This article is part of our series about tailoring your content strategy for the ecommerce sales funnel. Check back for an in-depth look at how to cater your content for each individual stage of the funnel.
The reason it’s called a sales funnel is because it gets smaller as you go deeper… which makes the first stage the absolute biggest! The starting point deals with everyone — literally everyone online — and your job is to dive in and find your target customers among them. No easy feat, but not impossible either.
The initial starting phase of the sales funnel was dubbed the “attention” phase by E. St. Elmo Lewis, but modern marketers know it better as “brand awareness.” It’s the stage in which you introduce yourself to new prospective customers or remind old customers that you’re still around to encourage a new sale.
How can you optimize your content strategy to get your name out there? What are your goals for this stage and what are the best ways to obtain them? We’ll answer all your questions on using a content strategy for brand awareness below.
Your goals for the brand awareness phase of the sales funnel are broad, but they should still be handled with surgical precision. After all, every sale you ever make begins right here, with a customer first discovering who you are and what you offer.
To be clear, let’s go over an ecommerce company’s goals for the initial stage of the funnel:
Introduce (or reintroduce) your brand to your target customers.
This may seem simple enough, but there are a lot of nuances that ultimately affect whether or not you make the sale. For one thing, success depends on how well you know your target customers: what kind of content does your main customer group read most, where do they hang out online, and what entices them to engage or convert with a brand?
Make sure you put your best foot forward; as they say, you only get one chance at a first impression. This stage of the funnel involves presenting yourself, and your value proposition, in a positive light to start things off on the right foot.
Of course, you don’t want to neglect your previous customers. Especially in ecommerce, customers might forget about you over time, so it helps to give them a reminder every now and again, maybe even inspire new shopping ideas. For this, it’s best to use social media and email newsletters, which brings us to our next point…
Increase social media and email signups.
This phase is about creating a pool of potential customers to whom you can direct your marketing effects in the future, at subsequent stages of the funnel. The two most effective approaches for this kind of mass communication are email lists and social media followers — the more you build those out now, the easier content marketing becomes at subsequent stages of the sales funnel.
Increase cold traffic to your channels.
Even better than remembering your name is when a customer actually visits your site. It leaves a stronger and more memorable impression if people see what you have to offer with their own eyes — plus you can complement your content strategy with exceptional web design for more impact.
How you bring people to your site varies, although multiple approaches work best. Your content should naturally lead people there from social media or other third-party sites via a backlink, but don’t neglect organic traffic. If your SEO is good enough, you’ll attract new visitors to your site through search results alone.
To connect with your customers, you have to understand them. What are they thinking during the interest or brand awareness stage?
While later stages have more involved and complicated customer journeys, for this first phase it’s pretty simple. Your target customers are simply browsing the web as usual — social media, their favorite sites, search engines, or wherever else they go online. Your job isn’t necessarily to appeal to their state of mind; all you have to do is be present where your customers are, and have your content do the rest.
Best Types of Content
Because this stage is so wide-reaching, a lot of different types of content can be employed to help you branch out.
- Social media updates
- SEO-laden internal blogs
- Guest posts on external blogs
- White papers/ebooks
- Influencer features
- Your webstore design
Really, if it’s online, it can help you get your name out there. At this stage, a blanket approach from the start reveals which types of content work best with your specific customer types.
Trending Social Media Tags
Our first approach to “making new friends” is one that both businesses and individuals can use to increase followers. Create posts including whatever topics or tags are trending at the moment. You can capitalize on the increased visibility that trending topics receive — just try to keep it relevant to your business, or you waste time targeting the wrong people.
Optimizing your search engine results remains one of the best ways to gain traffic; after all, customers are searching for someone just like you, so they already have built-in interest even before they arrive. There are many different strategies for improving your SEO but making the most out of your blog posts sits at the top. Writing SEO-centric blog articles is a topic worthy of its own discussion, but you can get some pointers from Yoast, a company that knows a thing or two about SEO.
If you have some friends within your industry, an article exchange is almost always helpful. The principle is simple enough: you post an article on their blog and they post one on yours. This works well for brand awareness because you get to introduce yourself to a new group of followers, but there’s also another benefit: guest posting on external sites boosts your SEO, as long as you know how to use backlinks.
Remember above when we emphasized making a good first impression? Using social proof is an effective shortcut, combining psychology with marketing. The concept is that, if a new customer sees that other people approve of your brand, it makes them more likely to join the group too — especially if those other people are trusted sources.
Mention any high-profile partners or even celebrity spokespeople on your social posts. Convincing influencers to feature you is also a big help, as they’re already trusted among their followers. You can even institute a referral program to encourage people to recommend you to their friends.
When dealing with social media, it’s best to give your posts a visual flair. To stand out in your customers’ minds, you first need to stand out in their social media feeds. Use attention-grabbing visuals like bright colors or poignant imagery to first be seen, then be liked.
Avoid Being Salesy
This is one of the most important pieces of advice for the first stage of the funnel: do notopen with your sales pitch. Customers hate it when brands go straight into self-promotion. There’s a time and a place for being “salesy” in the later stages, but the goal of this phase is simply to spread awareness.
Content should be about building a relationship; if your customers think you’re just out to get their money, it’s over before it starts.