Top of Funnel

What does top of funnel mean?

The phrase “top of funnel” refers to customers who are in the first stages of the customer journey. These potential customers are just exploring their options and still have a long way to go before making a purchase.

In digital marketing, there are five awareness stages that describe the relationship a potential customer has towards your brand and products. The five awareness stages are:

  • Unaware
  • Problem Aware
  • Solution Aware
  • Your Solution Aware
  • Most Aware

Top-of-funnel customers are at the beginning of the sales funnel (i.e. they’re either at the Unaware or Problem Aware stage).

When users are at the top of the funnel, what they need most is information. Therefore, you should provide lots of top of funnel content like educational blog posts or other relevant information.

Check out this article for more detail about each awareness stage.

Top of funnel vs bottom of funnel

In marketing, “top of the funnel” (TOFU) and “bottom of the funnel” (BOFU) refer to the different stages of the customer journey. As mentioned above, the top of the funnel is the initial stage where potential customers are first introduced to a brand or product.

The bottom of the funnel is the final stage, where potential customers are ready to make a purchase decision. At this stage, the focus is on providing the information, support, and anything else needed to give that final push and turn a prospect into a paying customer. This is typically done through tactics like personalized marketing, retargeting, and email marketing.

The top of the funnel is broad and attracts a large number of prospects, while the bottom of the funnel is narrow and focuses on converting a smaller number of highly-qualified prospects into customers.

Benefits of top-of-funnel marketing

Top-of-funnel marketing is important because it’s the perfect time in the buyer’s journey to establish your brand as a leader in your industry. The benefits you can expect from TOFU marketing include:

1. Building trust and authority

Educational content is a great way to build trust with your audience. When you make an effort to create useful blog posts, your potential customers will begin to see you as a knowledgeable expert. That means they’ll really trust you when you say your brand is the best.

2. Getting customers to engage with your brand

The right top-of-funnel content gives potential customers lots of opportunities to engage with your brand. You can use your TOFU content to make a great first impression, start online conversations (on social media, for example) and generate leads.

3. Improving your search engine optimization

Marketers often use TOFU content to get their website ranked higher on search engines. The higher your SEO ranking, the more visibility you’ll have and the more you can attract customers to your branded content. This is a great way to find more prospective customers.

4. Increasing sales

By increasing the amount of incoming qualified leads, top of funnel content marketing can help increase your sales down the line.

By focusing on building strong top-of-funnel content, your prospects will arrive to the later awareness phases with more brand awareness and thus be more willing to make that final decision.

Top of funnel examples

Let’s see some examples of the types of content you should create at the top of the funnel.

1. Blog posts

Blog posts are a popular choice for top of funnel marketing content. They’re a great opportunity to provide valuable, informative content and answer your audience’s questions.

When you’re creating educational content, you should think of yourself as extending your brand’s reach by getting in contact with new consumers.

Some ideas for content that top of funnel customers would love to see include:

  • Articles explaining how to solve common pain points
  • Articles answering common questions 
  • Articles educating people about a topic 

However, it’s worth remembering that not every person looks for written information when they’re researching a product. That’s why you should consider other types of content marketing.

2. Podcasts

Podcasts are really popular right now, and demand for them seems to continue growing. If you put them out regularly, people will get used to checking in for your new episodes. 

You can start a podcast as a company or industry leader. It’s also a good idea to invite relevant, well-known guests to talk to the host.

3. Social media posts

Your social media posts give your social media managers and customer support staff the chance to communicate directly with potential customers.

As a marketer, you can use social media to share your top of funnel content.

You can also create content specifically for social media posts that are meant to drive engagement and act as conversation starters.

4. Videos

Videos are incredibly engaging, which means that prospective customers will tend to pay close attention while watching. 

Videos also allow you to communicate a lot of information in a short time, so you can educate and entertain at the same time.

Top of funnel content tips & tricks

Finally, here are some tips and tricks you can use when creating your own TOFU content.

1. Include a clear call to action

All of your top-of-funnel marketing content should have a clear, visible CTA that encourages the customer to take the next step. This next step could be signing up for a newsletter, downloading a content upgrade, or subscribing to a YouTube channel. Calls to action like these help marketers guide customers toward developing a deeper relationship with their brand.

2. Create high-quality educational content

Just like in all your marketing activities, your educational content should set you apart from your competitors. You should always be trying to solve a problem for your audience, whether that’s through a long-form blog post, a listicle, or something else. 

3. Use great visuals

In content marketing, you should always try to align the visual elements of your articles with their story or information you’re conveying. Visually appealing images have a huge effect on customers, so don’t underestimate their importance!

It’s also important to maintain your visual brand identity across all your content. One great way to do this is by using a consistent style guide.

4. Don’t be too pushy

Early on in the sales funnel, customers can react badly to sales tactics they feel are too pushy or “salesy.”

This is because customers at the awareness stage usually aren’t ready to make a purchase. Special offers and BOFU tactics most likely won’t work at this stage—these customers are most interested in gathering information.