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
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-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
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.