Content Down the Funnel

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Content Down the Funnel
Content Down the Funnel

This article is a continuation of a previous feature and web story on content marketing.

While becoming a content machine is great for demonstrating thought leadership or branding, at the end of the day, it's all about the money. What's the point of content if it doesn't lead to sales? For CPGs, content pushes the brand top-of-mind so you remember to pick up, say, a six pack of Coca-Cola next time you're in the supermarket. But what about big-ticket items where the buying process is way more research-intensive and prolonged?

Cyber-security software company Sourcefire develops its content to score prospects as they navigate down the sales funnel. At a certain point—usually indicated when a prospect interacts with a certain piece of content—the individual becomes either a warm or hot lead. A hot lead (for instance, a prospect who downloads a Sourcefire-produced whitepaper about the company's vision for a new model of cyber security) goes directly to the sales force while a warm lead (for instance, a prospect who downloads a third-party piece of content on the Sourcefire site) goes through what company CMO Marc Solomon calls “the demand-creation route.”

This demand-creation route, as Solomon describes it, entails sending additional emails or content that might be interesting to prospects based on their browsing history. Following this, Sourcefire will attempt to reach out and have a conversation. “There's no better way to engage someone than by talking to them, if they so desire,” Solomon says. “And by getting an appointment, you can be turned into a hot lead.”

Sourcefire's content strategy effectively provides a road map that allows the sales team to see what type of content the prospect looked at and, based on that, develop a clearer picture of that individual's particular needs. The important element, Solomon emphasizes, is to let the prospect dictate the type of engagement Sourcefire should initiate.

It's a sentiment echoed by Karen Guglielmo, content marketing manager at record management services provider Iron Mountain. “The [customer] journey dictates the message,” she says. Iron Mountain's buyer persona drives its content blueprint.  “We've understood our buyers very well for years and years and we wanted to take what we knew about our buyers through the persona work we'd done and map out what we understood to be their journey.”

The purpose of Iron Mountain's content, says Guglielmo, is to incrementally move prospects from one piece of content to the next, thereby driving that individual further down the sales cycle. It's a philosophy Guglielmo describes as “a methodic approach to the call-to-action.” If Iron Mountain gets someone to download a certain piece of content or to watch a video, the goal is to get that individual to take the next step—which can be a conversion, or can be accessing another piece of content that, ultimately, will lead down the conversion pathway.

“Further down in the funnel, different types of content will make that financial justification,” Guglielmo says. Iron Mountain typically reaches out to business advocates first, then hopes that that advocate will go back to the various organizational stakeholders who can execute the sale. At this stage, the company produces content that can help empower that advocate to make a compelling case.

“An ROI calculator or case studies become really important,” Guglielmo says. “When you get further down into the funnel, it's one thing to provide sales enablement to our salespeople, but with content it's very much advocate enablement. You're providing content so the advocate becomes the seller.”

Next week: Measuring Content.

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