What is top-of-funnel marketing? 

Top-of-funnel marketing, or TOFU marketing, is the first stage in the marketing funnel. It focuses on attracting and engaging a broad audience of potential customers. In this initial stage of the buyer’s journey, individuals are in the early research and awareness phase. 

It’s an opportunity to build brand awareness and offer educational, informative, and non-promotional content that addresses your target audience’s pain points. As potential customers progress through the sales funnel, they move to the middle of funnel (MOFU) and bottom of funnel (BOFU) stages. That’s where you use more targeted and specific content to convert them into paying customers.

Why is top-of-funnel marketing important? 

Why is top-of-funnel marketing important? 

Top-of-funnel marketing is essential for introducing your brand to a broader audience. It’s an opportunity to:

  • Nurture leads
  • Build trust
  • Establish your authority

Incorporating top-of-funnel content in your content marketing strategy lays the groundwork for more targeted and successful middle and bottom-of-funnel efforts. And that ultimately leads to increased conversions and business growth.

marketing funnel works from top to bottom

How the marketing funnel works from top to bottom

The marketing funnel is a visualization of the buyer’s journey. Each stage calls for specific marketing tactics to reach the intended audience. Here is a quick cheat sheet: 

Top of Funnel (TOFU) – Awareness Stage:

  • Goal: Attract a broad audience and create brand awareness.
  • Audience: People who are just becoming aware of their problem or need but may not be familiar with your brand.
  • Content: Educational and informative content, such as blog posts, social media posts, infographics, videos, and e-books. The focus is on addressing pain points and providing valuable insights without being overly promotional.
  • Key Metrics: Impressions, website traffic, social media engagement, and lead generation (e.g., email sign-ups).

Middle of funnel (MOFU) – Consideration Stage:

  • Goal: Nurture leads and build a deeper relationship with potential customers.
  • Audience: People who have shown interest in your brand or engaged with your top-of-funnel content.
  • Content: More specific and targeted content that showcases your brand’s expertise and product offerings. Examples include case studies, webinars, comparison guides, and email nurturing sequences.
  • Key Metrics: Click-through rates, lead quality, engagement with MOFU content, and lead nurturing effectiveness.

Bottom of funnel (BOFU) – Decision Stage:

  • Goal: Convert leads into paying customers or clients.
  • Audience: Qualified leads who have expressed a strong interest in your offerings.
  • Content: Content that directly addresses purchase intent, such as product demos, free trials, testimonials, and limited-time offers. The focus is on persuading the lead to make a buying decision.
  • Key Metrics: Conversion rates, sales revenue, customer acquisition cost, and customer lifetime value.

top-of-funnel marketing tactics

Common top-of-funnel marketing tactics

Top-of-funnel marketing tactics should include informational and inspirational content that helps your audience better understand their problem. Because your audience is early in the funnel, you don’t want to jump to conclusions by serving up later-stage content that doesn’t serve them.

When you educate this audience, your brand builds awareness and trust. When that visitor is ready to buy, you’re the resource they already follow. That makes them much more likely to consider your product or service when shopping for a solution.

ToFu marketing ideas:

  • Email marketing (newsletter or nurture campaign with educational content)

  • SEO (search engine optimization)

  • SEM (search engine marketing)

  • Website

  • Landing page

  • Blog post

  • Social media post

  • Event/trade show

  • Checklist

  • Cheatsheet

  • Press release

  • Infographic

  • Interactive quiz

  • Explainer video

  • Research

  • 101 webinar

  • 101 podcast

  • 101 ebook

  • 101 courses (shorter length)

  • Interactive tools (e.g., generators, analyzers)

  • Direct mail

Top-of-funnel marketing do’s and don’ts

Top-of-funnel marketing do’s and don’ts

Do create problem-solving content

If you want your message to reach the ToFu audience, it should be helpful to them. They’re figuring out their challenges and prioritizing solutions. In the next stage, mid-funnel (MoFu), people compare and contrast solutions. Make your brand memorable now so they remember you later.

Do appeal to your intended audience

You’re casting a wide net at the top of the funnel. Appealing to your intended audience needs to be a top goal. Messaging should be for your specific personas at their particular stage in the funnel. So, continually focus on personas AND stages. 

Do what works multiple times

The upper funnel is a playground for marketing experimentation because you create the most content for this audience. Along the way, you’ll test things and find out what works. When you find something that works, be sure to repurpose that content in various formats across multiple channels.

Don’t sell when no one’s ready

Old-school marketing tactics used to be very intrusive. The modern audience is resistant to these tactics.  No matter how excited you are about features and benefits, stick with problem-solving content. That’ll steer your ToFu audience in the right direction instead of attempting a hard sell. 

Don’t do all the content internally

High content production demands for engaging your audience in the upper funnel can be extremely taxing for your internal team. If you haven’t looked into outsourcing content, this is an excellent option for busy brands. Freelancers allow your brand to scale and save time by bringing skilled creatives together who fill gaps and increase output with content production.

Next Steps in Your Top-of-Funnel Marketing Strategy

Today’s buyer will ultimately choose their own adventure along their journey. Understanding top-of-funnel marketing means you’re prepared to serve the appropriate content for anyone who interacts with your brand at this stage. Through non-selling marketing activities, you can connect with your audience on their terms and become the resource they turn to when it’s time to select a solution.

When you’re ready to create top-of-funnel content that converts, talk to a ClearVoice content specialist and find out how we can help you reach your customers at each stage of the journey.