5 Essential Top-of-Funnel Content Channels for B2B

Essential Building Blocks for a Top-of-Funnel Strategy that Drives ROI

August 1, 2016

If you’d asked me a few years ago what was more important in B2B marketing—lead generation or brand awareness—I would have said lead gen all day long. But the marketing landscape has shifted dramatically. Today, if you don’t have content to support both brand awareness and lead gen, you’re simply losing ground.

Today’s customers don’t trust ads, and they rarely call a sales person early in the buying cycle. Overwhelmingly, they prefer to do their own research online and within their social circles before making a purchase. That’s where top-of-funnel—or Reach— content comes into play. 

Content designed for this stage of the buying journey shouldn’t lead or sell with your product. To get the attention of today’s information-rich buyers, you have to provide value and context for your brand. Go for the hard-sell right away, and you’ve lost them. 

Great Reach content starts by asking what your company can offer potential customers before they’ve started looking at any particular product or service. It sets the stage for long-term relationships, and drives deep and broad engagement with your brand.

Here are the five content channels that we find essential for our top-of-funnel strategy here at LinkedIn:

  1. The Big Rock. if you have just one piece of content in your Reach arsenal, this is it. Make it a stellar, marquee piece that puts your expertise and passion for your work front and center. From this Big Rock, you can create many related pieces of content—what I call Turkey Slices.

  2. Podcasts. Think about the last great conversation you had with a leader in your space. Do that again, and record it. Edit together the best parts, and you have yourself a podcast. They’re inexpensive to produce and offer huge opportunity. Podcast audiences are growing steadily, according to Edison Research. You can still own your own category on iTunes, SoundCloud, or any number of other platforms, so it’s easier to get noticed than on more saturated channels.

  3. Video. You can spend a lot of money making videos, true. But you can also do it on a shoestring, as we’ve proven here at LinkedIn with our Trading Eights series. Mash podcasts and videos together, and you get webinars, which is certainly another top-of-funnel standard.

  4. Visual content. Never underestimate the value of infographics and original photography in helping you promote blog posts and social media updates. Be creative with it, and get your whole team involved. Give your audience a glimpse of who you really are, and they’ll respond in spades.

  5. Speaking gigs. Yes, this means you. Whether you get on the monthly agenda at your local chamber of commerce or you shoot for a keynote, you’re still doing content marketing. Start small, be the Yes man early on, and build your personal brand along with your company’s credibility. 

It goes without saying that blog posts and social media updates are also a foundational element of a Reach content strategy. Use them to promote all your content, and also to play with different topics and strategies to see what your audience responds to

Here are a few content channels I’m not totally sold on yet for B2B:

  • Snapchat. See my recent post about taking on the Snapchat B2B marketing challenge. It’s not that I didn’t find any value whatsoever, but …
  • Pinterest. It’s nice for people who like to cook, and for people who are into fashion and design. But for those looking for complex B2B solutions … not so much.
  • Instagram. We launched a LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Instagram channel last year at AdWeek, and I’m on the fence about it. While it’s collecting followers nicely, I have yet to see real business impact. Maybe I need to look harder?

And here some new formats I’m excited to experiment with: 

  • Virtual reality. Cannes this year was abuzz with the opportunities and challenges that VR and related technologies represent. I just picked up an LG 360 camera, and this thing is blowing my mind. Stay tuned as I figure out how to add this total immersion capability to my team’s Reach content.
  • Live video. I’ve yet to figure out how to apply this medium outside of events, but I love the potential. The one thing stopping me from embracing it completely may be a lack of stellar video quality, along with some kind of overlay. All good stories need some kind of structure, yes?

I love top-of-funnel content because it really depends on innovation, surprise and outstanding insight to be effective. Even for the most complex security products, the last thing you want to do at this stage is be boring. Reach content creates context, builds connections, and paves the way for a successful sales cycle.