Veteran sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer is famous for saying: “People don’t like to be sold – but they love to buy.”
He says that a great salesperson, brand, or marketing campaign focuses less on what they are selling and more on why people will buy it.
While this model can be applied throughout the entire sales process, the most impactful time to implement a buyer-centered approach is the very first time a potential buyer encounters your brand or product.
This is called top of funnel marketing, and doing it right can have a powerful effect on the rest of your sales process. Top of funnel marketing has become increasingly relevant as 87% of shoppers now start their buying journey online, even when they plan to buy in-store. Top of funnel marketing enables you to meet your potential customers when it’s most crucial: at the very beginning of their journey.
This article explains what top of funnel marketing is, what kind of content to deploy in this phase, and why it’s so important to connect with your audience this way.
What is top of funnel marketing?
The marketing funnel is a way of visualizing the selling process or, to stick with Gitomer’s point of view, the customer’s buying process. The funnel represents the process a potential customer goes through, from the initial contact with your brand through to a purchase.
While there are many different ways to represent the marketing funnel, for the purposes of this discussion, we can keep it pretty simple:
The funnel has three primary stages:
- Top of funnel: Awareness
- Where audiences discover, connect, and interact with your brand for the first time. Marketing focuses on reach, engagement, and gathering data on audience personas, for analysis and future targeting in the following phases.
- Middle of funnel: Interest
- Where audiences engage with your brand and explore your products. In this phase you need to prove your brand’s worth and build customer trust. At this phase, marketing is more carefully targeted to specific audiences and reinforces your value proposition.
- Bottom of funnel: Buying
- Where audiences become customers. Marketing at this phase is focused on conversion and customer retention.
Potential customers enter the funnel at the top as soon as they become aware of your brand or have some interaction with your online presence. Initially, a very large audience may interact with your website, social sites, or content. Fewer will stay connected and continue deeper into the funnel by shifting from general awareness to exploring your products or services in more detail. Even fewer travel all the way through to the bottom of the funnel and buy something.
Getting customers to the bottom of the funnel is called conversion. Improving sales conversion rates generally starts at the top of the funnel, but this is not always the case.
What type of marketing content works best at the top of the funnel?
Top of funnel marketing is all about content, content, content. If content is queen, then the top of the funnel is where it truly reigns supreme.
An important aspect to recognize about top of funnel marketing is that it is consumer-centric. Marketing for top-of-funnel needs to address what it is about your potential consumers and brand that mesh well. What are your buyers interested in? What kind of information might they need? How can you help?
You also will not directly sell at the top of the funnel. Instead, focus on informing your audience about your brand and creating a connection with them. Your objective is to increase brand awareness, generate leads, and position yourself as a trusted source of informational or enjoyable content in the niche or marketplace you reside in. Offer them a valuable resource on a topic related to your products or services. Discuss important changes or trends in your industry.
You want to grab the attention of your audience and hold it long enough to motivate them into the next step of the funnel: a more engaged exploration of your products and services.
Top of funnel marketing content can consist of:
- Blog posts
- SEO optimization
- Social media and influencer content
- White papers and other long-form educational content
Top of funnel marketing is an important part of a buyer-centric sales model because it allows you to connect with potential customers before you actually try to sell anything to them. By the time you do introduce selling, they have already established a relationship with your brand, and if you’ve been doing things right, they might even trust you as a thought-leader in your marketplace.
Why should you use top of funnel marketing?
Whether you are in B2B or B2C sales, your potential customers are more informed than ever before.
As we already mentioned, the vast majority of people now begin shopping for information before they even start shopping for specific products. Shoppers do online product research and price comparisons to determine the nearest, quickest, or easiest way to buy.
If you have not created SEO optimized content, it’s likely that over 80% of your potential customers are going to find your competitors in their Google searches first and enter into their marketing funnel instead of yours.
You don’t need to be a large, global, or internet-based company to benefit from top of funnel marketing either. Hubspot reports that, according to Google data, 51% of smartphone users encounter a new product or company when doing a search on their phone. These stats are backed up by Statista, which states that over 52% of all web traffic is now mobile. There has also been a 900% increase in the number of searches that include “near me” in the last couple years and 50% of searchers visit a store within one day.
That means that, if you are investing in top of funnel marketing, you have the potential to reach a huge mobile audience and then convert that audience from top of funnel to the bottom of the funnel in just one day. This is an extremely powerful source of new customers.
Using blog posts for top of funnel marketing
Blog posts are essential to top of funnel marketing. They are the perfect vehicle for SEO optimized content that increases your website’s visibility in search engines results. You can go in-depth on a single topic in a blog and establish your authority on a subject while simultaneously building brand awareness with new audiences.
Here’s an example. Say your company sells siding. You want to expand your market reach for new and first-time homebuyers. You’ve tried social media ads and website promotions offering discounts and specials for new homebuyers, but you don’t seem to be getting much new traffic. What’s going wrong?
Well, marketing tactics only work when the content matches the buyer’s position in the sales funnel. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to even talk about Buying if your customer is still at the top of the funnel in the Awareness phase. Instead of directly selling or promoting your products to brand new customers, think about how you can build a relationship with them first.
Use your blog content to explore the kinds of questions that a new homeowner might ask when they are trying to learn about siding for an upcoming renovation: What types of siding are there and what are the differences between them? How does each kind compare in price and durability? How can you figure out how much siding you will need to buy?
Perhaps you supply a valuable resource such as a price comparison worksheet that helps people work out which product will fit into their renovation budget. Always include a call to action or link in your blog content so, even if the reader isn’t ready to commit to a purchase, they are able to explore your products and services more fully on your website or a landing page.
Now you’re truly buyer-centric and you’ve likely motivated your reader to engage more deeply with your products, moving them farther through the funnel toward an eventual sale.
Top of funnel marketing ensures you meet your customers at the very beginning of their buying process and has incredible potential to expand your brand awareness, establish your online presence and authority in your market, and create long-term, loyal customers.