“Content is king” used to be a popular phrase. But as it began to die out from marketing seminars and blogs, content—ironically—became more important than ever.
This especially applies to sales. Most people familiar with acquisition know there must always be a start to the customer journey and the all-important end (the sale). However, placing your reliance on these two points alone is a sure-fire way to decrease conversions.
This approach forgets the all-important mid-funnel. It may just look like the path from A to B, but what goes on between the intrigue and conversion stages can make or break a company. That is why it is important to harness the potential of content in this often-overlooked gap in the consumer sales funnel.
So, how can you use content more effectively in the mid-funnel?
Clearly Define the Mid-Funnel
The mid-funnel is the area of your sales process where leads have been generated, identified with means of contact, and qualified as worth chasing. The content in the mid-funnel is what bridges the gap between the top-funnel introductions and intrigue and the conversion at the bottom of the funnel.
In B2B marketing, the mid-funnel is arguably the most important space for businesses. The sales cycles in B2B are more complex than B2C, which are more focused on customer-relationship management. Prospects of B2B products and services require nurturing, proving that you are a knowledgeable in the required sector, but also trustworthy.
The goal is to create content for this mid-funnel phase that helps leads evaluate your brand, separating your company from your competitors in the same space, always with the aim of guiding prospects through the funnel to conversion.
Every piece of content should be persuasive, educational and highly targeted. Unlike top-funnel content that casts a wide net for a broader reach among your target audience, mid-funnel content is tailored to address specific issues of segmented groups.
Types of Mid-Funnel Content
- Newsletters: This isn’t a generic newsletter that features a little of everything for everyone. Instead, those leads in the mid-funnel should be put into segmented lists. They should then be targeted with emails crafted to their needs and interests. For example, if you offer digital asset management and sales enablement software, identify which prospects are interested in which product, then send them newsletters only related to that service.
- eBooks: These are long-form digital booklets that are usually heavily data-led and centered around a specific topic. This type of material can be great for generating top-funnel leads. More importantly, it can demonstrate your company’s knowledge on a particular subject, checking the box of helping prospects evaluate your brand and educating them.
- Case Studies: A case study is as effective as a positive review or testimonial. Prospects are able to see for themselves the process of your work and the ROI achieved for businesses in a similar industry to them.
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Increase the Credibility and Value of Your Sales Reps
The middle of the funnel is a high-pressure environment for the sales team. Reps must increase conversions at each stage of the customer journey to hit their targets, and because of this their focus is usually on selling and ultimately the bottom line.
This, however, can mean they’re busy chasing the sale instead of delivering value, which for B2C may be excusable, but in B2B, where nurturing is key, this approach could see prospects swiftly drop out.
Great mid-funnel content—like thought leadership pieces from senior managers—helps sales reps to continually deliver value and boosts their credibility. Ensure your sales team and marketing team are working together closely. The sales team can provide feedback on which material has been effective in converting mid-funnel leads into bottom-funnel customers.
Training is also key. If your sales reps are not fully informed on what it is you offer, how can you expect them to effectively answer the queries of leads or even sell the features of your product? Provide training for every new recruit on your products and services—especially how they may benefit different targets.
This level of knowledge will increase the credibility of your sales team, building trust with consumers.
Demonstrate You Understand Your Customers’ Needs
Another challenge sales reps face mid-funnel is the ability to connect with their prospects. Often, potential customers are weighing their options and “shopping around,” and reps are competing against competitors to seal the deal.
Effective mid-funnel content helps reps fend off rivals when it demonstrates that the rep, and your business, understand the prospect. The reps need to demonstrate that they know the problems consumers face in their industry and they can relate to them; carefully constructed content then enables reps to sell your product as the solution.
This is why case studies are popular mid-funnel pieces of content. Sales reps are armed with fully-formed examples of the product in use within different sectors. They can either explain the gist of the case study over the phone to prospects or simply send out the case study to the relevant contacts.
Vary Your Content
To connect with prospects mid-funnel, you also need to vary your content to prevent your communication from getting stale. Remember that B2B conversions can be a long process; there will definitely be more than one interaction with prospects. Generic and repetitive content at this stage can feel impersonal and turn customers away.
Evergreen content—like “top 10” and “how to” stories—is works as the occasional placeholder, but ideally, you should be as specific and relevant to the needs and goals of the prospect as possible. For example, instead of creating “top 10 ways to market your business,” why not create, “10 marketing strategies for finance start-ups?”
The first title is generic and could apply to any business, yet the tips will only be relevant to a handful. The second title lays out that it is providing marketing strategies specifically chosen to benefit a finance start-up. It is less likely to feature influencer marketing and big budget campaigns and more likely to focus on thought leadership pieces and getting comments featured in start-up publications.
Make sure your content covers all the different personas and verticals you target. Change up the layouts and formats depending on the different devices and screens a prospect may be viewing. Experiment with different media types. A video Q&A about your service may work better than an eBook on some verticals, whereas a text-heavy whitepaper will be preferred by others.
Use Technology to Help Distribute and Review Content
Finally, technology can support how you distribute content mid-funnel. It can help determine which pieces are your most effective and which are unsuccessful.
In Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019, 34% of CMOs selected ‘Martech acquisition and use’ as the most important area of spend when asked, “what are the most vital capabilities supporting marketing strategy delivery over the next 18 months?”
Sales Enablement Software can help you understand if your messaging is getting people to engage with the content your reps are sharing by tracking open rates and click-through rates. It can give your reps the ability to tailor content specifically to their prospects and craft a highly personalized, dynamic customer journey.
This type of software also provides the feedback and analytics you need to see who is interested in what you’re sharing. It helps you to reach invisible decision makers and gives your content/marketing team an idea of what’s most effective for your strategy moving forward.
Adam Little is the CMO of Data Dwell.