How do you generate demand with audiences that may know nothing about what you sell?
We all know that good content, be it video or the written word, drives brand preference and helps make sales happen. But content is also what’s needed to create initial awareness. At the Awareness stage of the Customer Journey you are looking to attract people with problems that you can solve who are receptive to possible solutions.
Let’s be clear that content marketing is just one component of a demand generation strategy. Doing demand gen right involves many actions choreographed into a coherent whole: prospect research, identification of channels, often a (digital) media buy, email and/or social media marketing, the creation of assets like landing pages, intake forms and content built for all stages of the sales funnel. Not to mention proper coordination between marketing and sales teams, which can double or quadruple the results of the effort.
In sales-speak, the Awareness stage of the Customer Journey is commonly known as Top-of-Funnel. It’s where you start sorting out who your prospects actually are. Here is where demand generation begins—where you reach a vast number of people, hopefully driving large volumes of traffic into the sales funnel.
What kind of content does that? Well, things that you might not think of as ‘content’: Google Ads, search-optimized website copy, digital banner ads, LinkedIn ads and Instagram posts, to name a few, as well as some more general-appeal blog posts. You can use these to get attention and raise interest, in a very general sense, in the kinds of solutions you provide.
To generate demand, you need to get adequate reach for your above-Top-of-Funnel content in channels that your target audiences use. Channels that attract people interested in accounting software solutions will obviously be different from those used by people interested in buying a new sweater. The mechanics of Top-of-Funnel demand generation are simple: use a variety of channels to spark interest and drive prospects to a website landing page for further reading/watching.
Exchange contact info for valuable content
When you know your buyer personas, have chosen topics that are going to interest them and matched them with the correct channels, you can build a story and work towards dialogue. The goal at this stage is to convert them into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). At the landing page you want to get leads engaged enough to give you their contact information, which allows you to interact with them directly.
We usually make that happen by offering something in return, in the shape of a valuable piece of content like an eBook or a best practices guide. This, as well as the website they land on, is Middle-of-Funnel content. If prospects ‘bounce’ from the website without giving us their contact details, we still have tools such as remarketing (Google ads that follow you around as you browse the Internet) to get them back.
Marketing leads typically spend more time here, in the middle of the sales funnel, than at the top or the bottom. It's where we need to grow their interest so that they will move to the next stage via contact request, trial process, or when lead scoring software decides that they are ready for sales contact. Growing their interest, of course, is a job for content.
But it’s more than that. To keep the story going with Mid- and Bottom-of-Funnel content, you need to design the user experience so that it is easy to navigate, to find the next piece of the story that essentially explains how to solve the problem that the lead has. All the trouble you go to in order to grab attention and direct people to your site to, for example, read a blog article, needs to culminate in guiding them to other content pieces on the same topic.
Example of content at different stages of the sales funnel: Google ads in TOFU; a landing page, e-book and blog content in MIFU; and product pages and evaluation in BOFU.
The other trick has to do with speaking about your brand, your products and your services. While all content needs to be consistent and coherent to make the contact feel that they are interacting with the same company at all times, Top-of-Funnel content should be vendor-agnostic, i.e. talk not about your products or your brand, but rather speak generically about the solution to the prospect’s problem. But the further down the funnel you go, the more you should talk about your company’s products and services. The closer a prospect gets to a buying decision, the more receptive they get to a ‘sell’.
You will find selling easier when you generate demand and then provide valuable content that educates and builds preference for your brand. Can we help you with content strategy or demand generation? I welcome the opportunity to chat. firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about what we offer here.