Think of this stage as the friendly greeter at the front of store pointing the way to different products. Mid-funnel is where lead generation typically happens.
Bottom of the Funnel
The bottom of the funnel is where the customer decides whether to buy. They need specific information about the product or service to persuade them that it will work for them. The bottom of the funnel is like the salesperson in the store offering free samples or demonstrating the product. This stage is when the final conversion or purchase action takes place.
Beyond Bottom of the Funnel
Some marketers include a 4th stage beyond the bottom of the funnel, after the purchase has been made. This is where retention and repeat orders happen, and is just as important to your business growth as getting new customers.
How to Build an Effective Content Marketing Funnel
In order to build your content marketing funnel, you need 3 things:
- Lead generation tool
- Call to action
Content is any piece of information that is relevant and helpful to your target audience on their customer journey. The right content at the right time can move a prospect forward, but weak content can send them away from your brand, possibly forever. You can create different types of content for any stage of the marketing funnel, but everything must be able to answer what the customer is asking at that stage:
- TOFU: Do I know what this brand or product is?
- MOFU: Do I need this?
- BOFU: Will it work for me?
The answer to each question must be “Yes!” before the customer can move on to the next stage.
Lead generation tools help you capture contact information like email addresses or phone numbers of people who are interested in your product or service. The best lead generation tools can also tell you things like the lead’s location, needs, or demographics. For building content marketing funnels, we recommend OptinMonster.
OptinMonster is the best lead generation tool for content marketers. You can use OptinMonster to create on-page lead generation forms like popups, slide-ins, floating bars, interactive coupon wheels, and so much more.
The drag and drop builder makes it easy to build your own campaigns from scratch or customize one of the many professionally designed templates.
With OptinMonster’s powerful display rules, you can turn any piece of content, from blog posts to videos, into a lead generation opportunity.
In fact, Cosmetic Capital used OptinMonster to increase leads by 300% with a floating bar.
Call to action is the final content marketing funnel stage. This is where you ask the customer to make a purchase decision. After all, there’s no point in endless content creation if you don’t have a way for leads to become paying customers!
Most funnels will have some kind of landing page at the bottom where customers can make a purchase. For WordPress users, SeedProd is a great landing page builder plugin that you can use without any coding knowledge at all. Alternatively, you can also make an order form with WPForms or WP Simple Pay.
Now let’s look more closely at what your content marketing strategy might look like.
How to Create Your Marketing Funnel Content (With Examples)
Understand Your Buyer Journey
Before you dive into content creation, you need to get into the minds of your target audience. This is important because great content isn’t enough. Your content must match the needs of your different buyer personas at every stage.
Consider the typical customer journey:
- Awareness: Identify a problem that they’re having
- Awareness: Conduct online research looking for others with the same problem
- Consideration: Explore possible solutions found in their research
- Consideration: Look for vendors who sell products or services that can help
- Decision: Create a shortlist of options
- Decision: Purchase the solution they think is most likely to solve their problem
Put yourself in your buyer’s position and try to imagine the questions they would be asking at each stage. Your content should directly answer those questions while also building brand awareness and a sense of trust.
Now let’s see some examples of content to create for each stage, including some from our own content marketing funnel here at OptinMonster.
Top of Funnel (TOFU Content)
Content for the top of the funnel should be educational and problem-solving. The goal of this stage is not to sell but to inform and help.
Example 1: Blog Post
For example, our blog post on how to create an exit intent popup in Shopify teaches readers how to do a specific thing. We mention OptinMonster’s Shopify app and special Shopify display rules because they can make exit intent popups more effective, but the blog post is not a sales pitch.
Example 2: How-To Video
ConvertKit has a whole library of video content, including one on how to create an email challenge that gets more qualified leads on your email list. You don’t have to use ConvertKit in order to create an email challenge, but by providing this useful tutorial, ConvertKit positions their brand as knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Example 3: Social Media Post
Parenting expert Dr. Becky has built an extensive social media presence filled with quick, actionable parenting tips. Her posts are empathetic and relatable, so people like to share them, which only magnifies her brand presence. Some posts mention her book and paid membership, but many do not, since this is still top of funnel content.
Example 4: Podcast Episode
Copywriters Amy Posner and Kirsty Fanton produce a podcast advice column that immediately shows off how knowledgeable and supportive they are in the realm of online business and marketing. It’s a free taste of their paid courses and coaching that leaves many listeners wanting more.
Middle of Funnel (MOFU Content)
Middle of funnel content is for customers who are aware of their needs and actively looking for solutions. Content for this stage should answer the question, “Do I need this product or service?”
Example 5: Lead Magnet
A lead magnet is anything of value that you exchange for a lead’s contact information such as their email address. This can be a PDF, infographic, eBook, or an ultimate guide to a specific topic. Graphic designer Kate Burgener offers a free PDF of design tips that not only helps potential leads improve their own designs but shows off her own design portfolio. Check out our full list of lead magnet ideas for more inspiration.
Example 6: Case Study
Case studies work well in the middle and bottom of the funnel because they offer an in-depth look not just at the product or service but at real customers and their needs. Readers who see a case study featuring someone in a similar situation are more likely to believe that the solution will also work for them. Copywriter Anna Hetzel features real clients in their case studies that don’t shy away from the challenges of each project and how they met those challenges.
Example 7: Email Marketing
Small business accounting firm Avant Tax Works sends out regular reminders about tax deadlines as well as newsletters with relevant information for their small business clients. It’s a great way to keep the firm at the top of their customers’ inboxes and minds, both during tax season and year-round.
Example 8: Webinar
Here at OptinMonster, we offer a free live webinar every week with proven strategies for growing your email list and lead generation efforts. Webinars can be used at any stage but are particularly effective in the middle of the funnel to persuade prospective clients that they need to supercharge their email marketing efforts.
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU Content)
By the time customers reach the bottom of the funnel, they already know about the product or service, and they believe that they need it. Now you just have to convince them to choose yours over your competitors, or doing nothing at all, which can often be the most tempting “competitor.”
Example 9: Competitor Comparison
There are plenty of lead generation popup builders out there, and we want customers to make the choice that’s best for them. That’s why we offer an interactive competitor comparison sheet.
Example 10: Free Trial
MonsterInsights is a paid WordPress Google Analytics plugin that also offers a free version on WordPress.org. When users get a chance to try out the plugin’s free features and see how well they work, they may be convinced to pay for the full version
Example 11: Product Demo
Here’s another example from our own content marketing funnel here at OptinMonster. Potential customers who are at the bottom of the funnel may want a detailed look at our software, so we offer an OptinMonster demo of the 5 different campaign types as well as the 6 easy steps of creating any type of campaign.
Example 12: Pricing Page
Finally, did you know that your pricing page is actually part of your content marketing sales funnel? It’s often the last thing someone looks at before they decide whether or not to buy, so you want to make sure you optimize it for conversion. We like the TrustPulse pricing page for its clear explanation of features at different tiers, money-back guarantee, and compelling testimonials.
Measure Your Content Marketing Funnel Results
To use content marketing most effectively, you have to measure what’s working and what isn’t. How you measure success at different stages of the marketing funnel will vary.
Top of funnel metrics include:
- Traffic (search engine, referral, retargeting, and total)
- Social media engagement (likes, comments, subscriptions)
- Influencer mentions and media coverage
- On-site engagement metrics (pageviews, bounce rate, time spent on page)
- Newsletter and social media subscriptions
MOFU content is usually measured by the conversion rates and the number of leads captured:
- Email list signups
- White paper downloads
- Webinar participants
- Click and open rates for marketing emails
Finally, key BOFU content metrics to look for might include:
- Free trials and demo requests for SaaS products
- Conversions to registered and paying clients
- eCommerce revenue
How to Create a Successful Content Marketing Funnel
We hope this guide helped you understand how to build a content marketing funnel. To recap:
- Top of funnel content, like blog posts, videos, and podcasts, is meant to build awareness and interest in your brand
- Middle of funnel content, like case studies, emails, and webinars, is meant to help potential customers consider your solution
- Bottom of funnel content, like customer reviews and product overviews, is meant to convince customers to choose your product or service over your competitors
For in-depth guides on creating the pieces of your content marketing funnel, check out:
- Blog Post Ideas That Your Readers Will Love
- How to Create a Lead Magnet
- Best Lead Generation Software & Tools
OptinMonster can drive traffic to your funnel content and generate leads from every page on your website. Get started with OptinMonster today!