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What is Top of Funnel Marketing? Strategies and Examples

By: Chad M. Crabtree — November 11, 2021

If you want to increase your customer base, you may have been advised to try a top of funnel marketing strategy. Approaches focusing on the top of the marketing funnel can be very effective in getting your brand in front of new eyes. With this guide, you’ll better understand what this means and how you can apply these strategies to widen your brand’s reach.

What Is Top of Funnel Strategy?

Top of funnel strategy spreads brand awareness and brings new customers into your marketing funnel through paid or organic marketing campaigns focused on lead generation.

After prospects have become aware of your brand through consuming your top of funnel content, or ToFu content, you can move them deeper into the process, turning them from leads into customers. Your marketing focus and content change to build interest and guide lead to purchase.

In pre-internet sales funnel marketing, nearly all top of funnel traffic came from paid sources. Today, you can solicit free, organic traffic through content marketing or use paid online ads. Wise marketers use both, depending on which digital marketing method will reach their target audience better and convert into higher sales and return on investment (ROI).

While there is an ongoing debate about which type of traffic is more valuable, both paid and organic traffic sources can produce significant revenue streams. Which funnel marketing strategy you select should depend on where your customers live on the internet.

For top of funnel marketing strategies to be successful, you’ll need to:

  • Gain a strong understanding of your ToFu audience and what they’re looking for
  • Gather marketing intelligence
  • Create a buyer persona for accurate targeting
  • Understand the topics that will most interest your audience

You also need to know the available platforms and the content formats that people use for each platform. For example:

  • Google – people use keywords to search for information
  • Twitter and Instagram – users organize bite-sized content with hashtags
  • Facebook – people exchange information in community groups and through posts that often link to more information

The Stages of a Sales Funnel

An infographic of different sales funnel stages

Marketers often represent the marketing funnel stages using the formula AIDA — Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action.

Other sales funnel marketing tactics also describe the customer experience funnel. Marketers sometimes replace a sales funnel altogether with the buyer journey. Still, an AIDA sales funnel is perhaps the simplest to explain and understand:

  • Awareness is the first funnel stage at the top of the funnel. Here potential leads become aware of your brand
  • Interest, the second stage of the funnel, is where you introduce your product and Its benefits
  • Decision is the third funnel stage, where you guide prospects through deciding to buy
  • Action is the final stage, where prospects become customers through making a purchase

Top of Funnel vs Bottom of Funnel Marketing

As qualified leads proceed through your sales funnel, your message and content shift to reflect the stage your target customer is in, until they get to the funnel’s bottom and you directly ask for the sale. People drop out at each stage until only the person making a purchase remains.

The buyers at the funnel bottom are significant because you can market more of your products to them through cross and upsells. You can also sell to them again at another time. They have already decided to trust you and become your customer, so it’s much easier to sell to them again without having to guide them through the expensive and time-consuming sales funnel procedure.

While you read through the many options and top of funnel examples below, think about them like you’re building a network of traffic sources. You fuel each one with different types of content for your top of funnel efforts.

How To Get Top of Funnel Organic Traffic

The best material for ToFU marketing is helpful informative content that answers questions or addresses pain points without trying to sell a product or service. You’re targeting prospects to build awareness and trust. Through educating potential customers, you build your image as a trusted authority figure.

Choose the Best Organic Content Strategies

The best strategies to use when creating organic content depend on your audience, the platform, and the type of material you’re working with.

  • Blog content is short, personal, and usually answers a specific question
  • Articles are longer than blog posts and more informative
  • Videos of all kinds are rapidly increasing in popularity. Google ranks YouTube videos high in search results
  • Social media post. A social media post is any content placed on a social media platform, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn
  • Podcasts are an excellent way to present content that people enjoy listening to while doing something else
  • Infographics give viewers information they can understand at a glance. They’re handy for product comparisons
  • Images — a picture’s still worth a thousand words
  • Webinars usually incorporate a slideshow or a video, and viewers can sometimes interact with the speaker through a live chat. They are an excellent way to present a product as the solution to a problem

Choose the Best Form for Your Content

The best form for your content will depend on the most compelling way to structure the information, the platform you’re using, and your audience’s preferences. For example:

  • How to’s are the king of organic content and work well in any medium or on any platform
  • Checklists and cheatsheets remain popular because people like condensed reminders
  • Tools and templates are valuable time savers — no one wants to keep reinventing the wheel
  • Interactive content, like those Facebook posts telling you to click on your astrology sign, where clicking leads you deeper into the content
  • Quizzes are fun to take and share
  • Interviews bring celebrities to life
  • Thought leadership pieces are valuable in B2B
  • Behind-the-scenes peeks can spark interest in ordinary products
  • New trends are always coming out to have fun with

Aligning your content medium and form with your target audience preferences helps generate your desired response. Matching the content with its best platforms helps you get the most out of it.

When and Where to Publish Your Content

You will need to regularly publish content on your website and every social media platform you have a presence on to build awareness and trust while driving traffic deeper into your sales process.

The key to increasing traffic is publishing consistency. You should publish search engine optimized blog posts with a proper link structure two to four times a week because they generate the most organic traffic. You can use a keyword research tool to help focus your content marketing efforts.

Then, you drive even more traffic from social media and your email list to your blog post. Email no more than once a day, always using fresh topics. Post on social media several times daily.

You need to know where your audience is and where they search for information to choose the social media sites that you should invest most of your resources in. Every business will undoubtedly benefit from a presence on the big sites, like:

  • Facebook, where you can post, create business pages, and grow groups
  • Twitter, which you can use for news and customer service
  • Instagram to publish images and videos
  • YouTube, which has 2 billion users, plus YouTube videos often rank higher in Google searches
  • LinkedIn to reach professionals and market B2B with thought leadership articles and case studies

Some niche social media sites are also worth researching, such as:

  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit

Driving Traffic Into Your Funnel

Once you have your killer content created and posted, you need to get as much of the right audience consuming it as possible.

By driving traffic to newly created content, you grab the attention of search engines and social media platforms. They start ranking your content higher and displaying it to more people. Your goal should be to create enough of a buzz to hit the tipping point where content goes viral.

To get your initial viewership, you can use these strategies:

  • Email your list
  • Post on Instagram and Facebook pages and groups
  • Tweet about it
  • Share the images on Pinterest
  • Use Reddit

Notice that the top results in a Google search aren’t the first organic content. Instead, they’re ads that look like content, followed by Google’s featured snippet. Then, there are answers to the most frequently asked questions, then YouTube videos, and finally the first search results.

A screenshot of a google search image result

This image shows ads and Google’s feature snippet.

On the other hand, organic search results appear roughly halfway below the screen, after commonly asked questions and ads.

screenshot of organic search results

So you can get a flood of traffic by beating the top result on Google searches in five ways:

  • Paying to advertise
  • Writing content that may appear as a featured snippet
  • Answering common questions people search for.
  • Making YouTube content with a keyword-optimized description
  • Writing an article using search engine optimization and various funnel keywords

Create various pieces of content that appeal to new and current customers. You’ll see a surge in traffic for your marketing funnel as you

How To Get Top of Funnel Paid Traffic

The value of paid online advertising is instant traffic to your landing page, while organic content marketing takes time. A study published in the South African Journal of Information Management found that the cost per acquisition for pay-per-click traffic is 52.1 times lower, on average than for organic traffic.

There are many good sources of paid traffic. In 2020, Google controlled 28.9% of the US digital ad market, while Facebook had 25.2%. If you’re not sure where to start, you can cast the widest net with these two options.

Top of Search Ads

The ads at the top of search engine results pages have become so similar to organic search engine results that many users don’t realize they’re clicking on an ad. These ads also appear at the bottom of the results and on the right side. Search ads use keywords to match the right ad to the search query.

Display Ads

Display ads appear on websites across the internet on mobile and desktop. They mainly aim to build brand awareness. Banner ads, interactive ads, and text ads are all types of display ads.

These ads usually appear in line with website page content or on the top, bottom, or sides of pages. The content matches the site’s appearance and audience preferences. Ad networks are popular with marketers using display ads.

Social Media Ads

Because social media platforms let you target specific demographics and behaviors, social media ads help you pinpoint your target market.

Social media ads require a different approach than search ads. People are actively looking for solutions on search engines, but they have other objectives on social media. You’ll need to be more visual on social media with beautiful, eye-catching images, striking colors, and text that blends but stands out.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing on social media through public mentions or endorsements is an excellent way to get massive amounts of niche traffic at the top of your marketing funnel. When fans see their hero using your product, they want it too.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s lifetime influencer contract with Nike is worth $1 billion, but he also profits from Jeep and Adidas.

Video Ads

Video ads are the most popular media form, according to a HubSpot study that says 54% of respondents like seeing videos from brands. With high-quality video getting easier to create and cell phones now being able to record in 4K, this is a much more affordable option than it used to be.

Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads, or remarketing ads, are easy to set up by installing a pixel from Facebook or Google in your site’s header. The pixel remembers which pages were browsed by the whopping 97% of site visitors who never return.

The pixel triggers retargeting ads on other websites or social media platforms, showing visitors the products they viewed but didn’t purchase. This reminder keeps the item in their mind longer, eventually convincing them to buy it.

Retargeting ads are more expensive than other ads, but they convert at 0.7%, compared to display ads at 0.07%. Ads retargeting cart abandonment can convert at an impressive 26%. Because they’re so effective, you might find the higher cost a fair investment.

Ad Costs

Ad costs vary greatly, depending on your target market, the platform, and if you’re paying for cost per click (CPC) or cost per one thousand impressions (CPM). CPM is also called pay per impression, or PPI.

CPC is typical on Google and Facebook. Costs generally range from $1 to $3 but can be up to $50 for professionals and loans. CPM is commonly used to price display ads. Prices are usually from $3-$10 CPM.

Linkedin is the most expensive platform, with an average CPC of $5.26, while Twitter is the least expensive at $0.38.

Finding Balance for Top of Funnel Traffic Sources

Savvy marketers realize the advantage of having both paid and organic traffic. The two can even complement each other.

To find the right balance for you, you’ll need to use site analytics to monitor click-through rate, conversion rate, and ROI. When calculating ROI, remember that, while organic clicks are free, producing high-quality content may not be.


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