Marketing happens in many stages.

There is the awareness phase, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and finally—the purchase phase. During each step of the journey, marketers must stay in contact and keep their leads engaged and interested.

While the goal is to eventually take leads to the bottom of the funnel, that cannot happen without dedicating time and energy to a top of the funnel marketing strategy.

What is top of the funnel marketing?

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Top of the funnel marketing refers to the first stage of the buyer’s journey. It is the part of the process where marketers will spread brand awareness about their products and services to generate leads that will hopefully, eventually, become customers.

Marketers and media buyers should target the top of the funnel when attempting to bring in new leads to nurture. At this point, they will be looking at as many leads as possible, and then narrowing them down as they go through the funnel. Since top of the funnel leads are unfamiliar with a brand, it is in this stage that marketers must prove their value.

Top of the funnel marketing is useful when trying to find new consumers who haven’t discovered you before. It’s not for targeting repeat customers that are already aware of what your company does and sells.

The structure of the marketing funnel.

The top of the funnel is the awareness stage.

Here, your content should aim to inform your audience about topics related to your brand and not focus on selling.  Research and analyze what kind of content your audience wants, and create around those interests.

For example, if a tech company that creates smart watches might produce educational and/or entertaining content related to smart watches, smart technology, efficient devices and more.

At the top of the funnel, your goal is to collect email addresses and phone numbers to nurture.

You could ask for an email in exchange for a valuable whitepaper or ebook that they could not find elsewhere—you need to demonstrate that you’re a thought leader that can supply value.

You should also include calls to action (CTAs) at the bottom of your content, like blogs and whitepapers, that compels  readers to visit a product landing page. In that case, it is their choice to click your CTA, and you’re  not trying to sell them on anything until they get to that landing page.

In the middle of the funnel, you’re proving your worth to your potential customers and creating more of a dialogue with them.

For instance, a blog in the top of the funnel may be informative and fun but it doesn’t show that you are the best company in your field.

Middle of the funnel content should include content like customer testimonials, case studies, free trials and live webinars that show you are knowledgable—an industry leader that has proven to drive results for your customers.

At the end of the funnel is when a salesperson will make a hard sell to a potential customer.

You can provide  leads with free in-house demonstrations, limited time promotional codes for your services and one-on-one consultations. The goal is to ultimately sweeten the deal and make the sale in this stage.

See our article on performance marketing to see how to drive relevant KPIs for all of these stages.

See our article on conversion rate optimization to get better at hitting those KPIs.

What type of top of the funnel content should you create?

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Top of the funnel marketing is all about content these days.

In the past few years, content marketing has taken over the traditional advertising model. Instead of creating outbound content like billboards and TV commercials, brands are now focusing on inbound content that will attract their leads.

Today, 81% of shoppers will conduct online research prior to making a purchase, according to MineWhat. And according to HubSpot, in the B2B world, 47% of buyers will view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative.

On the B2C side, companies that blog 11 times per month will receive nearly three times more traffic than those blogging zero or one time per month.

Top of the funnel content is critical because it is how you can attract that potential customer. Your ideal lead may be searching on Google, and your article pops up. She will read it and click the call to action, find herself on your landing page, and read all about your products and services. Now, you have someone who may eventually convert.

Your lead may also see your content on social media or stumble upon it on her favorite publication through your paid native advertising efforts. She may see one of your videos in-feed on the website of a newspaper she loves to read.

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If your content is good, and she is in the market for your products and services, she will be intrigued to learn more. She may hand her email over to you receive access to a great ebook you are offering or click on your call to action. Then, you can move her through the funnel.

When coming up with your own top of the funnel content strategy, you should consider creating the following types of content:

  • Blog posts
  • Native advertising posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Whitepapers
  • SlideShare presentations
  • Social media posts
  • Research studies
  • Guides
  • Direct mail
  • Webinars
  • Events
  • Ebooks

The type of top of the funnel content will completely depend upon the audience. For example, a B2B audience might want in-depth blog posts and case studies on niche industry subjects, while a B2C audience might like to see short and entertaining videos about a topic related to the business. Do your audience research to determine which content will work best according to their needs.

What are some examples of top of the funnel content?

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If you want to truly grasp how to create effective top of the funnel content, you need to see it in action.

NASCAR’s dive into sponsored content.

In a Q&A with Taboola, NASCAR Digital Media’s Senior Director of Content Rights and Partnerships Sarah Davis talks about why NASCAR branched out into sponsored content.

Davis discusses the value of sponsored content for her brand and how she uses content to reach NASCAR fans. Their a good example of how to leverage branded content to make noise around a customer base.

AM:PM uses branded video for a big impact.

Another piece of top of the funnel content is about AM:PM, one of Israel’s leading markets. The article covers how AM:PM used cartoon branding videos that advertised some of the products available in their store.

Publishers advertised their videos in-feed, and AM:PM saw incredible results from the campaign.

In both cases, the brands aimed to educate and provide value to theie specific audiences. They are all about the audiences’ wants and needs and do not try to make a sale at this time.

What should result from top of the funnel marketing?

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If top of the funnel content is effective, audiences will want to learn more about a company and what they have to offer.

They’ll then move onto the interest stage of the marketing funnel, which is the middle, where they will want to see how the company can help them.

Finally, at the end of the tunnel, the audiences will hopefully convert and buy products and services.

How can Taboola help top of the funnel marketers?

Taboola, a content discovery platform, is useful in every stage of the marketing funnel. It allows marketers to reach large, built-in audiences, whether users are in the awareness or purchase phases.

Instead of creating top of the funnel content that only a few hundred or thousand people will see, Taboola can project and amplify the content to more than one billion relevant users and potential customers across premium publishers.

The Taboola content discovery platform eliminates one of the toughest steps for marketers: building an audience. Marketers can simply focus on what they do best, which is creating stellar content. All they have to do is click “publish,” and their content will go out to the specific consumers they are looking to target.

Audiences will see content in-feed, where it fits in naturally on a publishers’ platform, and be able to watch a brand’s video on programmatic or managed service channels. All of the content appears in safe and viewable spaces, where consumers know they will be protected.

Now is the time for marketers to invest in top of the funnel marketing. In today’s environment, it is the most effective way to reach potential customers and make valuable sales.

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