Paid search can be a great way of getting your content in front of the right people at the right time in the marketing funnel. However, before promoting your content, you need to define your audience, goals and strategy.
Here’s how to reach potential customers, no matter where they are in the marketing funnel.
The marketing funnel
The marketing funnel is often broken down into three distinct stages:
TOFU – Top of funnel:
This is about raising awareness of your brand and the products/services you offer.
Typically, this is content designed to inform without being a hard sell, and includes articles published with third parties, interviews, blog posts, webinars, videos, infographics, podcasts, and research/stats.
This audience is unlikely to be ready to convert.
MOFU – Middle of funnel:
Middle of funnel content is targeted toward those in the interest/consideration stage. This audience has an awareness of your brand and may have engaged with you in some form previously, but has not yet converted.
Content that can be used to reach this audience includes case studies, offers/discounts, buyer guides, how-to guides, tutorials, and white papers/downloads. At this stage, you should be providing valuable content in exchange for capturing their contact information.
This audience is likely to be in the consideration stage.
BOFU- Bottom of funnel:
Once an audience has become more familiar with your brand and you’ve built trust through multiple touchpoints, they are far more likely to convert.
Content used at the top of the funnel should demonstrate why you are the best choice. Demos, customer testimonials, product/solution spec sheets, reviews, competitor comparisons, and sales collateral (including proposals and pitch decks).
This audience is at, or very close to, the decision stage.
Funnel-based approach to content marketing using paid search
Depending on the industry you operate in there may be some crossover in the content targeted throughout the funnel.
Let’s use an example.
A SaaS business, AIs and Ears – a company offering an AI-based transcription solution.
The product has been designed to not only analyse and transcribe audio but also be able to analyse video content when sound quality is poor and fill in the gaps in transcriptions based on its advanced facial recognition software.
Build brand awareness, positioning itself as best in class. To capture user data. To sign up users across a range of industries, but primarily those who have an enterprise-level need for note-taking and transcription services.
Conference and event organisers, sales, product and marketing teams, content creators, students and academics, broadcast and media companies, and journalists.
Now let’s think about how AIs and Ears can meet those goals.
It’s important to make a good first impression.
Not every person in those audiences has heard of AI transcription software, and not all of them will need it. So how do we start narrowing the funnel when we’re right at the top using paid search?
There are a lot of different types of platforms and ad formats that can be used at this stage in the funnel.
For Google Ads/Microsoft Ads, I would set up search campaigns targeting generic keywords around AI transcription, and questions, like ‘how can I take meeting notes’ or ‘how can I transcribe videos’. I’d also target my competitor’s brand name keywords aggressively.
I’d couple this with a display campaign, building audience segments around each core industry or job function I wanted to reach. An example of this would be an ad targeting students.
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To plug any gaps in the strategy, with Google Ads, I’d also include a Performance Max campaign with targeted messaging and assets for each audience.
This is primarily a B2B solution. So I’d initially focus my efforts on LinkedIn Ads, and Twitter Ads when it comes to social media advertising.
Twitter usually has a nice low CPC, but the targeting options aren’t the best so I’d expand the scope of targeting to focus on visibility with strong creative, and target people with an interest in productivity tools and AI technology to create a buzz. This can be a great way of getting the attention of influencers and journalists which can support PR activity, too.
LinkedIn allows you to get far more granular. For this reason, it’s more expensive, but you can reach decision-makers more directly.
Here, as well as a general brand awareness campaign, I’d start targeting users with blog posts, podcasts and webinars, short, introductory videos that explain what the product is and what problem it solves, and infographics that demonstrate how much time and money can be saved by deploying a range of AI-powered solutions.
Capturing data and gaining trust
Getting people to give up their information isn’t easy. At this stage, you really need to think about what value you can provide, and build trust and authority in your brand.
By now, you should have driven some traffic to your website and social media channels. You should have developed a library of content in different formats, tailored to different segments of your audience.
You can now begin to build remarketing lists, which can help to retarget users who have already engaged with your brand previously. If you’re running video ads on LinkedIn Ads, you can even build remarketing lists based on how much of the video was watched.
These lists can be layered with other targeting methods across the majority of paid platforms. And by now, you should have a better idea of which messaging is resonating with each defined audience.
This is where I’d take a multi-channel approach to warm up leads with informative content. Some content should be gated (for data capture, such as in-depth reports and white papers on AI), and some not (case studies and explainer videos that showcase what the AI can do). There needs to be a balance between giving some things away for free, while not missing out on too many opportunities to capture lead data.
Again, remarketing becomes useful here, because if someone accesses a free resource, you can still target them with gated content once you’ve built up trust.
LinkedIn Ads have Lead Gen campaigns which can be used to capture data without the user having to leave the platform.
You can upload lists of companies to both LinkedIn Ads and Microsoft Ads, plus industry and job functions, which when paired with a remarketing list allows you to deliver even more targeted content during this stage in the funnel.
At this point, I’d begin introducing more content that can help give that final push into entering the decision stage.
This is where paid search can push content that’s a bit more direct.
By now, you’ve had several touchpoints with this audience and they’ve indicated they are engaged.
In addition to remarketing lists, you may now have built a database of qualified leads.
LinkedIn Ads would be what I’d use primarily at this stage to support the sales team with nurturing leads.
As well as its contact list upload feature, which matches the email addresses you’ve captured, you can also use Message Ads, which allow you to send targeted messages directly to people’s inboxes. You can even choose who they are sent from.
In this instance, AIs and Ears has been sending emails via its database to a huge segment of contacts who often open and click, and have signed up for a free trial, but have not activated it.
Their Sales Manager, James, can be the ‘face’ behind the messaging ads which target these users, offering them a demo, discounts, or evidence of why they outperform their competitors.
People often respond better to a more personal approach, and I’ve found this works well for a lot of clients.
How to plan your paid content strategy in 5 easy steps
1. Collate all content you have and sort into TOFU, MOFU, BOFU categories
2. Segment content by audience
3. Create tailored messaging for each audience segment
4. Determine which platforms will be used to promote your content
5. Build out audiences for each platform based on the goal for each piece of content
If you’d like some help with promoting your content via paid search, get in touch!