Top of the Funnel Marketing Explained
We have all been in various stages of a marketing funnel. All of us — every consumer — is likely engaging with different sets of multiple brands’ marketing funnels at this very moment. Each time you click on a post, fill out a form field, engage with an advertisement, open an email, begin a free trial, and eventually click buy — you’re taking action within a funnel.
Marketers are tasked with bringing in new qualified leads and pushing potential customers from awareness to consideration, intent, evaluation, and ultimately purchasing. They must also maintain customer engagement and interest during each stage.
While converting prospects into buyers is the ultimate goal, marketers first feed leads into a brand’s lead sequence — also known as top-of-funnel marketing.
What is Top of the Funnel Marketing?
When marketers refer to the top, middle, and bottom of the sales and marketing funnel, they are referencing the concept of pulling in a large pool of individuals that may be eventually interested in your services or products. They might sign up for a newsletter or demo or simply visit your website.
As these consumers move down the funnel, the pool gets smaller — like the neck of a funnel. Those interested in buying your products or services continue to engage with your company and learn more about your offerings. Those not interested simply leave the funnel.
Marketers maximize content output at the top of the funnel to reach a vast pool of potential customers. They do this by pushing great content through many different channels and tactics, such as:
- Social media
- Influencer outreach
- Blogs and websites
- Video marketing
- White papers
- Free trials
- Paid advertising
The top of the marketing funnel has very little to do with services and products and has everything to do with your buyer’s needs and interests.
What Are the Goals of Top of the Funnel Marketing?
There are two primary goals at this stage:
- Drive brand awareness
- Generate leads
You’re trying to get your target market’s attention and convince them that your brand provides value. Once your buyers begin to think of your brand as a thought leader (i.e., a resource for interesting and helpful information on topics they care about), they will be more willing to opt into communications to access your insights.
This opt-in is a value exchange — and the goal of top-of-the-funnel marketing is to facilitate that exchange.
How To Use Top of the Funnel Marketing To Drive Sales
Top-of-the-funnel marketing is all about content. If content is king, then the top of the funnel is where it truly reigns supreme.
A crucial aspect to recognize about top-of-the-funnel marketing is that it’s consumer-centric, meaning it needs to address how your target customers and your company are a good fit for each other. What interests your customers? What kind of information might they need, and how can you help?
Top-of-the-funnel marketing should aim to inform your target audience about topics related to your company rather than trying to sell them. Research what kind of content your target audience wants, either by conducting your market research or using a website analytics tool like Kissmetrics to give you insight into your website visitors.
For example, an online clothing boutique might produce entertaining content on the latest fashion trends. In contrast, a financial services company might have educational content on how to save money for retirement or information about how 401(s)s work. Both qualify as top-of-the-funnel content.
At the top of the funnel, you also collect website visitor information to develop prospective leads. To do this, you can ask for an email in exchange for a valuable whitepaper or even a free ebook that they couldn’t find elsewhere — you need to demonstrate that you are a thought leader that will add value to your customers’ lives.
You should also include a great call-to-action (CTA) at the bottom of your content, like whitepapers and blogs that compel readers to visit one of your product landing pages. In that case, it’s their choice to click your CTA, and you’re not trying to sell them on anything until they get to your landing page.
Examples of Top of the Funnel Marketing and the Real-Life Audiences They Reach
If you want to grasp how to create great top-of-the-funnel content, you need to see it in action.
Here are a couple of examples of top of the funnel marketing and the real-life audiences they reach:
MINDBODY targets small business owners in the health and wellness industries such as fitness, spa, and beauty. Their clients share a familiar story that starts with passion and then evolves into a dream and grows into a business. Tapping into that deep, emotional experience creates brilliant and engaging buyer-centric content.
EA Sports introduced a brilliant NFL Draft promotion called “Free to Play” weekend, which allowed Madden gamers to download and then play the game for free for a short promotional period.
EA Sports created an influencer marketing campaign by partnering with nearly half of the first-round Draft picks to promote Madden on their personal social media channels targeting sports fans from all around the world. In total, the posts shared by these athletes earned almost a whopping two million social media engagements.
How To Improve Your Top of the Funnel Marketing Strategy
Here are a few tips to help you improve your top of the funnel marketing strategy:
Analyze Your Own Customer Data
Many valuable tools can help you mine your existing customer data to find patterns and provide you with target companies and contacts that are look-alikes. Some refer to this process as “predictive analytics” or “predictive lead generation.”
Predictive analytics uses a combination of machine learning, statistics, and data repositories to help identify your ideal customer profile. Although you have many predictive technology choices, the best ones analyze your customers on three levels: digital footprint, firmographics, and tech stack.
All predictive lead generation is based on a simple premise: You are much more likely to succeed in the market sectors where you have had success in the past.
Use Social Data to Improve Targeting
If you already know a good amount about your users, you can enlist other methods to learn outside data connected to them, ultimately improving targeting precision.
For instance, if you know what topics your top consumers are likely to discuss on their social media feeds, you can employ social listening tools to identify other prospects discussing these topics. This tactic is a clever and effective way to harvest candidates relevant to your service or product.
Reach Your Customers By Testing Channels
Most brands fail not because of product failure but rather because of traction failure, which stems from working in the wrong channels. Double down on a few traction channels that show the most promise — based on your tests. Once you’ve identified your key targets and the optimal channels, reach out on all platforms that have proven to create traction. Evidence suggests that the confluence of multiple touches moves a prospect to action.
So be tenacious no matter what channel you’re using, as most sales reps give up too early.
The Bottom Line
Streamlining your marketing tactics throughout the funnel will cut costs while improving retention and conversion rates, especially for your top-of-the-funnel marketing efforts.
You’ll see a knock-on effect as you pick up better leads, leading to a more effortless nurturing stream and better conversion and retention rates. You’ll also see more interested first-time customers who are more likely to become happy repeat patrons and brand advocates for your business in the future.
Thankfully, the tools you need to make that happen are easily accessible and, more importantly, more accurate than they were just a couple of years ago. Kissmetrics is a tremendous behavioral analytics tool that consolidates your audience data into valuable buyer personas.
Within minutes, your marketing campaigns can personalize your advertising with pinpoint accuracy so you can reach the audience that’s interested in what your brand has to offer.
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