Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Rebecca Smith. Rebecca is a senior marketing consultant specializing in Content Marketing Management for Heinz Marketing, a B2B marketing and sales acceleration firm that delivers measurable revenue results for their clients.
Connect with Rebecca on Twitter and LinkedIn.
The problem with many account-based marketing (ABM) strategies is a lack of variation in content to actually engage the right audience. Many marketers pigeonhole themselves into creating content for one sole purpose. Usually this purpose falls in one of two categories: top-of-funnel, awareness-generating content, or bottom-of-the-funnel, conversion-generating content.
But what about the other parts of the funnel? Why do we as marketers fail to reach our audience at every stage of their buying journey? Here are a couple of reasons, just to name a few:
- Not understanding our buyers or our buyers’ influencers (Read this post to better understand the buying committee.)
- Having a lack of awareness of our buyers’ pains and motivations (Read this post to learn more about the truly connecting with your buyers.)
- Having little knowledge of our buyers’ tendencies in the sales cycle
- Having limited resources available to create the right content
Before we can implement a successful content strategy at our organization, we need to have the infrastructure to align our content marketing efforts with the overall goals of the business. In many cases these days, that means aligning your content strategy with your account-based marketing strategy. And when you think about it, without this alignment, your whole ABM strategy could go to waste. A strong content marketing strategy in ABM will lead to a better experience for your target accounts from marketing to sales and beyond.
Companies that take advantage of account-based marketing are more tightly aligned, which delivers greater revenue long-term. According to Bizible’s State of Pipeline Marketing Report in 2016, “marketers doing ABM are about 40% more likely to report alignment with their sales team compared to marketers not doing ABM.”
And what better way to align your marketing and sales than by developing content that will hit your prospects at every stage of the funnel?
While we still talk about the traditional sales and marketing funnel or the modified flipped funnel, a lot of companies are talking about what they refer to as a content marketing funnel. Yes, this is mostly semantics, but focusing on a distinct content funnel from the get-go could be the missing link in your content strategy.
This past year, it was found that 88% of B2B marketers are using custom content marketing and 76% of marketers plan to produce more content. Yet still 65% of marketers are challenged with understanding which types of content are effective and which aren’t.
If you don’t have a good understanding of your buyers to create great content that draws them in, how can you understand them enough to get them to buy from you? Number one, this means you’re putting out content that potential buyers probably have no need for, which leads to number two: you are then likely selling to the wrong audience.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Developing content doesn’t have to be this hard. It all starts with a solid understanding of the background info and a sharp strategy to get this under way. If you read the articles I mentioned you ‘must read’ above, you’ll see that you have to have an understanding of the buying committee and their influencers in order to develop content that will convert. It’s non-negotiable and, here’s why:
When it comes to this content marketing funnel, we’ve got more than just the top and the bottom. So many marketers ignore the middle of the funnel content, but this section can be the most important as it bridges the gap from marketing to sales and helps drive accounts through the pipeline more quickly.
Top of Funnel – Discovery/Attraction
Your top-of-funnel content should be all about generating interest and brand recognition. It’s possible that your audience has never heard of your organization before, so you want to start soft.
Think of your goal as in this phase as learning. Figure out what your target accounts want and needs to learn more about, and then teach them those things. If you’re doing this right, you’re building credibility for your brand already.
A few content types that work well here include:
- Blog posts
Middle of Funnel – Consideration
At this stage, you can begin peppering in your solution so the buyer becomes more aware of how your solution will be integral in solving their abovementioned problems. This is not a hard sell, though. They still might not have complete trust in your brand yet, so keep the solution talk slim and mention it with careful consideration. This is your opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competitors and show your worth.
Content types that work well for the middle of the funnel include:
- How-to content and frameworks
- Tip sheets
- Demo videos
- Data sheets
Bottom of Funnel – Conversion
You’ve found the pain, you’ve conquered their fear, you’ve gained their trust, and they’re almost ready to buy from you… They just need the final push. This is the narrowest part of the content funnel because you’ve done the hardest work yet.
This is where your content, if executed correctly, won’t even require a salesperson to close the deal. It should do the selling all on its own to convince target accounts to pull the trigger. In other words, this content is highly valuable, but it is also the most overused because many marketing and sales teams abuse this content and use it too far up in the funnel. Save it for when it counts.
At the bottom of the funnel, you can use content such as:
- Case studies
- Customer testimonials
With these above content types in mind, along with the buying committee and target personas for your business, what content do you already have? Pick a buying committee, insert your buyer personas, compile your current content for each persona and map into this helpful grid.
If you fill this in and you’re still seeing a lot of holes, you have some brainstorming to do to get your content strategy in line with the objectives of your business and better engage your influencers and decision-makers with interactive and educational content for every stage of the funnel.
Account-Based Marketing Throughout the Content Funnel
If you’re doing one-to-one (1:1) account-based marketing, you can get incredibly personalized with your content marketing. If one of your dream accounts is Coca-Cola, for example, you can serve them personalized content using email and one-to-one account-based ads.
In this scenario, you would engage key decision-makers at Coca-Cola with useful content throughout every stage of the funnel. At the top of the funnel, you could provide them with personalized content specific to their pain points that doesn’t focus heavily on your solution.
As you engage with different members of the buying committee and Coca-Cola moves through the funnel, you could start to provide content explaining how your product or service will solve this problem. For example, you could display a digital ad that says something like, “How [Your Company] Can Increase Revenue for Coca-Cola — A Custom Report” and deliver content you created specifically for that account. Think about it: what’s more compelling than truly personalized content?
But you don’t have to get so specific. As long as your content is high-quality and focused, you can use it to accelerate your pipeline and scale attribution from marketing to sales leader to a greater ROI.
Learn More About Account-Based Marketing
To learn more about the role content plays in your account-based marketing strategy and get resources for mapping content to the buyer’s journey for ABM, download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing e-book.