Written by James Scherer
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A Proven Blueprint for Creating a Sales Funnel with Content

You want to be writing the right content, right?

I mean, if you're not getting anything out of your blog, why are you (or your content creators) spending hours researching, writing and formatting?

This article will break down the 10 most important pieces of content and how they can be used in combination to attract readers, generate leads, nurture those leads into signups and those signups into upgrades.

You need 10 pieces of content for a complete sales funnel. They are:

  1. High-profile SEO content related to your product
  2. Content upgrade or ebook worth email gating
  3. "Introduction to" (dictionary, how-to, etc)
  4. "Tools we love"
  5. "Real-world examples of…"
  6. "Lessons we've learned"
  7. "Taking it to the next level"
  8. Use-cases showing the potential of your product
  9. Case-studies showing real-world examples of that potential
  10. A weekly webinar

I'll break those 10 pieces of content down, tell you why you need them, where they fit, and how you can structure your sales funnel around them.

Because we're talking about automated sales funnels, the first touchpoint will frame the rest of it. As a result, the sales funnel blueprint I'll be showing you here will be just one of several you'll create - all based around the different elements of your business (and, thus, the different subjects of your content).

Piece of Content #1: High-Profile SEO Content

This is your ranking article on Google. It's also the first touchpoint of the majority of your traffic.

Rather than planning your high-profile SEO content blind, determine what to write after you've created content for a while, as well as after looking at the competition.

A tool like BuzzSumo will give you great insight into what your competitors are writing and what opportunities there are for you to put something amazing together and put it out into the world.

For instance, although Wishpond does not run Facebook Ads, our lead generation software is a natural next step for anybody doing so. As a result, I put together a Complete Guide to Facebook Ads.

content sales funnel

Through heavy optimization, link-building, influencer outreach and a strong initial pagerank, the guide now appears near the top of the second page on Google for the search term "Facebook Ads," and received 7,000 page visits in the past month:

content sales funnel

This first touchpoint will frame the content funnel all the way through to upgrade. This is the thing we can be absolutely sure our site visitor is interested in, and is thus our best way to segment them at this early stage of the sales funnel.

Piece of Content #2: Content Upgrade or Ebook Worth Email Gating

The second piece of content you need to create is going to be email gated. We're going to turn this reader - this site visitor - into a lead.

If you want to read a complete guide to email-gating I linked it just above, so won't get into this as fully as I have in the past. Essentially we're looking to incentivize our readers with a valuable resource - earning their information, rather than buying it.

If you have a reasonably successful blog, my recommendation would be to invest in content upgrades rather than ebooks. Each substantial article you write would have a bonus add-on (even if that's just a PDF version of the article) which readers would only access after providing their email address.

Or, check out my two articles focused on content upgrades:

If, however, your vertical or company does not have a particularly successful blog, you can still find success with ebooks.

Each of your high-profile (high investment) SEO pieces should be focused around a facet of your product or service. And each facet of your product or service should also have a comprehensive, downloadable guide.

For instance, Wishpond's put together a complete guide to landing pages, a complete guide to popups, a complete guide to online promotions and is working on a complete guide to lead nurturing and marketing automation. Each one of these ebooks is promoted on our site's "resource" page as well as optimized for search. Even without the related blog articles, they're still valuable resources and an incentive for visitors to become leads (and that's what we're looking for here).

To read my step-by-step guide to how you can create a professional ebook without design experience, check out "The Ebook Design Kit for Marketers Who Can't Design for Sh*t".

5 pieces of lead-nurturing content

Once our lead has been generated, we can use email marketing to nurture that lead into an early-stage signup or free-trial'er.

There are five primary pieces of content we need to create to do that, and they're all based around the first touchpoint and subsequent email-gated content above:

Piece of (Lead Nurturing) Content #3: Introduction to (dictionary, how-to, etc):

This is primarily your "hello email" for leads, but the last thing you want to do is not deliver value (even when you're "just saying hi").

You want your leads to associate you with expertise and the role of "helper." Even if this content is likely covered in the ebook or content upgrade, or if it's elementary compared to where your lead is, this doesn't really matter.

The goal of this first piece of content is to say hi in a friendly way and give leads something helpful related to their interest.

Piece of (Lead Nurturing) Content #4: Tools we love:

Not only does a "tools we love" article solidify your company in the mind of your reader as more than a faceless brand whose name they can't remember, it's also an incredibly helpful piece of content.

And don't be afraid to include your own company (subtly) in your list of tools you know and love.

Piece of (Lead Nurturing) Content #5: Real-world examples of…

Example articles are, for Wishpond, consistently our most well-received by leads and customers. The value of seeing something you want to try in the real world is huge. It can also be difficult for prospective customers or leads to picture what a strategy might look like.

Real-world example articles do this fantastically.

For instance, one of Wishpond's most high-converting articles (related to our online promotions tool) is "10 Amazing Examples of Branded Facebook Contests Done Right." Despite having been written almost three years ago (it has been updated many times, don't worry), this article still converts 2.65% of readers to signup:

content sales funnel

Piece of (Lead Nurturing) Content #6: Lessons we've learned:

As your fourth piece of content in a six-email drip campaign, you want to deliver something which showcases your brand as a brand a little more strongly. A "lessons we've learned" article does this excellently:

  • Talk about mistakes you've made
  • Use first names and faces
  • Write in a less formal tone than you have previously

Piece of (Lead Nurturing) Content #7: Taking it to the next level

This is piece of content you deliver right before you send a sales-oriented email. As such, it's focused not just around advanced strategies for your topic, but subtly showcasing the capabilities of your service or platform.

It's both the chronological next step for readers, and the chronological next step for prospective customers. They want to learn both how best to take a strategy from basic to powerful, and how you can help them do that.

To learn more about creating lead-nurturing drip campaigns (and how to put them together to send automatically), check out How to Create Email Drip Campaigns to Nurture Leads and 5 Behavioral Lead Nurturing Ideas & Examples

Piece of Content #8: Use-cases directly related to your product

Once you've nurtured your lead into a signup or free-trial'er, you need a few more pieces to turn them into a paid user.

The first one is use-cases.

I think of these as baby case studies. They're not quite as aggressive, but communicate the value of your service, tool or product almost as well.

An example of this would be my article, "5 Ways our Clients Use Marketing Automation To Simplify Success."

At no point in that article do I actually give an example from any of our real customers, but the message is communicated nonetheless: "If you use Wishpond, you will be able to do these cool things, and these cool things will benefit your business."

The benefit of use-cases (as opposed to case studies) is that use-cases are genuinely a very educational piece of content. They tell you exactly how you can use a platform or, as is the case with the article above - specific ways you can use a marketing strategy.

Within the sales funnel, use-cases should be delivered to your not-quite-customers a couple days before your case studies (next section). They encourage those leads to think more concretely about how they could use your company, whereas the act of signing up is usually more a matter of "I think I can probably get some benefit from this company."

Piece of Content #9: Case-studies showing your product in real-world action

Case studies have a two-fold purpose: firstly, they're incredibly strong communicators of the value of your software and secondly, they're the most unbiased piece of content you can develop.

  • They're incredibly effective communicators of value:

Seeing the concrete returns is huge. No more hypothetical, assumed value of the "advanced strategies" from the lead nurturing stage or the use-cases. No, case studies are real-world examples of when your product came through on every value proposition and headline your leads have seen on your site and in your content.

This is the real thing, right in front of them, from a company like theirs.

  • They're unbiased:

Similar to a customer testimonial, case studies are objective. When a statement comes from somebody not in the payroll of your company, the subjective value of their support increases a hundredfold.

And that makes sense, right?

Would you rather trust the word of a restaurant owner or someone who'd just been there for dinner?

It's the same with your company - no matter what vertical or industry you're in or product you have.

Piece of Content #10: A Weekly Webinar

Now this is actually an optional piece of content, but I wanted to drive a bit of awareness about it nonetheless…

A weekly webinar that revolves around your platform (or multiple webinars if you have multiple elements of your platform, as Wishpond does), is an awesome way to stir up a bit of engagement from new signups.

The pitch would be something like this:

Hey there,

James Scherer here from Wishpond. Wanted to reach out and let you know that this Thursday I'm running a webinar on [your lead's interest].

I run these every 10 days or so for new members of the [your company name] family (that's you!).

These webinars are super valuable, as I cover everything from [relevant topic] to [relevant advanced topic].

I'll be getting set up around 10am PST (that's noon on the east coast) and you can register here.

Hope to see you there!

And here's how I'd use a marketing automation workflow to send that email automatically:

content sales funnel content sales funnel

What you're seeing there is (in the top image) the conditions for our workflow to be activated. Essentially, all contacts who are member of the segment "Signups: Lead Generation Segment" and have already received the case-studies email (see piece of content #9 above) will be eligible for the webinar email.

Two things here:

  • Remember to set your segment conditions to remove people once they've signed up. This is super simple, but also super important as the last thing you want to do is spam people with onboarding and lead nurturing emails when they've already signed up.
  • Remember to update your webinar email (this can be done within the workflow) to change the dates and registration process of your webinar. Do this as soon as your webinar ends, every time you run it.

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully that's given you a bit of insight into what kind of content you should be creating to attract, generate and nurture your leads into sales.

These 10 pieces of content create a complete sales funnel, but it's likely you'll need several such funnels depending on the interest of your leads.

If you have any questions, about SEO content, content upgrades, lead nurturing, onboarding content or webinars, don't hesitate to reach out in the comment section below.

And thanks for reading!

Written by James Scherer

James Scherer is the content editor at Wishpond. When he's not writing or designing for Wishpond he's risking his life biking around the city. Reach out to him on Twitter @JDScherer.