Everybody harbors stereotypes about middle children. Different. Strange. Independent. Neglected. Lost.
Well, content marketing has a middle child, and it is called middle of the funnel content. You could use any one of those four aforementioned adjectives to describe marketers’ treatment of content formats sandwiched between the top of the marketing funnel and the bottom. And it’s easy to understand why.
The top of the funnel – what I like to call Education and Awareness
is a fun and rewarding place to be. Attracting attention, making promises, offering the world all kinds of fun, free information … it’s a marketer’s dream, and a highly rewarding place to be. Plus, you can quantify your results. Who doesn’t love to count up the number of clicks, reads, downloads, leads and other hand-raises you’re producing?
The bottom of the funnel – what I like to call Execution and Acquisition
It’s harder work than what you do at the top of the funnel. But the end result – converting a prospect into a paying customer and producing revenue in the door – is another measurable act that we love to see and, ultimately, our bosses pay us to produce.
That leaves us with the soft middle – what I like to call Evaluation and Appraisal
So working here is not as much fun as operating at the top or bottom of the funnel. But just like a middle child has an essential role in the family (I do love my middle brother and sister after all), middle of the funnel content is critically important to your content plan.
But it’s important not to overthink it. I hate overthinking! (It’s a last child thing.) Here’s how to keep it simple. Middle content’s functions are to:
- Provide more education
- Reveal in-depth answers
- Relay deeper expertise and experience
- Foster familiarity
- Build trust
- Answer questions
In short, you’re spanning the divide between prospect and conversion. That switch doesn’t just happen. There needs to be a bridge. Middle of the funnel content focuses on the education, insights, facts, data and third-party endorsements that a prospect requires to learn more and get comfortable with the idea of buying from you.
7 super middle of the funnel content formats:
So you’re convinced: Your middle of the funnel content is getting short shrift, and you need to shore it up. But how? What content formats are best for the challenge at hand?
Seven formats do a super job of solving for your middle of the funnel needs. Here they are. We’ve got deeper-dive articles exploring the details and intricacies of many of these formats, so just click-and-go for details and how-to insights related to the concepts you think might work best for you.
And remember: Don’t overthink things! Start small and pick out one or two middle funnel formats, get them going, and then tackle another one. The idea is to end up with a few middle funnel formats that fit you, your buyer persona and your style … and that get the job done.
There’s no better way to educate a prospect then to let them see how someone similar to them solved a problem. And, conveniently, there you are as part of the solution. Case studies are a key middle-funnel format.
Every marketer needs to be doing a regular newsletter or other “stay-in-touch” format that relays their expertise, experience, capabilities and actions. Newsletters are a long-term play for keeping your name and ideas in front of folks who may not need you right now, but will in the future.
Some content marketers also consider white papers as top-of-funnel material. But I think they work better (in most cases) in the middle of the funnel. Whitepapers are a little “drier” and much more in-depth than Ebooks. But they perform essential work diving into details, data and facts that your prospect values.
Create interactive tools your prospect can use. An ROI calculator is the typical example, and a good one. But there’s so much more you can do. Examples include a color matching and selection guide for a decorating product or service, or a project planner for almost any kind of service or business. Make it something useful.
This one is about as simple as you can get. Review your social media and other correspondence, talk to your account managers or Customer Service, and create a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website. Prospects want answers. Fast. Help them find those answers quickly and easily.
This one gets us into advanced middle of the funnel shenanigans. But when you’re ready, e-mail marketing, including lead nurturing through marketing automation, adds some science and measurability to your middle of the funnel techniques. You’ll probably need some help here. HubSpot is one of the best resources we know to get you on track. And it does a whole lot more.
You’re getting into the bigger leagues, and investing some more dollars, with video. But now that you’ve established a relationship with a prospect, video is a great way to get personal, create memorable impact, and do it in a format that is both familiar and easily digested.
When you’re dealing with content and the marketing funnel, it’s easy to focus on what’s most rewarding and measurable. Educating and building awareness at the top, and then executing your vision and acquiring customers at the bottom, are the high-visibility steps that everybody concentrates on. But don’t forget the middle child — middle of the funnel content, and the evaluation and appraisal functions it provides. Without it, you don’t have a family – or a meaningful content plan – at all.