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Why brands need a full-funnel content marketing strategy

Author: Jonas Sickler

a graphic of a publication homepage rolling out of a laptop screen, with an image of author Jonas Sickler in the bottom-left-hand corner

I’m obsessed with full-funnel content marketing because it combines all my favorite SEO concepts: search intent, customer journeys, and topic clusters. But it’s also much bigger than SEO. It’s about solving puzzles, understanding customer behavior, and delivering exceptional value wherever your audience is.


But, few companies truly take a full-funnel marketing approach to content creation. Their efforts are generally scattered, siloed, unfocused, or too narrow. It’s easy to see why, though.


Small businesses don’t always have the resources to create massive content hubs which attract a broad audience, but take longer to convert. So, they prioritize narrowly focused content that converts faster but neglects the top and middle of the funnel.


On the other end of the spectrum, enterprise companies create flashy, story-driven campaigns that are entertaining and create brand awareness, but they don’t address their audience’s real concerns. Then, they pour money into low-converting PPC campaigns at the bottom of the funnel. See the problem? They completely ignore the consideration stage, where consumers gather information that influences their behavior.


If you neglect entire sections of the content marketing funnel, then you won’t be present during key moments when decisions are made. This creates a fragmented customer journey, diminishes brand trust, and weakens your sales pipeline.


Let’s pull back the curtain on full-funnel marketing so you can develop a future-proof strategy without any leaks in your sales funnel.


What exactly is full-funnel content marketing?


Full-funnel content marketing is the process of creating unique, valuable content in the right format(s) that align with each stage of the customer journey: awareness, consideration, purchase, and retention.


Regardless of how you label the stages of your funnel, they should describe broader intent at the top, to more narrow and decisive intent at the bottom.

marketing funnel

Value should always be your primary goal with content marketing, regardless of the channel. But, it’s even more important for organic search considering how it literally drives Google’s algorithms.


SEO is obviously a vital tool to increase visibility, but your strategy must extend beyond your website, and even beyond organic search. To be successful, you’ll need to take a multi-channel approach to content marketing that meets users where they’re most likely to engage with your brand, with content formats that will satisfy their needs.


Think about how to reach your audience before they’re aware of their problem, when they’re seeking answers, and when they’re ready to act. Those opportunities won't just happen on Google, they might also pop up on forums, in social media platforms, on review sites, or on third-party websites.


Why full-funnel content marketing is important


Full-funnel content marketing ensures brands are present throughout the buyer’s journey. It guides discovery, expands brand awareness, shapes buying decisions, and controls messaging. The result? Greater customer value, deeper relationships, and stronger brand loyalty.


Think about it: Consumers don’t just wake up and realize they must have your product. First, they realize they have a problem. Then, they ask themselves questions, seek information, and make decisions. The answers they uncover determine whether or not they move to the next stage of the funnel.


Therefore, brands that influence the decisions at the top of the funnel influence purchase decisions at the bottom.


Let’s look at an example.


Why is it so hard to buy a pillow?

Pillows are the simplest products in the world, yet they’re incredibly hard to shop for. Don’t believe me? Go to any local retailer and you’ll find a squishy wall of fluff with no helpful information to answer your questions.


Websites aren’t much better. Target (the American retailer) provides a single sentence about each type of pillow before presenting you with a digital version of that pillow wall.


types of bed pillows
Image: Target.com

There’s no buying guide, blog, or side-by-side comparisons to address the millions of questions consumers ask each year.


I’m not knocking Target. Most retailers are bottom-heavy marketers (meaning that they primarily focus their marketing efforts on the bottom of the customer funnel), and it really sticks out when you analyze the SERPs.


Nearly 228K people search for information about “morning neck pain” each year in the US, according to organic traffic data from Semrush. None of the top-10 ranking websites for this query sell pillows, yet every single one of them mentions pillows as a cause of neck pain within their content.


Towards the middle of the sales funnel, each year 822K Americans search for answers about the “best pillows for side sleepers,” based on organic search data from Semrush. That’s a staggering number of potential customers looking for recommendations, and there isn't a single pillow retailer in the top 10 results.


You get the idea. There’s a massive opportunity to get in front of customers when they realize they have a problem and begin to narrow down options. You can introduce content that addresses their issues through social media posts, bylines, PR placements, graphics, videos and blog posts.


Here’s how to get started.


How to create a full-funnel marketing strategy


Full-funnel marketing isn’t the same as cross-channel marketing or even multi-format content marketing. It’s about knowing your audience, how they think, and what they want.


01. Develop buyer personas

The first step towards creating a full-funnel content strategy is to define your audience.


In your buyer persona(s), include the basic demographics, such as age and gender, as well as their motivations, fears, needs, and frustrations. But also research how your audience makes decisions, how they search for information, and who they trust to answer their questions.


In other words, what are the digital watering holes where you can influence them? Do they seek out national news websites, or do they read niche blogs? Which brands and hashtags do they follow and engage with on social media? Do they passively listen to podcasts and videos, or do they prefer to jump into Reddit conversations?


Also, research how your personas feel about social, environmental, or regulatory events. Think beyond traditional demographic traits and consider how your ideal customer interacts with their environment. These two pieces will determine how your audience acts in key moments.


An example of a buyer persona, including a venn diagram with details about the individual, their environment, and potential marketing opportunities.
An example of a buyer persona. Image: Terakeet.

02. Create customer journey maps

The second step is to map the customer journey. To do so, consider the following:

  • What questions does your audience ask as they move through the stages of the marketing funnel from awareness to decision?

  • When are the most important moments your brand needs to step forward in order to influence your audience?

  • How can you reach them at different stages across different marketing channels, so your brand is always present when they’re ready to act?


Think about the best types of content to answer specific questions at each touchpoint. Here’s a graphic from a recent slide show I presented about full-funnel content marketing which shows how you can map content formats to questions throughout the funnel.


Image of mapping content formats to stages of the funnel

03. Perform keyword research to uncover questions

When you do keyword research for full-funnel content marketing, look beyond typical SEO tools. Although they’re a vital part of this strategy, they don’t give you the whole picture. You should also interview sales representatives, customer service teams, and customers directly to reveal the questions potential customers ask at all stages of the journey.


Remember to consider the pain points from our example above (such as neck pain, snoring, or sleeping hot). As you identify these questions, map them to the appropriate journey stage and assign several content formats to each one.


04. Inventory existing content formats and themes

Next, think about all the existing pieces of content you already have. Evaluate whether:

  • They need to be updated or completely recreated

  • You have major gaps in your customer funnel

  • You’re neglecting an important channel


Do a full content audit to determine the scope of what you need. Make sure the audit document is organized and actionable. It should be more akin to a roadmap than a list of content, so it must also contain decisions for next steps as well as who will be responsible and accountable to ensure the work is prioritized and executed.


05. Determine your content distribution channels

At this point, you need to begin thinking about organizing your content into marketing campaigns. How can you put your inventory in front of your audience in as many places as possible?


Atomize long-form blog posts into bite-sized lists and graphics to share on social media. Make micro videos for TikTok and Instagram—YouTube now offers Clips that can also be used to promote or strengthen content, particularly how-to’s and tutorials.


If you’re in the B2B space, create downloadable content like white papers and e-books to grow your email list. Explore strategic partnerships through webinars and podcasts. You can also take advantage of proprietary data to land media mentions or bylines.


This is where your strategy must come together. You can plant the seeds of pain points through social media and sponsored content before your target audience becomes aware of their problem. Then, leverage SEO to reach them as they search throughout the funnel on Google by creating optimized landing pages and refining your solutions content to improve conversion rates.


In other words, be everywhere.


06. Amplify efficiency with automation

The final step is to boost efficiency and engagement across your marketing efforts via automation.


As marketers, we have access to so much technology it can make our heads spin. But, if we use it correctly, we can deliver more personalized experiences that efficiently move potential customers down the funnel.


Here’s how the Terakeet marketing team deploys automation throughout the funnel:


At the top of the funnel, we use OptinMonster to trigger CTAs on relevant blog posts based on user behavior. For example, if you scroll 40% of the way down our content strategy blog post, or you remain on the page for 40 seconds, then you’ll see a pop-up to download our Content Playbook.


A screenshot of a blog post with a pop-up CTA asking readers to download a content strategy playbook

Then, we use Marketo to deliver a customized email sequence to everyone who downloaded the playbook. The emails include topics such as amplifying content with SEO, choosing the right content distribution channels, and measuring content marketing ROI. The final email entices subscribers to get a free organic search market share report to see how their content performs against competitors.


Marketing automation goes way beyond CTAs and email marketing, though. You can also use it to regularly share top-of-funnel blog posts on social media, or assign scores to leads based on how they interact with your content.


Go boldly and sleep soundly


Nothing is certain in this world. We don’t know if there’ll be another global event that shifts consumer behavior, or if virtual reality will take over the internet. But we do know that people are curious and cautious.


We will always have questions, and we’ll always turn to trusted sources for answers.


So, whether your audience searches for answers on a laptop, a phone, a VR headset, or a holographic interface, they’ll still follow the worn pathways of the customer journey. And a full-funnel content marketing strategy will give you better rest than any pillow ever could.


 

Jonas Sickler

Jonas Sickler is an accomplished author and SEO manager at Terakeet. He helps marketers unpack the customer journey to deliver more authentic brand experiences through the organic search channel. His advice has appeared in Forbes, CMI, and Search Engine Watch. Twitter

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