A sales funnel is a marketing term that describes the journey that potential customers go through on the way to making a purchase. It gives sales teams key insights into the customer’s needs, problems, and decision-making process.
The goal of content marketing is to guide your prospects through the sales funnel with content that is relevant to their needs at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
What is middle-of-the-funnel in the first place?
A sales funnel is organized into three distinct stages:
- Top of the funnel (ToFu): Discovery and awareness
- Middle of the funnel (MoFu): Researching and evaluating solutions
- Bottom of the funnel (BoFu): Making an informed purchase decision
In the middle of the funnel, prospects that still remain are usually your “ideal customers.” They have named and defined their problem and their questions are more specific.
When salespeople talk to these prospects to see if they are a good fit for their offer, these leads become qualified. They are then nurtured through gated middle-of-the-funnel content and encouraged to interact with the SaaS company for more information.
What is middle-of-the-funnel content?
Middle-of-the-funnel content such as pros vs cons lists, comparison lists, checklists, and in-depth guides have the following characteristics:
- It acknowledges the prospect’s pain points and the consequences of the pain points and showcases your products as a solution to them.
- It provides proof of your product’s advantages over other competitors in the form of customer testimonials, case studies, and product comparisons.
- It is aligned to the prospect’s buying stage in the funnel where they understand their problem and which type of solution they need.
Why does middle-of-the-funnel content matter?
With middle-of-the-funnel content, SaaS brands position themselves as the market leader of their category to solve the prospect’s problem. The scope of the content is more detailed and contains targeted offers.
A survey showed that when a website visitor becomes a lead, 43% of marketers leveraged success stories, 38% used product overviews, and 36% employed case studies to coax them into converting.
What are the types of middle-of-the-funnel content?
Middle-of-the-funnel content provides in-depth information about your product in alignment with the needs and challenges of prospects. Let’s explore the different types of middle-of-the-funnel content in detail.
1. Product comparisons
Why it works:
Honest and comprehensive comparisons between your product and competitors’ products make it easier for buyers to make a purchasing decision. Such pages help you rank for branded queries (that have less competition). E.g. “brand vs brand,” “competitor + alternative.”
Best practices to create product comparisons:
- Create separate comparison pages for each competitor. This will give you more opportunities to optimize the pages to rank for competitors’ keywords.
- Create a detailed comparison grid to differentiate your product from that of your competitors. For instance, in this product comparison page, HubSpot lays out the differences between its product and Marketo comprehensively, including an overview, pricing information, and a comparison of features and capabilities. Remember to include a date on your comparison chart since both you and your competitors will regularly update your offerings.
- Include customer testimonials. Build trust with testimonials from customers who have switched to your product from that of a competitor. Look at Basecamp’s “before and after” page wherein they’ve collated quotes from users about how they managed projects previously.
- Don’t promote competitors by including their branding. Your comprehensive product comparison page may bring to attention a competitor that your prospect hasn’t considered. To avoid this, don’t use competitors’ logos or branding and don’t link to their website. Highlight your brand subtly by using your brand colors to talk about your product. E.g. Podia uses purple font (its brand color) to highlight its benefits in comparison to SendOwl on this comparison page.
Tools to create product comparisons:
Research your brand and who you’re being compared to using Google autosuggest. Type your brand name or product name and “vs” to get a list of your competitors. Use Keywords Everywhere, Ubersuggest or LiveKeyword to get data on search volume and cost per click.
Comparison chart makers like Visme, Piktochart, or Canva can be used to build product comparison grids.
2. Case studies
Why it works:
Case studies are a powerful way to show your prospects the process of solving a problem and the outcomes achieved. They are real-life examples of how your product helped customers get the results they want. 46% of B2B buyers find case studies most valuable in the middle stages of the buying process. They “prefer more practical content such as case studies and examples of what people have done with something.”
Best practices to create case studies:
- Choose the right candidate as the focus for the case study, wherein you have delivered excellent results. Prospects may reach out to the highlighted client for more information. You’re showing prospects you understand their industry and its specific needs and can deliver targeted results.
- Use storytelling to keep readers engaged. The case study should display your brand voice and personality. Include both emotional benefits and figures to show prospects that you can take care of short-term and long-term results.
- Use headers, bulleted lists, images, and bold or italicized text to make your case studies easy to read. Make it scannable by breaking down chunks of text into sections that readers can easily find. Consider including video interviews and images of actual customers to make the case study more compelling.
- Use specific, accurate numbers to make your case studies more believable. Avoid vague language. Include charts, graphs, and analytics data.
- Outline the specific strategy you used to solve the customer’s problem instead of talking about your process superficially. It shows prospects that you have industry-specific expertise.
- List case studies on your website, talk about them in your email newsletters, optimize them for search, and promote them on social media. If your case studies are easier to find, they will have a greater impact on your conversions.
Tools to produce case studies:
Case study design software like Venngage, Visme, Piktochart, and Xtensio offer a variety of templates to create visually appealing and engaging case studies.
3. Listicles of alternatives
Why it works:
Prospects typically search for “listicles of alternatives” when they’re unhappy with the product they’re currently using and looking for other options. Or they’re conducting research wherein they’re aware of one brand and they’re searching for alternatives to compare before they make a purchasing decision.
A list format helps readers quickly find out other options for the product they want to buy. Creating content to rank for “[Brand name] alternatives” is valuable because you’re capturing search traffic for terms that people are already searching for. E.g. ClickUp’s article on Trello alternatives.
Best practices to create listicles of alternatives:
- Provide a quick overview. Prospects are already looking for alternatives; they don’t need a story to convince them to switch.
- Talk about your product first. Mention your product at the top of the list and talk about who it’s meant for and which pain points it addresses. Provide use cases and include case studies, if available.
- Provide an unbiased opinion about other products. Don’t talk only about the drawbacks of your competitors. Be honest about which of their features are good and who would be a good fit for them.
- Support your opinion with screenshots to gain credibility. Talk about product improvement history to provide more value.
Tools to create listicles of alternatives:
Keyword research tools like KWFinder by Mangools or SERPChecker by SERPWatch to find low-volume keywords.
Use infographic tools like Venngage or Visme to build an overview table of each product’s features.
4. Booking demo landing pages
Why it works:
Prospects who arrive at booking demo landing pages are aware that they have a problem, have evaluated their options, and are now poised to make a purchase decision. Thus, such pages have longer lead capture forms to collect more detailed information that the sales team can use for the sales process. The average SaaS landing page conversion rate is 4.6%.
Best practices to create booking demo landing pages:
- Include customer testimonials and/or customer logos to provide social proof.
- Ensure your CTA button is visible at all times. You can either add a CTA button at the end of every section of the page or add it to a topbar that is always visible.
- Limit your form fields to collect only necessary information about the prospect. More information can be collected during the demo or can be solicited via email.
- Integrate the page with a scheduling tool and calendar to allow the prospect to schedule a call with the sales rep without having to exit the page.
- Add a video that summarizes your product to increase engagement and conversions.
Tools used to create booking demo landing pages:
Landingi, Instapage, and Swipe Pages are great tools to build a SaaS demo landing page.
5. Free courses
Why it works:
Courses provide a series of lessons sequentially on a relevant topic in detail. Prospects would be willing to share some personal information like email and contact information in exchange for valuable course material. A good course helps establish industry expertise and encourages word-of-mouth marketing.
Best practices to create free courses:
- Consider creating a course from existing content. Else, build an outline and develop lessons in a step-by-step manner to be packaged as a course.
- Explore various media options and select the best one for you: video, audio, quizzes, emails, posts/pages, or a combination of these.
- Provide feedback at the end of important learning objectives to help participants learn the material.
Tools to create free courses:
Camtasia, Screenflow, Canva, and Teachable are popular tools to create online courses.
Why it works:
Whitepapers discuss your product’s features in great detail and provide in-depth data to explain how your product can solve your prospects’ problems. This content format ranks high (#2) among B2B buyers as an aid to understanding the product better.
Whitepapers could be a long-form fact sheet about your product or company or an analysis of industry trends. The purpose is to generate new leads, demonstrate your value, build your email list, and position yourself as a thought leader.
Best practices to create whitepapers:
- Use hard numbers and independent data to support every claim in your whitepaper. Instead of being blatantly self-promotional, it should convince prospects by dint of the strength of your research.
- Ensure you follow the standard template: Title/Headline, Executive Summary, Introduction, Sections and Subsections, Sidebars, and Conclusion.
- Choose an in-demand and compelling topic. Don’t try to cover too much within a single whitepaper. You should focus on a problem or a subsection of a problem and point to its solution (your product).
- Include a table of contents, images, expert insights, and customer quotes to boost credibility.
- Include your branding in the images and the footers. Link to more useful resources on your website.
Tools to create whitepapers:
Adobe Spark, Lucidpress, or FlipHTML5 are used to design and publish whitepapers.
Why it works:
Just like case studies, webinars boost brand authority and provide an extra opportunity to collect information about your prospects. 57% of B2B buyers found webinars as the most valuable visual and audio content to help them make a purchasing decision.
Best practices to create webinars:
- Share value in the form of downloadable templates or checklists, videos, training resources, or ebooks. The offer should be unique to participants of the webinar.
- Structure your webinars to make it easy for participants to understand the information you’re offering: Introduction (5 minutes), Body (20 minutes), Q&A (15 minutes), and CTA (2 minutes).
- Personalize your webinar to specific personas or verticals to make it more relevant.
- Choose the time of your webinar to suit the time zone(s) of your target audience. Most people prefer 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. and Tuesdays seem to be most preferred.
Tools to create webinars:
Infusionsoft, EverWebinar, WebinarJam, and Demio are some excellent webinar platforms with the necessary marketing tools to help you sell during the webinar.
Why it works:
Cheat sheets provide the key points of a topic in an easy-to-understand format within 1-2 pages. It is a popular content type and typically attracts significant social media shares. Cheat sheets can be created by pulling out the major points from a longer piece of content like blog posts or e-books.
E.g. This Marketo for Financial Services cheat sheet is meant to provide an overview of the product’s capabilities in the FinServ space.
Best practices to create cheat sheets:
- Keep it short, easy to read (sensible font size), and use headings and subheadings.
- Use visuals like screenshots and images to engage readers.
- Don’t repeat information unnecessarily. Ensure the cheat sheet provides condensed information on how to use your product to solve a problem.
Tools to create cheat sheets:
Cheat sheets can be created by building a layout in Microsoft Word and exporting it as a PDF file.
Alternatively, you can use software like Canva, Visme, or Venngage that have pre-built cheat sheet templates.
Why it works:
Checklists comprise a series of actionable steps that help prospects reach the desired outcome. They are easy to create and promote and provide valuable information. They can be integrated into blog posts or shared on social media for greater reach.
E.g. Pipedrive shares this five-part checklist to reduce the impact of firing a salesperson. You can also have this checklist emailed to you.
Best practices to create checklists:
- Choose a topic that is relevant to your product/brand and solves a specific problem for your prospects.
- Ensure the checklist is simple and short to help users reach their goals easily.
- Organize the checklist so it’s easy to use i.e. by categories, steps, or objectives.
- Create a certification or badge for participants who complete the course successfully.
Tools to create checklists:
Build visually appealing checklists with Canva, Creately, or Adobe Creative Cloud Express.
10. Longer demo videos
Why it works:
Demo videos offer your prospects an immersive experience that enables them to understand how your product works and what they can expect once they sign up. They build on the brand trust that you’ve gathered and extend it to product trust.
E.g. take a look at this Xero Projects product demo.
Best practices to create demo videos:
- Don’t repeat videos created for buyers at the awareness stage. Provide new information and remind prospects why they’re watching the demo.
- Highlight your product in use and show prospects how it addresses their pain points and provides a solution to their problems.
- Share authentic feedback or testimonials from actual customers to boost conversions.
- Follow a logical sequence: introduce each feature, explain it, and demonstrate how it works.
- Incorporate answers to all possible questions by thinking from the prospect’s point of view.
Tools to create demo videos:
Adobe Captivate, Demo Builder by Tanida, Vyond, and SnagIt by TechSmith are excellent demo video creation tools.
11. Engaging drip emails
Why it works:
Drip email campaigns or marketing automation send pre-written emails or “drips” to prospects and customers over a length of time.
You can send personalized messages to segmented email lists to nurture leads and build trust. For example, you can send welcome emails to prospects who have downloaded a digital asset or have visited a particular landing page.
Autoresponders have an open rate of 26.47% and a click-through rate of 3.6%.
Best practices to create drip emails:
- Send nurture emails from a real person to promote response and connection.
- Personalize the message with these elements: use the recipient’s name in the greeting, use “you” throughout the email, and invite people to reply to your message.
- Offer your recipients value with discounts, industry trends and news, and relevant offers. Link to full-length resources on your website to keep the conversation going.
Tools to create drip emails:
Mailchimp, Flodesk, and ActiveCampaign are good tools to create simple or advanced drip campaigns.
Why it works:
FAQs are usually web pages but can be repackaged into email courses, content hubs, or guides. By tracking which questions get the most clicks and views, you can use the FAQ page to rank for your core keywords and increase your conversion rate.
Best practices to create FAQs:
- Collect questions from your internal sales team and customer support team because they’re the ones fielding them. You can also solicit questions from prospects and customers.
- Write in simple language or use the language of the customer.
- Create a table of contents, index, or jump links or provide an online search system for readers to quickly find the information they’re looking for.
- Use screenshots, infographics, images, or videos to make your answers clearer.
- Write short answers. If it needs more detail, link to additional resources on your website.
Tools to create FAQs:
Plenty of good-quality FAQ software is available in the market: Helpjuice, Document360, ProProfs, SupportBee
13. Paid ads
Why it works:
When prospects see paid ads, especially display ads, on third-party sites, they’re more likely to engage since they’re aware of your brand.
Paid ads can also be used in retargeting campaigns to attempt to engage prospects who have interacted with you previously in some manner, such as signing up for a webinar or clicking on your ads.
You can also promote your case studies and whitepapers with paid ads.
Best practices to create paid ads:
- Use the context of the platform where the ads will be placed to inform your approach to creating them. E.g. Will prospects be able to skip the ad? How much of the ad should they see to understand your message?
- Use GIFs or videos to capture the attention of prospects and share more information using less space.
- Ensure your images have the correct ratios for the platform you’re placing them in.
- Create urgency to differentiate yourself from competitors’ ads.
- Test different variants of your ad and optimize for greater conversions.
Tools to create paid ads:
Saas companies use Google Ads, AdRoll, Adzooma, or AdExpresso to manage paid advertising campaigns.
14. Trial period landing page
Why it works:
Trial period landing pages can not only get prospects to sign up for a free trial but also excited about using your product. Since they have to pass through several steps before they can experience your product, such as entering their email address and clicking the CTA button, your landing page should motivate them to go through with it.
Best practices to create trial period landing pages:
- Headlines should clearly communicate the benefit to prospects. Subheadings can continue to sell the prospect on the merits of signing up for a trial.
- Provide evidence to support your claims.
- Provide customer testimonials as social proof.
- Limit form fields to collect the absolutely necessary information.
- Use white space, bullet points, and icons to help prospects understand your message.
Tools to create trial period landing pages:
SaaS marketers use Unbounce, LeadPages, or Instapage to create trial period landing pages.
14. Success stories
Why it works:
Success stories are powerful resources that provide proof about the capabilities of your product and boost your credibility. 43% of marketers believe that publishing success stories work best to drive sales. They can become evergreen content that attracts targeted traffic from search engines.
HBR’s Erica Keswin says, “Stories make us all pay closer attention to what matters.”
E.g. ConvertKit shares customer stories around its product.
Best practices to create success stories:
- Approach the success story from the angle of how your product aligns with your prospect’s mission.
- Use visuals like infographics, images, and videos to support the written content.
- Support qualitative statements with hard data for more credibility.
Tools to create success stories:
Use Typeform and SurveyMonkey to gather information from customers to build success stories.
Canva, Ceros, Uberflip, and Infogram can be used to create visually attractive success stories.
16. Original research
Why it works:
Original research is the #1 content format for B2B buyers researching their purchases. They drive lead generation, build trust and credibility, and demonstrate your industry expertise.
Original research is usually in the form of industry benchmarks, “state of” reports, trends reports, analysis of public data, or online surveys. You publish them on your website and distribute them through various marketing channels.
Best practices to create original research:
- Set clear goals and objectives. Choose the buyer personas you intend to target.
- Identify existing gaps in industry research and focus on that area instead of performing a similar study.
- Develop a content strategy around your research data. Use it to create whitepapers, reports, and blog posts.
- Gate your research if you want to generate leads. Provide an executive summary of the report so that prospects can glean the main takeaways. They can decide if they want to exchange their contact information to access the in-depth report.
Tools to conduct original research:
Use survey tools like Pollfish, SurveyMonkey, and JotForm to conduct surveys in specific demographic categories.
LucidPress, Flipsnack, and DesignCap can be used to design the reports.
17. Share recognition on social media
Why it works:
Sharing media placements featuring your brand or product is an excellent way to build awareness and trust with your audience. It gives your claims more credibility and allows you to leverage the brand recognition associated with the media outlet.
Tools to share brand recognitions:
Also, social monitoring and listening tools like HootSuite Insights, Talkwalker, and Nexalogy monitor social media platforms and the broader web for brand mentions that you can amplify on your socials.
18. Comment on questions on social media
Why it works:
SaaS marketers can demonstrate their knowledge on online Q&A forums like Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn Groups, and HighTable. These forums provide a captive and engaged audience that is ready for a solution to their problem that your product can provide.
Best practices to answer questions on social media:
- Don’t answer questions with a sales pitch. Instead, use the voice of a thought leader to provide clear guidance.
- Support your claims with statistics and evidence.
- Acknowledge alternative points of view because prospects are looking for a well-rounded opinion.
19. Podcast episodes
Why it works:
SaaS podcasts offer prospects key industry insights and help establish industry expertise.
Best practices to create podcasts:
- Plan each episode such that it speaks to your target audience.
- Interview customers and strategic partners.
- Ensure that each episode has a clear CTA.
- Showcase podcast episodes on your website or blog. Create show notes or transcripts as well.
- Distribute your podcast through popular podcast networks to maximize reach.
- Repurpose your podcast into social media posts, videos, or articles.
Tools to create podcasts:
Riverside.fm, Zencastr, and Buzzsprout are excellent tools to create high-quality podcasts and promote them.
20. Curated posts for Facebook Groups
Why it works:
Facebook groups help you build brand awareness and expand your audience while collecting useful information. Groups offer a sense of community and bring together like-minded people. SaaS marketers can post content directly in a group and analyze the response without spending any money.
For example, Krisp runs a Facebook group called Productivity Tips where it shares tools, tips, and tricks about productivity.
Ahrefs Insider is a private Facebook group meant only for customers to learn more about the product and how to get the most benefit out of the SEO tool.
Best practices to create Facebook posts:
- Create a strategy before posting in Facebook Groups. Don’t spam the group with links to your blog posts.
- Start conversations and offer valuable opinions. Show your personality and be mindful of your brand voice.
- People prefer to interact with real humans instead of an amorphous company account or a bot.
Tools to create Facebook posts:
You can design Facebook posts using Adobe Creative Cloud Express, Canva, or Pablo by Buffer.
Middle-of-the-funnel content production best practices
Engaging with a middle-of-the-funnel audience is a delicate exercise because prospects are deliberating between you and your competitors. Ensure that your approach to content at this stage supports the buyer’s research and evaluation.
1. Create share-worthy content pieces
Middle-of-the-funnel content should be well-researched, thorough, and data-rich. Prospects should feel compelled to share your content with their network.
2. Talk about your brand, your offer, and your stories
Prospects are already aware that they have a problem and you are a potential solution provider. Encourage them to find out more about you by talking about your brand, your offerings, and your success stories in your content.
3. Problem-centric content development
In the middle of the funnel, you’re talking to leads, prospects, and future customers so your content should revolve around how your product solves their problems.
4. Double down on differentiating factors
Buyers are considering whether they should choose you over your competitors. So highlight your differentiating factors in your middle-of-the-funnel content.
If you throw generic information at your prospects, it will not convince them that you’re the perfect solution to their challenges. Do your research, select your buyer personas, and target your content to specific audiences.
6. Talk about customers’ problems
Don’t take a “me…me…me” approach to talk about your product’s features because it will put off your prospects. Instead, address their pain points and challenges and how you can offer a solution.
7. Align content with users’ goals and vision
By aligning with the goals and vision of your prospects, your content is gently nudging them towards the decision stage of the buying process.
Middle-of-the-funnel content production mistakes
Here are some common mistakes you could be making when producing middle-of-the-funnel content:
1. Reluctance to showcase oneself as a solution provider
To be convincing and competitive, your middle-of-the-funnel content has to be solution-oriented. You have to position yourself as the answer to your prospect’s problems.
2. Overemphasizing services and turning off users
Remember that buyers are considering your product in the middle of the funnel and are looking for further information to determine if you suit their needs. Don’t go overboard with highlighting your services.
3. Sounding “salesy” in copy
Buyers are looking for guidance, not a sales pitch. Talk about your product subtly.
4. Avoiding hard facts when comparing with competitors
To offer a compelling alternative to prospects, support your claims of being better with facts and figures.
5. Talking about features more than benefits
Create middle-of-the-funnel content from the perspective of the customer. Talk about how your product will benefit them if they switch to you from their existing solution.
6. Not providing proof of competence
Back up your claims with evidence that your product can solve industry-specific problems. Outline actual strategies used and results obtained.
7. Focusing on blog posts and articles only
Middle-of-the-funnel content serves as a bridge between high-level concepts that you talk about in blog posts and the value your product can provide to prospects. Thus, you should devote resources to creating content like whitepapers, case studies, and “alternative to” articles, too.
8. Not having a CTA in the content
Without effective CTAs, you won’t be able to rope in qualified leads into your marketing funnel and you’ll lose out on valuable customers.
Let’s explore some CTAs most often used in middle-of-the-funnel content to encourage prospects to part with their information.
Prominent middle-of-the-funnel calls-to-action
In the middle of the funnel, prospects are in the consideration stage and are aware of your brand. Your job is to convince them that your product is the best choice for their needs.
Middle-of-the-funnel CTAs encourage prospects to exchange their information for in-depth content that will tell them more about the merits of using your product. The content highlights your unique selling point and transfers knowledge and trust to readers.
Here’s a list of the prominent middle-of-the-funnel CTAs:
- Check now
- Learn more
- Tell me more
- Yes, I’m interested
- Contact us
- Download eBook
- Download whitepaper
- Join Slack channel
- Join us
- Chat with us
- Call me
SaaS content marketers often make the mistake of devoting more time and resources to creating top-of-the-funnel content like “how-to” articles. However, it is the middle of the funnel where information-rich content supported by hard facts and customer testimonials will convince prospects that you are the better choice.
When you communicate with buyers at this stage, you need to be in step with their needs and aspirations at that time. Provide solution-focused content with social proof and you’ll find prospects taking notice.
Vikrant Jhala is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Growfusely – a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. He loves to research, develop and populate content. He has a keen interest in photography, eCommerce, and emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence. Connect with him on LinkedIn: @vikrantjhala.