Content Marketing Can’t Just Be a Top-Funnel Activity

Good journalists and good marketers have something in common: They’re obsessed with understanding their audience so they can help people learn something new.

That was the first thing I realized when I left the journalism world to become Contently’s editor-in-chief six years ago. We constantly surveyed our audience in hopes of answering their biggest content marketing questions.

The formula was simple: If we could show people how to create better content and succeed at their jobs, they’d trust us and want to partner with Contently. It worked. Our inbound lead machine via The Content Strategist helped make us a top 100 company on the Inc 5000.

You see the same pattern with every content marketing success story. Marriott Bonvoy Traveler helps people travel and drives tons of bookings as a result. Chase’s News and Stories answers important finance questions, earning the trust of readers who then apply for credit cards and loans. Cardinal Health’s Essential Insights is a go-to resource for healthcare administrators. (Full disclosure: These are Contently clients.) It’s impossible to be successful at content marketing without helping your audience.

The best content marketers have gotten pretty comfortable mastering the top of the funnel. But if we really want to serve our audience, we need to go past it.

The Limits of a Top-Funnel Mindset

One of the worst things we can do is treat content marketing as just a top-of-funnel activity.

That’s a mistake I made at first—build an audience, earn trust, drive leads. That was my job, and whatever happened after wasn’t my responsibility. Sure, I always made sure that our sales team knew about all the material they could send prospects, but I didn’t fully consider the powerful role content should have throughout the customer journey. Over the past few years, I’ve seen the harsh limits of a top-of-funnel mindset.

If great content matters at the top of the funnel, it only becomes more important once someone turns into a marketing qualified lead—especially with more complex B2B solutions. Today’s sellers have to be consultative. You need to understand the unique challenge of each prospect and how your company’s offering can fit in as a solution.

Graphic via SocialToaster

In Contently’s case, for instance, that means being able to explain the role content plays in everything from strategic initiatives like a rebrand (“How do we make people think of us differently?”) to digital transformation (“OMG how do we stop acting like it’s 2002?”) to tactical channel marketing (SEO, Social, Paid, etc.)

Sellers shouldn’t have to do that all on their own. They need compelling stories in their sales decks and nurture streams to develop a good relationship. And it’s marketing’s job to ensure every prospect has the same kind of positive experience regardless of who they’re talking to.

Because if all we do is disappoint them, what’s the point of earning their trust in the first place?

This challenge of mastering content throughout the customer journey is something I’ll be writing about all year—and talking about in a few weeks. If you’re going to The ContentTech Summit in San Diego, stop by my talk on Wednesday, April 10th at 2:15 PM, or find me at the Contently booth and say hi.


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