As a marketer, your number-one goal is to guide leads through your sales funnel and convert them into loyal customers. A recent study shows that nearly nine out of ten marketers are now adapting their content to specifically target leads at each stage of the funnel. The survey focused largely on B2B marketers working for small to mid-sized companies, although it also included a number of B2C and larger companies too.

Creating a successful content marketing funnel means picking the right types of content, along with the right channels. But it also means knowing which metrics to watch, so you can be sure your content is truly achieving your business goals.

In this article, we’ll show you five best practices that help you effectively cater your content, so you fulfil your potential customers’ needs at each step of the customer journey.

Best practices for creating a successful content marketing funnel

Successful marketers rely on the following best practices for designing content marketing funnels that work.

Best practice #1: Cater your content to each step of the customer journey

Remember that the goal of content marketing is to drive conversion by adding value each time a potential customer interacts with your brand’s content. To engage with potential buyers, you’ll need to understand their information needs and provide content that satisfies those needs.

Potential customers have different content needs depending on which stage of the funnel they’re in. For most marketers, the funnel consists of at least these three stages:

  • Top of the funnel: Here, potential customers are at the beginning stages of looking for a new product or solution. This is the largest potential audience for your content, because it contains any potential buyer in your market, regardless of whether they have a specific interest in your brand. In fact, at the top of the funnel, many potential customers may never have even heard of your brand.Above all, the content you use to target an audience at the top of the funnel needs to be highly informative and address real problems your potential buyers face. That’s because people in this stage of the funnel are still gathering information before becoming more serious about making a purchase decision.
  • Middle of the funnel: Once potential customers start developing a clearer view of what products and solutions are available for them, they enter the middle of the funnel. Here, they may start to gain interest in one of your company’s specific products. Their intent to purchase is becoming stronger, but they’re still not completely sure which product is best for them.

This is the moment in the customer journey where you’ll want to start showcasing your own products. Remember to be highly informative and always focus on the customer’s perspective. Your content here should address the customer’s needs and show them why your product or solution is a good option.

  • Bottom of the funnel: At the bottom of the funnel, potential customers are highly interested in one of your products. They’re close to converting, but still may need a little more convincing to seal the deal.

Build trust at this stage by showcasing your brand’s values and unique selling points. Let potential customers know that your company is the kind of company they want to do business with.

Best practice #2: Paid ads are no longer the go-to solution. Try omnichannel instead.

Interestingly, when asked which content channels are generating the most leads and conversions for them, most of the marketers said they are now relying on email marketing and organic search above all.

Paid advertising is still a common and effective tool for driving conversions. However, the lesson is clear: an effective content marketing campaign needs to take an omnichannel approach, including a blend of owned and paid media.

Surprisingly, many marketers emphasise how important email is to their strategy. Nearly three quarters of the marketers surveyed say it is the best approach for driving sales once you’ve captured a lead’s email address. So, remember to include email follow-up when designing your next content marketing campaign.

Another useful tip for coordinating your various content channels is to make sure internal links are used in a transparent way that helps guide your audience to the information they want. In other words, don’t sneak-attack your reader with strategically placed links to product pages. Instead, use internal links to help them along their search for answers.

Best practice #4: Want to generate organic traffic? Answer the right questions

Nearly three quarters of the marketers surveyed said that how-to guides are the best tool for driving traffic. This makes perfect sense when you put yourself in a potential customers’ shoes. When someone has a burning question, they naturally search for the answers online. This is where your brand has a chance to step in and offer the smartest answers.

By focusing on quality and adding true value, you’ll pick up potential customers at the top and middle of the funnel, where they are still searching for information. It takes careful analysis and a deep understanding of your customers, however, to know which topics are really relevant to them.

Best practice #5: Do your research to find out which topics really resonate

To provide relevant content, you need to understand your audience’s information needs. But how can you tell what’s really on your potential customers’ minds? The marketers surveyed rely on a wide range of resources to find relevant topics.

Above all, keyword research is essential. Since traffic may be driven by organic searching at every stage of the funnel, it’s important to know what your potential customers are searching for. There are numerous paid keyword analysis tools that you can use to determine which keywords are most effective at any given moment.

Other important research resources for content marketers include competitor analysis, auditing your own existing content and performing interviews with your sales and customer support teams to find out what topics they’re most often coming across in customer interactions.

Some other, less common, but still useful research resources are internet trend analysis, social media tracking, monitoring online forums and communities, customer surveys, feedback and reviews as well as user behaviour data.

Effective content, every step of the way

The best practices described above set you on a path towards producing relevant content that adds value and engages your customers at every stage of their decision-making process. Bottom line: there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all content marketing solution. It takes nuance and careful research to determine how to target your audience at their specific stage of the customer journey. Fortunately, with some research, planning and customer focus, it’s possible to design content-marketing campaigns that will keep your leads moving through the funnel, one step at a time.