When it comes to doing any kind of content marketing for your business, it should always be with the sales funnel in mind. For the uninitiated, the sales funnel is a handy illustrative device which elegantly demonstrates how a prospect first becomes aware of your brand, then becomes interested in the product or service you’re selling, and finally, the point where a deal is closed and they officially become a customer/client.
When we discuss the funnel, it is typically with these three stages in mind. Top-of-the-funnel (ToFu) is the first, followed by middle-of-the-funnel (MoFu), and last of all, you guessed it, the bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu). Each step is equally important, as a mistake at any of them could lead to the loss of a potential new source of business and revenue.
(Image source: weidert.com)
Welcome, then, to the first of three guides in which we here at markITwrite will be taking a comprehensive look each of these stages in turn, beginning right now with our complete guide to top-of-the-funnel content.
Why Bother with the Separation – Content is Content, Right?
At each stage of the sales funnel, prospective clients are thinking in very different ways. For example, at the MoFu stage, they will likely have lots of questions about your product or service and how it will effectively address the problems they are experiencing. This means you want to be feeding them content which answers these questions.
However, when it comes to ToFu content, it’s all about grabbing their attention, and demonstrating you’re a company which knows its stuff, and understands the industry it’s operating in. When ToFu content is done well, it makes the rest of the funnel run infinitely more smoothly.
(Image source: google.co.uk)
ToFu content is also the gift which keeps on giving. Take a look at the above screengrab I captured after entering a Google search for “how to write great content.” The top result, from Moz, was first published five years ago, and it’s still ranking highly for my very commonly entered search term. Moz does SEO. People often create original content to boost their SEO. Therefore, people looking to do just that will, almost inevitably, end up reading this Moz article at some point. In fact, according to HubSpot, one in ten blog posts are compounding in this way, with organic searches increasing their traffic as time goes on.
This is the key word we’re dealing with when it comes to ToFu content. Why? Because, before you create awareness, people don’t know your company exists. That may sound harsh, but it’s the mindset you must go into a content marketing strategy with.
Therefore, you need to create content which not only makes people aware of your brand, but also convinces them you’re a thought leader in your field. If your website becomes known as an invaluable resource for interesting, well-written, and informative content, then people are more likely to keep returning for more. And then, when they are thinking of purchasing a product or service such as the one you provide, yours will be the first company they think of.
(Image source: hubspot.com)
This is the core tenant of ToFu content, and of inbound marketing in general, and it’s the reason marketers prioritise growing website traffic and converting leads over all other concerns. Traffic means leads, and leads mean customers. Nearly three-quarters of global marketers primarily conduct inbound marketing because of this.
Hopefully by now we’ve convinced you that top-of-the-funnel content is worth your time. The next question on your lips will probably be related to what sort of content you should be creating for this point in the funnel.
(Image source: mycustomer.com)
For this, you really have to put yourself in the mind of your ideal customer, and a great way to start is with the creation of buyer personas. Put simply, buyer personas are hypothetical profiles of your ideal buyer, and, by extension, the sorts of people you want to market to. With a buyer persona in your digital toolbox, you’ll be able to second-guess the sorts of things your ideal customers will be searching for online.
Creating a buyer persona is a rather involved process. We covered how it’s done in a previous article – ‘Target Locked: Why Buyer Personas Are the Secret to Content Marketing Success’. So please, go ahead and check that article out, create your buyer personas, then head back here and we’ll continue.
The first thing you’ll have put in your buyer persona is whether your ideal clients are consumers or business people. This will clearly direct your content, as these two groups will have very different expectations of the content they want to read.
Consumers are generally laypeople – they want to know what the best options are for them, and how to use them. Top ten/comparison articles, beginner’s guides, how much to spend – these are all the sorts of topics consumers may be searching for when deciding to invest in a new product or service.
On the other side of the coin, businesspeople will already possess expertise in their field. They’re not looking for advice on how to get started, they’re looking for ways to make their business grow. Topics such as advice on marketing, new enterprise technology, and how to get the most out of social media are all likely to draw in businesspeople looking to take their company up a level.
The tone of your ToFu content is also important and dependant on whether you are targeting business or consumer customers. Consumers are more likely to be looking for a fun light-hearted style, whereas businesspeople may appreciate a more formal approach. Neither of these are immutable however, and you will know best which tone suits your industry. For example, if you run a law firm, you may be dealing with consumers, but will still want to come across as formal and professional, rather than an incorrigible joke-cracker.
Progressing to the Next Stage
Of course, ToFu content does not exist in a vacuum, and its overarching objective should be to guide the prospect towards the MoFu stage. On average, buyers read between three and five pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, so make sure there’s plenty for them to read.
One great way to help them move into the MoFu stage is to end each article with a call to action (CTA), inviting the reader to exchange their contact details for a piece of special gated content. This could be a seminar or other video-based piece, or it could be a special report, eBook, or other long-form written article. We’ll go into the ins and outs of creating this kind of content in the next part of this series, where we’ll be discussing MoFu content in detail, for gated content is a brilliant way to encourage your audience to give you some more information about themselves, and provide a way for you to begin those all-important lead nurturing conversations.
Remember, when it comes to ToFu awareness, people are trying to solve problems, answer questions, or meet a need. They don’t know what the solution is yet, and that’s where your ToFu content comes in. You’re creating high-quality educational material which will help direct them to the solution they’re looking for – your product or service.
ToFu content is not about the hard sell, it’s about education. It’s fine to sign off with a quick reference to your company and the product or service you provide, but keep the focus of the article itself on useful information which isn’t directly connected to your product. People at the ToFu stage will simply click off if every other line of the article screams “Buy, buy, buy!”
If you’re looking for inspiration, have a look around the web and see what your competitors are writing about. Search Twitter for the latest trending topics in your field and build titles around them. Presumably, you got into your business because you have at least a passing interest in the field, so trust in your own instincts. Think of the sorts of things you’d like to read and write about it.
If all this seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Marketing is a full-time job, which is why so many companies either have an entire department dedicated to it, or outsource their marketing to a professional organisation. A dedicated digital marketer can create an entire strategy for your business, and manage the lead nurturing process right through the funnel, from top to bottom, until the prospect is ready to seriously talk about investing in your product or service.
Professional and talented writers can craft content people want to read, at all stages of the funnel, and help your business grow in the awareness of your target audience.
Join us soon for part two of this series where we’ll be delving into a complete guide to MoFu content, then to be followed by part three which will be dedicated to, you guessed it, the BoFu stage.
If you need help crafting brand-lifting ToFu content for your business, get in touch with the content marketing experts here at markITwrite today.