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 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 as ebooks and Slideshare 'rant' decks. 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.
Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult
Middle-of-the-funnel content (or MoFU as I 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).
Thinking beyond the B2B case study
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. The customer's issue is given a cursory glance in the first paragraph and this is then followed by 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.)
The mid-funnel balancing act
If top-of-funnel content answers why? and bottom-of-the-funnel material answers what?, mid-funnel 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.
Some mid-funnel content ideas to get you started
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
While mid-funnel content can be difficult, the fact that it is a relatively uncontested area and has the potential to have a significant impact on overall success means that it offers real opportunities for B2B marketers willing to grasp the nettle.
Image by Alberto Otero García