Your Digital Marketing Strategy Template (AKA The Customer Value Journey)

 

This is where digital marketing begins and ends...

With a Customer Value Journey that strategically builds a relationship with new prospects and converts them into loyal, repeat customers.

This Journey is the process every prospect goes through to become a new customer.

It’s how strangers become buyers and, eventually, raving fans of your business.

The hard truth is that marketing is not a one-step process. There are eight stages you must account for on the path to purchase and promotion.

 

But, I have great news. If you understand this digital marketing strategy (a.k.a. the Customer Value Journey), then you can intentionally engineer your business in such a way that it moves people predictably through the stages in this template.

In other words, you'll no longer wonder if you'll be able to generate leads. You won't have to cross your fingers and hope for customers. When you understand the Customer Value Journey, even reviews and referrals will become automatic.

The Customer Value Journey is the strategic foundation of everything we do here at DigitalMarketer. It's the master template upon which every other digital marketing discipline and tactic is built.

It’s so important, we confidently make this bold statement:

The job of marketing is to move prospects and customers seamlessly and subtly through each phase of the Customer Value Journey.

"The job of marketing is to move prospects and customers seamlessly and subtly through each phase of the Customer Value Journey."

In this chapter, we'll start with a high-level map of the Customer Value Journey. Then we'll dive into each of the 8 steps, talk about the tactics you'll need to move people along the Journey, and review case studies so you can see it in action.

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An Overview of the Customer Value Journey

So, now that you understand why it’s important... here’s what the Customer Value Journey looks like:

Click the image above (or click here) to download your writeable copy of The Customer Value Journey

Now let's walk through the 8-step process of crafting your digital marketing strategy:

Step 1: Awareness

Before someone can buy from you, they have to realize you exist—right?

Well, that’s Step 1 in the Customer Value Journey.

This step is pretty self-explanatory: It’s where the person becomes aware of you. After all, nobody is born knowing who Apple or Amazon are. At some point they have to become aware of these companies if they are to become a customer.

The same thing is true of your company.

Examples of Marketing that Generates Awareness

There are any number of ways a prospect could become aware of your company, products, and services. Here are three possible scenarios:

  • A father of two sees an advertisement for a new children's summer camp on Facebook.

  • An office manager searches Google to find a new coffee supplier.

  • A college student watches an Instagram video of her friend raving about a new brand of noise canceling headphones.

Facebook ads are the perfect vehicle for driving awareness. In this example, browsers are introduced to a home security company:

If you weren’t aware of Canary, this Facebook ad makes you aware.

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Awareness

To improve awareness of your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:

Step 2: Engagement

Your prospect is now aware of you—they know who you are—but you're still in the early stages of a relationship with them. They don’t yet know you, like you, or trust you.

So the next step is to start developing relationship with your prospect.

Step 2, Engagement, is where you start conversing with your prospects. You engage them through some form of content that provides entertainment, information, or both.

Engagement is something that must continue throughout the Customer Journey. It's not something you do once and move on.

Examples of Marketing That Generates Engagement

Engagement typically comes in the form of content or community. Here are a few examples to get the ideas flowing for your company:

  • A grandfather of five receives an email newsletter from his financial advisor detailing several ways to save for a child's college tuition while reducing taxes.

  • The owner of a boutique wine store becomes active in a Facebook community for wineries and other wine retailers.

  • A new mother watches a YouTube video from Johnson & Johnson showing her how to give her baby a bath.

Engagement often occurs through valuable, relevant content.

Let's look at another example of engagement from Modcloth, an etailer selling women’s clothing. This is an entertaining and educational piece of content for one of Modcloth’s most lucrative customer segments—people attending weddings:

You can boost engagement with content that's as entertaining as it is useful.

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Engagement

To improve engagement in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:

Step 3: Subscribe

At this point, your prospect knows who you are and has engaged with you in some way or another.

However, if you failed to get that person’s contact information, odds are high you’ll never hear from them again.

Why?

Because people today are inundated with marketing and content, creating a scarcity of attention. Just because someone reads one of your blog posts today does NOT mean they'll remember to revisit your site in the future.

Instead, you need to get that person to progress to Step 3 in the Value Journey, which is to subscribe.

Here, the person gives you their contact information and, in doing so, grants you permission to contact them again in the future.

"Just because someone reads one of your blog posts today does NOT mean they'll remember to revisit your site in the future."

Most often, this transaction is an exchange, sometimes referred to as an "ethical bribe." You promote a valuable offer, but instead of asking for money, you ask for the prospect's contact information. And when they give it to you, not only do you give them access to the content, product, or service you promised, you also add them to your subscriber list.

Examples of Marketing That Generates Subscribers

The biggest criteria for your free offer is that your target audience finds it valuable. Here are some examples from a variety of industries:

  • A young professional signs up for a webinar presented by a local realtor about the best practices of purchasing a first home.

  • A college girl fills out a form on a blog to receive a free sample of a new face cream.

  • The Human Resources manager at a mid-sized accounting firm signs up for a demo of a new application he can use to manage the hiring of new employees.

In each case, the prospect fills out a form, provides their contact information, and is sent information about how to access the offer.

  • The young professional is sent the time and URL of the webinar.

  • The college girl is sent a thank-you email telling her the face cream is in the mail.

  • The manager is contacted to schedule his demo.

But it always starts with a form. For example, here's how Salesforce generates leads with a whitepaper offer.

Salesforce's offer is perfect for the Subscription stage of their Customer Journey.

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Subscribers

To get more subscriptions for your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:

Step 4: Convert

If the subscribers you gain in Step 3 of the journey remain engaged, some of them will be ready to increase their level of commitment. They like the information you share and have begun to trust you, so they're ready to invest in one of two ways: either with time or money.

This is a critical stage in the Customer Journey and one that frustrates many business owners. The key to success in this stage is to employ what we call "entry-point offers." These offers are designed to give the new prospect tremendous value without forcing them to put too much "skin in the game."

At this stage, to ask for a significant investment in a complex product or service would be asking too much, too soon. You're still in the early stages of relationship.

In fact, it's too early even to concern yourself with profitability. That's right: in this stage of the Customer Journey, you might lose money on the prospects you acquire as buyers.

This is, perhaps, the most important lesson you must learn so it bears repeating:

The Convert stage of the Customer Value Journey is about acquiring buyers or ramping up the commitment level of the leads you already have. It is NOT about profitability.

The most valuable businesses in the world all understand that the costliest marketing activity your business undertakes is customer acquisition. It's the reason Sprint is willing to buy you out of your Verizon cell phone contract and give you a free phone. It's the reason GoDaddy offers domains for $2.95, and it's the reason VistaPrint will sell you 500 business cards for $9.

The goal is to acquire a new customer. Profits come later.

Examples of Marketing That Generates Conversions

There are two types of entry-point offers: those that require a commitment of time, and those that require a commitment of money. Here are some examples:

  • The VP of Operations at a large company purchases a high-dollar management consultant's book for $8 on the consultant's website.

  • A daughter of elderly parents schedules a walk-through visit at the local retirement home.

  • A man takes advantage of a $20 teeth whitening service at his local dentist.

Notice the price point of each of these offers: from $8 to $20.

Your goal here is not to make a huge profit. It’s to get customers, to shift the relationship between you and your subscribers. Because, as you’ll see, once someone is a customer, it's much more likely that person will purchase higher-ticket, more complex products and services and do it more frequently.

Remember, one of the costliest (in time, money, resources) marketing activities your business will undertake is the acquisition of customers. The good news is that once you've acquired them, you don't need to pay to acquire them again.

Here’s an example of an offer from GoDaddy that does a great job of acquiring new customers with extremely low-priced domain registration services:

By offering a fantastic up-front deal, GoDaddy easily acquires the customer.

Getting that initial conversion was the hard part. Now they can build the customer relationship to create profits down the road.

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Conversions

To improve conversions in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:

Step 5: Excite

At this point, your new customer has had a transaction with you. A small transaction, sure, but a transaction nonetheless.

Your job now is to make sure the transaction is a good one, that the excitement of the purchase develops into good will and trust.

The reason for this is simple: if the person doesn’t get value from this transaction, they won’t move on to the next stage and purchase more expensive things from you.

So, how do you make sure your customers have a good experience?

First, we assume that whatever the prospect purchased or gave up valuable time for is outstanding. Great marketing will only increase the speed at which your business fails if you don't have outstanding products and services.

Second, the prospect must get value from their last transaction with you. The Excite stage of the Customer Value Journey is something you must return to again and again. And every time, it should create excitement.

That being the case, whenever a customer or prospect does what you ask them to do (attend this webinar, buy this product, hire me for this service), you should engineer your marketing to maximize the chances they'll get tangible value from the experience.

Examples of Marketing That Creates Excitement

Your goal in the Excite stage of the Customer Value Journey is to make sure your customer gets value from their transaction. Here are some examples:

  • A married couple buys a Keurig (coffee maker) and uses the free coffee servings and Quick Start Guide to have an amazing cup of coffee within minutes of opening the box.

  • A new user of the Spotify music streaming app goes through an instructional walkthrough teaching her how to build a playlist of her favorite songs.

  • A young man reads through 3 eye-opening blog posts recommended via email by his newly hired Life Coach in advance of their first coaching session.

This stage is all about ensuring that your marketing is giving your customer opportunity to get value from doing business with you—and to enjoy that value right away.

It could be as simple as an email onboarding campaign, like this one from the productivity app, Evernote:

An onboarding campaign is a simple way to add value immediately after a purchase.

Evernote is a cloud-based note-taking app that you can use to sync notes between your computer, phone, and tablet. It has a lot of useful features, but Evernote knows that, in order to really hook new users and turn them into long-lasting customers, they have to make sure new users are successful with the app.

That’s why Evernote sends you these educational emails when you sign up for a new account. The emails contain tips that help you to get more value out of the application, making you more excited about it and more likely to use it.

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Excitement

To improve consumption in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:

Step 6: Ascend

At this stage of the Value Journey, you’ve sunk time, money, and resources into acquiring leads and customers and making sure they get value from doing business with you.

It's entirely possible that, until this stage, you have yet to turn a profit. In fact, if you're in a competitive market (and who isn't?) you may be losing money on the front end of this process to acquire customers.

That's perfectly acceptable, and here's why:

You're investing in your future profits.

Always remember that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing one. That first sales isn't about profits. It's about converting a prospect to a customer, so you can begin a long (and profitable) customer relationship.

Buying customers on the front end is just shrewd business, but only if you can monetize those customers on the back end.

The Ascend stage of the Value Journey is where your customer will be ready to buy more and more often. If your business has a core offer, this is the place to make that offer. Then once your customer purchases that core offer, it's time to present them with other relevant offers.

You’ll notice that the Value Journey worksheet represents the Ascent stage as a ladder. That’s no accident. This is really a ladder that will hopefully lead to multiple purchases over time.

Examples of Marketing That Creates Ascension

Examples of ascension might include:

  • A dating couple rent a convertible in San Diego and pay extra for satellite radio and GPS.

  • A new dad buys a digital camera for $2,495 and adds a lens kit, camera bag, and tripod to his purchase for a bundle price of $699.

  • A woman with a brand new Mercedes buys an unlimited car wash package for $40 per month instead of paying for each car wash individually.

Here’s how Southwest Airlines creates ascension by making an offer that will improve your experience and increase the value of your transaction:

Southwest's ascension offer is an affordable add-on that improves their customer's experience.

When you execute this stage properly, your customers will thank you for these offers. Southwest airlines customers who want to board the plane early are happy to pay an extra $15 to avoid hectic boarding.

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Ascension

To improve ascension in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:

Step 7: Advocate

You now have a happy customer who has made several profitable purchases from you. The next stage in the Value Journey is to create marketing that encourages your most loyal customers to advocate for your business.

An advocate is someone who speaks positively about your brand.

An advocate is what you might call a "passive promoter." They won’t necessarily promote your business in an active way, but when asked about you, they will respond favorably.

Examples of Marketing That Generates Advocates

These final two stages (Advocate and Promote) are often thought to be outside of the control of marketing, but that simply isn't true. You can create marketing that intentionally generates more advocates and promoters.

Here are a few examples:

  • A woman enters a contest to win a new lip gloss from a beauty company by shooting a video review detailing how much she loves one of their lipsticks.

  • Upon request, the Warehouse Manager at a produce supplier company writes a glowing review of the local courier service she uses to transport fruits and vegetables locally.

Designer Shoe Warehouse knows the value of the Advocate stage in the Customer Journey. This email is designed to activate advocates by asking for a review:

DSW actively encourages customers to become advocates.

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Advocates

Getting advocates is important because it helps generate awareness, trust, and credibility with a wider audience—which helps you to get more customers and grow your business.

To get more advocates in your company, the marketing efforts you need to work on include:

Step 8: Promote

Promoters differ from advocates in that they are actively seeking to spread the word about your brands, products, and services.

In some cases, the promoter simply had a great experience with your company and wants to share their story with friends and family. In other cases, they promote because you've created an incentive for them to do so.

This puts your message in front of a new audience, the fans, followers, and friends of the promoter. And because this new audience is hearing about you from a trusted source who they already know, they're much more likely to become customers themselves.

Examples of Marketing That Generates Promoters

Intentionally creating more promoters is important because it creates an army of paid or unpaid salespeople spreading the word about what you sell.

Here are a few examples:

  • A man who runs a podcast about fishing earns a 20% commission every time one of his listeners buys fishing equipment using his affiliate link.

  • A woman attends a conference for free because she arranged for 5 of her colleagues to go as well.

  • A marketing agency partners with a marketing automation software company to resell their software for a commission.

As you can see, promoters help you get more customers at a lower cost. So even when you reward promoters, it's a win-win.

A good example of this is Dropbox. When it was just starting out as a new company in a new industry, they realized discoverability would be key to their success. So they initiated a referral program that gave its users a strong incentive to promote the service to others.

By generously rewarding users who promoted Dropbox, word spread quickly about the new cloud-storage service.

Simply by inviting your contacts to try out Dropbox, you could increase your own online storage space from 2 GB up to 16 GB. This was such an attractive offer, thousands of new users recruited their friends and family, helping turn Dropbox into a software giant (valued at $10 billion in 2014).

Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Promoters

To get more promoters in your company, the marketing efforts you need to work on include:

How To Move Prospects Through The Customer Value Journey

Now that you know what the Customer Value Journey is, the next thing you need to understand is:

  • How do you seamlessly and subtly move customers and prospects through each phase of the Customer Value Journey?

The short answer? You build marketing CAMPAIGNS that INTENTIONALLY move people from one stage to the next.

And those two words—campaigns and intentionally—are important here. So let’s unpack them one at a time.

What Is A Marketing Campaign?

First, let’s talk about what a campaign really is.

A marketing campaign has two critical components:

  • A call to action

  • A traffic source

The call to action is what you want people to do. If the marketing campaign you're creating is aimed at the Subscribe stage of the Customer Journey, your call to action might be for people to download a whitepaper, checklist, or video resource. If it’s a campaign in the Convert or Ascend stage, your call to action might be to buy a product or service. If the campaign you are creating is for the Awareness stage, the call to action might be as simple as listening to a podcast episode or reading a blog post.

The traffic source could be digital clicks from ads, email, social media sites, or search engines like Google. Offline marketing could include direct mail, TV, or radio advertising, print ads, or anything else that gets the call to action in front of your prospects.

Now that you know what a campaign IS, let’s talk about what a campaign is supposed to DO.

The purpose of a marketing campaign is to intentionally move people from one stage of the Value Journey to the next.

For example:

A campaign might have the goal of getting people to sign up for your email list (going from Engaged to Subscribe).

Another campaign might have the goal of getting new customers excited about their purchase (going from Convert to Excite).

Once again, notice that a campaign is intentionally moving people through the Value Journey. And that word “intentionally” is important.

Intentionally Moving Customers Through The Value Journey

Anyone who has ever become a customer of a company has moved through the Value Journey, whether that company made it happen intentionally or not.

Sometimes, people move through the Value Journey on accident.

For example, imagine that you had never heard of Dropbox before. Then, one day, a friend tells you that he uses Dropbox to store all his files online, and he recommends that you check it out.

At this point, both you and your friend have progressed along the Value Journey. You have moved to Step 1, Aware, and your friend has moved to Step 8, Promote.

However, this progression didn't happen because of anything Dropbox did intentionally. It resulted from a random comment or a casual conversation between you and your friend.

Contrast that with Dropbox's marketing campaign offering extra space to customers who refer friends and family:

Offer rewards for people taking the action you want them to take.

In this example, Dropbox is moving people along the value journey INTENTIONALLY by creating a program that is designed for that specific purpose.

This is an important distinction to make.

Once you figure out that you can move people intentionally through the Value Journey using marketing campaigns, you realize that you have the ability to grow your business by improving the areas where your customers are getting "stuck."

At this point I’d like to point out that there’s one common mistake that many companies make when trying to move customers and prospects through the Customer Value Journey.

The #1 Mistake Marketers Make When Creating Campaigns

Once a business understands the Customer Journey, they can get so excited about the possibilities that they try to move people all the way from stranger to promoter in one step, in one campaign.

This is impossible.

You cannot possibly create one campaign that makes people aware of you, engages them, gets them to subscribe and convert, excites them, ascends them, and then turns them into advocates and promoters.

Instead, you need to create multiple specific campaigns that are designed to move people from one stage to the next. (Or in some cases, a campaign can probably move people through 2 or maybe 3 steps at once.)

The best way to explain this is with a few case studies.

Value Journey Campaign Case Studies

Case Study: DigitalMarketer

  • Campaign Goal: Aware to Engage

  • Content Needed: Branding Video

  • Traffic Source: Facebook Ads (Video Views campaign)

  • Call to Action: End the war between sales and marketing... watch this video!

When we create a new campaign here at DigitalMarketer, we always start by looking at the Value Journey map and identifying any steps where we need help. In this case, we realized that while we were doing a good job of generating awareness through Facebook ads, we didn’t have a good engagement campaign in place.

So we decided to create some content (a branding video) whose goal was to get people engaged with DigitalMarketer:

We call this video the "Valentine's Day War on Sales & Marketing."

But as you know, just creating a video isn’t enough. We also had to decide how we were going to get people to watch the video. So we chose to run a Facebook ad campaign (with video views as the goal) to generate traffic to the video. This made up the "Traffic" portion of our campaign.

Here’s what one of those ads looked like:

Advertising is the best way to get eyeballs on your content—for all stages of the Customer Journey.

Because the goal of this campaign is to get people engaged with us, our call to action was very simple: "Watch this video!"

It’s important to note that we didn’t try to convince people to sign up or buy anything (at least not right away), because that wasn’t the goal of this campaign. The goal was to generate engagement, and it succeeded very well because it was focused 100% on simply engaging people.

Case Study: ModCloth

  • Campaign Goal: Engage to Subscribe

  • Content Needed: Blog Post

  • Traffic Source: Facebook organic traffic

  • Call to Action: Sign up for ModCloth’s good news and great offers!

Here’s an example of a campaign with a different goal. In this case, the clothing company ModCloth wanted people who were already engaged with their content to subscribe to their email list.

The content needed for this campaign was pretty straightforward: it’s a blog post. When you go to the ModCloth blog, you’ll see many helpful blog articles like this one:

ModCloth leveraged this blog post to drive subscriptions.

Because ModCloth has a lot of engaged Facebook followers, they were able to use free organic Facebook traffic as their traffic source. (Remember, you don’t always have to pay for traffic.)

So we have content and a traffic source. Now, what’s the call to action?

Well, you’ll notice that while you’re browsing the blog you'll be greeted with this popup:

Popups have been proven to be an effective tool for a Subscribe call to action.

Now you might not think of this as a campaign, but it totally is. It’s a specific call-to-action: Sign Up for ModCloth’s Good News & Great Offers! And anytime someone fills out this form, they move on to the next stage in the Customer Value Journey.

Often the best marketing campaigns are the simplest.

Case Study: Honest Company

  • Campaign Goal: Engaged to Subscribe to Convert

  • Content Needed: Email Copy and Creative

  • Traffic Source: Google Adwords

  • Call to Action: Exclusive Offer! 25% off your first order

Here’s an example of a campaign that moves people through two steps in the Value Journey: from Engage to Subscribe and then to Convert.

Let’s go through this campaign from the beginning. The traffic source here is Google Adwords targeting the keyword "buy organic diapers."

Here you can see the AdWords ad:

Attention

When you click on that ad, you arrive on a landing page that asks you to subscribe.

Subscribe

Once you opt in, they’ll send you the following coupon in your email (about 24 hours later, assuming you didn’t already make a purchase):

Convert

I want you to pay close attention to that call to action: Exclusive Offer! 25% Off Your First Order. Notice that this discount only applies to your first order. That’s because the goal of this campaign isn’t to generate repeat purchases; it’s to get someone to make their very FIRST purchase. It’s a time-tested and effective tactic for turning someone into a new customer.

Summing Up

The Customer Value Journey is the foundation for all the tactics you'll learn in this Guide. Whether you're learning about content marketing, digital advertising, or analytics, or any other topic, keep this concept in mind.

Don't worry, though. We'll review it several times so it stays fresh on your mind. And by the end of this Guide, it will likely be cemented into your thinking.

Now that you understand the Customer Journey, it's time to talk about the #1 tactic you'll use to engage people at every stage: Content Marketing.

Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

 

It’s a big promise: perfect content marketing.

But it is possible if you understand how content fits into your overall digital marketing strategy.

And done right, your content marketing will not only attract prospects, but also move them through a marketing funnel to drive more sales and grow your business.

 

In this chapter, we cover the basics of a successful content marketing program, including methods and metrics, the business roles that should own your content marketing, and the lingo you’ll use to talk about it.

Methods of Well-Executed Content Marketing

Let's start with a thorough understanding of what we mean when we say content.

You see, most businesses miss out on a lot of opportunities because their vision for content marketing is too small.

As a result, they're churning out content but not getting great results. And here's why: content in and of itself isn't what drives traffic and sales.

Your content needs to be "perfect."

Now, what do we mean by that?

Perfect content isn't about you, your brand, or your objectives. It's about delivering the right information to your prospects at exactly the right point in the customer journey.

For instance, for the software company Freshbooks, this web page represents perfect content marketing for a prospect who needs pricing information to make an informed buying decision.

Content is any information that helps you keep the funnel full.

Yep, a pricing page is content.

The big misconception is that content marketing is blogging.

While blogs are a major component of content marketing, they’re only a part of the bigger picture. In fact, in most cases, a blog is not the most lucrative form of content marketing.

But we’ll come back to that.

First, let’s get clear on the six characteristics of perfect content marketing and why it’s essential that you get started.

(NOTE: At the end of this chapter, you’ll get access to a tool we use to make perfect content planning a breeze.)

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1. Perfect Content Marketing is Full Funnel

I know this is Marketing 101 stuff, but stick with me for just a second before I get into the more advanced content marketing concepts we’ll be covering.

For an ice-cold prospect to become a customer, they will need to travel through three stages:

The 3 stages all prospects go through on their way to becoming a customer.

  1. Awareness – The prospect must first become aware that there is a problem and that YOU or your organization have a solution for it. (This is where your blog excels.)

  2. Evaluation – Those who move through the Awareness Stage must now evaluate the various choices available to them, including your competitor’s solutions and, of course, taking no action at all to solve the problem.

  3. Conversion – Those that move through the Evaluation Stage are now at the moment of truth—purchase. At DigitalMarketer, our goal at this stage is to convert leads into frequent and high-ticket buyers.

A cold prospect cannot evaluate your solution until they are first aware of the problem and your solution. And conversion is impossible until the prospect has first evaluated the possible courses of action.

To move a prospect through a marketing funnel, you need to give them content specifically designed to satisfy their needs at each of the three stages.

In other words...

  • They need content at the top of the funnel (TOFU) that facilitates awareness.

  • They need content in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) that facilitates evaluation.

  • They need content at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) that facilitates conversion.

Make sense?

Blogs are fantastic facilitators of awareness, but they do a poor job of facilitating evaluation and conversion. And, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, evaluation and conversion are super critical to your business.

To move prospects through the middle (MOFU) and bottom of the funnel (BOFU) you’ll need other content types.

It looks like this...

We call this The Content Lifecycle.

Let's look at each stage of the funnel and the content needed at those stages...

Top Of The Funnel (TOFU) Content Marketing

The prospects entering the top of your funnel are completely unaware of your solution and, often, completely unaware of their problem.

As a result, you need content with a low barrier to entry—because at this stage, they have little to no motivation to put skin in the game (such as giving your contact information or money).

You need freely available content at the top of the funnel (TOFU) that...

  • Entertains

  • Educates

  • or Inspires

...and you need to make it readily available using content types like:

  • Blog posts

  • Social Media Updates

  • Infographics

  • Photographs

  • Digital Magazines/Books

  • Audio/Video Podcasts

  • Microsites

  • Print Magazines/Newsletters (You’ll need a bigger budget here.)

  • Primary Research

Do you need all of these content types at the top of the funnel?

Heck no.

Most businesses will post content to a blog and to social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. Once you’ve mastered these two content types, you’ll want to add more top-of-funnel content to the mix, like a podcast or a print newsletter.

Remember, the big goal at the top of the funnel is to make prospects "problem aware" and "solution aware."

Notice how Whole Foods, using their Whole Story blog, raises awareness for a sea scallops offer while providing valuable content (recipes and cooking instructions):

TOFU content raises awareness of your offers while providing valuable information.

At DigitalMarketer we do that by providing educational content our prospects are interested in—and using that content to raise awareness of our training products and services.

(Shhhhh... don’t tell anyone, but this VERY chapter is educating you about the strategy and tactics taught in our Content Marketing Mastery Certification.)

And the good news is it works in any industry for any type of product.

Notice how this kitchen remodeling company uses photographs of remodeled kitchens to make prospects "problem aware" and "solution aware":

With TOFU content, you want to create awareness around problems as well as solutions.

Unfortunately, the top of the funnel is where most organizations begin and end their content marketing efforts.

Smart content marketers know that, with a bit more effort, they can move prospects from awareness to evaluation in the middle of the funnel.

Here’s how it gets done...

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) Content Marketing

The big goal in the middle of the funnel is to convert "problem aware" and "solution aware" prospects into leads.

Here, we use free content to incentivize prospects to submit their contact information and opt in to receive future marketing.

We call this type of content a Lead Magnet.

Lead Magnets can be...

  • Educational Resources (Case Study, White Paper, etc.)

  • Useful Resources (Swipe File, Checklist, etc.)

  • Software Downloads

  • Discount/Coupon Clubs

  • Quizzes/Surveys

  • Webinars/Events

This is a Lead Magnet that DigitalMarketer uses to generate leads for our products surrounding Facebook advertising:

Lead magnets are free content that incentivize prospects to opt in to your list, becoming leads.

When visitors click on the "Download Now" button, they're prompted to enter their email address to receive the piece of content.

This piece of content (a white paper) from Cloud Margin generates "solution aware" leads...

A white paper or report creates "solution aware" leads.

But you can’t deposit leads in the bank.

A third content type is required at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) to convert leads into customers...

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) Content Marketing

OK, it’s point of sale time.

What types of content will your new lead need to make an informed purchase decision?

Here are a few...

  • Demos/Free Trials

  • Customer Stories

  • Comparison/Spec Sheets

  • Webinars/Events

  • Mini-Classes

Your lead may be reading your blog and downloading lead magnets (and it will help convert her), but you’ll need content that helps her decide between you and your competitor to move her through to purchase.

Notice how Salesforce supplies leads in the bottom of the funnel with plenty of customer stories to prove that their product can handle that lead’s circumstances...

Customer success stories are smart BOFU content.

Salesforce.com has dozens of these customer stories—one for every major industry, product offering, and size of business.

Customer stories are content that converts, and they are the responsibility of the content marketing team.

Consider this piece of content designed to assist prospective Quickbooks customers in choosing the right solution:

At the bottom of the funnel, prospects are comparison shopping, so comparison sheets make smart BOFU content.

But Quickbooks could earn some points by comparing their tools to their competitors' tools as well. For instance, a Google search suggests that a comparison sheet between Quickbooks and their competitors (such as Xero) is another piece of content that should be on the radar of the Intuit content marketing team.

Google's suggestions are a good source for content ideas.

And while we’re at it, look at all the bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) content Xero’s content marketing team has built:

Brand comparisons are good BOFU content.

And...

Customer stories are great BOFU content.

And...

The best BOFU content answers last-minute questions and gives prospects a reason to buy.

Is creating top of funnel (TOFU) content on a blog important?

Absolutely.

But failing to build a full-funnel content plan will leave you disappointed in your content marketing results.

2. Perfect Content Marketing Is Intent-Based

Some businesses and marketers get hung up on the wrong metrics, particularly when it comes to their blog.

Take a look at this video to see what I mean:

The key to perfect content marketing is understanding existing intent and anticipating future intent, and then, creating the content “assets” needed to address that intent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In our Freshbooks example, a customer who's deep in the funnel might have the intent to compare Freshbooks to Quickbooks.

This content asset addresses that intent:

To come up with valuable content assets, anticipate current and future needs.

And you’ll have to run paid traffic to your content to maximize your results or you risk leaving money on the table as Molly explains:

The truth is the most lucrative content assets you’ll create (if you have an existing business) are assets that meet intent at the bottom and middle of the funnel. Optimize for this existing bottom and middle of funnel intent before going to work on generating awareness at the top of the funnel with an expensive and time-consuming blog roll out.

That’s not to diminish the power of a business blog. Over the last 24 months, we’ve been adding content assets (articles and podcasts) at the top of the funnel and we’ve increased website traffic (think awareness) by 1053%.

That said, the quick wins in the content marketing game are in the middle and bottom of the funnel.

3. Perfect Content Marketing Is Ascension Focused

Failure to provide an ascension path from every piece of content you create isn’t just bad marketing—it’s a bad user experience.

Smart content marketers anticipate the next logical intent and remove as much friction as possible to create a clear path to conversion.

For instance, let's say I’m shopping for supplies to repaint my kitchen...

In our Freshbooks pricing page example, notice that Freshbooks has created a clear ascension path to a "Risk-Free Trial" of the software.

In blog content, prospects can be given the opportunity to opt-in with their email address to get more information about a topic.

Check out this ascension offer embedded in a blog post. Clicking on this banner ad will take the prospect to a landing page to enter their email address and ascend to a lead:

Ascension offers can be embedded in your blog posts.

They get more information about a topic they are interested in. You get a lead.

4. Perfect Content Marketing is Segmented

You can run surveys and polls until you're blue in the face. But you won’t know what people are truly interested in until they give you their money or time.

When a prospect visits a piece of content (spends time) they have raised their hand and indicated interest. And, because of the magic of ad retargeting you can follow up with these prospects with a relevant ascension offer without even acquiring their contact information.

Retargeting blog visitors can help you create segmented leads.

5. Perfect Content Marketing Is Cross-Channel

Perfect content marketers publish content that meets intent in any channel where groups of prospects are searching for and sharing content including:

  • Website/blog

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • LinkedIn

  • Pinterest

  • YouTube

Chances are a single content asset could be published across numerous channels to maximize exposure.

For instance, could that video demo of your product be republished on your YouTube channel like Cuisinart has done here?

(If you’re wondering, "Who in the hell would watch that boring video?" the answer is anyone who is interested in buying a coffee grinder and, particularly, anyone interested in buying THAT coffee grinder. Anecdotally... I bought that coffee grinder after watching that demo just a few weeks ago. The grinder does a great job grinding coffee and that video does a great job at cross-channel content marketing at the bottom of the funnel.)

Can that article on your blog be repurposed as a webinar? Can that podcast become a written article for LinkedIn Pulse?

6. Perfect Content Marketing Is Avatar-Based

Last, but certainly not least, perfect content marketing assets are produced to satisfy the intent of your customer avatars. A content asset can satisfy the intent of multiple avatars or it can be published to target a single avatar.

At DigitalMarketer, for example, we produced an article to raise awareness (top of the funnel) for our marketing certification programs. This article was specifically targeted to our "Employee" avatar who has the intent of acquiring skills that will land them a better job.

Our goal for this article was to raise awareness for our marketing certification programs, so it was targeted to our "Employee" avatar.

Content Marketing Planning: The Content Campaign

To execute perfect content marketing, you need a plan.

At DigitalMarketer, we make this plan at the offer level using a spreadsheet called a Content Campaign Plan.

The planning document includes fields for:

  • Marketing Funnel – Is this asset addressing intent at the top, middle, or bottom of the funnel?

  • Avatar – Which avatar(s) will this asset target?

  • Vehicle – Will this be a text, image, video, or audio asset?

  • Channel – Where will this asset be published?

  • Ascension Path – What call-to-action will be used in this asset?

The Content Campaign Plan is used to align content marketing with business objectives like generating leads and sales.

It looks like this (I know that’s hard to read, but you can access the template by clicking here).

DigitalMarketer's Content Campaign Plan

Want to create content that converts prospects at all stages of the funnel? Create a Content Campaign Plan and execute on it. It works.

Your Content Marketing Success Metrics

How do measure the success of your content marketing tactics?

Traffic by Channel

At the top of the funnel, design your marketing to raise awareness for your business, brands, and products. Measure traffic from channels like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

Net New MQL's

Measure the number of leads generated in the middle of the funnel that require further nurturing before they are ready to make a purchase.

Conversion Rate

When content marketing is done correctly, it generates traffic to lead forms and product pages. Measure the conversion rate (Page Visits/Conversions) on lead forms, product pages, and other calls-to-action.

Net New SQL's

Measure the number of leads consuming content at the bottom of the funnel (demos, customer stories, etc.), indicating they're ready to buy.

Relevant Roles in Content Marketing

Who in your organization should be trained in email marketing?

Three different departments should be proficient at and understand the role of email marketing.

Marketing

Content marketing is a foundational discipline affecting your search, social, email, and advertising. Every marketer involved in your digital strategy should be well versed in content marketing.

Sales

According to Harvard Business Review, the average buyer is 57% of the way through the sales process before they engage with a sales representative.

Instead of contacting your sales team your prospects are consuming your content. Sales people who understand content marketing can work in conjunction with your marketing team to create content that closes deals.

Public Relations

The modern-day PR team must understand how the content they produce fits into the larger content, social, and search marketing strategy.

The Lingo You'll Use as a Content Marketer

What are the terms you need to know as a content marketer?

Top-of-Funnel (TOFU) Content

Content designed to raise awareness for your business, brands and products. This content is delivered through a number of channels including blogs, podcasts and video hosting platforms like YouTube.

Middle-of-Funnel (MOFU) Content

Content designed to generate leads and move the prospect through the evaluation stage. Content in the middle of the funnel often takes the form of a Lead Magnet.

Lead Magnet

An irresistible bribe offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information. The goal of the Lead Magnet is to maximize the number of targeted leads you are getting for an offer.

Bottom-of-Funnel (BOFU) Content

Content designed to convert a prospect into a customer by providing the information needed to make an informed purchase decision. Bottom of funnel content includes webinars, product demonstrations, and customer stories.

Summing Up

Content marketing isn't restricted to blogging. You'll probably create tons of blog posts, but if you're strategic, you'll use your blog as just one channel in your content campaigns.

Remember, content marketing works with your other digital tactics in a comprehensive marketing plan designed to move people deliberately through your Customer Value Journey.

Don't forget to download the Content Campaign Plan, which is your best resource for planning content for every stage of the funnel: TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU.

Then, once you've got your content assets built, you're ready to learn how to use digital advertising to drive traffic and conversions.

BACK TO BEGINNING GO TO CHAPTER 3

Become a Content Marketing Specialist

Content marketing is an essential aspect of any modern digital marketing strategy. In this mastery course, you’ll learn to execute a “full funnel” content strategy that transforms ice cold prospects at the top of the funnel (TOFU) into loyal buyers of even your most expensive products and services at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

You'll learn:

  • How to create your Customer Avatar so you can architect a content strategy that attracts leads and buyers.

  • Choose from 12 goals, 16 metrics, and 21 different types of content to create a content strategy that is laser focused on moving the needle for your organization. (Building this content plan is a snap using our Content Marketing Plan worksheets.)

  • The “GC = A” Content Marketing Formula that connects the dots between content and sales.

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