Grow Your Business With a Content Marketing Funnel
Business-to-business buying patterns have shifted radically in recent years. Your prospects now need (and expect) to research potential solutions by reading informative content online before they engage with a salesperson.
According to Forrester, 68% of B2B customers now prefer to research solutions online entirely on their own. 62% develop their final vendor list solely from the digital content they consume.
Content Marketing Funnels Are Now Essential for B2B Sales
The reality is clear: B2B buyers want deep content first, sales conversations second.
This can only be achieved by walking buyers through a properly designed funnel. Without a content marketing funnel in place you may never hear from a potential buyer at all.
Remember — 62% or more of B2B buyers create their list of vendors strictly from their online research.
Furthermore, B2B buyers are increasingly avoiding conversations with salespeople until they are far down the vendor selection path. At the beginning of the purchasing process buyers are now choosing to rely on digital content, rather than sales executives, to inform themselves on the right solution.
No amount of outbound sales activity will reverse this dynamic — it’s here to stay.
How a Content Marketing Funnel Leads to Warm Sales Conversations
A content marketing funnel drives value by creating a large evergreen footprint for your business. Linked multi-step content paths “lead with value” and warm up targeted prospects. Digital content allows you to uncover needs, articulate value and explore solutions similar to how an expert sales team would. The resulting sales conversations tend to be much higher quality.
The Three Stages of Content-Driven Buying
Buyers who start their purchasing process with content research proceed through three distinct stages.
Stage 1: Awareness
In the Awareness stage, content is used to create awareness of your company and brand. This is typically achieved through engaging thought pieces relevant to your target buyer. No sales language is used.
Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” TED talk is an example of engaging content that creates powerful awareness. Another example is our client’s “Pricing – The Iceberg of Business” article on LinkedIn.
Stage 2: Engagement
In the Engagement stage, the prospect has become aware of you or your company and is now digging deeper into your content on particular problems and solutions. This is where your content should analyze a specific challenge and present various strategic or tactical approaches to resolving it.
You establish leadership by revealing your knowledge of specific market needs and solutions. The goal here is to “lead with value” by educating your buyer. Any recommendations should be unbiased, with supporting evidence.
A good example is our client’s “How to Fund IT Transformation: IT Cost Cutting Ideas For 2019” article on LinkedIn.
Stage 3: Trusted Authority (License to Sell)
In the Trusted Authority stage, you’ve gotten onto the prospect’s buying menu. The goal is to establish yourself as the only viable solution using “deep content”. A multi-part solution discussion, webinar, strategy paper, microsite, case studies or industry survey are all examples of Stage 3 content. We typically recommend an exchange of contact information (opt-in) to get access. This is an essential step to convert “interested readers” into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).
Stage 3 content includes a clear call to action to: a) schedule a discovery call, or b) make a purchase.
Content Marketing Funnel Benefits
- After reading your content (particularly if it delivers substantial value) prospects are more likely to agree to a discovery call.
- Your highest value “pillar” content will be leveraged across multiple channels for inbound lead generation, SEO and brand recognition
- High-quality content builds brand equity for your company
- Engaging content is often shared virally by email, social media and word of mouth, driving further “long tail” brand recognition and business leads
- It establishes your authority and credibility by communicating unique and valuable information in a naturally progressive way
- It increases prospect engagement and shortens buying cycles by sending the right message to the right person at the right time
- It helps convert sales leads into customers by supporting your sales team as a prospect moves through your pipeline
- 3-10X ROI — content generation and distribution is an investment that continues to engage prospects and market your company online as long as it exists on the Internet
The key to success with a content marketing funnel is to deliver significant tangible value up-front. Fluffy, self-serving “white papers” and other thinly disguised marketing pieces are counter-productive. They don’t add substantial value and are just another distraction — hardly the way you want to present your solutions. If you truly educate potential customers it creates credibility and trust. This quickly leads to real “solution discovery” conversations.
Get Started On Your Content Marketing Funnel
Contact Us to discuss how a custom content marketing funnel can help build your business and drive long term value.