The buyer’s journey is as complex as it’s ever been. Buyers are overwhelmed with options, comparative breakdowns of solutions, and collateral that will be able to help them shortlist possible solutions. This is especially true for the B2B space, where companies are investing lots of effort into shaping a good B2B buying journey.
If you want to win in today’s complex digital marketing environment, you would be better off structuring your sales and marketing strategies for each stage of your buyer’s awareness level. This will help you build a larger, more strategic web of content that progressively moves prospects down the marketing and sales funnel, eventually nurturing them into becoming one of your new customers! One simple way to get started with this is to find a tool for this. We suggest that you have a look at our comprehensive guide on choosing a b2b marketing automation tool. This will help you decide what tool is best for your business. It will also help you understand why a marketing automation tool is almost necessary for marketers.
Today we are looking at the top of the marketing funnel (top of funnel marketing), where you are looking to get in front of prospects when they are just beginning to research possible solutions – or even figuring out if their problem is worth solving.
Read on to learn more about this topic! Click on the sections below to jump right to your specific question.
What are the 4 levels of the marketing funnel?
People will refer to these 4 levels, or stages by differing names, but the level of engagement across these stages are almost always the same. There are generally 4 levels of the marketing funnel because you will naturally lose prospects along the buying journey, because the prospect found a better-suited solution (or at least they think so), decided to go another way, or any other reason why someone might drop out of the buying decision process. Take a look at the graphic below to visualize this, at each stage of the marketing funnel, you will end up losing a certain percentage of the people from the previous stage.
As a marketer, or business owner, your goal is to minimize the number of people that you lose at each consequential stage (check out our ultimate guide to SEO for small business). The way you can do that is by constructing content that suits each stage of the buying journey (content marketing), and proving to your prospects that your solution can solve their problem. More on that later!
On a high level, here are the 4 levels of the marketing funnel derived from the academic AIDA model taught in business schools:
- Attention (Discovery): At this stage, your prospect is researching to learn more about their problem. Figuring out if others face this problem as well, how others may have solved the problem, and if the problem is even worth solving.
- Interest (Consideration): At this stage, your prospect is researching between a few solutions that they have shortlisted, trying to figure out which one of those solutions can best solve their problem.
- Conversion (Desire): At this stage, your prospect has reduced their list to the solutions that they are seriously considering. They are trying to figure out if this solution can really solve their problem, and looking for proof of it as well.
- Action: At this stage, you’ve won over the prospect. You are almost at the finish line! Your goal is to make the transition towards action (buying your solution) as easy as possible.
For the rest of this post, we’ll be focusing on helping you master the top of your marketing funnel, and creating content (content marketing) that helps put your company into the shortlist of solutions that your prospect is curious to do more research about!
Why is the top of the funnel important?
Your top-of-funnel marketing campaigns are important because they are the foundation for your sales, and marketing endeavors. This is the earliest stage of the buyer’s journey, so you’ve got the chance of joining your prospects as they research potential solutions.
Top of Funnel is specifically important because it spreads awareness of your solution, educates your prospects about their problem (and how to potentially solve it), and builds buzz for your offering with people that may possibly end up becoming buyers. Educational content also helps you appear as an authority on the topic.
What is top-of-the-funnel content?
Your top-of-funnel content is meant to educate, help, answer common questions, and address common pain points that your buyers may have. You shouldn’t be aiming to try to sell to the audience at this point, because people are just realizing that they have a problem, and trying to find answers as to if they can/should solve that problem.
The goal of top-of-funnel content is to draw potential buyers to your content, increase your brand awareness, and start to build a relationship by helping your buyers meet their needs. The secondary goal with top-of-funnel content is to nurture your visitors so that they move down the buying journey with you in mind. You can do so by asking for their email, and enrolling them in a top of funnel email marketing newsletter (permission-based marketing for the win!).
Top-of-funnel marketing and B2B demand generation content is ideally non-branded, unbiased, and not self-serving, rather trying your best to help your visitors address their questions in the best possible way. Top of funnel content helps you cast a wide net, targeting a larger population than you normally would if you just focus on content that is closer to the sale.
Is SEO targeting the top of the funnel?
Generally, yes, blog posts done for SEO are meant to capture the top of the funnel. That’s just because there are so many more people that are looking for information, than looking to buy. Due to the nature of the ratio of information seekers to buyers, oftentimes blog posts are meant to tap into the top-of-funnel search traffic.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t tackle the latter stages of the marketing funnel with SEO. The queries and keywords used in those searches may be more specific, and long-tail. Let’s walk through an example buying journey, and the keywords that someone may use so it’s easier to understand:
- Top of Funnel Search Term: Places to Visit in USA (5,500 Searchers per Month)
- Middle of Funnel Search Term: Beaches in USA (1,600 Searches per Month)
- Bottom of Funnel Search Term: 5-star Hotels in Miami Beach (20 Searches per Month)
If you simply focus on the bottom-of-funnel keyword from the example above, you may potentially get 20 visitors who have never heard of you before. That’s why you need to help your buyer along their buying journey and tap into the top-of-funnel keyword to cast a wider net to build awareness from the start.
Check out the graphic below from WordStream that showcases the difference between short-tail and long-tail keywords. The search engine world can be a bit confusing to traverse on your own, feel free to schedule a complimentary strategy session if you need tips on how to get started for your company!
What are top-of-funnel ads?
Before we dive into what top-of-funnel ads are specifically, let’s discuss the fact that there are types of modern advertising styles:
- Interruption Marketing: When you try to grab someone’s attention and redirect them towards your product or service. Advertising on any social media platform or banner ads are a good example of interruption marketing because you are trying to get the attention of the web surfer
- Permission Marketing: You are advertising in a more customer-centered way, by delivering messages to consumers based on their intention. Google Ads isn’t a perfect example of permission marketing, but it would fall into this category. A better example is sending out an email marketing campaign to your list of email subscribers (they have given you permission to email them)
Generally, when you are doing top of funnel ads, you are doing interruption-based marketing (with Google Ads being the outlier, as it lies in between interruption and permission marketing). Top-of-funnel ads are being sent to a cold audience (people who never heard of your business before, and/or haven’t dealt with your business before), so your goal with this type of advertising is to tease the potential gain your prospects may have by using your solution. You can do so by creating a customer avatar, and thinking through where your prospect is now and where they would like to be (ideal state). Then you would use that ideal state in your advertising, by teasing the promised land that they can get to, by using your product or service.
There are lots of nuances in doing top-of-funnel advertising, with a ton of technicalities that you need to keep in mind when you advertise on social media platforms or search engines. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation with our team, so we can set you on the right path for your advertising campaigns!
How do you target the top of the funnel?
The best way to figure out how to target the top of the funnel in the B2B buying cycle is to see what works in your industry, or your market. Go check out what your competitors are doing, and what marketing tactic(s) are they using:
- Are they posting lots of blog content (sometimes seen as content marketing)?
- Are they posting lots of content on social media?
- Is there a specific social media channel they are posting on more often?
- Is there a specific type of collateral they are creating (ie., whitepapers, videos, infographics)?
- Are they doing offline marketing as well?
Once you have a good understanding of your competitive marketing landscape, you can decide on which channels you want to test with to get the ball rolling. Keep in mind that just because your competitors are able to succeed in a given channel, doesn’t mean that you will as well – but the odds of success are much higher.
This brings us to the next step – measuring the success of your top of funnel marketing campaigns!
What are top of funnel metrics?
It’s absolutely important to decide what metrics you want to use for your top of funnel marketing campaigns, and how often you should check them. The reason being is that if you don’t properly measure or track your marketing campaigns, you won’t know the path going forward. As Peter Drucker once said
“What gets measured gets managed”
The below metrics will help you see the different ways to measure your marketing campaigns. However, you should start tracking your marketing campaign with a north star metric, meaning what are you aiming to achieve from this campaign – do you want to build a sales pipeline, do you want to build brand awareness, or anything else? The north star metric will help you choose the appropriate metrics, and how you interpret the metrics as well.
So, without further ado, here are a few marketing funnel metrics that will help you get a sense of your return on investment (ROI):
- Impressions: If you are posting content on social media sites, you will want to get a sense of how many people your posts or ads are getting in front of. Impressions help you get an understanding of your brand awareness efforts
- Reach: This is the number of unique people that your ad has served to
- Website Traffic: This is one of the more important metrics because you are getting visitors to actually visit your website. You can track unique visitors, or overall visitors, depending on your north star and ROI requirements
- Brand Lift: This metric is usually measured through digital surveys, where you try to get a sense of whether people are more aware of your brand after your marketing campaigns. If your north star metric is brand awareness, the brand lift is a great metric to help you gauge the success of your campaigns
- Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of users who viewed one page of your website, then left without performing any other action. Remember, your goal with the marketing funnel is to nurture people down the funnel with your product in mind. Having a high bounce rate means that you aren’t presenting enough quality content to encourage your visitors to check out another page on your site
Now we’re onto the final topic, how to improve your top of funnel marketing efforts!
14 tips to improve your top of funnel marketing
- Know Your Audience: Creating good top of funnel marketing campaigns requires you to have a great understanding of who you are marketing to, where they spend their time online, and most importantly what are their pain points/frustrations! Knowing your audience will help you create content that appeals to them.
- Map out Your Buyers or Customer Journey in Detail: Now that you know more about your ideal customers, take your best shot at figuring out what steps they may take during their buying journey. Meaning what types of information would they seek, when would they seek it, and/or how would they seek this information. This will help you figure out what types of marketing campaigns, and marketing collateral you need to create to keep up with your prospects across their buying journey.
- Educate your Visitors without any Sales Pressure: Remember, people at this stage are just trying to figure out if they should solve their problem, and what the next step towards solving their problem may be. They may not be ready to have a conversation with your sales team, so save them from that nudging pressure!
- Give your Visitors Solutions they can Take Action On: If someone is looking to solve their problems, and they have landed on your marketing content, it would be a huge win to be able to help them solve as much of their problem as you can. This will help you build affinity with your visitors, and will likely end up leading to a sale down the line because the visitors will keep you on top of mind for similar problems in the future.
- Focus on the Quality of the Content: Use the golden rule, do for others as you would for yourself! When you create content, try to create content that would have been helpful to the uninformed, old you. This way you are able to put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers and help them with content that is informative while building your company up as an authority in their eyes.
- Do SEO Keyword Research to see if you can tap into search engine traffic: SEO is the fruit that keeps giving, and as more people become internet savvy, you’ll want to create content that ranks on Google and helps people address their problems as they are searching for them.
- Use Social Media Ads for Cold Audience Targeting: Advertising on social media platforms can be awesome if you tap into an audience that is a good fit, as you can generate very cost-effective traffic back to your website or landing page.
- Follow-up Advertising with Re-Targeting: As a follow-up to the above two points, if you do any sort of SEO or Advertising, you should use retargeting campaigns to keep popping up in front of your prospective customer as they wander around the internet (because you want to keep up with them during their buying journey).
- Make Your Content Human-Friendly: No one likes looking at, or reading boring stuff! Make your content personable, and friendly to the person looking at it. The B2B world is also shifting toward becoming like the B2C world, so you need to keep up with the times and connect with people where they are at!
- Promote Your Content Across Multiple Channels: Remember, not everybody loves to read a long blog post. This means summarizing, and promoting your content across channels to help people with different attention spans get the value that your content is meant to deliver!
- Include CTAs (call to actions): Sometimes people need a nudge to guide them to the next step (or another page that they should visit). This will help you reduce your bounce rate, and make it easier to nurture your prospects to the next step.
- Include Engagement Opportunities throughout your Pages: Don’t just wait until the end of your webpages, or posts to give your prospect a chance to get to know you better! You can sprinkle in next steps throughout your web pages to help prospects stay engaged (not everybody loves reading long blog posts).
- Reduce Friction: If you are looking to take your relationship to the next level with your prospects, reduce any/all friction in that process. This means minimizing your email newsletter sign up forms to one field. This also means giving your visitors a great experience on the page, this means fast page load speeds & good design!
- Choose the Right KPIs: Go through the previous section and figure out your north star metric, and choose metrics that will help you gauge your north star metric accordingly.
Creating Your Top of Funnel Marketing Content
If you are looking to attract people to the top of your marketing funnel, we would be happy to share personalized recommendations for your business, and industry. Feel free to schedule a complimentary strategy session with our team here. Wishing you continued success, and prosperity!