It’s 2023 and marketers everywhere are still acting like it’s 2016. HubSpot’s content marketing playbook was revolutionary at the time and inspired an entire industry to try something new.
The reality is that the internet is a much more crowded space than it was 10 years ago. Businesses of all types, sizes, and industries are publishing content these days and users are adjusting their behavior. Just like pop up ads and videos that autoplay went out of style, traditional content funnels are also headed toward the sunset.
In the blog post, I want to talk about a new approach to content marketing that is being called the “content library” and why businesses and marketers need to shift their thinking away from the content funnel. Let’s start with the basics.
What is a content funnel?
The goal of a content funnel is to create different types of content that will guide your visitors from the first point of interaction to the point where they are ready to purchase. Your content funnel should consist of three main areas:
- Top of the funnel (TOFU)
- Middle of the funnel (MOFU)
- Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)
We call it a funnel because it’s wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Your top-of-funnel pieces will be broadly appealing to a general audience while your middle and bottom funnel pieces will gradually become more specific and appealing to a smaller audience as you move closer to the sale.
A simple and traditional content funnel would look something like this:
- User reads blog post
- User clicks CTA and downloads the Ebook
- User is enrolled in an email nurture sequence
- User receives additional content offers (case studies, webinars, etc.)
- User books a meeting with sales team
It sounds simple and effective, right? Well it was for a long time, but user behavior is changing.
Why are content funnels outdated?
Content funnels are still effective so I’m not writing them off completely. However, I do want to point out some interesting trends that could become problematic for hardcore traditionalists.
For one, the buyer’s journey is often nonlinear. This means that the path I outlined above is becoming more and more rare. Why? Because digitization and the enterprise operations have made marketing more complex than ever before. Let’s look at some statistics:
- The vast majority of buying decisions are made by groups of four or more people and each of those decision makers is doing their own independent research.
- 77% of B2B buyer’s say their last purchase decision was complex or difficult.
- B2B customers progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before engaging a sales representative
Businesses don’t own the customer journey anymore, customers do. They move forwards and backwards, jumping from one stage to the next in no particular order — and if you’ve ever used a lead scoring model before, you know that’s true. You’ve seen contacts fluctuate from cold to hot and back to cold again for no obvious reason, which makes it difficult to know what content they need and when to reach out.
What is a content library and why is it better?
You might have heard the term “content library” before in reference to internal resources. Sales and marketing people often use this term to describe a repository where all of a company’s content assets can be found and accessed by internal team members.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
A content library is a bank of content that is placed in a central location for your audience to access. It is a lead generation tool.
Content libraries are more flexible and adaptable than content funnels. Instead of trying to force contacts down a rigid path, the goal is to provide them with a range of content options such that serve different purposes such as:
- Thought leadership
- Research and statistics
- Industry updates
Your customers are going to create their own buyer’s journey, so why fight it by making your content hard to access? Content libraries make it easy for them to find the information they need when they need it.
Building Relationships With Your Customers
The traditional content marketing funnel can still work for many businesses. But as the landscape becomes more crowded and competitive, companies that place more emphasis on the user experience will be the ones that win.
The goal of content marketing is to build relationships and create trust; conversions and sales are just the side effect. So instead of forcing your customers down a predetermined path, focus on empowering them with the information they need to answer their own questions.