Content marketing is increasingly popular, with the Content Marketing Institute reporting that 88 percent of B2B marketers are now creating their own custom content marketing, compared to 86 percent in 2015. Yet, many businesses still struggle when it comes to deciding on what content to produce.
While successful content requires intelligent content creation, it also requires timing. Different types of content are effective at different stages of the customer journey and matching content types to the right stage is half of the battle. In this post, we take a look at the best types of content to use at each stage of the sales funnel.
The Awareness Phase
Also known as the prospecting phase, the top of the sales funnel is about attracting the attention of potential customers and convincing them that you can help them. The needs of prospects could range from being very general, to extremely specific, so there are a number of different types of content to use at this point.
In our own 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, we learned that email templates were extremely popular, with 76.5 percent of all email templates being used during the awareness phase. This is understandable and can be a successful strategy, although emails should be as specific to individual customers as possible.
Other popular and effective content types during this phase include white papers, blog posts, online ads and infographics. White papers, in particular, are a great content type for attracting attention, but you should try to avoid wholly product-driven papers. Instead, gear them towards the challenges your prospects could be facing.
Blogs, meanwhile, provide an ideal platform for content marketing. According to Hubspot, 79 percent of businesses with an active blog report a positive ROI, while Demand Metric report that this type of content marketing is 62 percent less expensive than traditional outbound marketing, while generating three times as many leads.
The Buying and Selling Phase
The next key stage is the buying and selling phase, which is where deals are evaluated and made, and your sales people’s communication and negotiation skills are really put to the test. Popular content types during this phase include proposal templates, technical presentations, customer case studies and client references.
Ultimately, content used during this stage of the sales funnel should aim to convince prospects that your products and/or services can solve their problems, and that your business is trustworthy and reliable. Proposal templates and presentations should focus on the technical details, including things like cost and ROI estimates, whereas case studies and client references should describe business situations, solutions and actual real-life outcomes.
Depending on the nature of your business, you might also wish to consider things like demonstration videos, which can go on your website or be sent out to prospects and even trial offers, which can allow potential customers to see the solutions you can offer them in full effect, before they commit to a purchase.
The Usage/Maintenance Phase
The last of the three key stages is the usage and maintenance phase. Much of your workforce development will be geared towards dealing with this stage, because it is the point at which your customer service team may need to deal with issues and complaints. However, there is also plenty of content to use during this phase as well.
In truth, much of this phase involves trying to maintain a positive relationship with clients or customers, so that they become loyal, which is critical for long-term success. Nevertheless, our Sales Enablement Optimization Study found that it was by far the least popular phase for content development and something more businesses should focus on.
Content to prioritise during this stage includes satisfaction questionnaires, rating and review pages or documents, and certain types of product literature. For example, you might create and send a document to customers detailing guidelines for success. In addition, special offer emails are a great way to generate return custom.