At the top of the funnel, your potential client has just realised that:
- they have a problem that they need to be solved or
- they have a desire that they wish to have satisfied.
The top of the funnel stage is your company’s opportunity to make a lasting, memorable, and favourable first impression.
However, please remember that they may be weeks or even months away from needing to buy yet and that you will likely be nurturing these clients for some time to come.
Whilst your sales team, hungry for results and commission, might think that your marketing team should not be wasting time and that they should pass the lead straight to them, this will often be the wrong move.
If too aggressive an approach is made to a prospect at the top of the funnel, this may scare them off permanently.
At the top of the funnel, your marketing team are building a pipeline of future strong leads.
The process may take months but, over this period of time:
- they are keeping a prospect’s interest warm,
- educating the prospect about the benefits of your products and services as well as the advantage of dealing with your company, and
- in many cases, finding out important information about them which can be used by your sales team.
What is content marketing for prospects at the top of the funnel designed to achieve?
All prospective buyers at the top of the funnel of purchasing have two things in common:
- a need for high-quality, valuable, and actionable information about the problem they want to be solved or the desire they want to have satisfied, and
- many different objections to buying which are related to a lack of product/service knowledge and about potential suppliers.
If you can provide the information they need and help them overcome their objections, you might not take them straight to the relationship-building stage but you’ll have given them something to think about.
And, because you’re the company providing quality information to them when they need it, you have an ideal opportunity to help speed their decision-making journey up by asking them on each occasion to sign up to your email newsletter or to follow your social media marketing campaigns.
Even if they don’t do that at this stage, the prospect will often find your company again when they later search for more information on your products or services.
With the right plan and with consultation from your sales team, you can create the content which buyers are most likely to be search for and make that content as easy to find as possible for your prospect the next time they start searching for more information.
21 types of content marketing are used during the prospecting stage and why they’re important
All written in the tone of voice and in plain English to appeal to the people behind your buyer personas, awareness stage marketing content should include:
1. General blogs and articles
The blogs and articles you create for the top of the funnel should answer the most general questions early-stage enquirers have about your company, its products and services, and the benefits of working with you.
When on your website, you should use every opportunity to capture their details to subscribe them to your email newsletter and/or to persuade them to follow you on social media. Quite often, this regular contact, especially with an email newsletter, can shorten the length of time it takes to get to the bottom of the funnel and decision time.
2. Email newsletters
You should consider writing and sending two email newsletters every month – one to your existing clients and one to the prospects in your sales funnel.
Email newsletters offer a number of advantages to marketing teams. You can track which clients and prospects have opened your email newsletter by name as well as tracking who clicked through to a landing page or a blog on your website. During the buying journeys, your clients and prospects will be distracted by many other issues but, with an email newsletter, you have the opportunity to remind them that you’re there and to remind them why they’re interested in your products and services including the benefits.
In addition, by using occasional special offers and other incentives in your email newsletters to prospects, you have the opportunity to bring the buying decision forward in time by introducing time-constrained discounts, bonuses if they purchase before a particular date, and more.
3. Evergreen content
Fully SEO-edited, stand-out, high-quality service and product descriptions which convey the benefits of the products and services you sell should feature prominently on your website and you should make every effort to link to these articles from your other pages.
“Evergreen content” is content on your website which stays relevant and needs little or no amendments over time to reflect changes in your products or services.
More Than Words note – “SEO” stands for “search engine optimisation”. SEO describes a series of techniques used by companies to make sure that their website and every page on it ranks as highly on search engine results pages as possible. The quality of the content on your website is one of the two major ranking factors platforms like Google use, the other being the number of external links to your site. There are other important factors to which influence search engines – click to find out more about our range of SEO techniques for clients.
E-books provide future clients with a general and extended overview of your products and services and the benefits they bring. E-books are valuable for building the reputation of your company within individual clients’ minds as well as being an opportunity to demonstrate to clients the success/happiness that other clients have enjoyed by working with you through sharing their stories.
E-books are often used at the top of the funnel to give people a reason to sign up to your email newsletter and, as soon as you have their details, you can start moving them through your funnel with special offers.
Where possible, you should use short 10-30 second animated videos bullet pointing the main benefits of your product and service.
Where you have explainer and demonstration videos, the people at your site at 75% more likely to purchase what you sell or leave a sales enquiry.
Videos, especially animated videos, can be purchased for a few hundred pounds and distributed not only via your website but via social media and YouTube for further exposure opportunities. If budgets are tight, consider investing in videos which highlight the products and services which are most profitable to you and invest in videos on other products and services later from the proceeds of sales from your initial videos.
6. Social media content strategy
While signing up a potential client for your email newsletter is, in many cases, the best achievement you can expect from future customers who are at the start of their buying journey, persuading them to follow you on social media finishes in second place.
Unlike with email newsletters, you can’t see who has interacted with your content by tracking opens and click throughs. However, you can start conversations, contribute to conversations, and share insights and experiences with your followers which may be of great value to them.
We’ve posted a lot of content on our blog about the best way to make the most from social media – just enter “social media” into one of the search boxes on this page for more.
7. Guest posting
You should also consider creating unique blogs and articles for 3rd-party websites and platforms your clients visit frequently and whose opinions and insights they respect. You will benefit from association with these sites and platforms in the minds of your target audience as well as benefit from external links back to your website.
You may have to pay to put up guest posts in the early days of your content marketing strategy.
Very popular with Google, LinkedIn slide-shares are similar to a Power Point presentation but accessible online. You may wish to repurpose other types of content you’ve created at all funnel stages for slide-shares linking back to your website.
Please note that the actual effectiveness of slide shares in getting people into your funnel is not clear. However, the value of your website and in particular the product and service descriptions pages on your site of being linked to from a LinkedIn slide share presentation is high.
9. Visual content
Human beings process imagery at a much greater speed than they process text – this is one of the main reasons behind the popularity of infographics both for customers and Google ranking.
The imagery should never overpower the message through a complicated or uncluttered design. When used in an article, blog, or product description, imagery gives clients a better idea of what you’re selling, how it differs from similar products and services on the market, and the benefits it brings/problems it solves.
Infographics are also popular but their popularity has wained as has their effectiveness in providing backlinks to your site.
When visiting your website, many prospects will already have a list of questions in mind about your company and its products or services.
Make sure that your sales team is consulted on the list of questions and the answers most likely to provoke a positive response leading to a visitor leaving their contact details.
In-page FAQs using accordion menus are also useful – they shrink down the size of the page reducing the amount of scrolling a visitor has to do and Google is increasingly using the FAQs contained in accordion menus under search listings and in its “People also ask” feature.
11. Landing pages
landing pages are specific pages on your internet site designed to capture potential client’s details.
There is not a great deal of text on a landing page and the top of each page is normally dominated by a form. For filling in a form, the visitor receives something of value in return like an e-book or a product description.
You should consider using a landing page for paid-for campaigns on Google and on social media platforms.
Whether for B2C or B2B clients, freebies work very well.
For B2B clients, the freebie is normally an informational product like a white paper, an e-book, or an invitation to join a specialist mailing list.
The same offers may be made to B2C clients although they may appreciate a voucher code or another type of financial inducement.
13. Make yourself available for interview
Many consumers and business purchasers carry out research on a company prior to contacting them.
You and your company’s credibility will be significantly enhanced if, among the search results, they find you or your company representatives being interviewed by the mainstream or more specialist media.
Interviews on third-party sites are also highly valued by Google.
14. Thought leadership posts
We’re not particularly keen on the expression “thought leadership” phrase because it sounds a bit pretentious to us – we prefer the term “trusted information source”.
Thought leadership posts are the types of articles often placed on blogs and linked to from your social media account which describe the vision, passion, experience, and talent within your organisation and give readers insights into your industry can provide guidance to customers and suppliers.
15. Interviews with important suppliers
If you sell other company’s products, the likelihood is that individual customers will have brands among your selection that they prefer over others.
If your supplier is agreeable, you should offer to interview them about what your customers an expect in the next quarter, season, or year from them to build up your customers’ anticipation levels.
Every year towards November, it’s fascinating to read companies’ predictions about the coming 12 months (and beyond) for their sector.
Prediction articles are really engaging reads and, for those predictions you know that will come true (perhaps a supplier has warned you in advance), you can start the sales process early by inviting their people to register their interest in a future development.
17. Company timelines
For B2B purchases in particular, it’s of particular importance to establish your company’s credibility as soon as possible.
One way to do that is to offer prospects a glimpse into the history of your company and its development over time.
If yours is a relatively new company, you may wish to describe in detail the individual timelines of the main people within your business.
18. Company news
We all, to different extents, have our favourite companies and brands whether we’re purchasing for ourselves or for a business.
Involving customers and prospects in how your business is changing, growing, and improving makes them feel part of your story.
Company news articles can also be used to promote the expertise of a new member of staff or a brand new department – this will give your sales staff cross-selling opportunities.
Podcasts are audio files which can be downloaded and played on mobile phone apps, smart speakers, and other connected devices.
Podcasts are growing in popularity and your company can use them to promote products, allow listeners to hear interviews with customers who have already bought from you, and keep prospects up to date with industry changes.
20. Online chatbots
Online chatbots are the pop-up windows which you see on websites inviting you to ask questions about a company and its products or services.
They are remarkably effective tools for collecting prospect information.
21. Corporate social responsibility programs
Millennials and Generation Z consumers and business purchasers value how the companies they buy from do business.
Content on your corporate social responsibility program is highly shareable and engaging on social media.
Start building your top of the funnel content now
A successful online content marketing and inbound marketing approach creates, over time, a steady and predictable stream of sales and high-quality sales enquiries into your business.
As your future customer begins to educate themselves about the benefits of solving the problem they face or unlocking an important opportunity current unavailable to them because they’re not using your products and services, engage with them at the start of the journey and beyond through engaging, benefits-led, and response-provoking content.
To speak with one of our team about creating a sales funnel for your business and the collateral needed for each stage, please call us on 0330 010 3495 or click here to email us.