Brand publishing is content marketing. Like traditional publishing, its goal is to build an audience. However, given that the content comes from a brand, in most cases, its goal is also to generate leads. From a sales point of view, you might call this “feeding the funnel.”
Every company with a product or service to sell depends on building a list of prospects, which is the funnel’s entry point. And then, through a combination of sales and marketing processes, which will differ greatly by company, the subsequent goal is to move prospects down the funnel, transforming prospects to customers.
This isn’t to say that going through this funnel will be easy, or that prospects will just start falling into your lap (because that would be weird. Helpful, but very weird). But regardless if your prospect is already on the edge, or you’re dealing with an arms-crossed, ice-cold prospect, they’ll all have to travel through three different stages: Awareness, evaluation and conversion.
The Defrosting Process
This is where prospects first become aware that there is a problem, and your brand can solve it. A cold prospect cannot effectively evaluate your solution until they are first aware of the problem AND your solution.
You’ve told them your brand or product can solve their problem, but chances are yours isn’t the only one – now they have to evaluate the choices available to them, such as your competitors.
The moment of truth. They’ve seen your product and how you stack against the others, and after gathering the last bits of information they need, they’ll make their decision. Will they convert into a paying customer?
What some companies don’t understand is that this consumer journey through the sales funnel is not a race – and they should stop treating it as one. If done correctly, you can simply be a spectator, watching your leads pour in until you bring home a W (after working hard to create your strategy, that is).
Each Stage Requires Content
Not only does each stage require content, but every piece of content you create is an opportunity to bring that lead closer to a sale, or closer to inspiring an existing customer to take action.
I used the word ‘inspire’ for a reason. Many content marketers often forget that landing a sale has nothing to do with ‘persuasion’ (sorry, if you thought persuasion was your super power, I’m sure it still can be). In fact, good content marketing shouldn’t have to do any persuading at all.
Say your friends ask you to come to an event with them when you had already planned on staying home that night. They can pull out all the stops – tears, guilt, maybe even some bribes – which might convince you to go, but simply being persuaded might not mean you’re fully committed. Maybe, you get there and instantly regret it, calling an Uber and going right back home within the hour.
Your friends made the fundamental mistake that a lot of people do, especially in content marketing – they assumed that persuading you to go with their tricks would be enough to convince you that you wanted to go. (But that never seems to be the case, does it?)
So, just as these strategies typically fail in our social lives, why do they also fail in our marketing efforts?
It’s simple. Instead of persuading customers with our content – we should be inspiring them.
What Content Goes Where?
Today, nearly 88% of B2B marketers are creating custom content marketing and 76% of marketers plan to produce more content in the future.
But, here is the burning question every marketer really wants answered: Which types of content belongs at which stage?
To effectively move a prospect through the funnel, they need content specifically designed for their current stage in the process. Here’s a breakdown of the mentioned content marketing funnel, with correlating types of content to support them.
Note: This is not a complete list, just an overview of how we approach the marketing funnel with our own content.
The top of the funnel
This requires content that fosters awareness, such as:
- Social media updates
These 15-second videos from Farmer’s Insurance are funny, short and teachable – while successfully being extremely entertaining.
The middle of the funnel
This requires content that facilitates evaluation, such as:
- Educational resources
- Quiz, survey, reviews
- Email marketing
Zendesk consistently produces some of the best educational content out there. This eBook hits on problems for a specific prospect: someone managing a remote team.
The bottom of the funnel
This requires content that facilitates conversion, such as:
- Free trial
- Live demo
- Customer story
Marketo hosts an entire page of case studies that can be filtered by company size, industry and product usage, making it easy for prospects to compare and learn how others use marketing automation.