B2B marketers have a huge and exciting challenge every moment of every day: a long buying cycle. The B2B buying cycle can take 30, 60, or even 90 days, and there are many stages that the customer experiences before signing on the dotted line.
In addition, B2B marketing puts a lot of money and resources at stake. You need to nurture your prospects all the way through the process. It’s about driving them through to the sale by creating great content at each stage of their journey.
Here are three secrets to providing great content at every stage in the customer journey.
1. Own Each Phase of the Funnel
There’s a level of accountability in each phase of the funnel, so it’s important to outline it and come up with your strategy for the entire funnel, and then work with sales for buy-in.
Top of the Funnel
Include content related to the topic of your industry and offering. For example, for RingLead, we often create top-of-funnel content around data quality, CRM implementation, marketing automation best practices, and even broader content, such as marketing and sales productivity tips. This stage of the funnel is all about helping, not selling. There is no product mention; instead, you’re establishing your brand as a leader—and expert—in the topics your audience cares about.
Check out these examples of excellent top-of-funnel content.
Middle of the Funnel
Often thought of as the “black hole” of your sales funnel, since the top of the funnel is clearly owned by the marketing department and the bottom of the funnel is clearly owned by sales. This is the middle ground where organizations tend to get lost and prospects tend to slow down. Prospects often want to take action at this stage, but if there’s no compelling event, messaging, or content, you lose them. Middle-of-funnel content is where the product starts to get woven in. Whether it’s product-related webinars or case studies, you’re still high-level and helpful, but you’re more actionable when it comes to your offering.
Here are examples of brands creating effective middle-of-funnel content.
Bottom of the Funnel
Sales-driven. This is the point where sales decks, presentations, proposals, and pricing come into play. If the entire funnel is a road and the marketer is driving a car down Funnel Street, the marketer moves to the backseat and the salesperson takes the wheel at this point in the cycle.
Here’s what good bottom-of-funnel content looks like.
No matter where you are in the funnel, it’s a marriage between sales and marketing—they must work together to help the prospect become a customer.
One study showed a 209% increase in revenue and closure rates based on strong alignment between sales and marketing.
2. Remember That a Funnel Is Not a Perfectly Shaped, Organized, Upside-Down Triangle
It’s actually more like a bucket with holes in it.
Prospects fall out of the bucket left and right, and come in at different angles and stages. A prospect could come in at the middle or the bottom. Someone might come in at the top and move directly to the bottom, and vice versa.
Therefore, make sure your content tells a cohesive story all the way through the funnel, whether it’s bottom-up, top-down, or somewhere in between.
3. Remain Transparent throughout the Funnel
Marketers know the importance of being honest and transparent when working with customers, engaging on social media, etc., and the same holds true for the sales cycle. Be open and clear about the different stages of the funnel and where the prospect is going next.
Transparency starts with the prospect’s first experience with you.
Oftentimes the prospect doesn’t know what the buyer journey looks like—especially yours. Map out the journey for your prospects so they understand what they’re likely going to need at each of the different stages.
For instance, be clear about when your prospect may need to involve an executive for budget sign-off, or at what point they’ll get a quick hello from your CEO.
Transparency starts with the prospect’s first experience with you, and usually that’s your website.
If someone is about to download one of your eBooks, let them know that they’re going to receive an email with the eBook, and then in the email, let them know that BDR Joe is going to reach out, and include Joe’s photo. Even better, that email should come from Joe.
The B2B sales funnel is not cut and dry, and neither is the content associated with it. However, if you put your audience’s best interests first and think about the information they need to address their challenges and pain points, you’ll be appreciated, loved, and shared. Most importantly, you’ll also gain customers for life.