The Sales Secrets to Using Content Effectively at Each Stage of the Funnel

Remember that your content can achieve multiple goals. It just can't achieve them all at once.

learn more about Kelsey Raymond

By Kelsey Raymond


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While you and your team will want to leverage content for multiple purposes -- to engage your audience; educate its members about relevant, compelling topics; introduce them to your business and services; and entice them to take action -- you can't accomplish all those things in one single article.

Related: Forget 'Coffee's for Closers.' Instead, Think: 'Content's for Closers.'

No matter how engaging, educational and valuable one piece of content is, it won't be enough to take a prospect all the way from initial awareness of your company to closed "won."

Fortunately, you can create content for each stage of the sales funnel to effectively attract, nurture, and win your most qualified leads. You just have to utilize your company's most valuable information using a step-by-step process. Here's how.

1. Learn how content works in the sales funnel.

By using the right content in your sales process, you can educate and engage the best leads for your company; and by directing prospects down the funnel to what they should read next, you're warming up your leads before you even hop on the phone with them.

Here's what content at each stage of the funnel looks like in practice (and if you'd like to start creating your own customizable content funnel and map as you read through these, our downloadable content marketing toolkit may be helpful):

Stage one: awareness. This should be your most basic content. That means materials your team has published in external publications targeted to broad audiences. Engage with those audiences in an authentic way, by educating them about and speaking to their pain points. Content at this stage shouldn't pitch your company or your services. Right now, you're just using top-of-the-funnel material to attract leads, not close them.

Stage two: education. Continue nurturing your leads down the funnel with content on your blog that dives a little deeper. Because prospective customers are coming fresh off your 101-level content, they're looking for more information, so take this opportunity to give leads more concrete, actionable examples and a more thorough education. This content can be more specific to your company. But at this stage in the funnel, you should remain focused on educating only.

Stage three: action. Once leads, during the first stage, have become aware of your company and then gained a more thorough education in the second, it's time to entice them to take action. The best way my team at Influence & Co. does this is by drawing on gated content that's worth the download and is housed in our Resource Library.

Related: Stop Chasing Sales and Get Your Web Content Right

Gated content is used to deliver more value to readers and capture their contact information. To do this effectively, your call to action needs to clearly highlight how readers can take their education further, using your offer in exchange for their information. Gated content can take the form of a template, a checklist case study, a white paper or webinar sign-up; and your leads should recognize that the interaction isn't over once they give you their information. For you as seller, it's time to use that information to move on to the next step.

2. Put content into the hands of your sales team.

Once your leads have provided their information and been qualified, your task is to reach out as soon as possible with personal, customized emails to continue the process. No one wants to open, let alone read, spammy email templates that you've sent to every qualified lead who's made it through your funnel. So write an email worthy of a response, to set up calls.

Leading up to those calls, continue engaging leads by sending articles that address common sales objections. Next, use content to continue nurturing the relationship. For example:

  • If your lead has a specific objection, follow up with an article you've written to address that exact objection.
  • If your lead is concerned about results, email relevant case studies that highlight the results you've delivered for your clients.
  • If your lead is interested but not ready, make it clear that you understand, and ask permission to add the lead's name to your email list so he or she can continue to receive content that might affect a future decision.

In sum, content can be your best friend in the sales cycle. By starting with more basic content targeted to a broad audience in the first stage, then by moving to more educational, actionable, and company-specific content in the later stages, you can draw qualified prospects into your funnel and prime them to become great customers.

Related: The Rise of Inbound Marketing and the Death of the Cold Call

Kelsey Raymond

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Influence & Co.

Kelsey Raymond is CEO of Influence & Co., a content-marketing firm specializing in helping companies showcase their expertise through thought leadership. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.

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