When a storm is on the horizon, everyone battens down the hatches, boards up the windows, and hunkers down to wait it out.
Right now there’s a recession on the horizon for B2B businesses, and we can see the storm preparation starting. Budgets are getting leaner, new requests met with more scrutiny, and marketers are under more pressure than ever to prove the effectiveness of their work.
This is when many marketing departments focus on lead gen, throwing everything they’ve got at the bottom of the funnel.
It’s a common response. But it’s a mistake.
Here’s why top-of-funnel marketing matters for lead generation, even if — especially if — the economic future is uncertain.
1 — The vast majority of your audience is out-of-market
What percentage of your audience is actively seeking a solution, ready to make a purchase? According to the B2B Institute at LinkedIn*, it’s about 5%.
In other words, lower-funnel content will be lost on 95% of your potential future customers. If we ignore 95% of the audience, we’re robbing the future to pay the present. Top-of-funnel content is an investment in future revenue.
Image credit: The B2B Institute at LinkedIn
The people who aren’t in the market right now are still consuming content. They’re looking for ways to do their job better. They’re researching industry trends. They have concerns your brand can help them resolve. Now is the time to serve up high-quality content that keeps your brand in their recent memory.
2 — There’s an ideal mix of brand and demand marketing
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should give up on bottom-of-funnel content. It’s important to strike a balance between marketing intended for your out-market (‘brand’) and that intended for your in-market (“demand”).
Research suggests that for B2B, a 45% brand, 55% demand mix is most effective at reaching both markets without sacrificing one for the other. While it seems tempting to increase the demand side of the equation in a downturn, that would mean throwing off the mix for the foreseeable future. Even if you need to scale down your marketing operations, preserving that mix is the best way to prepare for the inevitable upswing.
How much does the brand/demand mix matter? Data suggests that brands that have a robust brand and demand strategy see 6x the performance, compared to those who are focused on acquisition.
3 — Memorability is the key for long-term success
Top-of-funnel content is ‘brand’ marketing, a crucial part of the mix, as we’ve seen. The goal of this type of content should be securing mental real estate with potential customers. This process can’t always be measured in metrics like site visits or link clicks, but it’s a crucial part of the B2B buyer’s journey.
At the recent Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing, Jon Lombardo shared why he thinks “memorable” is better than “clickable:”
“Advertising is not persuasion, it is publicity. It’s just making people aware of the product or service and at some later date when they need the product or the service, they will think of your company and they will buy your company, generally. There will not be a click in that process. It’s actually about memory, not clicks.” – Jon Lombardo, Head of Global Research, B2B Institute at LinkedIn
The key to this kind of memorability is what we call “best-answer content.” In our new Guide to Full-Funnel Lead Gen, we define four essential elements of this type of content:
- Credibility: Speaks from a brand’s area of expertise, includes customer & prospect voices and trusted, relevant influencers.
- Quality: Created based on proven demand, to speak to urgent and critical needs, useful for even those not ready to buy.
- Authenticity: Written with a human-to-human voice, consistent with brand values and action, empathetic and positive.
- Experience: Beautiful design, easy to read or skim, with interactive/multimedia components.
Compared to a white paper or list of features and benefits, this type of content is much more memorable. Six months or a year from now, when your prospective buyer is ready to make a decision, they’ll remember your amazing content experience.
4 — Quality creative leads to better business outcomes
You heard it right: Not only should you keep producing top-of-funnel content, and not only does that content boost your lead gen efforts, you should also create great content.
And by amazing coincidence, there’s some really compelling evidence of the measurable business value of memorable, creative content.
The B2B Institute joined forces with System1 to review 1,700 B2B ads. They rated the ads in terms of their creativity and memorability, based on direct first-party interviews with consumers.
The first finding was that of the 1,700 ads, only .5% earned a 4 or 5-star rating. Memorable, creative content, especially in B2B, is vanishingly rare.
But the second finding is that brands in that 4-5 star range earned an average of 2.5% market share growth, while 1-2 star creative earned .25%.
What’s the market value of high-quality, creative content? About 10x the growth.
That’s an outcome worth investing in.
Weather the storm with creative top-of-funnel content
B2B marketers are all in the same storm. But we’re not all in the same boat. If your marketing department is slowing down on top-of-funnel content, focusing on lower-funnel, you have a higher chance of capsizing.
If your brand focuses on building future revenue, on the other hand, you’re not in a boat at all. You’re in a lighthouse, guiding prospective buyers to you, lighting their way on the buyer’s journey.
Want to learn more about full-funnel content marketing? Download our latest guide, B2B Full-Funnel Lead Gen: A Guide for Optimized Quality & Conversion