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Content marketing, along with inbound marketing and marketing automation, is growing exponentially in importance. Gone are the days of brochure websites that occupy a dusty corner of the world wide web. Today, websites need to be dynamic and provide content relevant or useful to online searchers. Content is more than just blog posts. It can take the form of a meme or cartoon or product video; it can be a whitepaper, a top-ten list, or a song parody.

The truth is, content can really be anything. In an article from May of 2014, PR Daily listed 101 different types of content to help drive people to your website. But here’s the rub: The content must be strategically connected to your brand, provide value to visitors, and be appropriate to the buyer’s journey in order to attract, engage and convert users. This is what empowers marketers to nurture leads and better support sales efforts.

Each type of content has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, infographics, which present information or data visually, are frequently shared and viewed more often than other types of content. However, they are time consuming and can be costly to construct. Similarly, making good videos isn’t cheap, but they are great for presenting messages visually and memorably. On the other hand, lists don’t cost a lot to produce, whether they’re long or short. They are popular and relatively easy to write if you know your stuff.

While a successful content marketing strategy is not solely about the quantity of content produced, a good deal of content is needed to increase traffic to your website and capture lead information. Thankfully, content doesn’t have to be uniquely created by your business. Content can be “Expert content” which is credible third-party content or “User-generated content” created by your fans or followers – things like reviews or social media posts and testimonials. Your original content can also be repurposed into other forms for distribution on different channels or to target different personas.

Mapping or planning your content-distribution strategy based on the various buying stages of personas allows you to focus your content-creation efforts on just what interests your audience.


To assist mapping content to personas and each stage of the buying process, Hubspot has created a great template to walk you through the process.


Top of the funnel, or Awareness stage

At the top of the funnel are prospects who are in the Awareness stage. They are experiencing a problem and expressing symptoms related to that problem. These people are beginning to conduct research to give a name to and more clearly understand their problem. These prospects are “unqualified,” meaning they know little or nothing about your brand or product or service. Instead, they are simply searching for information related to their own experience.

Content created for this stage is not focused on your business; instead, it should focus on being helpful, attracting the attention of prospect, and improving search rankings in order to generate organic traffic. It should also be freely consumable, meaning that there is no form to fill out, or a very minimal form. Your visitors aren’t committed to you yet and are not prepared to trade much of their personal information for your content at this point.

Types of content include:

  • Blog Posts
  • Email Newsletters
  • Tip sheets
  • Checklists
  • Lists
  • Introductory e-books
  • Educational webinars
  • Infographics
  • Slideshows or SlideShare presentations
  • Educational podcasts
  • Guides/tutorials
  • Interviews
  • Templates
  • Cartoons/comics

Middle of the funnel, or Evaluation Stage

During this stage, the prospect has clearly defined and given a name to their problem. He or she has begun researching possible approaches and methods to solve the problem and is considering all possible solutions.  By demonstrating your helpfulness and establishing trust through your content, you can begin to lead the prospect to your solution using middle-of-the-funnel types of content.

These items are typically a little more in-depth – a little less of an overview. You can also ask for more information from your visitor or prospect because they are a little more committed to learning from you, thanks to the introductory content you’ve already offered and they’ve deemed valuable. Middle-of-the-funnel content could be:

  • Advanced e-books
  • White papers
  • Catalogues
  • Samples
  • Demo videos
  • Product spec sheets
  • Product webinars

Bottom of the funnel, or Decision stage

Prospects in the Decision stage are creating a short list of businesses or products that can solve their problem. These people are your sales-qualified leads. They’ve taken the time to view your other content, have selected a solution strategy and are now evaluating vendors. Content directed at these prospects is focused on your business and demonstrating why you are the best choice.

At this stage of the decision-making process, these prospects are committed to learning from you so you can ask for more information from them in order to facilitate your sales conversations. This content can include:

  • Live demo
  • Pricing page
  • Case study

Conclusion

Content and information can be presented in any number of ways through various delivery channels. However, you don’t need to use them all. Focus your content on your buyer’s journey and their decision making process. Don’t be afraid to try new types or formats, but carefully measure and report your success so that you can ultimately focus your time and budget on what suits your business and your audience.