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What is the purchase funnel, and how can it help optimise content for conversions?

3 Sep

If you aren’t already familiar with the idea of the purchase funnel, it’s definitely something that’s worth reading into. An in-depth understanding of the purchase funnel can help you optimise your content strategy to maximise conversions.

It’s possible to go without. But if you really want your content marketing to succeed, you’ll need to keep the purchase funnel in mind when creating content!

In an ideal world, businesses wouldn’t have marketing funnels, but would have a purchase cylinder instead, with every single prospect or lead converting into a paying customer!

Unfortunately however, that’s not the world we live in. In the real world, your pool of leads, prospects and potential customers shrinks the closer you get to the point of purchase.

The basic premise of the funnel is that not every lead that comes across your business will end up making a purchase. Maybe the price has put them off, they’ve found a better deal elsewhere or perhaps they’re just flaky customers full-stop.

Even at the very bottom of the funnel, some customers might back out at the last second.

Whatever the reason, the end result is the same, with your customer pool growing smaller the closer it gets to the final purchase.

When represented visually, you end up with a distinct funnel-shape (hence the name!)

purchase funnel diagram

If you lose a lot of leads very quickly, your business probably has a short, flat funnel.

Conversely, a funnel with steep sides is a sign that few of your leads and prospects are dropping off, and that most go on to become paying customers.

Your goal as a business owner is to ensure that your funnel is as cylindrical as possible and that the smallest number of leads is lost.

While it’s impossible to convert every prospect or lead into a paying customer, there are plenty of things you can do to guide more customers towards an eventual purchase.

Purchase funnel

But first, a breakdown of the buying process

The purchase funnel is broken-up into different sections, with each representing a different stage of the decision-making process.

While there’s a lot (and we mean, a lot) of debate over how many stages there are exactly, generally there are three main sections:

Top-of-funnel (TOFU)

TOFU – more than just a delicious meat substitute!

The top of the purchase funnel includes prospects who are at the very first stages of making a purchase. This stage covers when leads first realise they have a problem and start looking for solutions.

For example, if you’re planning a wedding reception, you’ll need to look for venues to host your special day. For you, TOFU considerations might include things like:

  • Determining how many guests you’ll have
  • What type of venue you’ll need
  • Whether or not you need catering
  • A quick Google search or nearby venues
  • Looking over venue websites and images

For businesses, this is where prospects first learn about your business and form their initial impressions. As such, you’ll want to make the best impression possible!

Middle-of-funnel (MOFU)

Once you’ve made your first impression, you move on to the next step: the consideration stage.

The middle of the funnel is where the bulk of the potential customer’s research and thinking happens.

Going back to the wedding reception example, this is the stage where you start looking at details such as:

  • Floor plans
  • Venue capacity and seating
  • Menu options
  • Organising a tour or visit
  • Pricing options

This is the stage where leads have decided what they need, and are actively looking for solutions. As a business owner, your goal at this stage is to convince them that your business is the ideal fix for their needs and superior to your competitors.

Bottom-of-funnel (BOFU)

Finally! This is where you make your final sales pitch – all the legwork is cone and your leads have almost made their minds up about a purchase. They just need that tiny, eensy-weensy nudge to push them towards a purchase.

Some leads might even have added items to their carts – if this is the case, you can’t let them get away!

Essentially, the goal here is to convince the folks who are wavering that yes, you are worth pulling the trigger on. Nurturing your lead is vital.

Beyond the funnel

Relationships go beyond the funnel, you know!

Your relationship with customers doesn’t end once they make their purchase – in fact, for many businesses it’s only the beginning.

Post-funnel, the focus is on retaining your customers, encouraging repeat business and maybe even a cheeky up-sell!

Fortunately for you, you already did 90% of the legwork turning them from leads to paying customers. At this stage, your focus is on providing follow-ups service and post-purchase support to keep your customers on board.

Who knows, they might even come to bat for you with glowing reviews and recommendations!

Case in point: how content marketing can be used to encourage conversions and purchases

Alright, now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of the purchase funnel, it’s time for the real meat-and-potatoes.

Namely, how you can effectively use content marketing at each stage of the purchase funnel!

Many people latch onto the idea that content marketing is solely aimed at people who are at the top of the funnel. We’re here to tell you that’s patently false.

Content can be used to gently nudge leads closer to an eventual purchase at all stages of the buying process. The only thing to keep in mind is that each stage requires a different approach towards content:

Content for top-of-funnel leads

At the top of the funnel, leads are still thinking about their problems and what they need to solve them.

As a result, your goal is to generate awareness of your business among potential customers.

Content at this early stage is rarely “sales-y”. Instead, it’s all about generating interest, building credibility and leaving a positive first impression so that leads come back to you when they start actively thinking about their options.

Content that works really well at the top include:

  • A good-looking homepage
  • Snappy copy that immediately explains the who, what, why, when and how
  • Multimedia like interactive banners
  • Professionally-shot photos and images
  • Blogs and monthly content
  • Click-optimised landing pages
  • Well-done introduction videos
  • Glossaries that explain any technical areas

Ideally, you won’t go into content creation with a sales mindset. Don’t even go in thinking you’ll puff yourself up!

Instead, you’ll want to create content with the mentality of educating your readers and answering their questions (a bit like what we’re doing right now!). Focus on this, and your own credibility will follow automatically.

Content for the middle of the funnel

So your leads have stuck around past the awareness stage. That’s great – now you have to convince them you are the solution to their problems.

During the research and evaluation stages of the purchase, prospects are comparing your offering to your competitors’. This is the time to provide content helps them gauge your suitability for their needs and to prove you’re better.

As such, when creating content for prospects who are doing their research, you’ll want to put particular emphasis on your product, service and review pages.

How can your content help?

  • Provide a broad portfolio and reviews
  • Film demonstration videos – these should be more in-depth than your introductory videos
  • Write in-depth technical manuals and compelling product descriptions
  • Frame your content around solutions
  • Offer before-and-after comparisons
  • Create comprehensive FAQ pages
  • Embed easy-to-understand infographics

These are just some of the examples of content that works particularly well in the middle of the purchase funnel. Feel free to experiment – only you know what your target market wants!

Content for the home stretch: how to get conversions from the bottom of the funnel

The crucial part of the funnel is the point-of-transaction – without a conversion, all your work may as well have been for naught!

Prospects that are still in the funnel at this point are almost on board with you. All you need to do is give them that little extra nudge:

  • A seamless, smooth online storefront
  • Discounts and promotional codes
  • Special offers, extras and bonuses
  • Relevant testimonials
  • Pricing and package pages
  • Free or discounted quotes
  • Extras and bonuses

When it comes to the actual writing, this is when you can get sales-y with your copy. Think about any niggling concerns that might be holding your prospects back and write content that directly addresses these issues.

And finally, make sure you include compelling calls-to-action!

Whew! That was a marathon – so what comes next?

Take it from us, any business with an online presence needs to be aware of the importance of the purchase funnel. It mightn’t sound like a big deal, but when competition is as stiff as it is, you’ll need every advantage you can get!

These are just some of the ways you can lead your prospects from the first time they learn about you all the way to the eventual purchase. Don’t be fooled, it’s no easy feat – it requires hours of analysis, planning, research and design.

And on a micro level, every individual page on your website needs to do the same! Google is a fickle thing – there’s no telling which page might serve as a lead’s first exposure to your business.

We don’t mean to toot our own horn here, but we reckon we’re pretty good at the whole content thing at iformat! We help businesses all over the place create breathtaking (if we don’t say so ourselves) content that gets you found, builds credibility and most importantly, converts. No matter what you need, we can help you get results. Don’t let your business get left behind – give us a ring on 1300 886 450 or reach out to us here.