By: PJ Howland

Demystify Content Funnels and Take Action [+ Content Audit Template Download]

April 12, 2017 6 minutes

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Marketing funnels. It’s sort of like taking a user by the hand and showing them your website.

Sounds creepy right? Holding hands with the user? Creepy though it may be, consider this: the brands that are holding their users’ hands are getting their money. In 2016, Demand Gen reported that nearly half (47%) of all B2B buyers look at 3-5 pieces of content before contacting a salesperson, with over half of buyers saying they rely on content to make a purchase.

As we learn from Uncle Ben, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’

This data isn’t earth-shattering, but validating and powerful nonetheless. As we learn from Uncle Ben, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ And knowing the ‘great power’ of content marketing funnels, means we have the responsibility to act on that knowledge, because we know that not getting them right means there’s money left on the table.

The State of The Savvy User

It’s easy to envision a user’s journey through a website. The user probably Googled a phrase they are interested in, clicked a result, landed on our page, and after carefully navigating from blog post, to product page, to a converting page, now finds themselves beginning a free trial with your product.

Sorry, but 2006 called, they want their buyer’s journey back.

How-Users-Behave

It isn’t realistic to think we can move the masses from one page to another until they do what we want them to do. Today we’re working with savvy users. People know where to find information online, be it a baby’s first crib or a new sales software, people know what to Google, what to click, and when to bounce.

The user is going to do what they are going to do. Sure, single CTAs on a blog post can work—I’ve seen them work—but the majority of your perceived buyer’s journey is created by the buyer, not the marketer.
The challenge for marketers is to make content discoverable and natural, and to let the user set the pace.

Power Belongs to the User, So Does the Content Journey

Letting a user set the pace at which they consume content and convert isn’t a pleasant thought, especially when you factor your competitors into this equation.

Let’s face it, you have many competitors—sure, maybe only 3 your boss cares about—but you know there are dozens more out there. Users are perfectly happy researching their needs on any number of websites, and that means your competitors. The challenge content marketers have is to empower the savvy user with enough content and options for a one-stop visit to your site.

Oh, and did I mention the savvy user can knee-jerk bounce from a landing page at blink of eye? Few brands are striking the balance between content options, without overwhelming a visitors, so it’s worth looking at what brands are doing well.

Take the Salesforce homepage for example.

Content Funnels Salesforce Homepage

As I write this post, the homepage has 414 words, and can be scanned with 2-3 scrolls of my trackpad. Within this concise, but powerful homepage I count:

  • 2 bottom-line CTAs; free trials, a common goal for B2B websites.
  • 10 bottom-funnel CTAs; product demos.
  • 11 mid-funnel CTAs; product pages, where the user has the opportunity to dig deeper into Salesforce products.
  • 3 top-funnel CTAs; inviting the user to engage with webcasts or tool-agnostic articles.

This isn’t even taking into account the header or footer menus with rich UX, guiding users to exactly where they want to go. But the point is clear: the user is in charge here, because options are abundant.

You may be thinking, “So they have a lot of CTAs, what of it?” The “what of it?” is that Salesforce understands that it takes a virtually boundless content strategy to populate a website with enough information to attract, retain, delight, and convert savvy users into customers.

The Flawless Content Funnel Audit

Flawless? Who said it was flawless? Oh that subheader? Well… Don’t believe everything you read online.

The process is simpler than you may have thought. Essentially it’s a formalized approach to looking at competitor websites, gathering that data, and analyzing content strategies to identify gaps and opportunities for your own content.

This audit analyzes four buckets of content: 1) awareness, 2) consideration, 3) conversion, and 4) adoption/expansion.

Here’s the audit, you’ll need to make a copy.

Content Funnel Audit - Awareness

Content Funnel Audit - Consideration

Content Funnel Audit - Conversion/Adoption/Expansion

There’s a directions tab, so if you’re serious about making the audit work for you, the directions will give you the nitty gritty details. Essentially the audit is an organized spreadsheet with some guidance on how to discover and document competitor content.

After doing this about a dozen times (and refining each time), my advice is to treat every website like you’re a user, not a competitor or marketer. That’s where the big time commitment comes in, but it’s worth it.

This takes a couple of hours to really get it to a point where you’re happy with it, but once you have it complete, you’ll have clear next steps for content production. And that’s something not every marketer can say, in fact Content Marketing World reports that only 32% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.

So take a look at your content, and an even deeper look into your competitors.

Run the research, document an action plan, and get to work. Your users and bottom-line will thank you for it.

Written by PJ Howland on April 12, 2017

PJ is an Enterprise Campaign Manager at 97th Floor, overseeing a team of marketers, content managers and designers.

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