I got dozens of responses back. Really, if you’re in the throes of building a marketing team for a start-up, have a whizz through the answers. It’s a masterclass.
Lots of B2B companies do ‘marketing stuff’ in the early days of their journey to build an audience of their prospective customers.
Maybe they start a podcast or get their CEO to join a Clubhouse room every hour. Maybe they collect emails for a newsletter or jump on Twitch for a product demo live stream.
All of this probably feels very good. It also doesn’t really mean anything.
It’s like opening the fridge to find the ingredients to make a soup and throwing everything from the vegetables to the leftover cat food into a pot. Sure, technically you’re doing it, but the result isn’t going to be pretty.
You need a funnel. A way of illustrating where in the buying journey your prospects reside and the steps they need to take to edge them closer to signing a dotted line.
Without it, you’ll never build a solid content moat. You’ll simply push stuff out into the ether and hope something sticks.
So, where do you start?
The first thing I’d say is this; don’t overcomplicate it. Trying to map the intricacies of the human psyche and how it influences buying behaviour into a single formula is ludicrous. You’re not trying to go toe-to-toe with Freud – you’re simply creating a framework for yourself to put some structure around your efforts.
Speak to a dozen of your customers. Ask them to describe the typical journey they go on to research, evaluate and select new products and where they’re finding their information. Consolidate your findings into a simple, three-stage funnel – Awareness, Interest and Conversion. You can also add more stages later down the line, including ones for post-sale.
Next, jot down the types of content and channels that you’ll use to reach customers in each of these stages. Remember, you’re building the foundations here. Don’t get caught up trying to be everywhere, all the time. Focus on what you can do with the time and resources you have.
You may end up with something like this.
Organic channels where you can entertain/educate/engage your customers
Social or podcast
Organic or paid channels where you can establish intent for purchase.
Landing pages and lead magnets
Channels where you can capture intent and begin the sales process
Product demo webinars or tech specs
Again, I cannot stress this enough – keep it simple. Develop the process. Add more stages/channels/content when you start to feel comfortable.
So you’ve got the beginnings of your funnel. Now what?
Working with sales, you need to establish a simple lead scoring programme; something that will help you evaluate the quality of your prospects and save you from getting flak for sending them dud opportunities.
For me, there are two metrics you have to measure from the beginning – Customer Fit and Engagement Level.
- Customer Fit is a score that evaluates whether the person or company is your target customer. Are they from the right sector? Will they have the right budget? Are they the right seniority? That kind of thing.
- Engagement Level quantifies the level of each interaction a prospect has with your brand. The higher the score, the more engaged they are with your content.
Using both of these scores, you can agree on a threshold that must be reached before a subscriber becomes an opportunity and worthy of being handed over to sales.
(This isn’t an exact science and requires a degree of common sense. If the CEO of your dream account downloads a white paper but falls below your threshold, it’s worth making contact regardless)
But if you do everything I’ve described here in the early days of running a start-up, you will be saving yourself a lot of heartache around attribution and velocity as you begin to scale.
Now, one final thing to mention.
The key to making all of this work is using the right tooling. It’s tempting to try and hack together a martech stack made up of a few $19.99 p/m tools, but take it from me – it’s not worth it.
You’ll spend way too much time trying to piece together insights about your audience across analytics dashboards or hooking the products up to talk to each other in the way you’d like.
Invest in a platform like Hubspot to manage your funnel, build your lead scoring programme and analyse your audience – it may seem pricey in the early days, but it will repay you with dividends very, very quickly.
(I am not sponsored by Hubspot – I just love their product)
Building a content moat is the main differentiator a B2B company can invest in to leave its competitors fading away in the rear-view mirror. But creating for creation sake is pointless; you need to establish a solid structure around it that measures intent to maximise your chances of converting that audience into customers. After all, isn’t that what we’re all here to do?