How to structure your content calendar based on your sales pipeline

Posted by Daryn Smith on 11 December 2014 | Comments


Planning a monthly content calendar is a little like Marmite: you either love it or you hate it. While it can be a fun opportunity to be creative and think outside the box, if you’re not feeling particularly sparky, coming up with a batch of catchy, unique and strategic blog titles can be very hard work. What’s more, it’s not just the pressure to be creative that makes planning a content calendar tough. You also need to make sure that you’ve included all the right keywords, targeted the right personas, included the right calls to action and created content for every distinct stage of the buying process. With so many factors at play, getting a content calendar right can be a daunting task.

You need to create content that applies to the various stages of the sales pipeline.

Leads’ interests and needs change depending on where they are in the sales pipeline. The kinds of questions they’re likely to be asking when they enter the top of the sales pipeline are different to the kinds of questions they’re likely to be asking further down. This means that you need to create different pieces of content that are relevant to each and every phase of the sales pipeline.

Divide your sales pipeline into three broad stages: top of funnel, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel.

Depending on your particular industry, product or service, the decision making process that a customer goes through before making a purchase usually has about six recognisable stages:

1. Interest in a solution

2. Vendor research

3. Product evaluation

4. Field narrowing

5. Negotiation

6. Final push

In an inbound marketing strategy, the tailored communications you send leads will depend on where they are in the decision making process or sales pipeline. Similarly, your blogs and articles should collectively cover all of these decision making stages. To simplify this process, however, it’s useful to focus on coming up with ‘top of funnel’, ‘middle of funnel’ and ‘bottom of funnel’ blogs and articles.

Firstly, pay attention to the various personas you hope to target.

A ‘persona’ is the imagined profile of a potential customer. While some products require targeting a spectrum of different personas, other products only really require thinking about one main persona.

For example, marketing a product like frosted window vinyl requires targeting architects, interior decorators, housewives, office renovators, building material suppliers and others. All of these customers have drastically different challenges and interest, so they’re attracted to vastly different types of content. A housewife thinking of redecorating her living room might Google ‘home décor’, while someone renovating an office might research ‘office partitions’. This means that planning a content calendar as part of an inbound marketing strategy for a frosted window vinyl supplier requires coming up with varied content that will attract these contrasting personas.

Work your chosen key phrases into blog titles that cover all three stages of the sales pipeline.

Once you’ve identified the various personas you need to target, selected the key phrases you need to target and worked out how many times per week you need to publish a new blog, it’s time to pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and psych yourself up for a highly creative brainstorming session.

Top of funnel content focuses on a lead’s challenge – not on your product.

Leads at the top of the funnel aren’t ready to have your product shoved down their throats just yet. They’re still researching a challenge in the broadest possible sense, and might not even know that your product is a potential solution. To illustrate the kind of content geared towards attracting top of funnel leads, we’ll stick with our frosted window vinyl example.

As we mentioned, a housewife thinking of redecorating her living room might conceivably Google the phrase ‘home décor’. Top of funnel titles using this key phrase could include: Seven budget home décor ideas, How to pull off stress-free home décor and When is it time to call in a home décor expert? Because these titles don’t limit your content to only talking about frosted window vinyl, they enable you to cast a wide net.

Of course, you should mention or allude to frosted window vinyl in every blog. For example, in Seven budget home décor ideas, you could include ‘Ditch curtains and blinds for modern frosted window vinyl’ as one of your tips.

Middle of funnel content aims to position your product as a valuable solution.

Middle of funnel content takes the form of blogs and articles that address the middle phases of the decision making process, including vendor research, product evaluation and field narrowing. Leads in the middle of the funnel are aware of your product and are weighing it up against other potential solutions. Now’s your chance to educate leads on why your product is the best solution.

Your top of funnel content caught the attention of the redecorating housewife and introduced her to the idea of frosted window vinyl. She’s probably now wondering whether frosted window vinyl really is a better alternative to curtains and blinds. In her research, she might Google ‘curtains and blinds’ and ‘sandblasted glass’. Middle of funnel content using these key phrases could include: Are your curtains and blinds outdated?, How window decals replace curtains and blinds and Why frosted vinyl is safer than sandblasted glass.

Bottom of funnel content openly focuses on your product.

By the time the housewife nears the end of your sales pipeline, she’s already seriously considering including frosted window vinyl in her redecorating plans. All she needs now is some more detailed information on the product.

Note that it’s only near the end of the sales pipeline that she is likely to Google search phrases that relate directly to your product, like ‘frosted window vinyl’ or ‘window decals’. When she types these kinds of phrases into Google, she’s after specific product information.

Bottom of funnel blog titles might include: Nine benefits of frosted window vinyl, How to use window decals for energy-efficient glass and How to choose your frosted window vinyl design. Importantly, while these product-specific titles might interest a housewife near the end of the sales pipeline, she probably wouldn’t have clicked on them when she was still just researching home décor ideas.

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Author: Daryn Smith

Image credit: The Very Many



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