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How to Create a Marketing Funnel That Will Increase Sales and Profits Learn what types of content will move consumers through the funnel and help you earn conversions.

By Susan Gunelius

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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It takes time to convince people to make a purchase. One of the best ways to move people through the buyer journey is to create a conversion funnel, which provides consumers with small actions that lead to a purchase.

What types of content and messages can be used to successfully move consumers through the marketing funnel? There isn't a single recipe for success, but there are some proven strategies that can work for you.

Related: 4 Ways to Market Your Business for Free

Top of the funnel (TOFU)

At the top of the funnel are consumers who aren't yet aware of your product or service. This is the stage where you need to raise brand awareness, not to try to sell your products or services. You wouldn't walk up to a stranger on the street and immediately try to sell your product or service to them, and you shouldn't do that in your content, either. Much of your content marketing success comes from indirect marketing, so don't go for the hard sell yet.

At this stage of the funnel, you want to make people realize they have a problem and a need for your product or service. To that end, your content should be non-threatening and require very small, easy actions from the audience. Try to be helpful in an effort to build an early relationship.

Lead magnets work particularly well. It's quick and easy for consumers to download a free checklist or worksheet that can help them solve a problem. At this point, the problem could be as simple as saving time or money.

The goal is to make sure you're offering something of value to your target audience to generate a basic interest in your brand, products and services. Without this initial awareness, you can't generate the interest that leads people to the middle of the funnel and closer to conversion.

Keep in mind that, to get people into the funnel so you can move them to the next stage, you need to know who they are. That's where gated content comes into the picture. Don't just give out a link where anyone can download your checklist or worksheet. Instead, create an opt-in form where you can collect their email addresses and any other contact information you want (the more information you try to collect, the lower the response rate will be). When you have their information, you can add them to your email marketing campaigns and other marketing initiatives.

Related: Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

Middle of the funnel (MOFU)

Once consumers have become aware of your brand and interested in your products or services, they've reached the middle of the funnel. At this stage, they're considering your brand, but they're not ready to buy yet. You need to give them reasons to buy to move them to the bottom of the funnel where they actually make a purchase and convert.

Ebooks and case studies work very well in the middle of the funnel. If you revealed a problem and solution to consumers through your content in the top of the funnel, then your content in the middle of the funnel should be the next logical step in solving that problem. Focus on benefits and results while continuing to tap into the audience's emotions in your messaging.

Free trials, discounts and money back guarantees work well to move consumers from the middle of the funnel to the bottom. Your goal at this point is to motivate them to make a purchase, so your messaging doesn't have to be as gentle and indirect as it was in the content you create for people at the top of the funnel.

When consumers get to the middle of the funnel, targeting and segmentation becomes very important. The content you develop and the offers you share in that content should be created for specific buyer personas. Make sure the entire consumer experience is created for their specific buyer persona and related need by developing highly targeted offers, messages, content, landing pages and follow-up campaigns. This is how you make consumers feel special and strengthen your brand's relationship with them.

Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)

This is it -- the final, decision-making stage. In your conversion funnel, you need to create content that motivates consumers to take that final big action to buy. To that end, your content should be product-specific. It should talk about the pros and cons of your product or service compared to the competition. Share data to prove your claims and tell consumers how to take the final step to solve their problem.

Your messaging should pique consumers; emotions, be targeted to them individually (this is where dynamic content works extremely well) and get them excited to buy. It's important to understand that not everyone in the bottom of the funnel is ready to buy immediately. Yes, some people might just need one more reminder, but others will need a bit more motivation. Use discount offers strategically in the bottom of the funnel to increase conversions without negatively effecting revenue. This is where testing becomes so useful.

Beyond the funnel

Once consumers convert, your job isn't over. Keep them engaged and maintain the relationship by providing ongoing useful, meaningful and relevant content. They might have made a purchase as a result of this conversion funnel, but you'll still need to provide content to them in other conversion funnels in the future.

Furthermore, an engaged consumer is more likely to become a brand advocate and boost your sales over time through word of mouth marketing. In other words, well-implemented conversion funnels can create a form of perpetual marketing that increases your revenue today and in the future.

Susan Gunelius

Marketing, Branding, Copywriting, Email and Social Media Expert

Susan Gunelius is CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc., a marketing communications and strategic branding company. She has authored a dozen books about marketing, branding, social media, copywriting and technology and is the founder and editor in chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, a blog for business women.

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