Mapping Content Marketing to Funnel Stages
“The best content doesn’t win – the best promoted content wins.”
You know by now that you need content, but a lot of companies make the mistake of thinking that content marketing stops when you hit the publish button.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
As brands, we need to be thinking of content promotion and PR tactics before even sitting down to write. After all, just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come.
Today, I’m sharing exactly how you can create a high-impact B2B content marketing strategy, highlighting the key takeaways from my recent interview with Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder of Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry.
Mapping out your content marketing funnel
The modern content marketing funnel may not be a linear one, but the buyer journey still has the same stages.
And they apply to both B2C and B2B content marketing, as well as every industry, product, and transaction people make.
Think about it; anything you have ever done – making a donation, accepting a job, joining a webinar – has required that you become aware of what you need, think about your options, and take action.
Now, consider these marketing funnel stages as they relate to content:
The content marketing funnel stages
Moving through the content marketing funnel stages could be compared to the process of cleaning up a messy garage.
Stage 1: Problem aware >> Seeking general information
You become problem aware when you realize the mess in your garage has gotten out of hand. You’re not sure if you can organize everything yourself, with the tools you have. And you’re not even sure which tools might be right for the job.
You begin Googling phrases like, “how to organize a garage.”
- Content idea: This is where, as a company, finding problem-based key phrases for content will help you show up on Google.
Stage 2: Solution aware >> Content marketing funnel
The customer now has questions (or concerns) about the industry and/or are beginning to look for information about the company.
Once you’ve started researching and reading a few things online, you know of a few options you have for cleaning up that garage.
You’re now solution aware.
You’re in the content marketing funnel.
- Content idea: You may have promoted content on social media, other sites, or your own site that helps inform customers about solutions and begins to generate interest about your brand.
Stage 3: Consideration >> Cost Lengthens Sales Cycle
The customer now knows about you and their solutions, and have specific questions (or concerns) about the product or service.
The amount of time you are at the solution aware/consideration stages of the marketing funnel depends on how expensive the solution might be and how quickly you need to clean up your garage.
But you may still have research to do.
You think that some sort of shelving can help out. Now you need the details. Will I need special tools? Do I need to have a pro install it? Is this a short DIY project or will it take a week?
- Content idea: This is the B2B content marketing stage where you begin to talk about benefits and features of your product or service. Sales pages help by answering these questions.
Stage 4: Action >> Conversion optimization
The prospect or lead is confident enough in you to purchase.
Finally, you’re empowered. You’re ready to do away with the chaos in the garage.
You just need an enticing offer to nudge you to click “buy.”
- Content idea: A strong CTA and conversion-focused content.
Calls to action are called just that – actions. They create the demand for something and tell you how to get it, converting your leads into your customer base.
Content marketing boat metaphor
Before getting into more specific tactics, here’s a smart analogy to consider when thinking about your content marketing funnel and strategy.
Content marketing is like a boat.
There are three ways to move it forward: SEO (the sail), email (oar), and social (oar).
Pages that rank in search are unique because they passively send you traffic all day long. SEO is powerful. Once something is ranking, it can stay there for years. And every page on your site has the chance to catch traffic – just like a sail in the wind.
Email and social are activity based. You have to keep rowing to keep moving.
And, paid is like the motor. Turn it on and you move forward. But you stop moving when you stop paying.
How to create B2B content for promotion
You may be surprised to hear that Andy spends 6-8 hours writing each article on the Orbit Media site.
“You don’t create, then promote. You can’t retro-fit for keywords. You know how you’re going to promote before you even write the first word.”
He has a great 12-point article template that is used for every single piece he writes. It includes:
- Keywords and search volume
- Related key phrases that support your B2C or B2B SEO strategy
- Optimized URL
- Title tag (no more than 60 characters)
- Optimized meta description
- URLs he’s going to use for internal linking
- Old articles he can use to link to the new piece
- Pre-written email newsletter subject lines with the 5 most powerful words first
- Social media posts/headlines around 15 words each
- Which contributors or sites will be included
- Additional people and sites to reach out to after publishing
- Possible headlines
Then he starts writing.
The idea is to C.O.P.E.
Create Once, Promote Everywhere.
A little later, you can syndicate to give your content a new life. This would be copy + pasting a blog post into something like Quora, Linkedin, or Medium.
“SEO’s get panicked about this because they think of duplicate content, but it’s actually fine,” says Andy.
Speaking of SEO, he says it’s not always an important part of the content marketing funnel.
Write what you want to write and always write to help your customers. You may have 50% of your content that is more attractive via social or email. You’ll just need to get out the oars for these.
Remember that people searching for answers are busy and looking for something specific, while people on social media are bored and want to be triggered emotionally.
Without a B2B content marketing strategy and content to promote, “You don’t have content, you just have an online brochure in the form of a website.”
But before you start thinking about how PR could support your content marketing, you do have to do a quick check at the bottom of the funnel to make sure there are no holes or leaks in the bucket.
Final considerations for your content strategy
Now that you’re armed with tactics for building your content marketing funnel, and have an idea of how good promotion and PR can support your strategy, there are a few final considerations.
Fix holes in your marketing funnel
“Fix leaks in the bucket before you put more water in.”
Promoted content will fill the top of the funnel, but a broken conversion experience will make customers leave before buying.
No leaky buckets.
Set up attribution
Know what success looks like.
Checking referral sources on Google Analytics will help you know which promoted content is bringing you the highest quality traffic.
And it will help guide your future strategy.
You can also put tracking codes, or UTM parameters, to track exactly which links people are clicking on to come to your site.
Be smart with content creation
Now we’re coming full-circle: the content marketing funnel and those marketing funnel stages look a little different for each company.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B or B2C marketer; if the purchase requires someone to think about it, content marketing is a good fit.
And the longer the funnel/buyer journey, the more opportunities you have for content.
Conversely, impulse buys may not need a content marketing strategy.
People see your promoted ad and buy. No research needed.
We all know there is no one-size-fits all approach to content – especially B2B content marketing. But this talk with Andy definitely gave us come guideposts to get to our goals.
And the marketing insights don’t stop there. Watch the full interview with Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media.
Subscribe to my digital marketing webinar series for more thoughtful conversations that’ll help you generate qualified leads for your company.