Great content offers website owners a plethora of benefits. That’s why brands, big and small, from Red Bull to your neighborhood’s coffee shop, are trying to better serve their customers by providing relevant and interesting content through various channels. However, creating content can be very time-consuming and expensive, especially if you don’t have a large budget and a content marketing agency at your fingertips.
So how do you choose whether to create a viral cat video or invest in writing up a technical whitepaper? Or should you just spend time updating your website’s FAQ page instead? I will share some tips and ideas for developing a good website content strategy based on the conversion funnel concept.
From a business standpoint, a good content strategy is one that:
- Represents the business well
- Engages potential consumers in a non-intrusive way
- Helps increase sales or meet certain objectives that the business has
Before you start developing a content strategy and integrating it with your website production processes, it’s crucial to understand the journey your customer takes from initially hearing about your company to making a purchase. In general terms, we can refer to the journey that a person takes from being a non-customer to our customer as the conversion funnel. A generalized conversion funnel can be comprised of four steps (borrowed from the marketing industry):
- Awareness: The stage of initial contact with the customer. This is when the customer first learns about your company.
- Interest: Once the customer is aware of your company, she might become interested in you.
- Desire: After the interest of the customer is aroused, the customer could reach a point where she starts wanting your products and services, although no purchase action has been made at this stage.
- Action: At this stage of the conversion funnel, the customer is not only wanting and daydreaming about your product/service, but also musters up the money, time, and effort needed to buy it.
The acronym AIDA helps us remember these stages, and it’s borrowed from the marketing industry. Customer behavior differs widely across all these stages. Someone who has just learned about your product (awareness), for example, will behave differently when compared to someone who already wants to buy your product (action).
The goal of content strategy is to quickly and effectively drive the customers from awareness to interest to desire to action by providing the right content for each stage.
Create Optimal Content for Each Conversion Funnel Stage
For our discussion, let’s draw out a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say that we have created a new photo-editing application and we are now ready to sell it. Let’s call our hypothetical software: Photoshot.
Photoshot’s target consumers are web designers and photographers. As a marketing strategy, we have decided that online content is a means to getting our target consumers to buy our software. Let’s discuss content strategy in terms of the awareness, interest, desire, action conversion funnel.
Our potential customer is not yet aware of Photoshot. At this point, our goal is to start him on the conversion funnel by first making him aware that our product exists. What are some general questions that web designers and photographers have (our target consumers) about photo-editing software?
Some examples might be:
- “What are some popular photo-editing techniques I can try in my design/photography projects?”
- “Where can I see good design/photography work?”
- “Who are the top designers/photographers in the industry?”
- “What websites can I go to if I want to learn about design and photography?”
- “What are some new web design/photography tools in the recent months?”
In other words, our potential customers, not yet aware of Photoshot, ask very general questions that anyone working with photo-editing software will encounter on a regular basis. At the pre-awareness stage, our potential buyers aren’t specifically asking about Photoshot because they aren’t aware it exists. If we develop content which answers these general questions, we could get their attention because we helped them answer something they need answered.
We give them something of value. By producing content that’s desirable to our desired customers, we are starting the conversion funnel; perhaps, when they finish reading our interesting content, they become interested in us.
When our customers become interested in Photoshot, their questions and demand for content changes. For example, they might now be thinking of these questions:
- “Is Photoshot better than my current photo-editing software?”
- “What’s so special about Photoshot?”
- “Am I missing out on anything by not using Photoshot?”
- “How, exactly, does Photoshot work?”
If we are able to compellingly answer questions about our software, our customer might decide that he actually wants it. Sometimes we can get him to take action quickly after he starts desiring our product. But sometimes he might add it to his “wish list” of things to buy someday, rather than looking to buy it immediately.
The questions about our software at this stage might be questions like:
- “How do I convince my boss that I need Photoshot when I already have photo-editing software?”
- “Do I have an upcoming project that would benefit from this software?”
- “Are there any ways to get this software for free so I can at least experience some of its benefits right now?”
- “Do I really need to buy this now?”
These are the questions that a typical customer might ask when they are about to buy Photoshot:
- “What OS does it support?”
- “Can my computer handle Photoshot? What are its system requirements?”
- “Can I pay for my purchase easily? (PayPal, credit card, cash, etc.)?”
- “Are there any limitations on how I can use this software?”
- “Can I download it, or do I need to go to a physical store to buy it?”
The Optimal Type of Content Changes at Each Stage
The needs of our customers are completely different at each stage. Therefore, when preparing our content strategy, we should go through each stage of the conversion funnel and tailor our content for each stage.
Focus on the Most Important Stages of the Funnel
You now understand how customers move from awareness to interest to desire to action, as well as what types of questions arise during the conversion funnel journey. Developing content for all of these stages is a lot of work, so you need to prioritize. It’s crucial to understand which stages of the conversion funnel would help you the most at any given time.
For example, if we only see 10 visitors per day on our website, our problem is awareness. Developing an FAQ on how to buy and install our software will not help because no one is interested and desiring our product yet. Instead, we could start with a series of blog posts on design trends or guest posting in a leading design blog to help create awareness.
Alternatively, if we have a healthy level of site traffic but customers constantly ask us how to buy our product or how to set-up the free trial, then we need to develop content that addresses these types of questions — maybe a webinar or video on using the software — instead of routing our limited resources on creating viral infographics and guest blog posts. You might be asking how you could determine which stage of the funnel are the most important at any given time. There is no clear-cut answer.
However, it often makes sense to see where the bottlenecks are. You might ask yourself the following questions.
- “Do I see a lot of visitors to our website?”
- “Do potential customers know about us?”
If not, we need to work on awareness.
- “When we guest post on other websites, do the customers click through to our website?”
- “Does our company interest them?”
- “Do they wonder how it works?”
If not, we need to work on interest.
- “Are the customers interested in buying our product?”
- “Do they believe it is a great, necessary product?”
If not, we need to work on desire and prove the benefits to the customers.
- “Do people understand how and where to buy our product?”
- “Are my conversion rates similar or better to others in the industry?”
If not, we might need to work on action.
No matter how wonderful your content is, it will not find the customer by itself. You also need to decide how you are going to deliver it to the customer. The optimal content distribution channels differ for each stage of the conversion funnel, and therefore you need to learn where the customers typically find content at each stage.
For example, our customers at the action stage of the funnel are already looking for photo-editing software. They are probably using Google to search for various options. They might also look at industry blogs, forums, and review sites to find out what option is the best.
Therefore, in order to capture that audience, we will need to develop content that would answer the questions arising at that stage. But more than that, we need to think of ways in which our content is disseminated. It could be search engines, blogs, forums, review sites, YouTube — we need to figure out what the most effective means of getting a piece of content in front of the right people is.
Our customers at the pre-awareness stage are probably not looking for our company at all. Therefore, we could get their attention by attracting them with an interesting topic, let’s say by developing a collection of inspirational photo-editing work, a tutorial on photo-editing that uses Photoshot, or a set of graphic design resources. The distribution channel could be our own blog or industry blogs.
Depending on the bottlenecks in your conversion funnel, you can now focus on creating the content for the stage that would help you the most at any given time.
Content Strategy Matrix
I have created a table that could serve as our map towards using content as a marketing method for Photoshot, our hypothetical software.
|Stage||Possible Questions||Distribution Channels|
|Awareness||– “What are some popular photo-editing techniques I can try in my design/photography projects?” – “Where can I see good design/photography work?” – “Who are the top designers/photographers in the industry?” – “What websites can I go to if I want to learn about design and photography?” – “What are some new web design/photography tools in the recent months?”||– mainstream media – guest posts – press releases – webinars – trade shows – conferences – social media – display advertising|
|Interest||– “Is Photoshot better than my current photo-editing software?” – “What’s so special about Photoshot?” – “Am I missing out on anything by not using Photoshot?” – “How, exactly, does Photoshot work?”||– our website – press releases – webinars – social media – display advertising – review sites – forums|
|Desire||– “How do I convince my boss that I need Photoshot when I already have photo-editing software?” – “Do I have an upcoming project that would benefit from this software?” – “Are there any ways to get this software for free so I can at least experience some of its benefits right now?” – “Do I really need to buy this now?”||– review websites – our website – SEO – forums – Google Adwords|
|Action||– “What OS does it support?” – “Can my computer handle Photoshot? What are its system requirements?” – “Can I pay for my purchase easily? (PayPal, credit card, cash, etc.)?” – “Are there any limitations on how I can use this software?” – “Can I download it, or do I need to go to a physical store to buy boxed software?”||– our website – Google Adwords – SEO – forums|
Creating your own table can serve as your cheat sheet for your content-based marketing efforts.
Continual Improvement of Content Strategy
Finally, you should never rest on your laurels and assume that what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. Your competitors are constantly thinking about how to produce the most compelling content and lure the customer’s attention. Therefore, you should continuously experiment with various types of content and distribution channels.
Double down on the ones that work, while limiting your efforts on those which do not work. Make sure that you measure your actions, try to understand which parts of the funnel require the most attention at any given time, see which content works best, and which distribution channels are the most efficient.
* Box software graphic created using “3D software box” PSD.