Jewel Marketing
Taiwan Content Marketing

The Content Marketing Funnel: A Stage-By-Stage Guide

Different marketers have slightly different views of the marketing funnel, and some differing names for the stages, and how many there are. But viewed through a content marketing lens, the funnel has three stages -- awareness, consideration, and lead-gen.

In a nutshell, awareness content talks about a problem your brand solves. Consideration content either mentions the solution, or talks about the solution (or a solution) somewhat, but it doesn't ask the reader for contact details, while lead-gen content makes that ask. And some pieces of content do more than one of these jobs at the same time.


Your prototypical piece of pure awareness content is a blog post that either talks about a problem your prospects are having, or it might be some type of industry-related opinion, commentary, or news that doesn't necessarily mention a problem, or at least not a problem your company solves. In other words, it talks about the customer's industry.

The purpose of this content, from the reader's point of view, is usually education, nothing more. And by "nothing more," I mean the blog might link to an external source, to another one of your blogs, or to some other educational page that you have, but it won't mention a product by name, it won't link to a product page, and it won't mention that you sell a particular category of products. If it does, it's not purely awareness anymore -- it's also consideration.

Awareness + Consideration

This is when you talk about a problem and mention the solution (which happens to be a particular product that you sell or a category of products that you sell), and typically you'll link to it. Or it's when you talk about an industry issue and mention and/or link to your relevant products (i.e., to learn more about how XYZ technologies is using artificial intelligence click here).

There are two important things to note here. First, not all of your awareness content needs to also be consideration (your brand will seem needy if it is). And second, if you have a piece of pure awareness content, and you think linking it directly to a consideration/lead-gen piece is too eager, you should at least try to have it link to a piece like this.


Consideration content is about one of your products, or a category of your products, or about some feature or technology related to your products (explicitly). And pure consideration content is fairly rare (usually it gets paired off with awareness or lead-gen). But when it does exist, it might be a blog that introduces a new product feature (or software update) that's being rolled out.

Or it might be a piece that educates readers about how different categories of your products compare to each other (i.e., how your enterprise line of products differs from your SMB line), or it might be a piece that focuses on some particular proprietary feature that you offer (i.e., why your touchscreens are better than your competitor's).

Or it might be a piece focused on a particular model and the problems it solves (i.e., Five data recovery problems the XYZ solves). However, be aware that mentioning the problem doesn't also make the content awareness in this instance, because the content is about the product, not the problem. If the blog is about the problem (i.e., Five common problems in data recovery) and mentions the XYZ briefly at the end, then the blog is awareness + consideration.

And please note, consideration content doesn't ask for contact details directly, and it doesn't try try to steer you or direct you to the "Contact Us" page either. Put another way, pure consideration sells, or at least it talks about what you sell, but it doesn't ask for anything.

Lead Generation

Lead-gen content, on the other hand, either explicitly asks for contact details, or it directly leads you to the "Contact Us" page some other way. And please note that I did not use the word "product" or "solution" in the previous sentence, which means you can, in fact, skip directly from awareness to lead-gen without consideration, and there are content pieces that do this (more in the next section).

In fact, unlike with the other two upper funnel stages, there is no such as pure lead-gen content, because the ask is what makes it lead-gen, and you either talk about what you sell along with that (consideration) or you don't (awareness).

As to what pure lead-gen content is, most product/solution pages and materials qualify, as do most case studies. However, if a case study really explores the problem in depth, perhaps while offering some genuine insights, while keeping the product details to a minimum, it can also be considered awareness (i.e., it's not the "Customer X had a problem. We solved it. The end," type of case study).

Please note that if your website is designed in such a way that contact fields are present at the bottom of every webpage, that doesn't automatically make every webpage lead-gen, and we'll get into why a little later.

Awareness + Lead-Gen

This might be a whitepaper (often gated) on some advanced topic you don't sell anything for, at least not yet. Or it might be a whitepaper or e-book on some problem faced by customers, in which case the purpose in giving you their email address might be to receive some type of sales materials. Or it might be a blog that starts out as awareness (i.e., talks about a problem), briefly alludes to the fact that you sell something that solves it (but doesn't really get into specifics), then makes an ask (to learn about how we're solving cybersecurity problems -- please contact us).

Consideration + Lead-Gen

Many public sales materials tick both of these boxes (most assets designed for print will steer people towards the ask). However, online materials can be a little trickier. If your website has contact fields at or near the very bottom of every webpage, it can be hard to know if a product page or blog that talks extensively about a product is also lead-gen.

Well think about it this way. In lead-gen content, the ask is immediate. Right when the content ends. And the authors will try to make sure you don't miss it. But on things like product pages, there might be warranty information, other fine print, or a menu with similar products, separating the product content from the contact fields.

And with a blog, there may be a menu with more blog articles separating the content from them contact fields. In both instances, there's a decent possibility the reader won't find those contact fields. And in a case like that, it's not lead-gen, because lead-gen leaves nothing to chance.

And in case you're wondering, if you have contact fields at the bottom of a page where there's no separation, such as your About Us page or your Governance page, this isn't lead-gen either. And the reason why is because anyone contacting you from there isn't looking to buy from you. They're probably a journalist or an investor. And it's up to you whether or not you want to count that stuff as marketing content at all.

Awareness + Consideration + Lead-Gen

This is the holy trinity. The content marketing triple Axel. Something that talks extensively about the problem, your solution for it, and gets contact details. Typically it's a solutions guide, though it might be a whitepaper (though some might take issue with calling something that sells a whitepaper), or a top-notch in-depth case study. And don't try to shortcut this. Anything that covers all three stages is going to be long, and best served in attractive PDF form with nice figures, tables, and illustrations -- so don't be cheap here.

How Does Brand-Level Content Fit In?

It's important to remember that what I've been talking about up till now is marketing content. But what about brand-level content that talks about you? Your employee stories? Your CSR activities? Your company history? Some might consider such content awareness, but brand-level content doesn't really work like marketing awareness content, at least not in B2B, because it's rarely the first step in a customer's interactions with you (i.e., typically audiences consume this content after they're somewhat familiar with you).

And what's more, marketing only worries about customers (even if it involves manipulating other audiences like journalists), while brand worries about other audiences as well, such as jobseekers.

Therefore, in terms of "marketing funnel scorekeeping" (more on this later) I'd only count brand-level content if it also happens to a perform marketing funnel function (i.e., it happens to mention a problem you solve or something about your products or solutions, even if that's not really why it was made). And if it doesn't perform a marketing funnel function, I wouldn't count it.

However, just because a piece of content doesn't count as part of the marketing funnel, doesn't mean it doesn't count. Because if a piece of content is good, it still very much matters to the funnel, because good content is brandbuilding, and brandbuilding serves all funnel stages simultaneously, making them all function better, even if the influence of any one piece of content, or even all of these pieces, can't really be measured.

So What's A Balanced Content Marketing Diet?

Nobody knows what an optimal balance of content in terms of all three funnel stages (anyone who says they do is lying). Even if they've figured it out for a certain situation, it won't be replicable. But in terms of the bare minimum for each stage, I would say that you want your content marketing funnel to at least look like a funnel. That means for every piece (x) that does lead-gen, you want at least two pieces (x+1) doing consideration, and three pieces (x+2) doing awareness.

And this goes for your overall mix, and for your high-value products/solutions (it may be impossible to do this for all your products/solutions if you have a lot of them). Of course, as stated earlier, some pieces can do more than one job. And some consideration or lead-gen pieces can do it for more than one product. But you at least want your boxes ticked in this ratio.

Beyond that, once you've got a nominal funnel that has an amount of consideration and lead-gen content that you're comfortable with (start from the bottom and work your way up), try widening the top (i.e., go big on awareness), because you can never really have too much awareness.