When was the last time that you bought a product right after laying eyes on it, without conducting any further research? That would be a very rare thing for most people. The only products that we buy in that way are products from companies that we know and trust or have been anticipating.
Most customers go through a process when making a new purchase — particularly in B2B where buying teams of 5 or more people are the average.
First, their awareness of the product is built. They discover it and begin to learn more about the product and how it applies to their situation.
Then, they begin to research the product, industry, and competition while they evaluate what might be the best fit for their company.
They evaluate and get a better understanding of the options that are available to them. Then, the decision-making process begins in earnest as they narrow down their list of options.
This is what is known as the buyer’s journey, as they work their way down your B2B marketing funnel. The leads that enter your funnel begin at the beginning in the awareness building stage, and must be nurtured throughout the process. It’s your marketing team’s job to facilitate that process and help the buyer learn about your product and how it connects directly to their needs.
Throughout the buyer’s journey, B2B marketing teams should be delivering content that facilitates the lead going farther down the funnel. Today 88% of B2B marketers are producing custom content for their leads, but only 42% of B2B marketers consider themselves effective at content marketing. But knowing what content to present when can be tricky. You want your content to perfectly align with their needs.
Let’s examine the different types of content that you should be delivering throughout the funnel.
Top of the Funnel Content: Build Awareness
The first stage of the B2B marketing funnel is all about building awareness. In this stage, the buyer is aware of a problem that they have and are looking for a solution to that problem. They may not even be aware that they need to invest in something in order to solve the problem. Different buyer’s come into the top of the funnel with a different understanding and different levels of awareness.
The content that you deliver in this stage should be top-level educational content. Your goal is to direct them toward the solution and better understand how their issue can be solved. At this stage, they don’t have a lot of value as a lead. They are still in the process of determining whether or not they need a solution. It’s your job to help them realize that they do and position your product (subtly) as the solution that they need.
The types of content that you should be delivering during the top of the funnel awareness stage include:
- Blog posts
- Social Media Updates
The range of acceptable content types in this stage is really less important than the information that you are delivering. Content in the awareness stage should be educational in nature. Help them understand your product. Help them understand the problem that they are having. Inform them about your industry and important things they need to know before investing in a solution. Answer their questions. Avoid hard sells in the awareness stage because your prospects are not yet ready to buy.
Middle of the Funnel Content: Facilitate Evaluation
When a lead enters the middle of your B2B marketing funnel, it’s time to start helping them to evaluate your solution and compare it to the competition. While many companies avoid mentioning the competition at all in their marketing materials, they miss out on a key opportunity to contrast their product to the competition’s and position themselves as the better fit with leads.
In this stage, the prospect knows that they have a problem and knows that they will have to invest in a solution in order to solve it. Your job is to facilitate (positive) evaluation of your product and help them to see your product as a solution to the issue that they have encountered.
Keep in mind that your content in the middle of the funnel should also work to remove prospects from your list as well. Maybe they aren’t a good fit for your product. You want to help them to realize that so that you can avoid wasting resources on a lead that is never going to convert.
The types of content that you should deliver during the evaluation stage of the B2B marketing funnel include:
- Product Comparisons
- Case studies
- Product & Spec sheets
- Email nurturing
- Sales-focused blog content
Again, the type of content that you deliver is less important than how well it aligns with the prospect’s goals based on where they are in the funnel. In this stage, follow-ups are key. In this stage, email marketing is incredibly important for nurturing leads, which can help to take someone from prospect to customer. Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. Help them to evaluate your solution and compare it to other solutions that are in the market. Content in this stage should become increasingly sales-focused, but not present them with an outright hard sell.
Bottom of the Funnel Content: Close the Sale
At the bottom of the funnel, it’s time for the prospect to make a purchasing decision. They are ready to buy, but that doesn’t mean that they are ready to buy your product. If you’ve done a good job throughout the middle of the funnel, they should have an understanding of what their issue is and exactly how your product will help them to solve it.
In most cases, leads that reach the bottom of the funnel will have you on their final list of solutions. It may come down to your product and one or two others. They just need a final push and a persuasive call to action to get them to bite. It’s during this stage that you can offer discounts or deals that can push them over the edge. The right offer and content at this stage will put your sales reps in a position to close the deal.
A River of Value & Education
A successful B2B marketing funnel will walk your prospects through every stage of the buyer’s journey, educating them along the way. The more value that you can deliver throughout your engagement with a prospect, the better your chances of converting the sale become. Ensuring that you align your content delivery with their placement in your B2B marketing funnel is critical for success and presents your sales teams with a reliable stream of well-nurtured hot leads.