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Addressing the Marketing Funnel Is Not Enough

9 min read

I was asked a great question the other day: can you give examples of different types of content in the Funnel?

I love this question because it allows me to address my favorite subject: the marketing funnel vs the knowledge funnel. If you are familiar with the Challenger Sale, a B2B sales methodology, then you know it’s about educating your prospect and making them think about their situation differently. The approach has you confronting the prospect with a familiar scenario — and offering them an insight that they hadn’t considered. That insight then has them questioning the status quo – and considering an alternative. 

It’s at that point that a person might be ready to go through the different stages of the sales or pipeline funnel. But what about all the work to get them there? How do you jolt them into thinking differently?

This is what I’d consider top of the knowledge funnel. The potential customer has no awareness of the problem. No idea of your solution. You might wonder how this is different from the top of a marketing funnel normally called TOFU. I’ll give you an example. 

Say you are a foot apparel store. A great top-of-funnel story might be Types of Boots for Hiking

But what if the person has lived their whole life barefoot and never heard of boots? Any marketing campaign for this person would be a waste of money. You have to take it up a notch and explain how they can live a better life by wearing shoes. 

That probably seems far-fetched, but unless you are selling a me-too product — with price being the only differentiator, chances are you are competing against the status quo. The thing is, once you get a prospective customer thinking about changing their status quo, you can start guiding them into the true top-of-funnel content. 

Knowledge Funnel vs Top of Funnel Content

So let’s stick with our simple shoe example, and think about what type of content might get this person’s attention. Let’s focus on improving that person’s life — no more stub toes, no cold or wet feet, no stepping on sharp stones that will cut you — and potentially cause an infection. 

Notice a pattern? We are focusing on the pain. For you to create true knowledge funnel content, you need to understand the pain. And that can be difficult, unless we really understand all the behaviors that your product can help. 

I’ve been in the search engine business for a long time. And all of the companies I worked for promised they could improve customer experience. But that alone didn’t move the needle because there are probably 10,000 companies that can claim they improve the customer experience. One of our top of the knowledge funnel statements was to say we can eliminate the swivel chair dilemma. 

Say, what?

When you call into any regulated company that has a call center, agents will ask you for your personal information as they get into their system. That system is on one screen. When you ask a question, the agent has to “swivel” to another screen to look up the answer. Sometimes, the original screen with your personal information will time out — meaning the agent has to ask you the question again — likely annoying you — and frustrating the agent.

As part of our content marketing strategy, we created top of knowledge funnel content that identified and defined this “swivel chair dilemma:” What it is, the challenges associated with it, how it impacts customer service and satisfaction.

Once we did this, we could address how this newly identified pain could be solved. And this is when you can cross over to the traditional marketing funnel: 

How solving the swivel chair dilemma will improve customer satisfaction.

Challenges With Finding Knowledge Funnel Content

Finding this very specific pain point that resonated with call center managers was key to the success of this knowledge funnel content. It doesn’t happen easily, and really requires either extensive research by your content team or your product marketers to unearth it. A query into ChatGPTt might point you in a direction, but it isn’t going to lay it out. If it were so easy, your competitors would be all over it. 

And it isn’t necessarily a pain that will surface in routine calls with prospects. They might complain about agent churn, but they may not realize that this situation was helping to cause ‌agent and customer frustration. So be prepared to dig a bit. Ask lots of questions: why are they so frustrated? What specifically is causing that frustration? Does it occur all the time, if not, then under what conditions? 

There are some visionaries who can see the advantages of your product and will craft their own knowledge funnel without your help. But they’re unicorns.

Knowledge Funnel Format Types

A variety of format types can address Knowledge Funnel topics – it really depends on the product and types of resources you have on board. Staples include:

  • Explainer Video
  • Blog post
  • Ebook/white paper
  • Webinar

 Move Visitors From Knowledge Funnel Into TOFU

Once you’ve piqued your audience’s attention by introducing them to a pair of boots – or some insight that breaks the status quo, pull then into a customer journey. This is the awareness stage. Look to create a story line or journey of content that takes them into your traditional marketing funnel

If they like the concept of [boots], create a library of content around how boots can help – from a variety of different angles. The Top of Funnel cross-over content will tend to be around top-level questions again. 

Why Is X a problem

  • What Are the challenges
  • Why Is It Important
  • How Does it Help?

MarketMuse makes it easy for content marketers to research typical questions. Under research, type in your topic and click on the Questions tab.

PROTIP: if the search volume is low, consider addressing the question as a subtopic in your article. If it has a high search volume, you might want to consider creating it as its own asset.

Types of TOFU Assets:

Some great TOFU format types include

  • Authoritative blog post
  • Webinar 
  • White papers/ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts 

My recommendation is, if you are a small team, focus your marketing efforts on one or two of those format types. My go-to content strategy is blog posts. Over time, you can add more assets. I’d also recommend un-gating all of these TOFU asset types. Anyone who gives you their name at this stage shouldn’t be considered a lead. If they are asking about why something’s helpful – they are in no way shape or form ready to buy.

Make sure this content is well-optimized for search engines. You are educating people, so you should plan to go deep into the subject. 

Middle of Funnel (MOFU) Assets

When your prospect starts anticipating how your product might help them, they will start asking “near me” type questions. Think of when you are looking to find a shoe store or find an Italian restaurant, you want them “near you.”

This is the consideration stage.  Your target audience will start to search for topics with prepositional phrases to see how your product can meet their specific needs, e.g. near, with, without, to, from, for: 

These needs might be: 

  • For a certain type of person or role within a company, (e.g. marketers) or industries (e.g. retail)
  • Be able to integrate with other tools
  • Accomplish without coding
  • Made of or from certain materials
  • To secure 

Protip: You don’t know which specific need is the most critical for your prospect. Plan on creating awareness from many angles.

MOFU Format Types

People often don’t think of blogs as being ideal for MOFU content – but I strongly disagree. I’ve had terrific success creating a journey flow from KF -> TOFU -> MOFU -> BOFU – using just blogs. 

The key is specificity. If you are lacking specifics because you are lacking domain experts, consider hosting a webinar with other thought leaders or consultants who can help pull out the specifics. Then create a blog from that asset. 

So great format types are:

  • Blog post
  • Webinar
  • White paper/ebook
  • Industry report
  • Documentation/user manuals

Middle of Funnel content is addressing a long tail – so can easily be optimized for search engines. Do it well, and you’ll win it 

 Bottom of Funnel (BOFU)

In consumer, when a potential customer is asking for a price, a sample, or a discount, you know they’re ready to buy.  Identifying the conversion stage in B2B is a bit harder to pin down – because there can be so many people in the buying group. But the following topics that help a person validate their decision are good indicators they’re ready to buy. 

  • This vs.
  • Best Types of X 
  • Success metrics (around customer testimonials)

BOFU Format Types

If they are truly ready to buy, then any of the following marketing material types can be effective:

  • Blog post
  • White paper
  • Coupon
  • Social Media
  • Demo
  • Customer Testimonials
  • Industry Report
  • Ask for a Meeting

These become highly qualified leads that your sales team should be joyful over. 

Customer Retention /Repeat Customer

It goes without saying, that content marketing is a terrific tool for customer retention and customer loyalty. Consider creating a customer newsletter that highlights new applications, upgrades, or other awareness tips around your product or brand. This is a terrific tactic for getting a repeat customer — or upsell/cross sell. Additionally, the marketer who cultivates satisfied customers will find that they can garner customer testimonials to be a brand advocate.  

Understand Funnel Stage Intent

One of the big mistakes sales and marketing management make is thinking sales is a linear flow. It isn’t. The more expensive the product, the more people involved in the buying decision. You can easily need an exponential amount of content to anticipate their needs. Which is why the inverted marketing funnel needs more at the top.  

But then make sure that your website is well-organized to help visitors find to guide them to those few albeit impactful pieces at the bottom. With good internal linking and a couple different calls to action — you can get interested prospects to that BOFU content as soon as they are interested.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Diane Burley has three decades experience creating high-impact content at scale. As a published author and seasoned technologist, she translates complex concepts into clear, engaging messaging that connects with audiences. She can help you build a content factory that drives results.