Top of the Funnel (TOFU) marketing is essential for attracting potential customers into your sales funnel. To scale your business online, it’s necessary to introduce your brand and products/services to new prospects and take them on the buyer’s journey towards becoming paying customers. The main challenge with TOFU is that it has too many moving parts. It may be difficult to find an effective way to reach the right audience with the right message. And since its main goal is not to drive direct sales, it may be confusing to understand its effectiveness if you don’t know how to measure success. To maximize the ROI of upper-funnel marketing, you need a clear strategy to fill your funnel with quality prospects that you can turn into leads and sales, without wasting money and time on tactics that may not work. This article will describe how to use TOFU marketing to attract quality prospects at the lowest cost possible, to increase sales and profit. Let’s jump straight in.
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What is top of funnel marketingTop of the funnel (aka upper funnel) marketing refers to activities and campaigns used to introduce and expose your brand, content and offerings to new (cold) audiences, then gradually take them on the buyer’s journey towards becoming leads and customers. TOFU is the first funnel stage and the initial touchpoint with potential customers. They have a chance to get to know your business, and you have an opportunity to collect valuable data for later stages of the funnel. The main goal of marketing funnels is to bring traffic to your website, engage with prospects and turn them into customers. It helps segment your audience based on where they are in the buying process and allows you to effectively communicate with them with messaging that resonates at each stage. The funnel concept works for both B2B and B2C companies. The only difference is that with B2B funnels it usually takes longer to convert prospects into customers. The sales funnel consists of three stages:
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU)
- Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)
- Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)
- TOFU – Awareness – Strangers, aka prospects, aka cold audience
- MOFU – Consideration – Leads, aka warm audience
- BOFU – Conversion/Decision – Qualified leads, aka sales-ready leads, aka hot audience
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Why is top of funnel marketing importantAt the TOFU phase, you are helping the prospects find and enter your funnel. Even though the main goal is not to drive direct sales and just a small percentage of prospects will become customers, there are still some strong reasons why TOFU marketing is crucial for your sales. Read on to learn 9 key benefits of top of the funnel campaigns.
1) More prospects to fill your sales funnelA sales funnel depends on a steady stream of new prospects flowing in. TOFU marketing helps reach a massive audience of engaged users. So even if only a half pass through to the next stage, you still have enough people to convert. The more people you influence in this phase, the more you’ll have to work with at the MOFU and BOFU stages. More prospects create more opportunities to acquire new customers.
2) First touchpoint with a potential customerAs already mentioned, TOFU is the first touchpoint with a potential customer. And we all know there’s only one chance for leaving a good first impression and how important that is. TOFU is essential for brand awareness and acts as a jumping-off point for your relationship with a potential customer. Top of the Funnel marketing provides the opportunity to introduce your brand in the best possible way, demonstrate your unique value proposition and build trust. By providing value, useful information, and a pleasant experience, you ensure prospects develop a positive opinion about your brand. So, when they’re ready to convert, chances are they’ll seek you out and not your competitors.
3) Higher brand awarenessTOFU marketing helps raise more brand awareness, which is crucial for a successful business. Most people would rather buy from brands they’re familiar with. You need people to know about you and talk about you. Preferably, talk about how great your brand is and how it helped them with their issues or provided them with what they needed. With the right top of the funnel campaigns, you can reach new audiences at scale and put your brand on the map. It’s what every business needs, especially if you’re new and still an underdog in the game.
4) Top of the funnel marketing helps build trust and credibilityMost prospects you meet in the TOFU stage are complete strangers to your brand. That’s why you first need to earn their trust before they consider becoming a customer. By publishing quality content and consistently adding value, you can build trust in your brand and secure your company’s position as an industry expert. Answering your prospects’ questions and offering solutions for their issues will create a connection in their mind between your brand and a positive emotion they have felt by solving the problem.
5) TOFU marketing helps stay top of mindA positive and memorable experience in your initial touchpoints ensures your brand stays top of mind. This has two major benefits:
- Prospects will recognize your brand easier, making your MOFU and BOFU campaigns more effective, and
- When prospects are ready to convert, chances are, your company is the one they’ll reach out to first.
6) There’s less competitionTop of funnel campaigns are typically far less competitive allowing you to capture prospects’ attention easier. Competing for customers at the bottom of the funnel can get pretty fierce. Every company is trying to capture prospects with the highest buying intent. And you should too. However, top of funnel marketing provides a huge opportunity to reach customers before they’re ready to buy when there’s far less competition. In the TOFU stage, you have more options. For example, you can create more content on a variety of topics and target more keywords. And since each topic can have a huge search volume, there are more opportunities to reach potential customers without clashing with direct competitors. You can also target more broad audiences based on their interests, affinities, and behaviour, again avoiding fierce competition.
7) TOFU campaigns have a lower costLess competition means lower costs to acquire customers. TOFU marketing campaigns typically cost less than BOFU. It means that for less money, you can attract more prospects into your funnel and convert them into paying customers. Lower costs are necessary for sustainable top of funnel campaigns. Since people are not going to buy your product or service right away you don’t want to spend too much on TOFU clicks. Running a full-funnel campaign is also more cost-effective than going after the bottom of the funnel users straight away. Since you can capture and nurture prospects at a lower cost with TOFU campaigns, you can avoid relying only on expensive bottom of the funnel campaigns with intense competition. This can help increase the profitability of your campaigns.
8) TOFU attracts more users for retargetingAnother benefit of the top of funnel marketing is creating a bigger retargeting pool. So even if the majority of these people don’t convert right after the first touchpoint, you can later retarget them through ad campaigns on Facebook, Google, etc. Depending on how these prospects interact with your business, you can reach them in the later stages of the funnel, encouraging them to come back and become customers. The average shopping cart abandonment today is around 71%.
9) TOFU helps fill your email remarketing listBy capturing visitors’ contact information through TOFU campaigns, you open up a new opportunity to nurture prospects with email remarketing. As mentioned, most people that discover your website through top of funnel marketing are not ready to do business with you right away. Nonetheless, you can still extract value by collecting emails for later remarketing. Having email capture forms and popups is an excellent opportunity to grow your email list. Through TOFU marketing, you can attract people at a low cost and contact them again – for free.
How to attract new prospects to your funnelNot everyone from the TOFU stage will end up as a paying customer. Many people will drop off from the funnel during the process. It’s essential to attract a massive number of users to the top of the funnel, at a low cost. The nine following methods are the most effective digital marketing strategies to reach new audiences and drive cold traffic to your funnel at scale.
Use SEO and content marketing to drive top of funnel trafficSEO and content marketing are some of the most effective ways to raise awareness and drive cold traffic to your site. Top of the Funnel content serves to attract potential customers because it helps capture users that are in the research and information gathering phase. People use search engine sites to find answers to specific questions or solutions for the problems they face. The main goal of the TOFU content is to educate users, and that’s why these visitors are usually referred to as learners. There are 5 main levels of customer awareness:
- Problem aware
- Solution aware
- Your solution aware
- Most aware
Reach and inspire cold audiences with Facebook AdsTop of funnel Facebook advertising has one main focus, and that’s to attract new audiences to your website. With Facebook and Instagram, you can reach a massive audience of potential customers that you can quickly inspire into a purchase with visual content. These people are likely not familiar with your brand at all. They have no idea who you are or what you do, they don’t trust you and may not be interested in what you offer (yet). That’s why your TOFU Facebook Ads need to peak user interest and stop them from scrolling away. What you want to do with Facebook and Instagram ads is to warm up the cold audience and turn these people into prospects by raising awareness and educating them about your unique value proposition. Using Facebook ads is a perfect way to introduce your brand to an entirely new audience by highlighting their interests, needs and problems and demonstrating how you can solve all that. Focus on showing the unique benefits your product or service offers and inspiring people to visit your website. Facebook Ads are also perfect for top of funnel marketing because you have unparalleled targeting options which can help you reach the right audience. If you are trying to reach completely new users, you should use the following three types of Facebook audiences:
- Demographics-based audiences
- Interest-based audiences
- Lookalike audiences
Drive cold traffic with Google Ads Display prospecting campaignsGoogle Ads Display campaigns’ goal is to get your brand exposed to entirely new audiences unfamiliar with your business and raise awareness about your brand. The great thing about Google’s Display ads is that they can appear just about anywhere on the internet helping you reach the right audience at the right moment. Any placement that is a part of Google Display Network is a potential spot to promote your brand and raise awareness. Google Display Network (GDN) is a group of more than two million websites as well as Gmail, YouTube videos, and apps. According to Google, you can reach over 90% of internet users around the world with Display ads. With Google Display Network targeting, you can set a place or time you want your ad to be shown based on your ideal audience’s features. With Display ads, you can target people based on:
- Audiences – Who you target
- Placements – Where the ads are shown
- Keywords – Interests based on what users actively search for
- Topics – The topics of website/videos
- Affinity Audiences – Includes eighty different groups based on interests or hobbies, such as “beauty products fans,” “gamers” or “car enthusiasts.” Simply put, you can target people based on what they usually like.
- In-Market Audiences – Helps you identify customers who are actively looking at products or services similar to yours. These might be customers who have added makeup products to their shopping cart or those who have visited websites related to hair products.
- Custom Intent Audiences – This is the most effective method that allows you the control to narrow your targeting even more by creating your own audience attribute combination using keywords. If you’re running ads for your online beauty store, you might use keywords such as “skin routine,” “healthy hair tips,” or “glowing skin.” Your ads will be displayed to people that have recently used these keywords. It’s also possible to add specific URLs that your target audience might visit, e.g., beautyworld.com or skinandhairproducts.com and target people that have recently visited these websites.
Leverage YouTube video marketing to capture top of funnel audiencesYouTube videos are a great way to raise awareness by providing context and visuals in a way that text or image ads can’t. They work especially well as an initial touchpoint to introduce your business to new audiences unfamiliar with your brand. As we established, the primary purpose of marketing in the TOFU phase of the funnel is grabbing users’ attention and getting them hooked on your content, so much so they take themselves to the next stage of the sales funnel. Create videos that educate users and provide engaging content. Doing so means fewer people will skip, and more people will be inspired to actually visit your website and check out what you have to offer. The best way to do that is to create TOFU YouTube content that attracts new audiences, builds brand awareness, gives people a valid reason to visit your website, and generates prospects that will flow down the sales funnel to the next stage (MOFU). However, similar to your other content marketing efforts, you need to ensure potential customers can discover your videos. This means you need to perform YouTube video SEO. YouTube video ads are another way to increase awareness and fill your upper funnel with new prospects. You can set up skippable and non-skippable in-stream video ads, which can play before (pre-roll), during (mid-roll), or after (post-roll) the playback of regular YouTube videos. The targeting is similar as with Google Display ads, so you can reach users based on:
- Interests (including Affinity, In-Market and Custom Intent)
- Placements (specific YouTube videos and channels)
Use LinkedIn Ads for prospecting B2B customersLinkedIn Ads are a perfect strategy for prospecting B2B customers. Since this platform focuses on building business connections, it’s the right place to introduce your brand, raise awareness and reach key stakeholders and decision-makers. LinkedIn Ads prospecting works quite similarly to Facebook Ads prospecting, but instead of targeting users based on their interests, LinkedIn allows you to target people based on a company they work for, their position within the company, or their seniority level. In the TOFU stage, where your priority is expanding your reach to capture cold audiences, the best LinkedIn audiences to use are:
- List of companies (Account list) – You can also target specific companies by uploading a list of company names, called the Account list. Layer your targeting with company demographics to only show ads to, for instance, managers and above.
- Broad prospecting based on audience attributes, or LinkedIn’s native targeting, allows you to target Audience attributes such as job title, industry, or skills. This is a great technique for targeting a completely new, cold audience. Layering combinations such as job function+seniority, skills+seniority, or groups+seniority are worth exploring.
- Lookalike Audiences – If you already have high traffic and conversion volume, you can use LinkedIn’s Lookalike audiences. LinkedIn will try to find users similar to your past visitors or customers.
- Cheat sheets
- Industry stats
Focus on social media marketing to reach new audiencesOrganic social media marketing can do wonders for your TOFU. Use your social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., to promote your content and build up pages so you can attract more people to your website. Focus on channels your potential prospects are using the most. Posting regularly on your social media platforms can help you reach new potential customers and drive new people into your sales funnel. Post relevant content, develop a style and voice you’ll stick with, and don’t forget to engage with your audience. With social media posting tools like AI Kontent, you can easily schedule and publish social media posts automatically. You want to leave an excellent first impression. Once you’re able to build up a strong social following, you can gradually funnel those users to your website and deeper into lower-funnel stages.
Alternative advertising platforms can supplement your TOFU marketingAlternative online advertising platforms, such as Microsoft Ads, Quora Ads, Pinterest Ads and Twitter Ads, are another excellent method for reaching additional audiences with top of funnel marketing. Each of these platforms is quite popular and has hundreds of millions of active users to target. The competition on these platforms is relatively low, and advertising on them can be quite cheap. Some of the best alternative advertising platforms to use in the Awareness phase are Pinterest and Quora. Quora ads can do a lot for your brand awareness and lead generation. People on Quora ask for tips, conduct research, and try to find solutions for their problems. In other words, they are highly engaged, open to new ideas and discovering new products – just what you need for your top of funnel marketing. You also have some powerful targeting options which allow you to reach new audiences based on: