Let’s take a minute to acknowledge the vast number of changes that B2B content marketing funnels (or marketing in general) seem to have undergone. Outdated outbound and interruptive marketing strategies no longer sway Information-rich buyers.
A well constructed wholistic campaign involving multi-faceted marketing strategy is the way forward such as email campaign, cold call, invitational marketing (blogs), etc.
With Inbound Marketing, the B2B marketing funnel has grown and evolved to be a far superior and more actionable tool, now used to craft lead-generation strategy. Organizations understand the value of content that nurtures leads through the various stages of the marketing funnel.
In this guide, we’ll cover eleven different content marketing strategies that apply to each stage of the marketing funnel and why they work so effectively. But before we take a deep dive into the strategies, let’s take a few minutes to outline what a B2B marketing funnel looks like today.
Stages and Buyer Journey of the B2B Content Marketing Funnel:
According to Hubspot and Implicit, it takes 84 days to convert 13% of leads into an opportunity from an entire pool of prospects! That is a massive timeline to keep in mind when coming up with lead nurturing strategies.
The marketing funnel of the B2B sales cycle and the corresponding buyer’s journey can be divided into three stages as follows:
Top of The Funnel: Awareness and Discovery
This phase, as the name suggests, relates to the awareness phase of the customer journey. It’s the first stage of the buying process, and you’ll have many leads looking to read blog posts regarding their problems and possible solutions.
This phase can also be redefined as:
- Early Top-Funnel:
- At this stage the persona is not looking for a solution to a problem nor do they recognize that may have a particular problem.
- They are facing the symptoms of a potential problem that your company can address.
- Mid Top-Funnel
- At this phase, they are starting to recognize multiple symptoms of their problems but have not yet identified a specific problem from which they symptoms rise.
- Our task as a B2B marketer at this stage is to confidently define those problems and enable the prospects to openly investigate the solutions and help them differentiate between symptoms and problems.
- Late Top-Funnel
- The prospects at this stage have a good idea of the root cause of their symptoms and have the right information to start researching for possible solutions.
- Though it might worth noting that at this point they are not aware of your industry related factors such as offers and existing competitors that exist.
- This phase should focus on helping your prospects by showing them that there are solutions to their problems and the challenges to deciding the solutions that exist for the said problems.
Prospects at this stage are not what we call sales qualified leads (SQL) – in other words; they aren’t receptive to sales messaging yet.
Since prospects are looking for educational and informational content to help them identify and understand their problems and possible solutions, the ToFu stage requires a substantial digital presence to establish and build a brand identity.
It’s here where you can establish yourself as an authority and trustworthiness in your niche. Latest B2B marketing trends study(2018) shows that 91% of B2B organizations are using content marketing to attract prospects.
Middle of the Funnel: Interest and Consideration
The middle of the funnel (MoFu) is closely tied to the consideration & evaluation phase of the customer journey. Once the customer has passed through the ToFu stage of the funnel, they are aware of your brand and product/service along with a general understanding of your industry – but they are still not sales ready. MoFu represents the gap between initial awareness (Top-Funnel) and final sale (Bottom-Funnel).
It is, however, in this phase that leads want to know more about you – your products, services, and the benefits they will accrue from purchasing it. They’re looking for a targeted solution which is your opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors who may be providing similar product or service.
Enable them to recognize the pros and cons among indirect competitors and select the most appropriate solution for their unique situation, this being your industry offer for the ideal target persona.
For B2B, this phase is exceptionally long and more complex. It’s in this stage that you truly want to focus on nurturing your leads and establishing lasting relationships by providing the most relevant content promptly.
A recent B2B marketing survey (2018), shows that only 20% of B2B organizations are truly committed to content strategy and marketing at various stages. According to CEB reports (TrackMaven.com), customers travel nearly 57% of the funnel on their own before encountering a sales personnel.
It is by the end of this stage that you achieve help to Lead (MQL). This is where we sort our leads into those who are genuinely interested in buying and thus ready for the next stage and journey, and those requiring additional nurturing and are not ready to move to the next stage versus those who don’t intend to buy at all.
This is the key difference between prospects and suspects. The easiest way to classify leads into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) and Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) is to implement a lead scoring system.
Bottom of the funnel: Intent, Evaluation, and Purchase
After the leads move through the Top-Funnel and Mid-Funnel stage, they are now very familiar with your brand and service. The primary focus in this stage is product demonstrations, presentations and proposals, and quotes.
These leads are sales-ready, unlike the last two stages. It’s in this stage that you need to put your best foot forward and define your key value proposition. It’s also the stage where you are finally able to convince them that buying from you is the best option.
There are 2 stages of Bottom-Funnel Content:
- Early Bottom-Funnel
- The target persona is entirely aware of the problems and solutions and has chosen to seek out solutions from your industry offer. They are however trying to differentiate between your offer and those of your direct competitors.
- Help the prospects clearly differentiate between you and the various directly competing for offers in your industry and enable them to choose the best for them while positioning your company in your industry as the best solution for your ideal buyer persona.
- Late Bottom-Funnel
- This phase is quite simple, help your ideal persona trust and desire your value proposition among other closely related offers from direct competitors.
- Make it easy for them at this point to initiate the buying process and enable them to solve their problems.
Also, having a comprehensive FAQ section that assures your leads of your after-sales customer service and key differentiating factors from competition such as “free delivery/shipping,” “lower price point’ (although in many instances this is no longer an effective differentiating point), ease of payment and one-click sign up, etc. This the key to eliminating that pesky cold-feet that customers suffer from at this stage. The singular goal here is to remove all obstacles from sales.
To achieve this completely, the sale and marketing team need to be in complete alignment. This is backed by a study, that shows a 209% increase (Marketeer.com) in ROI if sales and marketing are rightly aligned at this stage leading to conversion and synergy for the organization as a whole.
Buyer Persona for Your B2B Sales Funnel
To be truly effective in your efforts to nurture your leads down the marketing funnel, it’s best to have a pre-prepared buyer persona of your ideal customer. You have to be able to define who is your ideal customer is irrespective of which industry you belong to.
The buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer because data acquired from marketing and sales are necessary to construct an accurate picture of your target market and this is a continuous process.
A buyer persona answers questions such as:
- What are my customer’s pain points?
- Where do they get their information?
- Demographic factors including their education, profession, their position, geographic location, interests, and aversions, etc.
Once the buyer persona is ready, it’s time to craft content that matches the buyer persona through each stage of their journey through a high converting sales funnel.
This is also where the marketing and sales teams identify KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) and key objectives to predict success at each stage. You have to be able to identify what kind of content would be successful and necessary at each stage of the funnel and make sure they flow through the funnel to nurture the leads organically.
Finally, it’s also possible to set a negative persona to identify whom not to target.
B2B Marketing Ideas for Top of Funnel Content
Blogs are a great way for prospects to gain awareness of your brand and the solution you offer. Crafting high-level informational content and sharing it on your website, as well as undertaking guest blogging are excellent strategies to implement.
Optimize your content with keyword research and, most importantly, in line with how you built your Buyer Persona.
Include and optimize a nurture track (email automation) on your blogs to nurture those important top of the funnel prospects to move them further down the funnel. Ensure you follow best practices such as implementing contact forms, calls-to-action buttons and adding videos.
Here are a few ideas for the type of value proposition to offer within the blogs at this stage:
- Information about changes in laws/regulations
- Trends in a particular industry/target market
- Upcoming problem or pain point for the target persona
- Highlighting the cause/source of a particular core problem
- How to address a core pain point
- What are the product/service features that are your primary offer
|TIDBIT: Research suggests that B2B companies that blogged 11+ times a month almost got 3.5x the traffic than those blogging 0-1 times a month!|
Educational Guides/White Papers/PDF downloads
At this stage of the funnel, offering a high-level educational piece of content in the form of ebook/Whitepapers and downloadable PDF are effective means for B2B companies to educate those key prospects more. Studies have found that content marketing gets 3x times more ROI (HubSpot) than paid search advertising both search and social media.
There has been much debate over the years about the effectiveness and success rate of email campaigns. However, studies have shown that 52% of customers (HubSpot) who have had bad email experiences (especially on mobile) are less likely to engage with the brand!
Emails help grab the reader’s attention and are a great data source for building a good contact database for B2B companies. Personalizing emails and including intuitive offers and calls-to-action will inspire prospects to take action.
Video Content Marketing
A video can be made for every stage of the funnel. Research by HubSpot suggests, videos increase sales and brand engagement tremendously. By 2021, video advertising will grow into to a $22 billion industry!
It’s a good idea at this stage to keep your videos short and simple. This is your chance to tell your prospects not what you do, but why you do it – and present their pain points in an engaging and innovative manner. Studies found that those organizations that implemented videos in their marketing strategies saw a significant decrease in their bounce rates.
The amazing fact about videos is that they have a long shelf life and continue paying dividends for an extended period. The key to a successful video marketing is having the right strategy in place in relation to the funnel and the Buyer Persona.
Middle of Funnel Stage Content
You can also use guides, checklists, and templates (as downloadable assets) at this stage with key information that the target persona could use to discern possible solutions.
The content that you can cover at the stage through guides/templates and checklist as this stage can be as follow:
- Pricing and budget cost guides
- Product implementation guides and checklists
- Product integration guides with other solutions
- Highlight the benefits/advantages of the core feature
- Easy to use templates and plans like RFP templates (Request for Proposal templates for your relevant industry)
There has been a tremendous increase in the use of Podcasts for marketing and branding. Podcasts are an excellent way to personalize your communications and speak directly to your leads.
By this point, your prospects have already moved down the funnel past the awareness phase and are truly showing interest in your brand and solution.
This is also where they would respond to content more suited to their pain points along with the solution you have to offer.
Statistics show that monthly podcast listeners increased from 24% to 26% in 2018 (HubSpot). Podcasts are cost-effective, very easy and convenient to consume, and are perfectly suited to distribute on social media platforms for additional engagement and networking.
Retargeting Ad Campaigns
Unlike traditional ads, retargeted ads are specifically crafted for your targeted audience.
The biggest advantage of using retargeted ads at this stage in your funnel marketing is that you are able to carefully segment your audience to include only those leads you deem relevant, such as website visitors that did not take an action to convert on your website but are likely to purchase in the future.
Ensuring these ads are optimized for mobile is critical since studies show that 60% of consumers (HubSpot) click on mobile ads on a weekly basis.
Bottom of Funnel Stage Content
Events and Trade Shows
Trade shows are extremely informative and are capable of leaving a lasting impression in people’s minds.
Trade shows have the advantage of attracting people in your target niche looking for product solutions and to interact with company representatives. And by leveraging contests, giveaways, and promotions, you’ll be able to expand your marketing database through the collection of business cards and social media engagements.
Trials and Demos
“Try before you buy” is a great way to convert those discerning customers who tend to get cold feet or need that extra incentive to convert and purchase your product or service.
Providing free demos or trails can help communicate the benefits of the product or service while making your customers feel a sense of ownership of the product.
This is the one strategy that will help prove to your customers your value proposition and validate your claims with very little effort.
Offering professional consultation will not only help you differentiate yourself from your competition, but it can also be a fantastic value-added service in its own right and prove your authority in your field.
The key lies in understanding that your potential customers are already familiar with and knowledgeable about your brand, product, or service – what they really need help with is extracting the key benefits they’ll enjoy from purchasing your product or service.
Social proof is one of the most important ways to build trust, especially for B2B organizations. There are several types of social proof: case studies, social media testimonies, Google testimonies, reviews, etc.
I’ll cover case studies in this section as they are a cost-effective way for B2B companies to deliver value for a long time to come, and with very little effort.
Studies have found that case studies are a very effective means of driving conversions and accelerating the movement of leads down the marketing funnel.
These case studies can have multiple elements that increase your value to leads and improve engagement; adding infographics, video case studies, and images all help to maximize engagements and conversions.
If you’re still unsure at this point, consider this: case studies are completely original content that is unique to you, your brand, and your solution. You can leverage your existing customers to advocate for your brand and drive your marketing for you!
Make sure that your case studies cover the following or some variation of these:
- Proofing metrics and statistics
- Key/unique selling point/value proposition
- Differentiating factors
- Awards, partnerships, recognition, and competencies
Guide Your Target Audience Along the B2B Content Marketing Funnel
To conclude, it is quite evident, that there are several channels to consider as a strategy to effectively engage and encourage your leads to move down the marketing funnel.
One key point I would like to make here is that none of these ideas has to be used in a hard and fast manner. When I say that a blog is a top of the funnel content, it doesn’t mean that there cannot be a blog that can be implemented to communicate a Bottom-Funnel offer. All of the content ideas mentioned here can be used interchangeably at various stages of the funnel.
All this may sound confusing and counter-intuitive but hear me out. It is not what you doing or the way you are doing it what matter is matching the value proposition of your brand/product with the relevant stage of the funnel and stage of the customer journey. The main purpose of any type of content is to match the buyer’s persona (pain point/problems) and the stage of the customer journey.
The channels you choose and the strategies you decide upon for those channels will only be effective if you are able to tie everything to the right buyer persona and the stage of the funnel that prospect is currently in.
Positive results come not from adopting multiple channels, but measuring their effectiveness and gauging its performance through analytics and data acquired. This is far more important than adopting several engagement strategies that don’t perform.
If you’re at this stage and are ready to work with a mature digital marketing agency with capabilities to outline and deliver a full-fledged content strategy for your business, then contact Jumpfactor today and get your free 30 minute strategy outlined in order to build a strong and sustainable content strategy which is aligned to your organisation and goals!