A marketing funnel is a lead generation tool that guides a client’s hand from the first to the last point of the purchase. By moving through the funnel, the target audience gets acquainted with their problem and potential ways to solve it. Besides being vital for lead generation and conversion, marketing funnels are also fantastic for retaining clients and increasing their purchase satisfaction.
To create a marketing funnel, a company needs to create content that would “speak” to the ideal buyer persona. Each piece of content must serve a particular purpose, helping increase users’ problem awareness through different funnel stages. Not only should posts come in certain formats and be strategically placed, but they also need to be connected to each other in a thoughtful manner.
In this guide, we talk about the B2B content marketing funnel basics and strategies that would help you create one.
Why do companies need B2B marketing funnels?
Consumers rarely make purchases on a whim. This is especially true for expensive B2B products and services, which have a long buyer’s journey. During the purchasing process, there are numerous touchpoints between a seller and a buyer, ranging from the initial inquiries to negotiations and signing the contract.
Due to the complexity of the process, there are several chances for the deal to fall apart. This is why the consumers need to be hand-held throughout, ensuring they reach the final purchasing stage as quickly and easily as possible. So, the process of consumer guiding is called a marketing funnel.
In a nutshell, marketing funnels are fantastic for lead generation. Companies use them to make users realize they have a problem at their hands. Among others, brands push potential customer’s pain points, increasing the urgency for making a purchase.
As the target audiences progress through the funnel, they slowly warm up to the idea of purchasing from the company. They’re seen as a trusted advisor who can solve all their headaches. As there’s already interaction between the two sides, it’s not that hard for a client to make the final decision.
What are B2B content marketing funnels?
As the name implies, a B2B content marketing funnel is a type of funnel that relies on content to build awareness and sell products. The seller can use blog content, social media posts, white papers, case studies, and paid ads to attract users to their brand and, ultimately, convert them.
Despite being a straightforward idea, creating a content marketing funnel is extremely hard in practice. Not only does a B2B company need an effective content marketing strategy, but they also need to have a keen understanding of various marketing channels. Otherwise, they’re running a risk of their content falling flat.
4 Stages of the B2B content marketing funnel
When executing a marketing funnel, a B2B company needs to create content for different stages of the customer journey. Although there are several ways to classify funnel stages, we’ll go with one of the more basic categorizations:
- Awareness stage (Top of funnel content or TOFU)
- Consideration stage (Middle of funnel content or MOFU)
- Decision stage (Bottom of funnel content or BOFU)
- Retention stage
Here’s what each funnel stage entails:
1. Awareness stage
During this step, the person is unaware they have a problem. In fact, there’s a good chance they even haven’t heard of the product your company is selling. After consuming your content, the readers realize they have a problem and develop an urgency to solve it.
Awareness content is the easiest to create. It covers the most basic concepts and is ideal for all reader profiles regardless of their prior knowledge. This includes paid ads, blog articles, social media posts, podcasts, videos, images, and so on.
2. Consideration stage
At this point, a target customer is aware of the issue they’re facing, and they’re trying to research the topic. They’re still tentative about committing, but they’re aware of the fact they need to resolve the problem as soon as possible. A target company starts learning about the market and available products.
During the consideration or evaluation stage, a B2B brand needs to create quality, valuable content that covers more advanced topics. The phase is dominated by traditional educational content, including case studies and white papers. The concepts are much more complex, and the number of prospective leads is significantly lower compared to the previous funnel stage.
3. Decision stage
By the time you reach the decision stage, there are very few people interested in your solution. During this step, the potential clients start setting up consultations and negotiating terms with the few available solutions. During the decision phase, a brand is much more dependable on its sales team than marketers.
The most common decision stage content is customer testimonials and online reviews. Companies can also make an impact through great marketing material such as brochures, product specifications, and such. At this point, the B2B leads are no longer interested in learning about the topic or available products; they just want to know how your solution compares to competitors.
When executed correctly, the decision phase ends up with the lead becoming a paying customer.
4. Retention stage
Retention is a post-purchasing stage during which a company tries to build long-term customer relationships. It’s a tool that holds much more value in B2B dealings than in B2C customer interactions. Given that B2B clients usually have bigger lifetime value and longer buyer’s journeys, it’s vital for a seller to have high retention rates.
Emails are the most common channel for reaching paying customers. As there’s always a working relationship between two sides, it’s normal for a B2B business to try and reach users directly. You can also consider using phone calls and social media channels for communication.
The most common marketing channels
To create an efficient, versatile B2B content marketing funnel, a company should rely on a combination of inbound and outbound marketing channels. Still, your business website is the focal point of all marketing efforts as you’re ultimately trying to drive the leads back to your platform.
Here are the most important channels you can use for your marketing and sales funnel:
- Organic search traffic
- Organic and paid social media traffic
- Search engine ads
- Email marketing
- Referral marketing
- Direct calls
Ideally, you should try to get as much possible free, organic traffic through search engines. Once people land on your pages, it’s much easier to put them into a B2B content funnel. Make sure you have a well-organized site with great sitemaps, fast page speed, and good mobile-friendliness. Otherwise, it will be hard for clients to progress through different funnel stages.
While paid ads are a great method to increase brand awareness, they can be expensive if you don’t make the sale. On the other hand, they’re fantastic for targeting B2B clients due to their sophisticated demographic options.
Phone calls and emails can also be nice, although they’re usually reserved for the later stages of the process. Direct communication is vital for B2B clients during negotiation as it helps the seller customize the offer.
5 Steps of B2B content marketing funnel
Although the B2B marketing and sales process is extremely complex, we can break everything down into 5 stages.
1. Analyzing target audience
Before you start creating content, it’s vital to understand who you’re marketing to. While most B2B brands inherently know their clients, you need to take a deep dive into demographic data to create a better content strategy. Specifically, you need to use various tools to learn more about their:
- Industry and business focus
- Products and services
- Size and composition of the teams
- Managers’ and owners’ demographic data
- Target market
- Competitive placement
- Short and long-term goals
Among others, the seller is trying to determine product fit. In other words, how the target audience will respond to the product’s features, price, and other factors. In fact, it would be best to perform this analysis even before you start strategizing the B2B marketing content funnel.
2. Determining pain points
Upon determining your target audience, their needs and their wants, you can find pain points that would help you convert them.
A pain point represents the company’s biggest business concern that can be solved with your product or service. This can be everything from low productivity to poor management, bad coordination between teams, product inefficiency, and so on. By determining what ails them, you can create a customized message that will speak to the ideal customer.
While pain points are important for any client, they’re vital for B2B deals. As mentioned, these clients rarely make decisions on a whim. So, there has to be a real need for your products for them to pull the trigger. Once you determine pain points, it’s vital to add them to all your marketing messaging.
By driving the conversation in this direction and proving that your product is the best solution to their problems, you can quickly grow in their eyes. Although a company should use several pain points to emphasize a message, you need to determine what the biggest issues and start marketing from there.
3. Plan and execute funnel content
Although you can explore various content ideas, you still need to find optimal ways to generate leads. Creating TOFU content that is too complex will alienate a prospective customer instead of providing valuable information. That said, you need to be aware of the B2B clients’ needs and knowledge during different stages.
Here are the best tips that will help you when creating a B2B marketing content funnel:
- Every company wants to reach the purchase stage as soon as possible. As a result, they often forget they need quality content at every step of the funnel to drive leads deeper. Make sure every piece is well-put and that it instills confidence. Otherwise, if a person doesn’t like the TOFU piece, they won’t progress to the MOFU phase.
- Marketing funnels are every bit about building awareness and authority as they’re about driving sales. So, if you don’t have money to invest in top-tier case studies, eBooks, and white papers during the MOFU stage, don’t even bother trying.
- Your markers should have experience with different types of content and marketing channels. Otherwise, you’ll have to hire additional teams that can create, optimize, and promote posts on different platforms.
- One of the main reasons why people don’t progress through the funnel, despite quality content, is because the content isn’t connected. Create a logical structure that would guide readers from one piece to another. Although SEO experts often recommend adding numerous internal links to articles, you should only introduce those leading from the upper funnel stage to the lower.
- BOFU is essential for closing the leads but is also the phase when the deals fall apart. Unfortunately, many companies don’t have a good enough portfolio to compete at this stage. So, you’ll have to put extra emphasis on sharing customer stories and have a solid record that would persuade leads to buy from you.
- Make sure that the style, format, and content quality are the same throughout. Otherwise, the customers might build distrust as they progress deeper into the funnel.
4. Promoting content
Content promotion is important for all content types but is a necessity for certain formats. For example, once you create a paid ad, you need to pay Facebook or Google Ads to share the message. In other words, if you don’t use the promotional channel, the message won’t exist.
When using a specific promotional method, analyze how it affects a single piece but also the funnel as a whole. Create a promotional plan where you should start by focusing on TOFU articles, then transition to MOFU studies, and ultimately, reach out to clients with BOFU techniques.
The way you promote the content will affect how your audience will receive the message. Starting from the wrong end will spell disaster, as your target audience won’t know how to “use” the more advanced content.
5. Tracking results
Due to the complexity of marketing funnels, it’s common for companies to tweak their approach along the way. The brand might be forced to revisit posts numerous times, to analyze why they’re underperforming and how to improve them. A small mistake can drag down the entire funnel, so make sure to address any issues as soon as you notice them.
Among others, the tracking data can tell you which channels and content types are performing the best, so you can focus on them. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should eliminate other tactics, as they might be vital for certain parts of the funnel. For example, testimonials mainly work for BOFU but are crucial for conversion at this stage.