Today’s sales funnel looks and functions differently than it did just a decade ago. Historically, companies used the sales funnel to create a predictable path for revenue. But now that buyers have all the information they need at their fingertips to make an educated buying decision, that predictability has nearly vanished.
We’ve reached a point where it’s almost impossible to remember buying things without first heading to Google or reaching for our mobile phones. Buyers want to be in control of the process. They don’t want to reach out to a sales rep for more information, but rather want to research and learn on their own terms.
And knowing this, companies must shift away from the traditional way of buying in favor of the way consumers are buying today, starting with a content marketing lifecycle.
How the Content Marketing Lifecycle Works
The traditional sales funnel follows a predictable, repeatable path: awareness, interest, desire, and action. This is the way it’s been done for decades, with prospects entering at the top of the funnel and sales teams directing the process.
Today’s sales process tells a different story, and many companies still haven’t adjusted their marketing to accommodate. Now that the majority of the sales process takes place online before a rep ever gets involved, content is playing an increasing role in the process.
Your content, rather than human sales reps, are doing most of the talking for you. And what’s more, the conversation doesn’t end once the buyer makes the purchase. Because buyers now have greater ability to voice their experiences and stay connected with brands, there’s a bigger push for after-purchase content marketing to keep buyers engaged.
Content for Every Lifecycle Stage
The sales funnel has evolved into a complete lifecycle to continue producing value to buyers and prospects alike, and your content marketing should match.
Here’s what that looks like at every stage of the modern buyer’s journey:
Similar to the AIDA sales funnel, leads have to hear about you before they move to the next stage. This stage should focus on high-caliber content that gives your brand authority with a less salesy persona. The goal is to move them to the next stage (interest and intent) while building trust in your company.
Content for this stage includes the following:
- Case studies
- SEO blogs
- Lead magnets
- Content with entertainment value
Interest & Intent
Though two distinct stages in the traditional sales funnel, the empowerment that technology gives today’s buyers can enable the two to happen simultaneously. When your leads are warm, start the sales conversation to spark interest in your product or company and gauge their intent to buy.
Types of content that cater to this stage include:
- One-on-one conversations (email, Facebook messaging, etc)
- Lead magnets
- Email list building
- Retargeting campaigns
This stage is referred to as the Action stage in the traditional model. Essentially, the decision or action you want your prospects to take is to make a purchase. If your content has been strong throughout the process, this is where all your efforts will pay off.
A few things that can help to tip the scales in your favor:
- Samples of your products or abilities
- Testimonials and reviews
This stage doesn’t exist in the traditional sales funnel, but in modern digital marketing, it’s hard to ignore the need for loyalty. Rather than ending the relationship and having happy customers drop out of the funnel, creating a lifecycle helps to keep customers in the loop that continues to produce value.
Once your customer makes a purchase and they’re happy with the experience, employ content marketing to turn them into loyal customers (or even better, brand ambassadors!).
Content for this stage includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Thank you gifts or offers
- Email marketing
- Notifications of new products or updates
- Product recommendations based on buying history
Ideally, your content at this stage will focus on service-oriented factors that let buyers know you appreciate their business and are keeping the relationship alive. And, like other stages of the lifecycle, your content should focus on desired actions you want your buyers to take, either now or in the future.
Maximizing the Lifecycle Framework for Better Engagement
Too often, marketers neglect the final step in the content marketing framework, which is arguably the most crucial. Given that it costs several times less to market to existing customers than it does to earn new ones, it’s clear that lifecycle content marketing is the better path.
It’s the only way to continue to serve your buyers and remind them why they chose you in the first place. The companies that do continue to build loyalty through content will be the ones that have a dedicated fan base that will continue to build value over time.
Are you investing in a full content marketing lifestyle? Contact us today for more information on how we can help.