Every good fisherman knows that the hardest part of fishing is not waiting for the fish to bite, it’s reeling them in. You can’t be too aggressive, or too lax, if you want to bring in a big catch. Inbound content marketing is the same. Leads at the top of the funnel take the bait, but the middle of the funnel is the most challenging and important part of the process. Understanding how to feed the middle of your funnel and providing the right content will bring those fish right into your net.
Why the Middle Is the Most Important
Leads in the middle of the funnel have already traveled into your marketing strategy. They recognize your company but don’t see you as a leader in the industry yet. They received an array of informative content at the top of the funnel that helped them put labels on their problems, and now they are looking for options and solutions. Your goal is to continue their education by offering them those options, and then showing them why your solution is the best one.
The middle of the funnel is the most important and the most complicated group. These leads could turn into customers, yet they represent a broad diversity of potential customers. They are looking for a leader in the industry and a relationship with that brand. This personal relationship will build their trust, putting you ahead of competitors in your audience’s mind. Once they are hooked, they will move to the bottom of the funnel and you can give them that little extra push to confirm their decision to go with your brand.
The motivation behind the middle of the funnel content is threefold. It nurtures leads to identify your brand, it educates leads on what makes you different, and it inspires an emotional connection between the lead and your business.
Middle of the Funnel Strategy
This is not the phase to be overselling yourself or your business. If you put yourself out there as the one and only option, you can put the middle of the funnel leads off from your brand. Remember that they are looking for options, not the final solution, which comes at the bottom of the funnel. Instead, this is the time to continue providing information, but with the drive that your service is the best option in the industry. Inbound content marketing for the middle of the funnel is the most difficult because it requires a degree of subtlety that traditional marketing does not do well.
Having a successful middle of the funnel marketing strategy will only be successful if it aligns with your overall marketing campaign. Having a clear idea of your brand identity makes it easier to tie all of your content to one touchstone. Leads recognize your brand and develop a connection with your company if they know who you are. Before they can know who you are, you need to know who you are. This is all laying groundwork for these potential customers to build confidence in your brand and pick your business.
Segmentation and Automation
Segmentation is all about knowing your audience. Traditional demographics, such as age, gender, and location can only take your marketing so far. Segmentation is how you create targeted marketing based on leads’ behaviors and interests. If you understand who your customers are, where they come from, and what they are looking for, you can respond with the most appropriate way to connect with them. That connection could be through blog posts, articles, podcasts, YouTube series, or newsletters, just to name a few.
Automation sounds like an impersonal and robotic technique that will push your leads back up the funnel and out the door. Despite the name, it does quite the opposite. Automation provides personalized and targeted content delivery. By analyzing target audience segmentation data and scheduling content delivery, automation makes content marketing easier and more effective for your business. It uses methods like emails featuring customers’ names or interests and promoting products or services to entice them back when it notices low activity.
The key to successfully using automation is to use the data from segmentation to create a better understanding of your audience, and visualizing the experience from the customer’s point of view. Look at your own inbox for inspiration. Look at the businesses whose emails you respond to and why they are more successful.
Middle of the Funnel Content
Good middle of the funnel content is informative, engaging, and actionable. Your leads want information that will help them find a solution and they want to know why you are that solution. The content will be the most effective when it appeals to their interests and behaviors. Actionable content begins a dialogue with the customer. It prompts customers to further their interaction with your brand, which builds on your relationship. Actionable content also shows you how effective your content is, based on how many of your customers perform that action.
Examples of Mid-Level Content
- Targeted newsletters. Targeted newsletters draw on the customers’ interests and the reasons that drew them to your business in the first place. They are the ideal form to educate and engage.
- Entertainment content. YouTube series and podcasts are content that provide information in a form that customers associate with entertainment. They are a great way to build brand identity and put a creative face on your business.
- Digital ebooks. Ebooks are a rich source of information. They deepen the relationship with the potential buyer by assisting them with their process and they begin to think of your brand as a trusted source.
- Case studies. Case studies show your audience, rather than just telling them. Case studies are a format that allows for easy intake of information. They are a pleasing summary of blog posts, social media posts, newsletters, and testimonials.
- Fact sheets. Fact sheets are an easy and compact way to tell your customer “here is an issue in your industry and here is how we can solve it.” Fact sheets are a great way to establish that your business is a leader in your industry.
- White papers. White papers provide fact-based information that your customers will be able to trust. They contain actionable information and a lot of statistics, which promote your image as a knowledgeable and capable solution.
Middle of the Funnel Success
It requires a lot of work to nurture the middle of the funnel leads in your inbound content marketing strategy. The work is worth it. When compared to traditional marketing, inbound marketing gets 54% more leads. Most businesses use content marketing, with 86% applying it to their marketing strategy. However, only 30% of B2B marketers say their company is effective at content marketing. If your business puts in the work and masters content marketing, you will stand out. Plus, you will be giving people what they want. 70% of internet users prefer content marketing to traditional marketing strategies.
In many cases it is unrealistic for a small- to medium-sized business to create their own content. Hiring someone to produce content is standard, with 62% of businesses outsourcing their content marketing.