If you’re doing it right, your content should attract a variety of audiences at various stages of the marketing funnel — from people who've never heard of your company before to those who are already engaged with your sales team, with all manner of readers in between.
Do you have a content strategy to engage each of these prospects?
Too many blogs hosted by B2B enterprises focus on the lower parts of the funnel: the intent and evaluation stages. They publish a ton of case studies, product information, and details about the company itself, in the hopes of pushing people across the line.
What these companies forget is that most people spend exponentially more time in the upper stages of the funnel, where they might be aware of your company and might even be interested in working with you someday, but they’re not currently in the market for your product or services — not yet, anyway.
Here’s a framework for how to develop content strategies that address all of your readers, at every stage of the marketing funnel.
Contrary to popular belief, brand awareness isn’t relegated to just advertising and promotional campaigns. Content marketing can help drive brand awareness too, primarily by leveraging SEO, social media marketing, and virality. The best type of content to use here is educational and informational content that is helpful and relevant to your readers. Forget about trying to sell your product or service here. Don’t make it about you or your company. Instead, make it entirely about your reader. How can you help them do their job better? How can you make them smarter? How can you make their lives easier?
Good examples of this type of content can be found on the blog of Boulevard, provider of the client experience platform purpose-built for appointment-based, self-care businesses. Boulevard publishes a lot of helpful advice, on everything from how to hire Gen Z stylists and how to serve blind and low-vision clients, to the latest sun-safe products. Not only do these blog posts get a lot of likes, comments, and shares on social media, but they drive a lot of organic search traffic as well, from people who are researching those topics. (You can use software like Ahref or MOZ to help find what keyword phrases people are searching for and develop a content strategy designed to attract those users.)
Ironically, the Interest level of the marketing funnel is probably where marketers spend the least amount of their energy, yet it’s where prospects spend the most amount of their time. Unless your company is a brand new startup or bit player in its space, it’s most likely that your top prospects have at least heard of it, but only a small percentage of them are looking to buy a product or service like yours at any given point in time. The question then becomes, how can you get these readers hooked and keep them engaged until the day they decide to start looking?
This is where gated content comes into play. It helps you identify the “hand-raisers” who are willing to give you their name, email address, and maybe even some details like their company name and job title in exchange for access to information that they can’t get elsewhere. Long-form content like whitepapers, ebooks and industry reports work best for this purpose — content that showcases your company’s unique expertise or insights. You’ll not only be able to build an email list of prospects you can market to, but you’ll build credibility and trust, and you’ll get people to start thinking that yours is the type of company they want to do business with.
Tapjoy’s “Modern Mobile Gamer” report series is an excellent example of the type of report that captures email addresses from interested prospects while showing that Tapjoy understands the wants, needs, and behaviors of mobile gamers better than anyone else in the industry.
Here in the Consideration stage, prospects are starting to think that maybe your company is worth doing business with, even if they’re not quite ready to officially start evaluating your offering or speaking to a sales rep. But they’re looking for clues that your value proposition fits with their needs, and that you will live up to their expectations.
This is the stage where we’ve found that brand journalism content works best. We’ve written in this space about brand journalism before, but essentially it is the act of using the basic principles and skills of journalism — research, investigation, reporting, storytelling, etc. — to branded content. The reason it works so well for prospects in the Consideration stage is that it shows them who your company really is, what it cares about, and what it stands for.
Going back to the Boulevard blog as an example, the company often writes about social justice issues, with blog posts covering topics such as race-based hair discrimination and LGBTQIA rights. The company’s culture strongly supports diversity, inclusion and equality, so it uses brand journalism to shed light on these issues within the beauty industry. For many of their blog readers, it sends the signal that they hold shared values, and therefore are the type of company they’d like to work with.
Once your readers have reached the Evaluation stage, now is when you’ll need all that great lower-funnel content we mentioned earlier: product information, demos, case studies, testimonials, and so on. At this point they are looking for evidence that you are who you say you are, and that you can deliver on your brand promises. You’ll need to show that your products or services work as they’re intended, and that you can help solve the pain points your prospects are feeling.
One company that is particularly successful at lower-funnel content is Axon, the global leader in connected public safety technologies. Axon’s Resources section is chock full of detailed product descriptions and case studies for just about every product, vertical and use case they are marketing to, delivered in a variety of formats including video, photos, brochures, webinars and more.
Start from the bottom up
So now you’re ready to start developing content strategies for prospects at every stage of the marketing funnel. But where to begin? We generally advise clients to start from the bottom of the funnel and work your way up. Be sure to have lots of case studies and product content so that you’re not missing out on the “low hanging fruit” of prospects who are ready to close. Then start publishing content for the Consideration, Intent and Awareness stages, keeping each of the strategies outlined above in mind.
Customers at the various stages of the funnel have different wants and needs. Catering to those interests will help your business attract, nurture and convert more prospects into high value customers.