Explaining Content Marketing Needs

There are a lot of ways of cutting your content. Recently, in working with a new team, I created a bit of a  content description scheme, as I did not see one that allowed me to communicate my content needs as clearly as I would have liked.  The nomenclature is not new, but by sticking to it, I’ve honed the process with this.  My goal here is to communicate the intended use of each piece of content to those that create and curate content.

So have a look.  It’s pretty intuitive and is based on the content consumer’s place in the marketing funnel.  As you develop content, make sure you create the right kind and quantity of content at each stage, designed to be at that stage of the buyer’s journey.  Let me know what you think!

 Top of Funnel Content

This is content used to entice new prospects to download or read a piece of content.  Often, social networks and other paid advertising are employed to use content to attract new people to engage with.  Topics tend to be in the “we know something that you should know and you can see it here” promotional category.  There are essentially two forms that are important and they fall into the simple categories of long form and short form

Top of Funnel – Short Form  These are articles that run 500-600 words.  Single topic, quick-read content.  These are often denoted as “blog posts.”  They are social friendly and have provocative titles.  Promotion of this style content is limited to the character limits of social networks and standard social graphics.  So a “must read” subject, supported by a sexy title and promoted with eye-catching graphics on social is the goal here.

Top of Funnel – Long Form  Much content falls into the “long form” bucket.  These are white papers, eBooks, Infographics and videos.  Longer topics, more in-depth research than the short-form, usually about 2000-2500 words.  Often addresses recent innovations, best practices, changes in legislation, economic or demographic trends., etc.  While these would also be promoted via social, this is the content used for PPC programs such as LinkedIn, Google AdWords, banner runs and newsletter sponsorships.  May be “gated” to gather emails and basic info.

You have to “market” this type of longer form content to get interest.  Sell what the recipient will learn and why they absolutely must learn this now.  Webinars have long been marketed in this way and the technique works also for other forms of content.

Marketing Funnel v1

Middle of Funnel Content

Once someone enters the funnel by responding to one of your outreaches or visiting your website, they move the next level of content, commonly known as “middle of the funnel.”  These folks have graduated from “suspect” to “prospect” in old marketing parlance.  The content length often falls between the two examples above.  Middle of the funnel content can take all of the forms above (White Paper, eBook, infographic, video, etc.) but should be shorter, more to the point.  Perhaps the equivalent of 800-1200 words.  The need for these fall into 3 categories:

Middle of Funnel – Lead Nurturing Track  For most of the prospects acquired through the techniques above, they will not purchase right away and the becomes keeping your brand in front of them and educating them.  This is called lead nurturing.  Use their email to market to them and lead them through a process that teaches them about the world the brand lives in and show them useful content that will assist them in their work and enhances the brand, i.e. make them think there are very smart people at your company.

You can also work in an occasional “hard offer” into the stream, maybe one for every 4-5 content pieces. Whenever possible, this content should be on the website, necessitating visitors to spend time on our website where they can see branding and potentially navigate to some of your other content.

This is the area where marketing automation and lead scoring have the highest value.  Ideally, these systems get more intelligent and recognize actions prospects take and deliver content accordingly. When a sales team is involved, this is where the goal is to select the highest-value prospects for phone contact and salesperson follow up based on how they have interacted with your content.

Middle of Funnel – Website  Much of the content on a website is of this style.  It can be merchandised nicely on the web as well.  On the web, content can be interactive, which makes it more engaging.

Case studies, press releases, news articles, and company information, the things that are the basics (and most popular) of website content are all middle of the funnel content.  It’s important that a website answer as many of a prospects questions as possible, while promoting a leadership image.  The highest-end marketing automation systems can deliver specific content to web visitors.

Middle of Funnel – Retargeting  There’s a unique opportunity to market to people who have visited your website, known as Google retargeting.  People who visited a website can be displayed a marketing message for up to 90 days.  The will see “banners” from your brand as they visit websites that are part of the Google ad network.

Topics for retargeting are much the same as the middle of the funnel (i.e. “must click” content), but can also be augmented by competitive comparisons to your product or data that suggests how much better things go when following best practices.

Bottom of Funnel Content

At the bottom of the funnel are the prospects most likely to convert.  In fact, nearly all future customers spend some time here.  Specific content that is delivered at this stage include specifics of the service, pricing information and contract details.  Case studies are also a powerful tool in the last mile, especially when the case being studied looks like the prospect.

Content written for this stage could include last-mile actionable and persuasive content.  These can be delivered through a last-mile campaign via marketing automation-generated emails or web content and sales team follow up.

Thought Leadership Content

A major part of a differentiation strategy includes being promoted as an industry “thought leader.”  Often these are articles placed in industry publications, under one of the company executives byline.  Detailed, relevant and actionable content addressing long-term industry macro issues or analysis of short term changes in laws or market forces are popular.

Webinars can also be used for this type of content.  Getting out in front of an industry issue and sharing experience and solutions can enhance a company’s brand and webinars are a unique way to deliver this message.  Webinars can also be recorded and live on as visual content.


This is a quick overview of a content strategy, that is broken down by position in the funnel.  When building a content strategy, it’s critical to do everything possible to deliver the right content for where the prospect is in the buying journey.  In practice, you’ll be testing each of these stops on the buyer’s journey and looking to improve the effectiveness of each path.

Does this match with your experience?  What changes would you make?