Generating brand awareness can be one of the most challenging aspects of marketing–and the most important. That’s why so many marketers talk about “thought leadership”: they want to throw out a wide net, pulling potentially interested customers into their marketing and sales funnel.
In this blog post, we get into the strategic significance of top-of-funnel (TOF) marketing, exploring how attention-grabbing content – from effective branding to insightful thought leadership – can elevate your brand’s visibility and make for stronger, more meaningful customer relationships.
What is Top-of Funnel Content?
In the classic marketing funnel, we lead customer prospects from general awareness (learning about your company) through interest (being interested in your company), to a desire to purchase, through a final sale. This is the process you’ve followed for every product or service you’ve ever bought.
Top-of-funnel content is the first touchpoint in a buyer’s journey: it helps create brand awareness and spark interest among potential customers. Think of it like casting a wide net: TOF content is typically informative but widespread–covering social media, organic web content, and big-picture content about your product or industry.
Marketer’s takeaway: Since it’s the customer’s first engagement with your brand, it’s important to focus on a broad scope of engagement rather than demanding a purchase or sale. As such, you can think of TOF content as a “web” where different assets support one another while driving customers further down the funnel.
For example, a whitepaper may have an extensive social media advertising campaign and a spin-off infographic. These are all TOF content, and they can all support and link to each other.
What’s Considered “Top of Funnel”?
Think brand awareness content, and focus on being informative rather than sales-centric. Fortunately, there’s a lot of content that fits this description. Some common forms of TOF content include:
- Blogs: Blogs can be versatile vehicles for conveying valuable information. Using a conversational tone, they can speak to common customer pain points or challenges, helping create trust and relatability.
- Social Media: Social platforms such as X, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook give you the power to quickly reach large numbers of people with bite-sized content. On these platforms, write engaging posts that will pique curiosity and encourage interaction. Visuals, infographics, and short videos will help captivate your audience.
- Webinars: These live, informative online broadcasts offer brands a great way to create educational content and deliver valuable insights. These are increasingly the go-to for marketers, with Hubspot reporting that 53% of marketers point to webinars as the best generator of high-quality leads.
- eBooks: Ebooks help build trust and credibility for your brand and give your company a platform to dive into industry trends and solutions. Remember to strike a solid balance between depth and accessibility in your writing and presentation.
- Whitepapers: Writing a whitepaper positions your brand as authoritative in its sector, so it makes for excellent thought leadership content. If you’re considering putting one together, ensure it’s grounded in a search into reliable sources and includes compelling data points and case studies.
- Newsletters: Newsletters, whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, give you a consistent channel for curated content. Include industry updates, tips, and links to relevant blog posts. A good newsletter from a brand should balance promotional and educational content.
- Quizzes, Surveys, Polls: Interactive formats such as quizzes and polls engage your audience and can give you valuable insight into the customer experience. When you create these, design the questions to address common concerns or speak to popular interests.
- Short Videos: Short video, whether based on a website or social media, is quickly becoming the preferred method of content delivery. The 2023 Hubspot State of Content Marketing report shows that 73% of consumers prefer learning about products from short videos.
Marketer’s Takeaway: Variety in content is crucial at the top of the funnel. While it’s possible, and sometimes useful, to launch small bursts of TOF content as support for brand awareness, it’s much better to have a campaign idea that touches on various channels and media (video, organic web content, downloadables, social media, email, etc.).
Also, at this stage, interactivity is critical. Customers looking to purchase will probably not appreciate having to complete a quiz. Still, a TOF customer on a learning journey might find it more personable and stimulating.
Examples of Top-of-Funnel Campaign Strategies
Example 1: Top-of-Funnel Content Strategy for Bibliocafé
This top-of-funnel (TOF) content strategy aims to capture the attention of potential customers for a fictional bookseller and coffee shop called Bibliocafé. It uses videos, live events, infographics, and other features as a “light touch” to gently grab customers’ attention and bring them into the store.
The top of the funnel is all about sparking interest and awareness. Given the dual offering of Bibliocafé, we can capitalize on two vast audiences: book lovers and coffee enthusiasts. By continuing to pair these two, we can engage both audiences effectively, intertwining their interests and showcasing the unique value proposition of Bibliocafé.
This campaign is all about developing awareness with a broad audience. The videos and interactive elements raise awareness about the brand without coming off as too “sales-y.”
“Origins and Inspirations” Awareness Campaign
|Video Clip Series||Week 1||A series of short video clips featuring authors talking about their inspirations for their books, juxtaposed against coffee growers speaking about the origins of different coffee beans.||“Discover more inspiring tales and brews at Bibliocafé. Dive into our story collection today!”
Drive to in-depth author interviews and detailed articles about coffee origins, allowing deeper exploration of both topics.
|“Brew & Genre Match-Up” Infographics||Week 3||An engaging set of infographics that equates different coffee brews to book genres, such as espresso with thrillers or cappuccinos with romances.||“Found your match? Explore our diverse range of books and brews now!”
Drive to detailed book reviews and comprehensive coffee brewing guides, enhancing the user’s knowledge.
|Interactive Coffee and Book Quiz||Week 5||A fun, interactive online quiz where participants can find their “perfect” book and coffee pairing based on their preferences.||“Discover your perfect pairing in-store! Visit us and enjoy a special discount on your paired book and coffee.”
Drive to personalized book and coffee recommendation lists, giving users tailored choices to explore further.
|Customer Spotlight Interviews||Week 7||Video interviews with customers sharing their favorite books and the coffees they drank when they experienced memorable moments in those books.||“Share your own story with us and get a chance to be featured! Plus, enjoy a book-coffee combo with us.”
Drive to a user-generated content section, allowing other customers to share their stories and engage in a community-driven platform.
|“Local Legends: Authors & Baristas” Features||Week 9||Highlight local authors and baristas, drawing parallels between the art of storytelling and the craft of coffee making.||“Support local talent. Browse our curated local collection and enjoy artisanal coffee.”
Drive to the local events calendar page featuring book signings, coffee tastings, and other community events.
|Virtual “Coffee & Chapters” Event||Week 11||An online event where participants can join live coffee brewing sessions, hear readings from authors and engage in Q&A sessions.||“Loved the experience? Visit Bibliocafé. and continue your journey with us!”
Drive to an exclusive membership portal offering early access to future events, discounts, and behind-the-scenes content.
Example 2: NexaPoint Tech and Thought Leadership
Building brand awareness for fictional SaaS provider NexaPoint Tech requires a targeted approach, especially given the highly specialized nature of the high-tech sectors it serves. This top-of-funnel strategy will lay the foundation for NexaPoint Tech’s broader marketing campaign, leveraging tailored content that resonates with tech decision-makers and guiding them toward the ultimate goal: requesting a free demo of the SaaS platform.
This TOF campaign aims to elevate NexaPoint Tech’s brand visibility, educate the target audience on the pressing challenges of network management and security, and position NexaPoint Tech as the industry’s leading solution. The content will be designed to invoke curiosity, provide value, and ultimately compel users to explore NexaPoint Tech’s offerings further.
This campaign will focus on positioning NexaPoint Tech as a thought leader in the industry. With a wide range of assets geared towards awareness-building, this strategy will use B2B marketing tactics to touch on customer pain points.
“The Evolving Landscape” Thought Leadership Campaign
|“The Evolving Landscape of High-Tech Network Security”||Week 1||A comprehensive article discussing the changing dynamics of network security, emphasizing the unique challenges faced by government, healthcare, and financial sectors.||“Curious about today’s top network solutions? Explore NexaPoint Tech’s offerings.”
Drive to product comparison web page showcasing NexaPoint Tech’s platform versus other industry solutions.
|“Why NexaPoint Tech? A Deep Dive into Modern Network Management”||Week 3||An interactive infographic detailing the features and benefits of NexaPoint Tech’s platform, paired with statistical data and testimonials.||“Experience innovation firsthand. Request a free demo today.”
Drives to a detailed product feature page with videos and interactive demos.
|“Protecting Data Integrity in Healthcare: A Case Study”||Week 5||A detailed case study showcasing how NexaPoint Tech assisted a significant healthcare provider in enhancing their network’s security and compliance.||“Facing similar challenges? Let’s discuss tailored solutions.”
Drives to client testimonial page with success stories across various industries.
|“Webinar: NexaPoint Tech’s Vision for a Secure Digital Future”||Week 7||A live webinar where NexaPoint Tech’s experts discuss the company’s vision, recent advancements in network management, and Q&A sessions.||“Ready to be part of the future? Schedule a personalized demo.”
Drives to webinar archive with previous sessions and additional educational content.
|“Financial Transactions and Digital Security: Navigating the Nexus”||Week 9||An article explores robust network management’s integral role in ensuring secure financial transactions in the digital age.|| “Enhance your network’s reliability. Discover NexaPoint Tech.”
Drives to in-depth industry-specific guides on best practices for network security.
|“Behind the Screens: Meet the NexaPoint Tech Team”||Week 11||A series of short video interviews with NexaPoint Tech’s team members, humanizing the brand and showcasing the expertise behind the platform.||“Join the family of innovators. Explore our platform.”
Drives to company culture and behind-the-scenes page, emphasizing the team’s expertise and dedication.
Best Practices for Creating a Winning TOF Strategy
Getting to an effective top-of-funnel strategy begins with a deep understanding of your target audience. Develop comprehensive buyer personas and conduct organic and paid advertising research, which will allow you to tailor your content to your potential customers’ specific needs, requirements, and pain points.
- Educate and Inform: Create educational content that addresses common problems or questions your target audience has. Offer insights, tips, and actionable advice to help readers even if they don’t convert immediately.
- Entertain with Interactivity: Mix in some entertaining content to engage your audience emotionally and keep them interested. Use storytelling, humor, and visuals to make your content more enjoyable and memorable.
- SEO Optimization: Utilize SEO best practices to ensure your TOF content ranks well on search engines and attracts organic traffic. Include relevant keywords, optimize headlines, and ensure your website is mobile-friendly.
- Content Diversity: Employ a mix of content types such as blog posts, videos, infographics, and podcasts to cater to different preferences and platforms. This diversity also helps find what type of content resonates the best with your audience.
- Social Sharing and Promotion: Make your TOF content easily shareable on social media to increase its reach. Promote your content through different channels like email marketing, social media, and even paid advertising if necessary.
- Lead Magnet: Include a compelling lead magnet like a free eBook, a webinar, or a discount coupon to encourage sign-ups and gather contact information for further nurturing.
- Measure and Analyze: Regularly measure the performance of your TOF content to understand what’s working and what isn’t. Utilize analytics to optimize your content strategy over time.
- Personalization: Personalize your TOF content wherever possible to resonate better with different segments of your audience.
- Clear Calls to Action: Have clear and compelling CTAs that guide the users to the next step in the marketing funnel.
Marketer’s Takeaway: Think of the top of the funnel as a scaffolding–centralized content pillars, supported by advertising, can anchor several layers of this content. Make sure that paid, social, and organic marketing efforts are working together, and utilize that variety to deliver different experiences and see what works.
Widen the Top of Your Content Funnel
TOF content occupies a special place in your buyer’s journey. It forms the gateway of the marketing funnel and helps you cement the lasting brand relationships that will earn your company a solid reputation and customer base.
As we’ve seen In the diverse formats, strategies, and examples we’ve explored, it’s clear that TOF content is the key to building brand authority, nurturing potential buyers, and establishing trust and credibility in your industry.
The top of the funnel isn’t just a starting point; it’s your opportunity to write a story that resonates with your audience for the long haul.
Looking to open up the top of your marketing funnel with engaging content? Take Media Shower for a test drive.