Guide to Top of Funnel Marketing

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We’ve all been in various stages of a marketing funnel. All of us – every consumer – is likely existing in different stages of multiple brands’ marketing funnels right now. It’s a strange, but very real reality. Each time you click a blog post, fill out a form field, engage with an ad, open an email, start a free trial, and eventually click buy… you are taking an action within a funnel. 

While we as marketers are consumers ourselves, we’re also the individuals and organizations who are designing these marketing funnels and the content built to drive prospects through each stage. 

We work to push potential buyers from awareness to consideration, intent, evaluation, and ultimately to purchase. During each stage, we are tasked with bringing in new, qualified leads and maintaining interest and engagement by any means possible. 

While converting these prospects into customers is the ultimate goal, marketers have to first feed leads into a brand’s lead sequence to begin with. This is top of funnel marketing.

What is top of funnel marketing?

Top of funnel marketing is where the customer journey often begins. Before retargeting tactics, demos, and buyer-personalized content; this is where consumers are introduced to the brand. When consumers engage with a Facebook ad, follow a new brand account on Twitter, or click to read a blog post… they’re entering a customer journey through the top of the funnel.

It’s here that marketers aim to reach a large audience to build awareness and spark interest in their product or service. This phase is key to supplying the organization with leads who have shown a level of interest in the brand. 

Top of funnel marketing can be compared to a first impression. Marketers are typically introducing the brand to a new audience who has yet to discover their specific offering. Because the audience is unfamiliar, it is the marketer’s job to introduce the brand, prove value, and begin laying the foundation to build trust.

What content works for top of funnel marketing?

With a goal to raise awareness and generate interest – and ultimately bring in more leads – top of funnel content is often built to inform and engage the audience, not immediately sell them. To do this effectively, marketers have to intimately understand their audience.

What does the audience need to know? What problems do they have to solve? What are their interests and what will they search for?

Understanding the audience will provide marketers with the information and understanding to build content assets the audience wants and will potentially exchange their information for. 

Top-of-funnel marketing success can come in various forms. For some brands, it can include following or engaging with a social media account. Others win with increased website traffic or blog readership. Frequently, real top-of-funnel wins are measured not only off of awareness, but when the audience is convinced to take the next action to ultimately become a lead – offering their name, email address, or phone number in exchange for an asset they deem to be valuable. 

To earn this “hand raise,” marketers will include offers or calls-to-action (CTA) within their top-of-funnel content offering. These CTAs direct users to more valuable assets and encourage them to provide their contact information for more access or information in return.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the most popular forms of top-of-funnel content are:

  • Social media marketing aimed at increasing social traffic to your website.

  • Influencer marketing campaigns aimed at spreading brand awareness and reaching more people.

  • Paid advertising campaigns to reach your target audience in a fast and precise manner.

  • Blog posts and other valuable content to get more organic search traffic. In fact, 73% of B2B marketers find blog posts to be most effective in the early stages of a buyer’s journey.

Three top of funnel influencer marketing examples

Significant cultural events like awards shows and major sporting events are common ground for brands to launch top of funnel marketing campaigns. While Super Bowl commercials might be the most famous of these activations, brands today can launch awareness and audience-building initiatives across multiple platforms and channels without the seven-figure investment. 

During this year’s NFL Draft, several brands introduced top of funnel marketing campaigns by delivering their message through the social media channels of to-be rookie Draft prospects.

Procter & Gamble | #NFLRedCarpet

To bring a sense of fun and normalcy to the NFL Draft during Covid-19 isolation, P&G brands including Old Spice, Gillette, and Head & Shoulders worked together with 20 first-round Draft selections to create an athlete influencer social media campaign.

The players each shared videos of their own “red carpet” experience in and around their homes, introducing their personal audiences to the P&G #NFLRedCarpet campaign. The players delivered more than a million video views and 500 thousand engagements. 

EA Sports | #Madden20

EA Sports and Madden, its flagship football game, introduced an NFL Draft promotion called “Free to Play” weekend, allowing gamers to download and play the game for free for a promotional period of time. 

EA Sports designed an athlete influencer marketing campaign by partnering with nearly half of the first-round Draft picks to promote the game on their personal Twitter and Instagram channels. The participating players shared posts inviting fans to join their weekend streams of the game. In total, the  posts shared by players earned almost 2 million social media engagements.

Panini America | #PaniniInstant

As a longtime partner of the NFL, Panini America has the honors of introducing most newly-drafted rookies with their first NFL rookie playing card. To raise awareness to its prestigious place as an NFL partner and the provider of first-round rookie cards, Panini designed an athlete-driven campaign featuring several first-round rookies. The players shared their brand-new rookie card with their own passionate fanbase via their personal social media channels, making the cards highly visible and available to purchase. 

What follows the top of the funnel?

So, what’s next? 

When top of funnel content and tactics are effective, audiences will want to know more. They’ll seek out more information and assets to learn more about the brand and its offering. 

A portion of the audience will eventually move to the next stage – the middle of the funnel. Here they can qualify interest, begin consideration, and understand how the brand can specifically help them. Effective content will become more buyer-focused and often more personalized to the individual as the audience moves through the funnel. 

Eventually, the audience will make their evaluation and hopefully convert to purchase the brand’s product or service. 

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