The short answer is yes.
An elaborate answer is: yes, you need to continue creating funnel-wise content across all the stages of your PLC curve. If you want to keep your sales funnel alive and moving.
The purpose of this blog is to clarify that all content marketing principles, including creating content as per the TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU principles, apply till the time you want your product and brand to be alive.
I write these words in light of a recent conversation with well-meaning clients who thought that all their daily struggles with content creation were over. Because they diligently created funnel-wise content for a year. They benefited in several ways:
- pushed conversions to their funnel-level goals
- witnessed an overall increase in brand awareness
- brought about a good change in actual sales
However, they thought that now that they have got some attention, they’ll be able to leverage it forever. Their basic job investment into content marketing was over and now was the time to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me pull out a quote from David Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy on Advertising:
On a train journey to California, a friend asked Mr. Wrigley why, with the lion’s share of the market, he continued to advertise his chewing gum. ‘How fast do you think this train is going?’ asked Wrigley. ‘I would say about ninety miles an hour’ ‘Well,’ said Wrigley, ‘do you suggest we unhitch the engine?’
In the way content marketing has replaced conventional advertising, your funnel-wise content is the engine driving the business.
If you stop content, you stop engagement.
And you block your sales funnel.
Let me explain how with the help of each stage in the PLC curve.
The Introduction Stage
Most brand custodians agree that content marketing is required at this stage.
In fact, content marketing is the only thing that works and is affordable too in our times. Not many start-ups have the money to throw behind TV ads (which nobody watches by the way).
They don’t have much money to spend on display advertising and the pre-rolls on YouTube either. While the pre-rolls might get you noticed, most of them can be skipped by users. If you’ve already shelled out a bomb to make one of these, you already know this.
Perhaps you’ve invested in Google Adwords and have begun calling it SEO. But I’ve known businesses burning more than 1 crore a month on SEO and see nothing. It’s worse in B2B contexts because there the conversion cycle tends to be as long as 1 year! No amount of Google Adwords can get you business on a platter.
Your funnel-wise content, at this Introduction stage, should focus on helping you meet the following objectives:
- To create interest in your brand
- To establish you as a go-to resource for buyers’ informational needs
- To nudge buyers towards meeting you at more touchpoints
Every industry will have its own patterns of being introduced to the market. With content marketing, you have the opportunity to steer the passage better.
When I started my company, my content got me a lot of attention. Very little of it translated into revenue. But I persisted.
Here’s a quick look at what my content did for me in my introduction stage. As you can see, the conversion process took really long.
Include a table of clients onboarded at this stage and the duration taken to convert.
These are not earth-shattering numbers. But I was happy with the numbers I got. I made some good relationships.
The Growth Stage
If you’ve been following the principles of content marketing diligently, you’ll notice your content bank to grows as you inch toward the growth stage.
In fact, this stage should be called the “growing” stage because you haven’t grown yet: you are growing. There’s a huge difference. Recall Ogilvy’s quote here. You don’t want to stop content marketing at this stage because it’s driving your growth.
At this stage, you ought to design your content strategy to meet objectives like:
- To establish you as a thought leader in your industry
- To optimize content creation and distribution as per the data analytics you see vis-à-vis your content performance
- To consolidate your process of engagement with your followers and community on the social networks
None of these objectives are exclusive to this stage. But my experience says that first, you strive to become a go-to resource for buyers (introduction stage), and then you become a thought leader (growth stage).
I am right now at the growth stage. All the work I put in at the introduction stage has helped me get recognition in terms of all the influencer awards I get, all the talks I am invited to deliver, and all the ratings I get from the audience of the events I address as a speaker.
None of this would have been possible at this scale at the introduction stage.
As I grow, I experiment with different content formats. I look at which series is performing well and how to make it work better.
I haven’t thought of slowing down. In fact, I’ve found myself working harder at creating and distributing content. There were tools that I couldn’t afford previously at the introduction stage.
Because now I can afford them, I invest in them so that they can help me provide a greater reach.
In fact, I am at a stage in which I can afford to increase my BOFU content to more than the ideal 10%. I am confident I’ll still be warmly received. Had I jumped to BOFU at the introduction stage, not many people would have noticed. They would have tried to avoid me actively.
One more thing. I notice that in my transition to the growth stage, I’ve acquired a legion of spotters and influencers, who recommend me to my buyer persona, i.e., the decision-makers who hire me. These influencers are the ones who have been following my content and they forward it to the brand custodians, CEOs, founders, etc who come to work with me.
Here is how my conversion process has shrunk drastically thanks to my content.
Include a table of recent clients and the duration in which they have got converted.
So keep yourself focused when you are in your growth stage. If you want to enter the third stage, the maturity stage.
Remember that the purpose of the content funnel is to lubricate the funnel well so that the engagement with your content continues to get reflected in the sales funnel.
The Maturity Stage
Your good quality and even evergreen content pieces run into tens of thousands by the time you reach the maturity stage. If you’ve grown your content along with having grown in terms of revenue, you have content that both users and you keep coming back to.
In the maturity stage, you’d design your content strategy to:
- optimize/update your old content to continue to attract traffic
- deliver quality content at a scale you’d never tried before
Hubspot and Neil Patel are stalwarts in their respective fields. Both of them continue to create content. Neither of them has stopped creating content. Patel has gone on to create content in languages other than English.
Neither of them depends on any ads. Their content fills the first few pages of SERPs if you look for any information related to their domain expertise.
They know very well that content marketing has been getting them inbound leads all this while. Business leaders like them will not go resort to advertising while looking for shortcuts.
In fact, business leaders who have truly flourished on the basis of their content marketing methods will never really wonder if they should continue to create content!
If you’ve internalized the principles of content marketing, it’ll be common sense to you! You’ve reached here because of the content and because of the dedication and honesty with which you created it.
I haven’t reached my maturity stage yet. But when I do, I’ll still continue to do what I do today.
If I get invited to deliver a keynote address, I’ll ensure it’s promoted as well as it’s promoted today (if not more and better). I’ll continue to thank people for engaging with my content. I’ll still be taking a periodic review of my digital assets. I’ll keep tweaking whatever needs tweaking.
I know some businesses will take a phone call to convert while others will take more than a week. But I’ll be at it all the time: delivering valuable and relevant content to my buyer persona: the brand custodians and the spotters/influencers.
My team will still be working as hard as they do now.
Gary Vaynerchuk does it even today and he’s really big. So there’s no ambiguity around the question of whether one should continue to create content in spite of becoming so big.
The Decline Stage
Let’s face it. Everything comes to an end. A product does. A brand does too.
But that does not mean you should pack your content bags and be ready to exit.
On the contrary, this is the time to use your maturity stage advantages to rethink your concept altogether.
This is the time when toothpaste innovates itself. Or a detergent powder transforms itself.
This is the time for a brand extension.
At the decline stage, you launch another idea whose time has come.
These are the times of decline in advertising. And that is how consulting has now become accessible to SMEs.
There will be a time when consulting declines and becomes something else. Just as marketing is now becoming something a lot faster than it already is, CMOs are becoming CGOs. Consulting too will give way to something else.
If you think that content marketing is not giving you any results yet, hold on. It’s a journey as long as your PLC curve. And yes, even though it looks smooth, it’s full of ups and downs.
TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content types, formats, and stages are here to stay and yours to adopt as marketing psychology.
Continue to help users, deliver value, and engage with your users. Don’t just sell. You are cut out for higher things. Even if you don’t think you are, pretend otherwise.
Because content is the need of the hour. You’ll automatically get absorbed in the process.
It may take some time for you to establish valuable and well-distributed content. But you’ll get there. Maybe you are not doing it right now. But who said you have your entire PLC curve to get it right?
What works well for one stage may not work for the other. But you cannot do away with content!
You cannot do away with the funnel-wise distribution (TOFU-70%, MOFU-20%, BOFU-10%) either. Continuing to invest in this funnel is the only way to turn the funnel as well as the PLC into a flywheel!
You don’t have to meet a dead end at the decline stage. Whatever goodwill you earn until then, you’ll be able to leverage it in many ways later.
I am always available for discussions. Let me know what you make of your ROI from your content funnel. If you think I can advise, do reach out.