The brutal reality of B2B content marketing is that some content is simply easier to create than others.
Most businesses, for example, have plenty (often too much) bottom-of-the-funnel content. They have datasheets and product guides coming out of their ears.
Those companies who are beginning to get more serious about B2B content and, particularly inbound marketing approaches, are starting to invest in more top-of-funnel material – the business- and issues-focused content that often manifests in ebooks and other comprehensive guides. These set up the ‘why’ of the argument: Why should the customer care in the first place? Why should the issue (let alone the product) get on their crowded radar?
Both top- and bottom-of-the-funnel content are relatively straightforward to produce.
At the bottom, you need a good understanding of the relevant products and services and what they mean for potential customers. At the top, you need to understand the issues from your customers’ point of view and be willing to take a stand, to articulate a viewpoint that differentiates your brand and creates empathy.
That leaves the middle.
Middle-of-the-funnel content (or MoFU as we recently saw it hilariously described) is tricky.
Actually, tricky isn’t really the right word. Unless by tricky we mean tricky in the way that cracking a safe is tricky.
There are a thousand ways to get it wrong and quite a few will do more harm than good. As a result, this is an area that many companies (and content marketing agencies for that matter) shy away from.
Yet mid-funnel content is critical to overall success. It’s the essential glue that connects the ‘why’ of top-of-funnel thinking to the ‘what’ of product and service.
Too many businesses do a great job of thought leadership only to leave prospects floundering about what to do next (even when their datasheet library is fit to burst).
Often, companies will look at their mid-funnel chasm and immediately reach for the case study.
In this way, they rely on the old-school holy trinity of whitepaper for top-of-funnel, case study for mid and datasheet/brochure for bottom and sales enablement.
The thing is: mid-funnel content is not about format.
While case studies can plug the mid-funnel gap, all too often they are too skewed to product messages. They are, at their core, usually better suited to bottom-of-the-funnel use.
So we’ll see the customer’s issue given a cursory glance in the first paragraph and then be subjected to a list of what they bought with some matching testimonial quotes. (Check out our article on case studies for more on making them work harder.)
If top-of-funnel content answers why? and bottom-of-the-funnel material answers what?, mid-funnel B2B content must answer how? It must show how the customer can meet the challenges they face.
Importantly, it must do so while focusing more on process than product.
However, it mustn’t forget product either – bear in mind that the ultimate goal of mid-funnel material is to accelerate prospects further down the funnel where they will want to engage with sales.
Essentially, it’s about balance. Think in terms of the classic 80:20 split – 80% process, 20% product – and you won’t go too far wrong.
So once you exhaust the humble case study, what else can you use to plug the mid-funnel gap? Here are four for starters:
Workbooks – practical guides that walk the customer through the stages of meeting their challenge
Best-practice guides – that aggregate the latest thinking on how to approach key challenges
Diagnostic tools – that help customers analyse where they are and what they need to do next
Days in the life – that provide a spin on the classic case study by showing a day in the life of a customer and how they are meeting their key challenges
And to be clear, each of the above needs just enough product or service. Just enough to make the link to show how much easier/faster/cheaper it would be to follow the same process while using our product.
While mid-funnel content can be difficult, the fact that it is a relatively uncontested area. As such it has the potential to have a significant impact on your overall success. You just have to be willing to grasp the nettle.
Jason Ball is the founder and managing director at Considered. With a multi-decade career in B2B marketing, he’s worked with world-leading brands such as Adobe, Google, EY and Cisco together with niche specialists in technology, manufacturing and professional services.