Content marketing funnel – types of content for every stage

The content marketing sales funnel is a way of tracking your audience, from the moment they decide they need or want a product or service to the post-sales customer retention stage. It’s also a useful tool for making sure you’re creating a mix of content for every step of the user journey.

Your content marketing sales funnel should consider the need of the user, their specific intent at each step of the buying process, and what type of content they need to help them convert.

How content relates to the marketing funnel

Content marketing is about providing the right people with the right information. A content marketing funnel will help you provide that information at the right time.

It’s no good trying to get your product-focused content to rank when your customer is looking for informational content. And what’s the use of sending a 10% discount email after they’ve already converted?

Timing is everything and a content marketing funnel will help you understand when to send, share or promote your various types of content.

Content marketing funnel stages

Different people have slightly different visions of what the marketing funnel stages are. Most people, however, believe there are three or four key buying stages for customers. These can be broken down into:

  • Discovery: Becoming aware of the product
  • Research: Learning about a product
  • Consideration: Comparing products
  • Conversion: Buying a product
  • Retaining: Buying the product again.

These stages are often referred to as top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU) and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). At each stage, you lose potential customers as they either decide against your product or decide they don’t need the product or service at all.

This is why broad, high-volume keywords often have lower intent. People searching for ‘white trainers’ (45K) may not be ready to buy yet (or ever), while users looking for ‘size 11 white leather converse’ (10) are much more likely to convert.

Let’s take a look at what we mean by each of these funnel marketing stages and the types of content associated with them.

Top of the Funnel

DISCOVERY – a.k.a. Passive Awareness or Brand Awareness

This is the passive discovery of a brand, product or service through PR campaigns, social posts and paid advertising.

The discovery stage sometimes happens before the customer even knows they want something. It ties into more traditional brand awareness and advertising, such as TV, radio or magazine listings.

Your potential customer might not have an active need for something, but getting your content in front of them at the right time may trigger a desire for your product or a type of service.

User need: Passively discover a product or topic they are interested in.

Why your business needs it:

  • Reach a wider audience: This type of content can reach a wide audience that might not have heard of or considered your brand or product before.
  • Builds trust: By discovering a brand through a third party (social feeds, news article etc) your business gains essential social proof and customer trust.
  • Build links: You can gain backlinks through PR and outreach to your website, which helps boost Domain Authority.

Content marketing funnel examples:

Content TypesContent formatHow the user finds it
Paid Ad – Google, Display, YouTubePaidAdvertising
Informational ContentBlogSearch
InfographicsGraphicThird party sites
CompetitionsLanding pageThird party sites
Whitepaper / EbooksBlogSocial Sharing / Search
PR CampaignDigital PRThird party sites
Social PostsSocialSocial Sharing
Paid socialSocial / PaidSocial Advertising

Top of the Funnel

ACTIVE RESEARCH – a.k.a. Interest

At this stage, people are actively searching for information on a product type. For example, they may be using search terms like ‘what is…’.

These are users who are just starting their journey but aren’t 100% convinced of the ‘need’ for this item. They may not have a decided budget yet or know which version of the item they want. They might also just be searching for an answer to a pain point – which your product can help resolve.

User need: To learn more about a product and/or solve a problem relating to their life.

Why your business needs it:

  • Capture audience early in their journey: This content can capture people before they move on to the comparison stage, so that your brand is included in that comparison.
  • Provide relevancy: This type of content helps develop on-site relevancy around a topic, so that your business is perceived as an expert and authority on the topic.
  • Drive traffic: Ranking for query terms will help drive traffic to your site.
  • Increase internal linking: The content you share at this stage should link back to higher-converting pages with internal links, thereby boosting those pages from an SEO point of view.
  • Gain trust: By providing balanced and helpful content, you can build trust in your brand.

Content marketing funnel examples:

Content TypesContent formatHow they find it
BlogsBlogOrganic Search
GuidesGuidesOrganic Search
Service / Landing pagesLanding pageOrganic / Paid Search
WhitepaperBlogSocial Sharing / Search
VideoVideoYouTube Search
ChecklistsBlogOrganic Search
How toGuidesOrganic Search

Middle of the Funnel

CONSIDERATION – a.k.a. Desire or Evaluation

At this stage, users are researching specific brands, comparing them, and seeking proof that the product or service is trustworthy, matches their need, and is good value for money.

You need to educate and reassure the audience at this point by effectively communicating your brand USPs.

User need: Looking for reassurance that they’re choosing the right brand for their needs.

Why your business needs it:

  • Position yourself: Showcase your USPs and position your business as the best option when compared to rivals.
  • Build trust: This type of content needs to build trust. Social proof, such as comments on social media and trusted review sites, will help with this.
  • Showcase work: Highlight your past work and successes using client case studies or testimonials.
  • Deliver value: Use email marketing to deliver discounts to users in the Consideration stage as a way of helping them convert.
  • Provide reassurance: Pages on your website dedicated to shipping, returns, warranties, demos, etc. provide reassurance for users – especially if they’re spending significant amounts of money. This helps move people towards conversion.
  • Drive traffic: By targeting search terms such as ‘X vs Y’ and ‘best of’, you can drive search traffic for users in this stage.

Content marketing funnel examples:

Content TypesContent formatHow they find it
ReviewReviewReview sites / on page
Social commentsSocialSocial channels
Third party articlesDigital PRThird party sites
Free tools, demosLanding pageDirect
Comparison blogsBlogOrganic Search
WebinarsVideoSearch / Direct
Case StudiesBlogSearch / Direct
Purchase InfoService pageDirect
About UsService pageDirect

Bottom of the Funnel

CONVERSION – a.k.a Decision or Action

In this stage, people make their final decision. This is often the key stage of any marketing funnel – getting people to actually buy from you.

Your potential audience will be much smaller at this stage, but much more likely to stick around. If you can get users to this stage, all it might take is a single piece of highly persuasive content to get them to convert.

User need: At this point, the only thing users want is an easy purchase. They don’t want to fill in long forms, complete multiple logins, or decipher complicated shipping terms.

Why your business need it:

  • Boost conversions: Increase conversions by making the user’s life easier. Provide all the essential information they need to move forward with their purchase.
  • Build brand loyalty: Providing a good buying experience will make it more likely these customers will return.
  • Deliver value: Email marketing or points systems can help deliver extra value, especially for those who leave abandoned baskets and need a nudge to click the BUY button. Free trials are another good way to offer value.

Content marketing funnel examples:

Content TypesContent formatHow they find it
Product pagesService pageDirect / Search
Shipping etcService pageDirect
PricingService pageDirect
Contact UsService pageDirect

After the Funnel

RETENTION – a.k.a. Delight

The marketing funnel doesn’t end with conversion!

Repeat customers are often the life blood of a successful company, so you need content that keeps your users coming back for more. Ideally, you also want each customer to grow in value.

While a positive experience with your product is key, there are other ways to keep them coming back.

User need: An incentive to return.

Why your business needs it:

  • Build loyalty: This content will help build brand loyalty and keep your customers coming back. This brand loyalty also helps build a positive image of your brand.
  • Increase audience: Happy customers will leave good reviews and comments, which can help further build your audience.
  • Boost revenue: Loyal and happy customers will buy again and may potentially spend more each time.

Content marketing funnel examples:

Content TypesContent formatHow they find it
DiscountsEmail / CodeDelivered / Sign Up
How toBlogDirect
ReviewsReviewDirect / Third party site

Planning your content funnel

Before you start creating content for your marketing funnel, it’s vital to check what content you already have and where it fits into the funnel. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to see the gaps and can create a content plan to fill them.

Go through every piece of content you have and assign it to one of the four stages outlined above. Emails, white papers, blog posts, service pages, social media posts… Review everything.

You can do this on a URL basis, assigning each page a category. Or you could batch pages into content types. For example, you might have:

Content TypesFunnel stageNumber
Product guidesConversion15

Finally, make sure you consider your audience’s journey. Not every potential buyer will take the same route through the funnel – some may go straight from brand awareness to conversion, while others may need a little more nudging to make it to the bottom.

If you’ve created user personas, try adding these to your funnel and consider the different types of content they each might need.

For example, a Head of IT may want to see detailed specs for a new piece of hardware instead of a ‘how to install’ guide. The Head of Procurement may be bought in on an expensive product but needs to convince stakeholders – they’ll be more interested in a data-led case study because it makes their job easier.

Next steps

If this all seems too much for you, don’t worry. We’ve been creating content marketing funnels and the content to go with it for our various clients – whether B2B, B2C, SAAS or ecommerce – for years. Our content marketing strategy team can help you develop your own personal sales funnel today.