Content marketing assumes your brand's marketing funnel is in fact a funnel. Though
there is disagreement about what role content should play in that funnel. Most orthodox
say that content marketing's job is to get prospects in the funnel, while getting
them down the funnel is someone else's job, or a matter of external factors. Others
believe content maybe should also encourage or nudge prospects down the funnel. And
still others believe content should try to drag people down the funnel aggressively.
Whatever your feelings on that, let's step back for a moment and question the
underlying assumption. What if your content marketing funnel isn't actually a funnel
at all? You might look at this question incredulously and say, "Of course it is. What
else would it be?" Well, a funnel is funnel-shaped. Wider at the top and narrowing on
the way down. But is that what you really have? Or is it maybe something else?
The Marketing Straw
You have this when you have a marketing funnel with no top, and you spend all your time
trying to miraculously catch prospects with that really skinny part at the bottom. When
you're marketing through a straw, everything is "sell, sell, sell."" Every social media
post from your brand has a model number in it. Every content piece asks for an email
address. You're always pressing, like an overeager young man who thinks the secret to
seduction is effort.
Well, a straw sucks, literally. Even with unlimited prospective customers out there,
catch a few, through great effort. And most B2B businesses are in industries
that are nowhere near unlimited, with only a small percentage of prospects looking to
buy at any one time. And if you think you're ever going to catch a whale with a straw,
If you're wondering if this might be you, here's a simple test. If the answer to every
question in your marketing department is "leads," you might very well be.
The Marketing Hula Hoop
This is pretty much the opposite of a marketing straw, a funnel that is all top and no
bottom, where prospects do nothing but circle. All your efforts are devoted to keeping
that circling going, which does bring more prospects into your orbit through those sexy
rhythmic motions that you make, but those prospects remain largely in the friend zone,
If your brand is marketing with a hula hoop, you've probably got a well-populated blog,
good website traffic, respectable social media numbers, and slick-looking marketing
assets all around. But you're spending a fortune to keep things that way. And spending
more only seems to bring in more followers, pageviews, and advertising awards, instead
of more paying customers.
Some would say having a hula hoop is not such a bad position to be in, since mindshare
seems to be proving more important to B2B marketing than previously thought. And I
agree, a hula hoop is probably better than marketing through a straw, because your
problems are easier to fix, and it's better to be known than unknown. But, if your
brand has a lot of mindshare, and it's not manifesting as market dominance -- something
is very wrong.
Because it means you're doing your competitors' job for them. You're educating the
market, while someone else monetizes it, like a parasite. How does this happen? It
could be a lot of reasons. But if you're a content marketer in this situation, you need
to take a good look at your content mix, and what it's doing.
You might be producing a lot of content that amuses or educates your target audience,
but isn't really relevant to your business. Or you might be producing content that's
relevant, but only in terms of what problems your audience faces, with no information
included about what you actually sell, or why people should buy it.
And if your brand is engaged in hula-hoop marketing, there's a good chance that you
view your audience more as fans instead of prospective customers, with the answer to
every marketing question something non-salesy like "followers" or "relevance" or
Your Prospects Need A Balanced Content Diet
Of course, no single word should be the answer to every marketing question. And when it
comes to content, a functioning funnel needs a mix of content at each stage, and the
mix should indeed look like a funnel (i.e., more awareness content than consideration,
and more consideration than lead-gen).
If you've got the same number ticked at each level, you've got a marketing straw,
which means you end up looking needy, which erodes your brand strength. And if you've
got more boxes ticked at the bottom than the top, you've still got a marketing straw,
because that narrow part at the top as wide as a straw is still where everyone enters.
However, it's worth nothing that if you find your content mix bottom-heavy because
you're always being asked by salespeople to write lead-gen content for trade shows and
whatnot, this is not a sign that you should stop doing it -- it's a sign that you need
more content (and more writers).
If you've got just awareness and maybe some lead-gen but very little consideration
content, you're either shy about selling, or you think you're too pure sell.
Unfortunately, many of content marketing's dominant thought leaders (i.e., the
world-famous ones) encourage this mindset.
If your brand is in this situation, sure you'll get some leads, but they'll often be
poor quality, because they've contacted you without learning much about what you sell
first, which means your salespeople may end up spending an inordinate amount of time
trying to educate them, only to lose a lot of them to competitors anyway who offer a
better match to their needs.
Read more about what a balanced content diet means in terms of the marketing funnel