According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, more than 75% of B2C and B2B marketers are allocating more budget to blog posts, ebooks, infographics, and other multimedia in 2016. Recent years have seen more and more industry insiders preaching the opportunities around content marketing, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.

American Express recently deemed content as its most cost-effective acquisition channel, and the CMO of Dun and Bradstreet has described content as a uniquely “appreciating asset.” Audiences are online to share and consume content, both entertaining and educational — and for businesses, this presents a more natural and effective way to reach and engage with consumers, and build a long-term rapport with customers.

But content marketing can also be a tough nut to crack, and some companies struggle to connect the dots between content creation and ROI. Thankfully, “content discovery” has emerged as a vital piece in the ROI equation, providing digital marketers with a major new channel — alongside search and social — that enables companies to share content with highly-engaged audiences across the web, in a measurable and scalable way.

In this 3-part series, we’ll explore how “discovery” can help marketers achieve a variety of business goals at all stages of the conversion funnel — starting with the top.

Why Top-of-the-Funnel Audiences Are Unique on Taboola

Top-of-the-funnel represents the early stages of the customer consideration process, when audiences are likely learning about a company or a product for the first time. Marketing strategies directed towards these prospects often aim to generate awareness or interest, which makes intent-driven marketing channels like search (finding information) and social (connecting with friends) less than ideal.

Audiences on Taboola are unique in that they tend to be intent-agnostic, steeped in “content consumption mode,” and open to discovering something new. This is a mindset that is especially valuable to content marketers that are trying to start new conversations with potential customers.

How To Create Content For ‘Intent-Agnostic’ Audiences

With this context in mind, it’s important to note that “discovery” campaigns targeting early-stage prospects shouldn’t push for a hard sell. Remember that these audiences aren’t necessarily action-minded, but rather they’re in the mood for some education and entertainment.

As a marketer, you need to create content that appeals to your audience’s interests, while also bringing their attention back to your business in a natural, conversational, storytelling-driven way. For example, Whirlpool’s official blog shares lifestyle content and home living tips that tie in organically with its appliance product offerings.

Imagine your piece of content as an introductory handshake, with “discovery” as the networking event that you’re paying to attend (for the opportunity to reach your audience for the first time).

Beyond the Click: How Discovery Facilitates New Customer Relationships

Every marketer faces challenges around analytics, and especially for content marketers, it can be difficult to prove the relationship between awareness, purchase, intent, and sales. That’s why it’s important to execute your early-stage “discovery” campaigns in a way that prioritizes data, so you can use that information to refine retargeting strategies at later stages of the marketing funnel (stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this series).

At a minimum, you’ll want to pay attention to the articles that your audiences are reading and the parts of your website that they click-through to and browse after discovering your content. Setting up the right attribution models to accurately track these behaviors is crucial to building a link between traffic acquisition and movement through the conversion funnel.

For example, online boutique retailer The Line initially promoted its content through Taboola to reach new audiences around the web, driving a 100 percent increase in traffic to its site, the vast majority of these users being first-time visitors. Then, after seeing which pieces of content and referral sources were the most engaged, The Line optimized its campaigns to generate a 12 percent boost in email subscribers — early-stage prospects that had now become serious potential customers after visiting the company’s branded on-site content.

The ultimate goal of any “discovery” campaign is to get audiences reading your content in a way that supports your overall conversion strategy. At the top of the funnel, “discovery” helps audiences self-direct their buying journeys, and the best way to support this browsing behavior is to create content that has a functional purpose, whether educational, engaging, or inspiring.

It’s this perspective that helps connect the dots later on between interest and ROI.

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