Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
If you were a kid in the 70s, you know the answer to that question is three. It only takes three licks, because the temptation to bite into the delicious Tootsie Roll center is too overwhelming!
If you were a kid in the 70s, you probably also attempted to find out the answer for yourself. Lick, lick, lick, crunch! Yes, that chewy center is tempting! Only the truly disciplined know how many licks it really takes.
This ad popped into my mind during a conversation last week about creating a white paper. The person’s plan was to drive people to a landing page, provide a premium piece of thought leadership content (upon the submission of a form), and then turn that “lead” over to sales. Wait, that’s just one lick!
And then, coincidentally, it happened to me! I downloaded an ebook from a well-respected marketing automation company. Not 15 minutes later, I received an email asking if I had a couple of minutes to chat about my interest in their product. Actually, I was interested in their ebook, not their product. If they had 1) paid attention to the form I filled out and 2) given me more opportunities to interact with their content, they would be able to tell that my company is not a qualified lead for their product.
The middle of the funnel can be delicious, too.
The message here is that for content marketing to work, you have to be patient and disciplined. If you jump right from top of funnel content (the sweet, crunchy outside) to sales call/email (the chewy center) no one is going to be satisfied in the end and you are wasting everyone’s time. Even Mr. Owl took three licks before he bit!
It is important to give prospects the opportunity to get to know and trust you before jumping into sales mode. They need the chance to digest what comes after the first lick but before the chewy center – that critical middle of funnel content – in order to get comfortable with the idea of buying from you. And you need to offer up that content to measure how deep their interest is in your company or product, so you don’t go chasing unqualified leads.
Think about when you eat a Tootsie Pop. If you don’t bite right away, the chewy center slowly starts to reveal itself, and you can eventually see the prize for taking your time and getting through each layer of the candy coating.
That’s how middle of the funnel content works. It is where prospects can evaluate and appraise your category and your company, and it focuses on education, insight, and data. Some great types of content for this stage include case studies, calculators/tools, FAQs, and in-depth white papers.
As prospects consume this content, the benefits of choosing your company become apparent. And, the more they consume, the more likely it is that they are truly interested in what you have to offer. Most will not spend time at this stage of the funnel if there is not at least some relevance to their needs.
When you are dealing with content marketing, and Tootsie Pops, it’s easy to focus on the reward. But don’t forget about the middle of the journey. Without it, you might just as well go for a plain Tootsie Roll, and how much fun is that?