Providing great content offers is the backbone of any Inbound Strategy. We know that in order to generate and convert leads, we first have to give them a reason to provide their information, as a sort of digital currency. But we often get a little bit confused when it comes time to actually create that content, and assign it to the correct stage of the sales funnel. Let's take a look at the different stages of the Inbound funnel, and what type of content we should be offering in each one.
Top of Funnel (TOFU)
The first, and largest, section of your funnel is all about attracting and educating people. Truthfully, this section has two stages: driving traffic to your site, and providing that traffic with free information they can acquire by following clear calls to action.
Prospects in this stage have just become aware of their need, and your content should aim to provide that surface-level knowledge.
This offer could be an eBook, a checklist, a podcast, or anything of the like – but it has to provide the right information, in the right format, at the right time. The offer (and its promotional strategy) should be keyword rich and compelling, in order to be found and deemed pertinent to the needs of your potential customer.
In terms of "what not to do", attempting to sell during the first funnel stage is a major mistake to avoid. To illustrate why, let's use a theoretical situation.
Imagine you're an automotive novice who just found out your car needs a catalytic converter replacement. When you go online to find out what that even means, you're bombarded with advertisements for car shops and links to parts for sale. How does that feel? Likely overwhelming, because you're not ready to buy. And if you're like me, just the sight of a car part is horror-inducing.
At this point, your potential customers are looking for nothing more than knowledge to understand their problem. Due to the intrusive nature of traditional marketing, providing free educational resources is enough to make an Inbound business stand out from the competition. Avoid going with the herd and trying to capture the sale right off the bat, and instead differentiate yourself by being the firm that cares about the satisfaction of searchers.
Examples of relevant content in this stage might include offers such as "The Ultimate Guide to Catalytic Converters" or "5 Signs Your Catalytic Converter Needs Replacement". Notice how these pieces provide information, but make no attempt at a sale.
In exchange for this compelling, awesome, mind-blowing offer, all you'll require from prospects is their personal information. Take note that personal does not mean credit card number – it means basic contact information for you to utilize in qualifying and contacting the lead.
Middle of Funnel (MOFU)
As website visitors transition from the top to middle sections of your funnel, your content offers should simultaneously shift. At this point, prospects have become familiarized with your industry and are ready to find out which company is the best choice for them. Think of this as expanding on their personal understanding of their need. You can help leads move through this funnel phase with lead nurturing that directs them to content related to their initial download.
Going back to the automotive example, an effective company would send an email to their catalytic converter lead at this point with a piece of content which helps that individual choose the best shop for their needs. This could be something like "The Complete Checklist to Choosing an Automotive Shop", or "Questions to Ask Your Mechanic Before Scheduling a Service".
It's worth noting that the Middle section of the Inbound funnel is often the lengthiest, as major purchases often require quite a bit of research and option-weighing on behalf of your lead. As such, don't get frustrated if this process takes longer than expected.
The silver lining here is that you'll have the opportunity to filter out unqualified leads, and focus your energy (and campaigns) exclusively on people who are a fit for your business.
Once a lead downloads that mid-level offer (or a few of them) and progresses to the decision-making part of their buying process, you're ready to capture the sale via continued nurturing and a bottom-level offer.
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU)
Finally, it's time to close the sale!
By the time leads reach the bottom of the funnel, you're likely anxious to convert them into loyal, happy customers. But before you attempt that sale, make sure you've created an offering which helps them understand why your business is the right one. This can be anything from a virtual product demonstration to a personal consultation – what it can't be is a hard sell.
The bottom stage is your first shot at closing the sale, but it's also your last shot at positioning yourself as a viable option before mandating a decision. As such, take care to avoid jumping right into a sales pitch, and first give one more resource to demonstrate your credibility and meeting of their needs.
Tying It All Together
Understanding the motivations and needs of prospects and leads in each stage of the buying process is critical to your success as an innovative business. Where the majority of companies miss the mark by attempting to sell to anyone and everyone, organizations adhering to the Inbound methodology consistently capture and convert qualified leads which contribute to continued growth.
I'd like to explore just one more concept before we wrap up today, which is the importance of what comes after the funnel.
While the aforementioned phases are well-recognized and essential to the sales process, companies with the most loyal enthusiasts are the ones who continue providing great value long after the sale is closed. This can be seen in the form of compelling Thank You pages, incredible customer service, or superior offerings for continued patronage down the road.
Building a community of brand evangelists is undoubtedly easier said than done - but it's also the most worthwhile investment you can make for a successful, profitable business.
Funnel Images Courtesy of Savvy Panda
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz/5624285586