When creating a content strategy, understanding the marketing funnel is your number one priority. If you're not already familiar with the marketing funnel-also sometimes known as a sales funnel-there's a good chance you're losing many of your potential buyers. Before we take a look at where most content marketers lose the bulk of their qualified leads, let's take a look at the anatomy of a marketing funnel.
Anatomy of the Marketing Funnel
Top of the Funnel
- Where any and all readers are prospects
- General topics regarding your products or services
- Related topics that might interest a wide variety of people
Middle of the Funnel
- Targeted information designed to give more information
- In-depth white papers or ebooks with specific purpose
Bottom of the Funnel
- Free trials, demonstrations, and discounts
- Content for leads who are ready to buy
Where the Funnel Breaks Down
Many content marketers provide top-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel content without realizing that's what they're doing. It's easy to create a content calendar that will appeal to the masses and then throw in discounts and demonstrations to grab those interested parties right away. When even one lead converts to a sale, business bloggers feel they've done their job.
What if you could do so much more with your content marketing? What if someone told you the middle of the funnel is the most neglected area of content marketing? You'd probably take a look at what you're offering and start making a change.
To understand why the middle of the funnel affects your potential sales, you should also understand the sales cycle for various buyer types. Small and medium businesses take six months to a year before deciding to buy. Your middle-of-the-funnel content is what will keep them coming back for more information as they make the decision. What happens if you neglect the middle? Those leads go elsewhere.
Bolster the Middle of Your Marketing Funnel
One reason this section of your marketing funnel is so neglected is simply because business bloggers aren't sure what makes for good content. Speaking on general topics is easy enough, and offering free demonstrations or discounts just seems like a smart way to pull in potential buyers. It's the leads that are still deciding that you'll lose without good content.
Think about what you might say to these prospects if you were to meet them during this stage in the cycle. If they're looking for more information, will a discount make up their mind? Probably not. You should take this time to give as much information about your product or service as possible. This might include how-to videos, detailed white papers on how the product has served to help others, or fun facts about your company. If you're not sure where to start, here's a simple list of some of the most useful middle-of-the-funnel content ideas.
- Case studies
- White papers
- Frequently asked questions
Creating Content with Confidence
Now that you understand what's missing, it's time to create that content to fill the gaps. The problem is, you've been neglecting that section of the marketing funnel for so long, you may be a bit rusty with the content creation. Before you panic, start small. Testimonials are a great way to start plumping up your middle of the funnel because others write that for you. Include some reviews you may have found elsewhere to add to those testimonials. You'll fill in the holes in no time.
Next, move to frequently asked questions. People want to know your product before they buy. Save them the time of contacting your company by providing a page of questions and answers. Even if no one has thought to ask, create the questions yourself. Include any information you want potential buyers to know. You might even do a series of FAQs involving various topics. This will give you even more content to add to your website.
Case studies, white papers, and ebooks do take more time to create, but after answering everything you can in the FAQ section, you'll know the products and services well enough to put together informative documents. Your first attempts don't need to be wildly creative, either. Sure, you'll want to change things up after some time, but don't worry about shaking things up too much with your first attempt.
Don't Forget Analytics
All this content won't matter if you don't track your results. For each stop within the marketing funnel, you should have a checkpoint that tells you if that piece of content inspired a lead to move further down the funnel. When someone downloads your white paper or ebook, use that contact information to keep track of his or her buying process. When you find a piece of content that works, don't be afraid to use it again and again. Make changes to update the information, but then put that ebook or how-to video right back out there for new prospects to see.
You may not even realize right now that the middle of your marketing funnel is suffering. Once you put these tips to use, you'll begin to see a marked change in your sales numbers. Still not convinced? You won't know until you try.
What other middle-of-the-funnel content might be added to this list? Do you have a content strategy that works every time? We'd love to hear from you in the comments.