The Easy Way to Plan Full Funnel B2B Marketing
How do you deliver full funnel content?
Let’s take a look at why B2B marketers need to align to a full funnel marketing approach.
A few years ago, content marketing became a break-out phenomena. Why? Because it created an important dialogue about earning the right to engage with buyers. You can’t bore or wonk customers into buying your products. You need to understand and draw them into conversation.
Fast forward to marketing today. There’s a better appreciation that everyone in marketing and, in B2B companies, many in sales create content for customers. In a digital age, the conversation takes place using content across every stage of the customer lifecycle. Conversations also flow from digital to sales people and partners only to further criss-cross over these channels throughout the buying cycle.
That means more B2B marketers are planning and managing full funnel content strategies. They need the right content for the right customer interaction in the right channel.
What does a full funnel content approach look like?
Most marketers have their own view of the customer buying journey aka the marketing and sales funnel. Here’s mine.
The Full Funnel As a Bow Tie
Customers have their own ways to research, find, buy and own products. Smart marketers spend a lot of time listening to and learning how these customers want information. So the word choices I used for my full funnel framework are from the customer’s perspective.
Why a bow tie? Because in B2B, the first sale is often just the beginning of a longer term relationship. Earn your customer’s trust and loyalty, and you’ll earn the right to win more of their business.
- Discover. Discovery is how people explore ways to solve business problems. Fifty-one percent of B2B Buyers rely on articles and research or consuming other forms of content in digital channels for education, according the Demand Gen Report. Talking to friends and experts remains a primary way people discover solutions. How much exactly? 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral, according to Influitive. If customers already do business with you and you’ve earned their trust, you’re in a great position to grow their investment in your company.
- Explore. People kick the tires in different ways as they seek to understand how a product, solution or service can solve their business challenges. In B2B, some products such as software are increasingly showcased through interactive demos on Web sites. But you’d be surprised at who is effectively using digital. Innovative shipping company Maersk, for example, created a social media strategy and digital marketing tools that engage buyers. Other companies still need expert salespeople to ease complex purchases. Those salespeople need content and tools to support their work with prospects.
- Shop. Having narrowed choices with digital content, buyers down-select vendors for consideration. In most B2Bs, this still primarily relies on experienced sales people–at least with the first purchase. With the rise of cloud and e-commerce in B2B, the need for salespeople for every transaction is changing. Many B2B brands embrace e-commerce for business. Want some good examples? Check out review of the best B2B e-Commerce websites by Justin King, founder of eCommerceB2B.com.
- Buy. Congratulations, you’ve earned the faith and trust of your prospect and are closing their business. But wait, don’t rest easy yet. Ensuring that customers easily confirm their order, have clear details on getting their goods, and receive a great on-boarding experience – these are all moments that matter.
- Receive. For all of us, getting what we bought is the main reason for the relationship. So, ensuring that customers know what to expect is key. In our private lives, we have compelling experiences with innovation leaders like Amazon, and for me small and mighty brands like Wines Til Sold Out (WTSO.com). (I admit it – I just bought $100 of wine on WTSO when I went to grab their link for this blog. They make it easy to buy interesting wines.)
- Own. For B2B companies, this is often the most emotionally important part of the experience next to the buying experience. You’ve earned your customers’ trust so far. How well do you help them maximize their investment? Do you teach them how to get the most out of their product? What should they do if something goes wrong? Yes–marketing can help here.
- Grow. How do you help customers explore your solutions when business needs change? Do you expect when they’re close to outgrowing their plan or service? Once you have a good relationship with a customer, you’re in a great place to proactively learn when new business needs or challenges arise. If you have a solution that fits, it’s time to proactively nurture your current customer into a new buying cycle. Do this well, and you’ll move the current customer back to the top of the funnel for a new opportunity.
Full Funnel Marketing Channels
What’s a marketing channel? In the simplest form, it’s the way you reach customers. In the modern digital age, many digital marketers include me see it as the different ways in which we can engage with customers.
- Digital is an oft-discussed channel. What I mean by digital is this. Digital is the sum of interactions that include customer engagement with digital watering holes, digital content, social media engagement via LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc, your company Web site, your landing pages, and even the email marketing you use to drive prospects to your landing pages. If you want a really comprehensive view, check out Dave Chaffey’s blog on the latest digital marketing channels.
- Customer-Facing Employees. Sales is an obvious direct channel to B2B customers. Partners are the standard B2B indirect channel. But don’t forget the knowledge and relationships that your customer service and professional service reps create. If they’re close to accounts or work with customers daily, they’re in a position to shape the customer experience.
- Events. How events integrate into the buying experience is the subject of many great blogs including the definitive guide to Account Based Marketing by Engagio. I see events as a way for prospects to talk to current customers and learn from you. If you do them well, you focus on informing buyers instead of just pitching your wares. By showcasing that you’re an advisor and that you draw interesting peers in your buyer’s circle, you create awareness and consideration.
Why is it important to have a conceptual framework?
Because it anchors conversation between marketers and non-marketers. It gives everyone a way to understand what customers may want and need at different stages of their investigations into your solutions. It also grounds the content discussion. Content that drives top of the funnel awareness is very different from the details you offer once you’re deep in discussions with an active opportunity.
As a marketer you might be thinking “gee – thanks Captain Obvious!” And yet, not everyone in the content creation community has an explicit model for understanding and creating content. So, don’t assume people know that their detailed product brief is a middle of funnel asset. Show them where it fits.
Another important use of a full funnel content framework is to audit the content you have. How does your content serve the different customer journey stages? Which customer-facing channels do you reach with your content. Which internal experts have great content that can be upcycled into an entire content pillar? How up to date is that content? What are your content gaps? You get the drill.
Armed with a framework, you’ll get to a shared view more easily. It’ll become easier to see where messaging needs to flow better across the funnel, and what content gaps need to be plugged. Best of all, you’ll be able to team up with your content cohort to assess, align, and plan together.