From one content marketer to another: The “classic” content funnel isn’t always your friend, but your sales team is. I have talked to so many marketers who LIVE by the marketing funnel stages - awareness, consideration, purchase. Funnel stages can act as a fantastic guide, but giving them too much sway in content creation can lead to generic messages. It leads to asking broad questions like, “What content would get my customer’s attention?” rather than conversion-driving questions like, “What questions are my customers asking and how can I stay two steps ahead of them in knowing the answer?”
Which members of your company are intimately familiar with the questions your leads are asking? Your sales team.
Narrow Down Your Ideal Customer
The best advice when starting to align your content is to GET FOCUSED. There’s the old adage that by trying to please everyone, you please no one. This is something we’ve embraced wholeheartedly at AdStage and it’s working extraordinarily well. Once in awhile, perhaps you’ll find that magic piece of content that speaks to every single person who could possibly use your product or service. Chances are, though, that you have a very diverse audience and some of them are better suited to be your customers than others.
How can you create content that focuses on your ideal customers and not those who...yes...could use your product, but whose nurturing would be a drain on time and effort and, in the end, still wouldn't be a great fit? I’ll spare you a post about how to create customer personas, since the internet is full of those. Instead, I’ll say that while it can be fun to create twenty different customer personas, remember that the goal is to be more selective in who you’re trying to target with your content. If you have a hefty stack of potential customer personas, ask your sales team for their top five...or even their top three. If you could have 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 customers that matched one persona, which would you choose?
Make Your Own Funnel
If you’re a B2B company like ours, you’re likely not looking at visitors clicking on a piece of your content and immediately making a purchase. The buying cycle is much more nuanced than that.
To identify the buying cycle of your ideal customer, meet up with your sales team (surprise!). Follow a potential customer through their entire purchase experience. Once they sign up for a demo or call with your sales team, take a look at what content reeled them in. Jump in on sales calls until they’ve decided to sign the dotted line. Then, develop your own company version of the content funnel based on the buying cycle stages you observe.
Where could your sales team use marketing’s help giving leads a nudge? What questions are coming up over and over that your content could answer? What is driving users to your product that you could continue to capitalize on?
Your stages may be similar to the classic funnel, and that’s absolutely fine. What’s important is that your stages are aligned to your actual customers. As an example, below we've summarized our funnel.
The AdStage Content Funnel:
We have a couple of types of “awareness” content that we’re putting out into the world:
1) That we exist (guest posts are great for this)
2) Educating marketers about PPC automation, so they understand the need for our product.
Proving our Expertise
There’s a lot of content in the PPC space and our ideal customers are very sophisticated, experienced marketers. We want them to know that we have a strong grasp of their industry, because that’s the power of our product.
Proving our Product to End Users
Among our ideal customer companies, there are the actual end-users of our product and the people who manage them. The people whose buy-in we really want to secure are those who would be using the product. Then, they can be our advocates within their own team. We create content specifically designed to prove how their day-to-day tasks would be improved by using AdStage.
Proving our Product to Decision-Makers and the Rest of the Team
Convincing the managers and decision-makers is always tricky business. They don’t know the ins and outs of the product, and they need to balance budgets, efficiency, and team morale. This is where we tend to lean on customer testimonials and case studies to prove how effective our product has been to comparable teams.
Develop Your Execution Strategy and Stick to It!
So now you have your ideal customer and a roadmap of their buying cycle through content. It’s time to execute, which is the hardest stage to force yourself to do consistently and effectively. It’s easy to just publish blog posts with ideal customers in mind and send out a few tweets. But the critical step is figuring out how to put that content under the nose of the customer when they are at the stage in the funnel when they should be seeing it.
Does this mean giving posts to sales to use in outbound emails? Targeting users who have received demos in the last month with PPC ads? Deploying a content drip? The beauty of creating your own funnel is that this step completely depends on your company and your customers.
As I write this, I’m extremely aware of just how instrumental our sales team is in creating a strong content strategy. While I take them out for a thank you drink, I hope you’re knocking on the office door of your sales department and making plans to listen in on some customer calls.