The sales and marketing funnel represents the buyer’s journey, from awareness of the problem, through consideration of options to solve the problem, and then on to the decision stage, where the buyer selects the most suitable option.
In the content marketing model, these three distinct stages of the marketing funnel call for different pieces of content with the specific goal of moving the prospect further down the funnel.
Top of Funnel – Awareness Stage
The buyer's journey starts with the prospect realising that they have a problem that they need to solve for. Leads enter the top of the funnel looking for more information about their problem, or pain point. The types of content that would be appropriate for this stage of the buyer's journey would be aimed at a range of questions the prospect may have. This "top of funnel content" deals with the hows and whys that the prospect could potentially be typing in as search queries. Top of funnel content centres around your buyer’s interests and needs, and allows you to increase brand awareness and generate leads.
eBooks, guides and blog articles that allow you to position yourself as a thought leader within your industry around high-level topics that speak to your audience are perfect for this stage of the buyer's journey. This content should be highly visual, very informative and easy to digest. Top of funnel content is focused on the prospect and would be very valuable to someone searching for answers. Smart call-to-actions could be used to attract the prospect's email address, at which point your business can begin qualifying them and nurturing them down the funnel with more useful content.
Middle of Funnel – Consideration Stage
At this stage of the buyer's journey, your prospect has opted into your communications and has been pooled in your database. In the middle of the funnel, your lead has moved through the research phase of the buyer's journey and has gathered information about their problem or pain point. They are now considering their options to solve their problem and are solution focused.
At this consideration, or evaluation stage, your lead is looking for more specific information about your product or service, so the types of content that are well-suited for the middle of the funnel are educational emails, webinars and even live events. Automated marketing is the lead nurturing machine that forms a large part of moving the lead further towards a purchase decision. Your content goal at this stage is to help your prospect easily evaluate his or her options, so targeted case studies, pricing guides, persuasive product demos and vendor comparisons also make for great content at this stage.
Bottom of Funnel – Decision Stage
By the time your prospect reaches the bottom of the funnel, they are finally ready to make a purchase decision. The buyer’s concerns now revolve around implementation, functionality and value of your product. You content goal at decision stage is to help your buyer see how your solution looks when effected in their business. They are thinking about the nuts and bolts of how the product or service will be implemented, how will it be rolled out across their organisation and how the different internal stakeholders will be affected.
Bottom of the funnel content helps you to paint that picture for your future customer. Since the bottom of funnel content is often used by your sales team, the content needs to effectively enable the sale and persuade the buyer that yours is the right decision, and the only solution for their business. Types of content for the bottom of the funnel include customer testimonials that evangelise your solution, blog posts that position your brand in comparison to your competitors, onboarding guides, data-driven infographics, product tutorials and other documentation detailing the implementation process. This content needs to be easily shareable within the organisation, given that so many more people are involved in the buying decision than ever before.
Top, middle and bottom of the funnel content all have the end goal of guiding people towards a positive buying decision for your business. Use the above pointers to strategise your content marketing and you will soon be filling up your marketing and sales pipeline with interested and marketing-qualified prospects. For more about inbound marketing, download “What is Inbound Anyway? A beginner’s guide to Inbound Marketing” or give us a call.