The Marketing funnel is the backbone of a solid B2B inbound marketing strategy. It allows you to send the right content at the right time, provided that you have covered the entire buyer journey with your content. A buyer in the awareness phase will not have the same expectations as a buyer in the consideration phase. So what kind of content is best suited to each stage of the purchase funnel? And how do you construct a coherent editorial schedule?
1. How do you position your content to match each stage of the acquisition funnel?
Marketing funnel, acquisition funnel, conversion funnel: whatever we happen to call it, it lets you break down a prospect’s journey into different stages. This breakdown thereby allows you to activate different levers for optimising performance and to improve, little by little, your conversion rates.
With B2B inbound marketing, the aim is to position content at each of these phases. However, there’s a big gap between what is recommended in B2B inbound marketing guides and the reality for marketing directors.
What types of content work best at the various different stages? How much content should you create for each stage? How many personas should you target? What tactic works best? And above all…. how do you do it?
When it comes to personas, our Happiness Factory recommends starting with one persona, then sticking with two or three personas and so on to make sure you don’t make your strategy too complex.
Stage 1: discovering the need
The first stage of the marketing funnel for the buyer is to discover that they have a need. The buyer becomes aware of their pain points, of unresolved problems that are preventing them from being successful in what they are doing. In brief, it means recognising a problem.
Let’s take Plezi, for example. We sell a marketing automation/B2B inbound marketing tool. Our potential clients all have websites, with downloadable content and a blog. How do you create high-value content? How do you organise the production of articles without this becoming too time-consuming? How do you begin to qualify the prospects generated?
Our content focuses on the grey area between our prospects’ actual situation and their desired situation.
The aim at this stage is to attract the attention of target clients regarding the problems that they encounter, their frustrations, their pain points. In a way, we add salt and then apply the ointment!
You can start simply with three to four blogs and a piece of downloadable content for this awareness phase.
For the premium downloadable content, also called the lead magnet, at Plezi we’ve created a persona-creation kit. Persona creation is an essential phase when you want to do inbound marketing. We therefore insert a piece of “awarness” content into our blog, using calls-to-action. The tools that we offer have a very good ROI in terms of lead generation because we create them very quickly (given that we already use them internally). They also have very good conversion statistics, with 33% conversion on the landing page.
Here’s the record for this content in Plezi where we can see the visit statistics, conversions (downloads) and new leads generated (people that we didn’t know):
- Blog articles (obviously!)
- Studies (including figures and comments)
- How-to guides and tutorials
- Operational tools
Stage 2: interest (or searching for information) and evaluation
The prospect recognises the existence of a problem which is stopping them from achieving their goals. Secondly, they are interested in solutions that could ease this pain point. They are searching for information on market trends and different alternatives. At this stage, our content must enable them to:
- Determine the criteria that will guide their decision
- Rate these criteria in order of importance. In other words, it is still too soon to try to push for a decision.
Content must educate, help and guide our audience to better evaluate the purchasing criteria and legitimise us as an expert in our field. For example, at Plezi we’ve created a white paper called “why do I need marketing automation software?“
It points our potential clients towards how they can solve their problems with a solution like Plezi without, however, “selling” the software. By that, it is important to understand that the white paper must in no way be a product brochure.
The goal is for our prospect to include us in their short-list of solutions.
At this stage of the funnel, we recommend using these types of content:
- White papers
- Opinion pages
Stage 3: buying
The buyer has precise information on the market and its various players. It has drawn up a short-list of solutions that respond to its decision-making criteria. Now all you have to do is demonstrate why they should choose you and not the competition. The goal at this stage is to show your future buyer what differentiates you and how this difference responds to their specific needs.
Neither must you neglect the contractual and “practical” dimension of the act of buying. At this stage, any dissatisfaction on the part of your client would deprive you of a potential ambassador to promote your merits. Here you must pay closer attention to the following items:
- Case studies
- Product demonstrations or brochures
- Customer testimonials
- Purchase forms/contractual documents
- Set-up guides
- Online user resources
Stage 4: after-sales
Just because a buyer has purchased your solution, don’t simply forget about them. Indeed, a dissatisfied buyer will naturally be inclined to share their dissatisfaction with those around them. However, a satisfied buyer will not always become a fervent champion of your business. Unless you encourage them to be. Content at this stage will therefore have a three-fold objective:
- Nipping potential dissatisfaction in the bud
- Creating loyal clients
- Encouraging satisfied clients to become ambassadors
To do this, you mustn’t forget to tell clients about the arrival of new features and the existence of complementary products and services and, generally speaking, anything that may impact their customer experience. It is therefore time to create loyalty campaigns. Here are a few ways of doing this:
- Newsletters / Emails
- Satisfaction surveys
- User communities
2. How do you map your content to the funnel?
Now that you’ve seen how to break down your content to match each phase of the acquisition funnel, now it’s about moving from strategy to the action plan and editorial schedule.
This is where we get stuck as marketers, because it’s difficult to map our content in a simple way.
Plezi users can map their content to each purchasing cycle and see the leads generated by each piece of content. But being honest, every marketer loves having an Excel spreadsheet, a mindmap or a note when preparing their strategy in order to plan which content they will add to their editorial schedule.
We have a soft spot for the tool Airtable and have created a document that lets us centralise all of our content. It’s just as easy as an Excel spreadsheet and just as powerful as a premium project management tool. It’s ideal for moving from strategy to the marketing plan!
If you want to be really efficient, your content strategy must marry-up to the different stages of the marketing funnel. By coming up with specific content that depends on where the buyer is in the funnel, you facilitate, smooth-out and optimise the buying experience.
By associating content marketing and marketing automation for the lead nurturing phase, you dispense with luck and improve lead conversion.