The marketing funnel lies at the heart of any good B2B inbound marketing strategy. If you have created content for each stage of the buyer’s journey, it lets you send prospects the right content at the right time. Because a prospect in the awareness stage won’t have the same needs as a prospect in the consideration stage. But what types of content are best suited to each stage of the marketing funnel? And how do you put together an editorial calendar that lets you cover it all?
The marketing funnel, customer acquisition funnel, conversion funnel… Whatever you call it, this lets you break down a prospect’s path to purchase into different stages. Doing so enables you to then optimize it and thus gradually improve your conversion rates.
In B2B inbound marketing, the objective is to match specific content to each of these different stages. However, there’s often a big difference between what is recommended in guides to B2B inbound marketing and the real-world conditions faced by a marketing manager.
What types of content work best at the different stages? How much content should you create at each stage? How many different buyer personas should you target? What tactics work best? And most importantly, how do you go about it?
1st stage: Awareness of a need
The first stage in the marketing funnel is when the buyer becomes aware that they have a need. The buyer also becomes aware of their pain points and of other unresolved issues, all of which prevent them from successfully carrying out their business activity. In short, they recognize that they have a problem.
At Plezi, for example, we sell marketing automation / B2B inbound marketing software. Our potential customers all have a website, with downloadable content and a blog. How can we create content with high added value for them? What can we do to ensure the process for creating articles is not too time-consuming? How do we qualify the leads we generate?
Our content focuses on addressing the gap that exists between a prospect’s present situation and where they want to be.
The goal at this stage is to draw your target customers’ attention to the challenges they face, to what frustrates them, and their pain points. It’s a bit like rubbing salt into the wound before we apply the ointment!
At the awareness stage, you can start off simply with 3 or 4 blog posts and one piece of premium downloadable content, also known as a lead magnet.
At Plezi, we’ve created a kit for building buyer personas that prospects can download. Creating buyer personas is an essential step if you want to start using inbound marketing. This piece of “awareness” content is integrated into our blog using calls to action. The tools that we offer prospects have a very good ROI in terms of the number of leads they generate because we can create them very quickly (we already use them internally). They are also very good at converting those leads, having a 33% conversion rate when accessed from a landing page.
Here is a list for this content in Plezi, where we can see the number of visits, conversions (downloads), and new leads generated (people we didn’t already know):
- Blog posts (obviously!)
- Studies (including figures and comments)
- How-to guides and tutorials
- Business tools
2nd stage: Interest (or searching for information) and evaluation
A prospect recognizes there is a problem which is stopping them from achieving their goals. They are also interested in solutions that might address this pain point. They are searching for information on market trends and different alternatives. At this stage, our content should enable them to:
- Identify the criteria they will use to make their decision
- Rank these criteria in order of importance. In other words, it’s still too early to try and get them to make a decision.
Your content must both educate and guide prospects. It should also help them better assess the purchasing criteria while positioning you as an expert in your area of activity. At Plezi, for example, we’ve created a white paper “Why use a marketing automation solution?””
This shows our potential customers how they can use a solution like Plezi to solve their problems, without actually “selling” the software. In other words, the white paper should in no way be a product brochure.
Here, the goal is to have our target prospect include us in their shortlist of possible solutions.
At this stage of the funnel, we recommend using these types of content:
- White papers
- Opinion pieces
3rd stage: Purchase
The prospect has detailed information about the market and its various players. They have drawn up a shortlist of solutions that meet their selection criteria. Now all you have to do is demonstrate why they should choose you and not one of your competitors. The goal at this stage is to show prospective buyers what differentiates you from the competition and how this difference addresses their specific needs.
You should also pay attention here to both the contractual and “practical” aspects of the actual purchase. If your customer is unhappy with how things proceed at this point, you could deprive yourself of a potential ambassador who might otherwise sing your praises. You should have an increased focus on the following types of content:
- Case studies
- Product demonstrations or brochures
- Customer testimonials
- Purchase forms / Contractual documents
- Getting started guides
- Online resources for users
4th stage: Post-purchase
Just because someone has purchased your solution doesn’t mean you should forget about them. A dissatisfied customer will quite naturally want to share their experience with those around them. On the other hand, a satisfied customer won’t always become a strong advocate for your company. Unless, that is, you encourage them to do so. The aim of content at this stage, therefore, is threefold:
- To ensure customers don’t have any reason to be dissatisfied
- To create loyal customers
- To encourage satisfied customers to become brand ambassadors
To do this, you need to ensure you tell customers about any new additional features and about any complementary products or services. Generally speaking, anything that might have an impact on their customer experience is an opportunity for you to communicate with them. Now is the right time to put in place a customer loyalty campaign. There are a number of different ways you can do this:
- Newsletters / Emails
- Satisfaction surveys
- User communities
2. How to map content to the funnel
Now that you’ve seen how to divide up your content to match the different stages of the acquisition funnel, it’s time to move from your strategy to an action plan and an editorial calendar.
As marketers, this is where we often get stuck because mapping content is not necessarily a straightforward process.
Plezi users can map their content to each buying cycle and see the number of leads generated by each piece of content. But let’s be honest, every marketer likes to have an Excel spreadsheet, a mind map, or a note handy when developing their strategy in order to plan which pieces of content they will add to their editorial calendar.
We love Airtable and used it to create a document that centralizes all our content in one place. It’s just as easy to use as Excel and is as powerful as a premium project management tool. It’s ideal for helping you move from your strategy to a marketing plan! If you want to download our editorial kit you by clicking on the banner below:
To be truly effective, your content strategy must closely match the different stages of the marketing funnel. By creating content that specifically targets a prospect’s position in the funnel, you optimize and streamline the buying experience, at the same time making it easier for prospects.
And by bringing together content-creation, content marketing and marketing automation in the lead nurturing phase, you greatly improve your chances of increasing the number of leads you convert into customers.