HomeBlogThe 4 Stages of a Supremely Successful Content Marketing Funnel

The 4 Stages of a Supremely Successful Content Marketing Funnel

Author: Kristen McCormick
Last Updated: May 20, 2024 | Content Marketing

Marketing is really hard to do without content. Aka you can’t market without it. And, according to Hubspot, 82% of marketers understand that. The other 18% (that is, 10% that don’t use content marketing and 8% that don’t know) really don’t know what they’re missing out on.

content marketing funnel - content marketing stats

But executing a winning content marketing strategy is a careful process, and it cannot be done without a content marketing funnel. So in this post, I’m going to take you on a tour of the content marketing funnel, from awareness to conversion and beyond, and share with you the best types of content for every stage, my tips for success, and plenty of templates.

Table of contents

What is the content marketing funnel?

The content marketing funnel helps you to map your content to your customer’s journey. Just as they have different goals and problems at different points in their journey, so too should your content (have different goals, that is, not problems).

content marketing funnel

Click to enlarge

Stages of the content marketing funnel

There are a gajillion types of marketing funnels out there with different frameworks and names for each section. But we’ll keep it simple with these:

  • Awareness: At this stage, people are looking to learn and problem-solve. Your content at this stage serves to provide these answers while generating awareness of your brand.
  • Evaluation: Here, people aren’t just aware of your brand and your solutions; they’re interested. They’re looking to learn more about yours as well as how it compares to others. Content at this stage is used to help build brand affinity.
  • Conversion: Now, people are ready to buy. They’re mostly commited to buying from you, but may need a few extra nods of reassurance and/or help deciding what to buy.
  • Retention: Your leads have become your customers. Yay. Your content here serves to keep them engaged, continue delivering value, and help them get the most out of your solution.

Let’s take a closer look at each stage of the content marketing funnel.

basic content marketing funnel example

Top-of-funnel content

At this stage of the funnel, your readers are aware of their problem(s) but not of your solution or of your brand.

Their goal is to get information that will help them solve a problem, execute a task, or learn something new.

Your goal is to attract them to your business and website, generate brand awareness, demonstrate your expertise, and build authority.

Top-of-funnel content types

Here are some examples of content that live their best life at the top of the funnel. Note that checklists, guides, and quiz results can be used as gated content to capture leads.

  • Blog posts
  • Checklists
  • Cold emails
  • Contests
  • Ebooks/guides
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Postcards
  • Press Releases
  • Quizzes
  • Social media posts

repurposing blog post ideas - example by wordstream

Top-of-funnel content tips

Do your keyword research. SEO is most important for TOF content, as users are not yet aware of your brand. Do careful keyword research and cover all your on-page SEO bases so you can maximize your online visibility and get found.

Keep self-promotion to a minimum. It’s okay to include CTAs to other resources and free tools in your TOF content, but your primary goal here is to educate and build trust. Always pushing your products/services in your content can detract from your sincerity.

Go heavy on the bog. In terms of resources needed and scalability, blogging is the most cost-effective option here. Check out our blog post ideas and blog post templates for help getting started.

Middle-of-funnel content

At this next stage, your target audience is now aware of your business and the solution you provide, and they’re interested.

They trust you enough to make slightly bigger commitments, like signing up for a webinar and engaging with longer-form content; and they’re interested enough in your offering to read brand-specific material like case studies, testimonials, and newsletter emails.

Their goal is to learn more about the solution you provide—both in general and the one specifically offered by your business.

Your goal is to educate them on your offering and set your business apart from competitors—not just with your features and benefits but with your expertise and knowledge.

Middle-of-funnel content types

content marketing funnel - example of a testimonials page

Middle-of-funnel content tips

  • Self-promote pretty freely.  In this type of content, it’s okay to put calls to action and plug your product/service.
  • Repurpose top of funnel content. You can combine blog posts and checklists into a more robust offer, or verticalize your content to make it more targeted.
  • A little friction here is good. The people that will take the time to fill out a two-step form or provide  are the ones who are actually interested.
  • Use tools available. These content types require some heavier lifting than say, a blog post, but they are well worth it. Plus, you don’t have to do it alone. For example, Outgrow’s Interactive Funnels help you to create interactive tools like ROI calculators and maturity assessments that can guide your prospects through your funnel and eventually convert them into customers. You can even try it free.
  • Blogs aren’t out of the question here. All too often, blogs are seen as top-of-funnel content, and for the most part, they are, but there are still plenty of keywords to target with long-form content that I would categorize as mid-funnel. For example: what to look for in a [service provider], x questions to ask when vetting a [provider], or how to find a good [provider].

blog posts across the content marketing funnelClick to enlarge

Bottom-of-funnel content

Now, your audience member has decided that they want to purchase the type of solution you provide. They’re pretty sure they want your solution specifically, but still need a little convincing and/or guidance.

Their goal is to feel confident in choosing you and in the particular product/service they choose.

Your goal is to get them to convert obviously, but it’s also to address any objections and hesitations.

Bottom-of-funnel content types

  • Case studies (can also be mid-funnel)
  • Comparison tools/sheets
  • Pitch decks
  • Product page
  • Pricing page
  • Spec sheets

Bottom-of-funnel content tips

Hyper-target: All of your content should be geared for your target audience, but at this stage particularly, it should be catered to very specific buyer personas and even personalized to the prospect (such as with a pitch deck)

Copywriting is important here: The prospect is now in scrutiny mode, so every detail counts! Use my tips on how to write copy that sells so you can make the most of this content.

Always be testing these pages: Try out different call to action phrases, information presentation, and page structure, and also make sure that these pages are free of pop-ups or other widgets that might interfere or interrupt the experience.

Beyond funnel content (retention)

At this point, you’ve got a customer. Good job! But does that mean your work is done? Far from it. Not only do you need to continue providing value through helpful tips, but you also need to keep them engaged.

Their goal is to learn how to best use your product/service and to make the most of their investment.

Your goal is to keep them engaged, provide the support they need, and continue adding value.

Retention content types

  • Announcements/updates
  • Help articles
  • Personalized/performance emails
  • Surveys/polls
  • User forums
  • Blogs/guides/webinars/tools for continued learning

content marketing funnel - peformance report email

Image source

Retention content tips

Continue providing informational content. The very top-of-funnel content that helped them become aware of your business is still useful, even way down here at the bottom. That’s because this content isn’t directly related to your specific products and services, but also covers ancillary topics.

Segment your audience. This may go without saying, but whether you’re running a Google Ads campaign, an email campaign, or something else, segment out your customers—maybe even further segmenting by levels of loyalty—so you can cater to them specifically.

Master your content marketing funnel

And that concludes our tour of the content marketing funnel. For more help with creating great content, check out these resources:

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Meet The Author

Kristen McCormick

Kristen is the Head of Marketing at Hatch, a customer communication platform for service-based businesses. She was previously the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream. Her cat Arnold has double paws on every paw, and she finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.


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