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Written by Carolyn King
on January 29, 2019

With billions of searches happening daily, today’s B2B marketer struggles with the task of encouraging visitors to convert to into quality leads.

Inbound marketing is the name of the game, and if you’re playing to win, you have to create full-circle content strategies that capture interest and nurture leads to the next stage of the buyer's journey. 

This content marketing strategy eases prospects through a sales funnel: a series of stages in the buyer’s journey from learning about a product to making a purchase.

Deal Stage Buyer Journey

Image: Sample Deal-Stage Sales Funnel

The number of stages vary, but overall, think you of it in terms of a simple, three-step funnel with a top, middle, and bottom.

For this article, I’ll be focusing on the top of the funnel where marketers compete to draw the attention of prospects and get that proverbial foot through the door.

I’ll quickly go over the concept of top-of-funnel (ToFu) content and dive into the process behind creating effective content strategies built around this stage,

If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to attract strangers to your brand or business, read on.

What is Top-of-Funnel Content?

Top-of-funnel content, as you might have guessed, refers to content that’s designed to generate awareness about a brand, service or product.

ToFu content is focused mainly on interest and education, giving the audience a compelling reason to get engaged with whatever media has been produced.

Guess what? The article you are reading now is considered ToFu content!

At the top of the funnel, marketers aren’t trying to sell their products, but rather set their product up as the answer to a compelling need of their target market. By focusing on a broader topic, they aren’t directly promoting a solution; rather, they are creating content around a common problem the target audience is searching for. 

For example, ToFu content for an inbound consultancy agency, could include blog articles, videos or infographics discussing: "The Benefits of Using a Funnel-Based Approach to Marketing for your SaaS Businesses." You see, the topic isn't promoting the agency, it's explaining tips and strategies that relate back to its service portfolio. 

How to Come up with Great ToFu Content Ideas

The best ToFu content shares one thing in common: they resonate with their target audience.

Generating great ideas for ToFu content means keeping in touch with your market’s attitudes, interests, pain points and needs.

There are plenty of ways to find out what your market is thinking and feeling.

Market research is an obvious starting point, but broad statistical trends are often too general when narrowing down a single approach.

Note down key insights, and use your wider findings to inspire deeper questions about your buyer personas that isn't typically found on the web. 

For clearer and more direct insights, I recommend going straight to the source and reaching out to your customers. 

Alternately, you should ask your sales team for their own insights on your customer base. They’re likely to have a very good understand about trends and patterns in what motivated leads to become customers.

Finally, it helps to take a look at your competition and what works best for them. If your business has a presence on Facebook, Business Manager allows you to follow your competitors’ pages and look at an overview of their ads -- it’s a gold mine for top-of-funnel content ideas.

Aligning ToFu Content with MoFU Content

marketing-metrics-calculate-digital-roi

Since the metric for good top-of-funnel content is how well it can motivate strangers to provide your business with personal contact information, your ToFu content has to align with the middle of the funnel

To clarify, middle-of-funnel content (MoFu) is content that’s designed to convince buyers do their homework and weigh their options before finally converting into a customer. At this point, they are considering purchasing from a product like your own, but haven't considered leaving out your competitors as a viable option. 

Let’s go back to our earlier example of a marketing consultancy firm: MoFu content here could mean a well-made case study documenting the firm’s experiences with successful clients, or an instructional video that explains the process of working with them in broad strokes. It gives a lead a firmer understanding of your business, and foreshadows what their experience might look like once they become a customer. 

The challenge is to create top-of-funnel content that gives just the right amount of value, leaving enough gaps to have your audience looking for more. It’s tricky to gauge just how much content you should pack in your articles and media, but gauge you must.

Likewise, it’s important to deploy the right call to action (CTA) at the end of each piece of ToFu content to move your leads to the next stage of the sales funnel. Assuming you’ve created an interesting piece of awareness content, the next step is to direct them to the consideration stage should they chose to opt-in. 

You’ll find a lot of resources about CTA design, but for our purposes, I’ll leave you with the single most important tip regarding CTAs: Context. 

"We looked at the data for more than 93,000 calls-to-action created in the last year using HubSpot. These calls-to-action collectively received hundreds of millions of views. And we found that calls-to-action which dynamically changed to be more relevant to the viewer had a 42% higher view-to-submission rate than calls-to-action that were the same for all visitors." (HubSpot, Meghan Keaney Anderson). 

Keep Your ToFu Fresh

I’ll cap off this article with an SEO hack that can help you maximize the value of your ToFu content: make sure to update your content regularly --especially your blog articles.

Google privileges web pages that stay current with changing trends and figures. Even your evergreen content needs to be touched up every so often to stay on the top page and reach more potential customers for minimal effort.

Beyond its value for SEO, updating your content helps you position your brand as an active expert in your field, and a resource worth revisiting. For the majority of industries, it pays to be the brightest and most advanced of the lot.

SEO Google rankings

Finally, fresh content is great material for remarketing. You can loop past site visitors and mailing list subscribers back into your funnel by offering them the latest news on topics that received high traffic a year or two ago, saving you time, effort, and creative strain.

Conclusion

The secret to excellent top-of-funnel content strategy is The Connection. The best ToFu content connects with its intended audience, with the remainder of the funnel, and with other best practices in the digital marketing arena. Assess the bigger picture and scrutinize details like placement and shelf life, and you’re golden.

Top-of-funnel content is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to planning a digital marketing strategy for 2019. 

smart inbound marketing

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