Done correctly, B2B content marketing funnels can be a potent tool for bringing in relevant traffic and converting people into loyal customers. To succeed, it's critical you understand each stage of the funnel and the type of content needed for each stage.
What You Will Learn
- What the content marketing funnel is, and what the difference between B2B and B2C funnels is
- The benefit of content marketing funnels in your overall marketing strategy
- Three steps to creating B2B content marketing funnels and how to improve your customer journey
- The different types of content you need at each stage and examples of valuable content that can be utilized for driving customers forward
What is a B2B content marketing funnel?
A B2B content marketing funnel is a roadmap that takes potential customers from being unaware of your products or services to becoming long-term paying customers and brand advocates. Here is an illustration that provides an example funnel for an SEO company.
One thing to note, it's better to think of this process in terms of a loop or flywheel.
You don't want potentially qualified people dropping out of the funnel. Instead, you want them re-engaged and looping back through the funnel until they convert.
It's also important to have an advocacy or post-purchase stage to ensure paying customers stay engaged. This can help with customer satisfaction and potentially increase customer lifetime value.
B2C vs B2B content marketing funnels
One of the key differences between B2B and B2C content funnels is the target audience.
With most B2C funnels, there are typically only one or two people moving through the funnel.
With B2B, you need to address all stakeholders involved, which might include executives, end-user employees, and other stakeholders.
Another key difference is in the budget and needs. B2B customers typically have larger budgets for products and are more concerned with what problems the product will solve and minimizing friction when implementing the solution.
The focus of your content, therefore, should be to address these pain points at the various stages of the funnel.
While the ultimate goal of both the B2C and B2B marketing funnel is ultimately conversion, the reality is that your B2B funnel, by necessity, will be more complex and must be more efficiently managed to produce optimal results.
Why is a B2B content marketing funnel important?
A content marketing funnel is essential as it allows you to understand the customer journey and more effectively define your sales process.
As the saying goes,
"What doesn't get measured, doesn't get managed."
With a well-defined and mapped-out content marketing funnel, you can optimize each stage and improve lead generation for your company.
Another key benefit is that you can more easily establish yourself as an authority in your chosen field. This helps earn trust and credibility from your target audience and benefits search engine optimization to drive more traffic to your website.
3 steps to create a B2B content marketing funnel
The most important thing to consider when planning your B2B funnel is that you are creating educational content to establish customer relationships and not just to please search engines.
So, while you want to make sure all of your funnel content is search engine optimized and intuitive, make sure you are thinking of your target audience and putting their needs first.
1. Learn from your audience
For you to create truly relevant content for your B2B marketing funnel, you must first understand your target audience, their needs, interests, and what challenges they are currently facing.
One of the worst things you can do is dive right into creating content and miss the mark by failing to address your audience's core needs and concerns.
To understand your audience, first start by speaking with your sales team.
Usually, they will already have a list of regular concerns that are brought up by customers that can be used as you come up with content ideas.
For a deeper understanding, you can dig into social media platforms commonly used by your audience and other types of content they regularly consume.
You can take it a step further by initiating polls and one-on-one interviews, but be careful to set these up correctly to avoid any bias that can skew your results.
Once you have a complete understanding of your audience, the next step will be to create personas that can help you better shape the buyer's journey.
Create detailed buyer personas
Buyer's personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer that can be used to develop a more targeted B2B content marketing strategy.
These personas make it easier to establish things like the tone of voice and map specific articles that need to be created to address your audience's challenges.
While these personas are fictional, the information you include should be as close to your real customers as possible.
The information included in a buyer persona will be different for each business and each position. While you don't want to go overboard creating too many personas, you may need to have two or three for different industries you serve and different positions you regularly target.
Some of the most common factors for B2B companies to include in personas are:
- Demographic data
- Team size
- Who the person reports to
- Social media channels
The above information is only a small list of some of the most common factors to include.
You will need to look at your customers and the information specific to them when developing buyer personas that accurately reflect your unique audience.
Try to focus on factors that make it easier for you to create content that will impact their decision. An example of this is understanding a person's education level so you can tailor content complexity appropriately.
2. Plan content for the entire B2B funnel
A common mistake stakeholders and many new marketers make when creating funnel content is only focusing on the decision stage, also known as bottom-of-funnel content or BOFU content.
One reason for this is that the decision stage is where purchases are made.
However, focusing only on these stages of the content marketing funnel means the majority of your organic search traffic will be going to waste.
It's important to remember that a good chunk of traffic that hits your website will be at the first stage of the funnel, the awareness phase, or the top of the funnel. This is where the largest volume of keywords is and where the largest potential for organic search traffic is.
Ignoring the awareness and consideration phases in favor of only focusing on the decision stage can mean missed opportunities to increase brand awareness and leaving money on the table by not properly addressing your customer's needs.
As qualified leads progress through your content funnel, their needs will be different and the type of content you serve them will need to be tailored to those needs.
Some examples of the different types of content for each stage of your sales funnels include:
- TOFU Content (awareness phase) - blog posts, videos, social media posts, podcasts, etc.
- MOFU Content (consideration phase) - case studies, webinars, white papers, quizzes, assessments, etc.
- BOFU Content (decision phase) - customer testimonials, success stories, product demos, consultations, etc.
- Customer Advocacy (post-purchase phase) - email follow-ups, customer support, personalized reports, videos, etc.
We'll discuss in greater detail the types of content you will include at each of the funnel stages and what types of marketing activities should go with that content later on.
3. Analyze your content performance
The final step of creating a high-performing content funnel is to consistently track and analyze how your content is performing at each funnel stage so you can optimize according to concrete data.
Assuming you've followed the above steps and created fact-based personas to inform your content creation, you should begin to see positive results and potential business growth from your efforts.
That said, the online space is ever-evolving, and there is always an opportunity to optimize your content marketing funnel to drive better results.
This starts with the creation of content marketing KPIs based on informed goals and a concrete understanding of what you want from your B2B marketing funnel.
It's critical that your KPIs are specific and measurable and that you are measuring things that drive forward your goals and not just vanity metrics.
Examples of data you might want to measure at each of the B2B marketing funnel stages include:
- Awareness - click-through rate, traffic, bounce rate, time on page, engagement
- Consideration - lead magnet downloads, demo bookings, free trial signups
- Decision - return on investment, customer acquisition costs, revenue growth
- Advocacy - lifetime customer value, churn rate, customer satisfaction rate, referrals, net promoter score
There are a variety of tools and methods that can be used to measure each of these metrics.
For tracking the performance of your blog content and similar types of content in your funnel, you will want to become familiar with Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Google Analytics will allow you to set goals in line with your KPIs and track the performance of individual pages within your funnel.
With Search Console, you can track how your articles and pages are performing within Google Search and how effectively these pages are driving organic traffic into your funnel.
For other KPIs, you will need to utilize tools such as customer surveys, referral tracking, accounting tools, and other similar tools that can help you measure and optimize each specific metric.
Make sure you are regularly looking at these content metrics to avoid missing opportunities. It's best to create regularly scheduled review times such as bi-weekly, monthly, and yearly.
How to create content for the B2B content marketing funnel
Understanding the steps to properly set up your B2B content marketing funnel is only the beginning of getting everything up and running.
Next, you need to dive deeper into what types of content you should use at each stage of the funnel and how to create content for each stage.
Awareness: Top of funnel
The awareness phase of the content marketing funnel is where your target consumer is just beginning to understand they have a problem and is actively looking for solutions.
This is where the broadest types of keywords, typically with the highest keyword volume, are to be found.
At this stage, SEO is one of the best methods to bring potential customers into your sales funnel.
The reason for this is many people will begin researching their problems using Google or similar search engines.
It's critical that you create content at this stage to address the user intent.
Most people at the top of the funnel are just beginning to understand what their problem is. At this point, they are likely not ready to make a purchase and instead want as much information as possible to help them understand the issue at hand.
Make sure to provide information to satisfy that user intent and address any questions potential customers might have better than your competitors.
Best content types for awareness stage
- Explainer videos and posts
- Beginner guides
- Introduction to type content
Best content formats for awareness stage
- Blog posts
- Social media updates
- Landing pages
Awareness Stage Content Example: Blog post - "A beginners guide to understanding brand erosion in luxury ecommerce."
Consideration: Middle of funnel
Once potential customers have a better understanding of what their issue is, they will begin to look for solutions.
This is where you can introduce content addressing exactly why your product or service will alleviate them of their current challenges.
At this stage of the content marketing funnel, thought leadership can be an incredibly effective tool.
Utilizing thought leadership when you create content for the middle of the funnel can provide customers with a greater degree of certainty in your ability to meet their demands.
A great example would be case studies where you relate past successes to stakeholders.
Make sure to consider motivating factors such as making the experience more frictionless and addressing challenges they might have when solving their problem through alternatives to your product or service.
Best content types for consideration stage
- How-to content
- Previous successes
- Insights into your product or service
Best content formats for consideration stage
- Case studies
- White papers
- Comparison guides
Consideration Stage Content Example: Webinar - "How The Luxury Agency uses brand storytelling to help companies prevent brand erosion."
Decision: Bottom of funnel
The decision stage is where your target customer makes their final purchasing decision.
This typically corresponds with the evaluation stage in a traditional sales funnel.
You want funnel content at this stage to reinforce your product or service as the best solution to address the person's needs.
Everything here should be geared in a way to make the final purchase as frictionless as possible.
This could include offering free trials or demos or even promotional codes that incentivize the person to make an immediate decision.
At the decision stage, you want to add customer stories and testimonials to provide social proof that others have benefited from your product or service.
Content ideas at this stage can include competitive comparisons focused on features and results.
The key thing to remember is that even the slightest bit of friction at this stage can lead potential customers to bounce. Ensure everything is consistent and simple to ensure nothing stands in the way of the person making a purchase.
Best content types for decision stage
- Stories from satisfied customers
- FAQs helping with getting started
- Scheduling forms for consultations
Best content formats for decision stage
- Free trials
- Customer testimonials
Decision Stage Content Example: Discount - "Personalized brand guide with a call to action for 10% off services if signing up within seven days."
Most marketers stop at the decision stage when setting up their B2B content funnels.
However, traditional content marketing funnels that only consider TOFU content, MOFU, and BOFU content don't consider what happens once people convert into customers.
The advocacy, or post-purchase stage, addresses customer needs after they've given you money.
One of the key benefits here is that you can improve customer loyalty and potentially increase customer lifetime value.
Customer support is critical here, and the content you create should address the needs of each of your customers as best as possible.
Ideally, make it easy for customers to have their questions answered and any issues quickly addressed and resolved.
Depending on the size of your organization and the number of customers you have, personalized content can go a long way at this stage.
Best content types for Advocacy stage
- How-to guides for getting the most out of product or service
- Information about early releases
- Loyalty bonuses
- Proactive updates about products or services
Best content formats for Advocacy stage
- Email updates
- Customer support
- Social media groups
- Customer satisfaction surveys
Advocacy Stage Content Example: Email Newsletter - "Keeping your brand consistent when launching a new marketing campaign."
- B2B content marketing funnels make it easy to organize your content in a way that is beneficial to potential customers and likely to increase conversions
- Think of your funnels in terms of a loop that keeps people engaged through helpful content rather than having people drop out at each stage
- Create personas for each stakeholder involved in the decision-making process and utilize these personas when mapping out the buyer's journey to help address any questions or concerns they might have
- Thoroughly map out each stage of your content marketing funnel and ensure a robust ecosystem of various content types to fully address different people and minimize any friction that could lead to them dropping out of the funnel
- Nurture customers after they signup by creating a post-sales advocacy stage that involves everything from your customer service, product or service updates, content addressing common issues, and anything else that can make the customer experience frictionless
- Measure results at each funnel stage and every piece of content, then improve based on your data to make sure your funnels continue to deliver
When properly mapped out and set up, B2B content marketing funnels can be an extremely powerful sales tool.
The key is to ensure you're addressing all stakeholders involved and minimizing friction taking them from awareness to decision and then nurturing them after. Understand your audience, measure your results, and continually deliver valuable content, and your funnels are sure to deliver.