A few weeks ago, I was talking with a client who was feeling some overwhelm (and maybe a little quease) around the idea of creating marketing funnels.
“Funnels” are something of an old-school internet marketing idea. You throw a bunch of traffic in at the top (this was back when buying traffic was cheap) and the funnel spits out paying customers at the bottom.
Funnels aren’t bad or wrong. But the metaphor and model are a little outdated.
I find it more useful to talk about paths to purchase. Here’s what that looks like:
A path to purchase is how someone finds you and decides to buy
- They hear you on a podcast
- They sign up for a free manifesto
- You send a few automated emails about the topic they’re interested in
- You send an offer to take the topic further with a topic or service
- They sign up and enjoy your work
Or it could be:
- They see your content on LinkedIn
- They go to a YouTube live you mention on the platform
- They’re fired up and fill out an application to work with you
- They get a follow-up sequence that includes useful information
- You get on a call and they sign up
Your business might have one path that’s been refined to work really well. Or you may have different paths for different kinds of customers, or for different products.
Focusing on building paths one at a time keeps you from the “throw spaghetti at the wall and hope something sticks” school of marketing.
You get to have as many or as few paths as you want to build and maintain. And those paths can branch, interlink, and lead to just about any goal you may have for your project.
When we say “content marketing,” this is what we mean
It doesn’t matter whether you call it a marketing funnel, a path to purchase, a content pachinko machine (I do know someone who uses this), or just a sales process:
Content marketing is the interesting stuff you build for potential buyers when a purchasing decision is more complex than “I need a box of pencils and Amazon has them for cheap.”
Content marketing is particularly cool and effective because you can build these paths in so many different ways.
- You can decide on the medium you prefer to create (as long as your buyer likes to consume it)
- You can experiment with where to put the messages
- You can infuse the path with your values
And coolest of all, if you make the path meaningful and enjoyable for your audience, you can keep the conversation going until they’re ready to move forward with your offer.
Five “rules” (suggestions) for your paths
The great thing about paths is you can structure them in so many different ways. But here are five general best practices to make them effective:
- Try to focus on one path to purchase at a time. Get it working (or retire it) before you start a second one.
- Put serious time and attention into the first step — often your opt-in incentive. If you can’t make the front gate appealing, no one will cross through it to learn more about what you’re doing. (If you need help with that, scroll down for a free resource!)
- Schedule time for path maintenance. That means looking at the pieces (twice a year is usually enough) and making sure they’re still relevant, the links still work, and they still point in a direction you want people to go.
- Take your first idea and make it simpler. You can always build something complicated later.
- Get it launched. An imperfect published path is infinitely more valuable than one that’s languishing in Draft.
Could you use some help with that?
Building and teaching these kinds of relationship-building conversion paths was my bread and butter in my 10+ years with Copyblogger — as well as my corporate experience selling many millions of dollars’ worth of stuff.
If you’d like some help putting your next path together, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you’re working on and what has you stuck!
Or if you want to start with something lower-key, sign up for my biweekly emails (the form is below), to find out more about how I approach business and marketing.
Now try this: Create a great opt-in incentive
The opt-in incentive (also called a lead magnet or white paper) is one of the most important steps along your path to purchase.
I also find it’s one of the most common elements we put off creating.
If you don’t love the lead magnet you have today, I put together a guide on creating a high-quality one in about four hours total.
You can find it on LinkedIn, and you don’t need a LinkedIn account to read it: How to create a really good opt-in incentive in about four hours
Image from Lili Popper on Unsplash