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Aligning Content to the Purchase Funnel

Purchase-FunnelIn this post, I would like to discuss our old friend the Purchase Funnel. It describes the various stages customers go through as they first become aware of your business and move towards purchase and hopefully advocacy. There are a few versions, and some marketers prefer to frame the process as the “customer decision journey” (also very useful) but the funnel usually looks something like the graphic above.

I want to give this a quick review because I’ve been getting questions from clients and colleagues about how content marketing tactics should align with the funnel. In fact, I love getting those questions, because it shows that they know that content should align with the funnel in the first place! So before we begin: a quick word about Content Marketing.

As marketers of all kinds are now aware (unless they’ve been hiding in a cave) content marketing is a huge part of the marketing mix these days. From newsletters and blog posts to white papers and videos, marketing your business with the aid of web friendly, customer helpful content allows you to become a trusted resource for potential and existing customers. Consistent output of new and relevant content engages customers and keeps your business on their mind, and that, coupled with trust, leads to revenue.

The term first became relevant not too long ago as web oriented marketers began to offer all types of information, or content, on the web for marketing purposes. Prior to the web, we used what we called Marketing Collateral (brochures, postcards, ads, flyers, etc.) as tactics in our marketing mix, but now Content is the term of choice and has grown past it’s web roots to include both online and offline tactics or collateral, as the chart below from Marketing Profsshows.

Content Tactic CHart

So this chart clearly illustrates how important these various content tactics are, especially in the world of B2B. As I mentioned, content is now a pretty inclusive term and you see from the chart that marketers are considering in-person events, books and even print magazines to be content. It makes sense because everything includes content of some sort, but it’s important to understand that there still should be a mix of tactics, including offline, and that by using the term Content Marketing we are not necessarily talking about an online only type of marketing.

By the way, you may notice how highly e-newsletters rank on the above chart. Anyone who thinks they are a thing of the past is clearly wrong. You’re reading one right now! In fact, let’s use this very newsletter as an example of how content marketing should align with the purchase funnel. Understand that by using the term align, I am not implying that all marketing campaigns necessarily have to be undertaken in order from Awareness tactics down toAdvocacytactics, although that is not a bad structure to follow when you are a new business or introducing a new product or service.

What I’m really suggesting is that you take a look at any marketing initiative or tactic to see if it corresponds to one or more levels of the purchase funnel. If it doesn’t, make some improvements. Using this newsletter as an example, let’s see how it aligns with the purchase funnel.

Awareness – For the most part, this newsletter is for folks who are already aware of my business, so I don’t consider building awareness too much when writing a new issue. However, I do post it online and I do ask that you share it, so it does have the potential to make some new people aware of my business.

Consideration – If someone is already aware of my business, it is my hope that by providing useful information on how they can improve their own marketing they will then considerPrinceton Creative Marketing when they need help.

Trial – By advertising a workshop that I am doing, I am offering people who have gone through the first two stages a chance to “try me out”. A workshop is a great way to do that with very low commitment. Most workshop attendees will just take home the info and put it to use themselves, which is great as well. Then my hope would be that they remember to refer me to their friends (Stage 6: Advocacy).

Evaluation – If someone reading this newsletter is already my client, they are always in the process of evaluating my services. Hopefully this newsletter reinforces some of PCM’s value above and beyond the contract relationship itself.

Adoption – I don’t think this newsletter facilitates adoption much, although similar to evaluation, I would hope that offering good info makes clients more likely to adopt my business as a long term service provider, or at least a trustworthy source of marketing information.

Advocacy – Hopefully, my clients love PCM and are willing to spread the word! This newsletter offers easy ways to share via social media or by forwarding to a friend.

Once again, no particular marketing piece must cover all six stages of the purchase funnel. And in many cases (i.e. when you are a brand new business), your initial focus should be on awareness, so you shouldn’t  be asking people to advocate for you if they don’t yet know who you are. What we are really after here is more of understanding of how a tactic does or doesn’t address one or more stages, and what to do about it.

With marketing, there are no hidden secrets or magic formulas, and often simply examining a topic with a critical eye will lead to better marketing. And of course, if what you are offering is really valuable, all the better.

So hopefully this article gave you a good example of how a very common marketing tactic, an e-newsletter, aligns with the purchase funnel. I encourage you to examine all your tactics in light of the funnel. As always, feel free to send me comments or questions at mike@princetoncreative.com

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