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Top-of-the-funnel content marketing

How to enter the first stage of your sales funnel with the right content

If you are starting a business or want to build up your online presence, you will have two main goals: to raise brand awareness and to generate traffic to your page. After that, it’s up to you to offer relevant content that turns website visitors into customers, and customers into returning clients.

For this, you need a content strategy that takes the customer through three levels of content as part of the classic buying journey: top-of-the-funnel (ToFu), middle-of-the-funnel (MoFu), and bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu). In this article, we’ll take a look at how to design a top-of-the-funnel content marketing strategy that strengthens your brand visibility and attracts the traffic you need to drive conversion.

What is ToFu content marketing?

Let’s start from the top. What is ToFu content marketing, and how can it be useful for your business? ToFu content marketing focuses on creating brand awareness and/or user engagement among your target audience. At this stage, you aren’t trying to sell anything. Your content shouldn’t pressure customers into making a purchase, but instead provide information that addresses a need, a problem or question. Unique, valuable content will make users curious and interested – not only about your product or service, but also about your brand.

ToFu content marketing is all about awareness. This means you want to achieve the following goals:

  • Strengthening brand image and recognition
  • Showing expertise
  • Presenting non-promotional information that satisfies the user’s intent
  • Creating brand recognition value

If we successfully fulfil these KPIs, we will reach our final goal – generating traffic. This traffic can be easily turned into leads in the MoFu stage and into conversion in BoFu. If the consumer considers your product/brand already due to trustworthy content measures in the ToFu stage.

How to get started with successful ToFu content marketing

Define what your acquisition funnel will look like

Before you define a strategy, you need to define a clear purpose. At this stage, it helps to answer the following questions to form a marketing plan:

1. What’s my brand image?

In order to gain brand recognition, you should communicate to the customer a clear statement about what your business stands for and what message your brand wants to communicate. This is especially useful for startups, whose brand image may not yet be set in stone. In this case, ToFu content marketing can even help you to test strategies and define the brand image more thoroughly. However, the mission and vision should be clear and decided beforehand.

2. What’s my audience?

Your brand image and your productwill help you to define your audience.Develop different target groups within this audience based on their preferences and interests.Do I want to attract clients from the B2C or B2B sector? Do I want to mix these strategies, tapping into both target groups and measuring who would be most receptive to it? Your ToFu content marketing strategy will depend on tackling the right customers and the right time.

3. What are my buyer’s needs?

Why would potential buyers look for your business online? What problem could they have that you can satisfy with your product/service offers? Here it might be also useful to rely on a classic keyword research. Look up several search terms that are connected to your product/service. Do not only consider commercial search results, but also navigational/informational or transactional search queries.

4. What is my buyer’s journey?

The buyer’s journey involves the three stages of the sales funnel that your potential client has to pass through to complete a purchase. The right buyer’s journey is essential for differentiating your business from the competition. The buyer’s journey shouldn’t be confused with the buyer’s need. The buyer’s need only surrounds the desire to purchase a product and the questions a customer might have around this topic. The buyer’s journey includes all additional information and services your business can offer the customer before the purchase so he can build confidence in choosing your business at the point of the actual purchase.

5. What are my goals?

At the end of the day you want to drive conversion. But what do you want to achieve? Define your goals apart from sales and set your KPIs for the ToFu stage.

  • Do you want brand recognition?
  • Do you want to position yourself among/against the competition?
  • Do you want the potential buyer to engage with your brand?

These KPIs will help you to successfully draw upon your buyer’s journey in the ToFu stage.

Define the right content formats for your audience

After you set up internal goals and strategies within your marketing plan, you can move ahead with a decision on the right ToFu content format. Here it is important that you already aim towards a certain audience as your target segment. ToFu content differs in its format and presentation for each target group. You may even combine styles if your product/service has a wide-ranging audience. However, when in doubt, go distinct and specific.

The right content for the right audience

Understanding your audience and their needs will not only help you to better understand the buyer’s journey, but also which content formats will make this journey the most enticing for the customer.

A B2B audience usually needs trust and validation, while a B2C audience like catchiness and relevance. Let’s take a look at the most common formats for your chosen target group.

ToFu content and formats for B2B audience

In the B2B sector, it’s all about gaining trust. The B2B ToFu content must therefore be very high-quality. The consumer already knows what they want. Now they would like to build upon their expertise and learn new facts and insights.

What are the important features of good B2B content?

  • B2B ToFu content needs to be trustworthy.
  • B2B ToFu content should be validated by a reliable and comparable source.
  • B2B ToFu content is ideally data-driven. Findings are unique and very descriptive.
  • B2B ToFu content has to convince with in-depth information, such as an expert editorial with a wide range of topics.
  • B2B ToFu content should position your brand as a thought leader, such as content packaged in the form of a series on a theme.

What is the ideal content format for B2B audience?

1. Informative and educational content

Informative content gives the customer non-promotional information around the product/service, educational content dives into an expert topic related to the product/service. This content format benefits from data or expert editorials.

Practical example: Guides and e-books

Guides and e-books offer high-quality, wide-ranging content not limited to information about the topic at hand. Educate your audience on a topic related to your product/service with unique data or expert insights. Draw upon a problem that your clients could come across during their buyer’s journey and illustrate possible scenarios with unique solutions.

Scenario: You have a fintech company that offers financial services. You find out that cryptocurrencies are a trending topic and decide to launch an e-book on it – using data from a survey and an expert commenting on your content. Now it is important that you make your audience curious about your expertise. As you are in the ToFu stage, a downloadable asset might be not the right fit – your clients have to know you first. In this case, you can offer snippets of your e-book on a landing page, possibly with diagrams or dynamic charts to visualise your data. After reading, the buyer will be curious and seek more information – thus entering the MoFu stage and downloading your e-book.

2. Audiovisual content

Audiovisual content both appeals to two senses and is a less time-consuming format. Audiovisual content can only be consumed where it can be listened to – like in a gym or car. This turns it into an ideal tool to create a series of expert content pieces that often proves a commendable way to build trust.

Practical example: Podcast

  • Take on an approach towards a niche topic and prepare a roundtable discussion with experts
  • Launch a podcast series with an umbrella topic so your audience catches up on your latest episodes.
  • Include your audience by giving them the chance to ask questions during the podcast or lead an FAQ session after your presentation.

ToFu content and formats for B2C audience

  • B2C ToFu content should be relevant, unique and catchy.
  • B2C ToFu content has to be informative, easily digested and different from the competition.
  • Interactive content elements or playful assets that help the user to digest the content.
  • ToFu content has to capture the search intent – keyword analysis in SEO can help to forecast the user‘s intent.
  • ToFu content can be data-driven – for validation purposes, an expert statement or customer testimonial raises trust.
  • Videos and tutorials can explain products playfully and give the consumer quick, digestible information on a topic.

What is the ideal content format for B2C audience?

1. Informative and educational content

Informative content in the B2C sector should be relevant and match current interests of target audience. Referral marketing is a good strategy in the B2C segment – this also applies to content. If the content relates to a specific person or situation and can be compared, your audience will see it as more relevant. The content can be

Practical example: Blog posts

Blog posts help you to spread non-commercial information and animate your reader to consume more content from your page.

Scenario: you promote green energy deals and launch several blog articles surrounding the topic “sustainable energy sources”. Your audience will build trust in your content and thus awareness of your brand and your product/service. Maybe the customer didn’t want to change their energy deal initially, but will do so after receiving this additional information. If they associate your brand with the topic of sustainability after consuming your content, you will have successfully passed the ToFu stage of your sales funnel!  

Blog articles can be also launched in form of a content hub or a content marketing campaign (landing page content). Shareable assets such as infographics or interactive content can explain the facts in an easy and playful way.

2. Audiovisual content

Audiovisual content for B2C audience should be short, catchy and explanatory. Ideally, you produce a short video about a certain topic, where you also have a speaker and/or a visual appealing design. Brevity is everything: any videos should be limited to one minute. Social media is your stage to amplify audiovisual B2C content– make your videos unique and memorable and diffuse them to a wide audience on several social channels.

Practical example: Tutorial snippets

Tutorial snippets are audiovisual guides that can be easily watched and shared. They are fast replacing longtail content or lengthy tutorial sessions.

Scenario: You are a fashion retailer and you would like to give your client advices on how they can iron their blouses properly. We are in the ToFu – so we won’t promote a product but rather offer a valuable guidance on a – in this case – evergreen topic. You could create a step-to-step guide, how to iron a blouse, but your competition is one step ahead with several articles around this topic. Why not making your own step-to-step guide with mini-tutorials? Your clients don’t have to go through a lengthy video to know how to fold their satin blouse after ironing – they can just consume one of your snippets to know. A perfect way to combine informative content with audiovisual elements.

3. Interactive content

Interactive content not only helps your readers to digest the content, it also fosters the engagement of your website visitors. As long as there is engagement there will be interaction with the brand, which improves brand recognition – an important step in the ToFu journey. Also, a reduced bounce rate helps your SEO.

Practical example: Quiz

An interactive quiz can give an answer to a question the user has – the solution can be related to your product/service but doesn’t have to be. The quiz can be a great addition to informative content that raises questions that direct the user towards the sales funnel. Make sure it can be used quickly and intuitively.

Scenario: Your clothing business is launching a new collection. You are writing content about fashion influencers and your favourite accessories for the summer. Now you would like the user to consider a new summer outfit, ideally with your collection. You could launch a quiz that helps the user to find the right summer outfit for their complexion: the user answers 4-5 easy questions and is recommended a summer top or dress. If they like it, they can easily navigate to look at your collection or possibly sign up for a newsletter – first stage successfully passed!

ToFu content marketing for B2C and B2B audience

B2B companies in particular have a percentage of clients who act independently, i.e. with their own small business or are simply interested in the topic.

As ToFu content should appeal to a wide audience with the main purpose of traffic generation, it could also prove useful to use elements from both segments and test whether B2B or B2C audience is more receptive to your content. In this sense, ToFu content can be versatile if your business strategy requires it, or if you are still in the process of experimenting within your brand image/audience requirements.

Example: Shopsystem guide for our client fintech Mollie

Jazz up heavy B2B content with interactive, playful elements.

Source: Mollie Shopsystem Guide

Example: “Travelling despite Corona” for our client Adria Luxury Rent

Add data-driven assets to your B2C content landing page to build interesting stories for link-building or PR.

Source: Croatia Luxury Rent

How to measure success in ToFu content marketing?

As top-of-the-funnel content marketing starts from scratch, performance must be monitored to ensure the strategy is on the right track and targets the right audience. 

Awareness 

Spread your content to other related target pages and make their readers aware of your brand through links and mentions. If your content fulfils all requirements to be appealing to a certain audience, the target page will take on your content. Your content is especially appealing if you enrich it with shareable assets that the respective target pages can use. B2B content could have shareable diagrams, B2C content can be more attractive, e.g. with a playful infographic. 

Traffic

Keep an eye on referral and organic traffic data for the landing page where your ToFu content is placed. An increase in visibility and ranking is a great indicator of the content’s success and tells you how appealing your content is to the audience. 

What’s next?

You have created a lot of buzz and interest around your brand and your content is successful. What’s next? In order to achieve your goal of conversion, you have to dive deeper into the sales funnel – the mid-of-funnel content marketing stage begins! Downloadable content and assets or catchy newsletters – grow a solid customer base around your brand.

Luckily you don’t have to think about it alone – check out our article from Carina about MoFu: content for the middle of the sales funnel.

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