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Top of Funnel: Best Marketing Practices to Get Awareness Stage Leads

how to fill top of funnel with awareness stage leads
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how to fill top of funnel with awareness stage leads

Having a full funnel is imperative to any good marketing strategy. For this piece, we’re just going to focus on one stage: the top of the funnel. I love a good top of funnel marketing strategy and think it’s the most misunderstood stage because everybody wants to sell, sell, sell—but that’s not what you do at the top. Instead, it’s a place where you get to be creative and highly valuable for your audience.

What Is Top of Funnel Marketing?

“Top of funnel” essentially refers to activities and campaigns that have a goal of generating leads and attracting customers at the earliest stages. This part of the funnel has the job of spreading awareness and educating.

The activities that you carry out in this stage are done in order to help prospects understand, first and foremost, if there is a problem. You’re also aiding them in realizing that they might not only have a problem—which sounds kind of doom and gloom—but that there’s a solution. So, you’re giving them hope in the awareness stage.

What we see happen—and we’re going to talk more about this later—is that people get stuck in this “always be selling” philosophy, which is generally a good philosophy—if you’re a salesperson. But if you’re a marketer at the top of the funnel, you can’t always be selling. In fact, it’s a problem if you are. You’re going to lose out on a lot of people who could be ready to buy from you someday in the future, but they’re not ready today. If you try to sell to them today, they will be turned off.

You use the top of the funnel to get people interested and aware of you and your solution, as well as the problem that you solve. You also use it to start nurturing them and begin to help them move down the funnel toward the bottom, where you can actually sell. Let’s go through a brief reminder of what the funnel is and what the different stages are, as a refresher.

Quick Marketing Funnel Review: Meaning of Each Stage

Basically, your marketing funnel consists of awareness, consideration, and decision stages. As we just went over, in the awareness stage, the prospect is becoming aware that there’s a problem. They also become aware that there’s a solution to their problem.

Next, the consideration stage is where your prospects are going to actually consider the choices available to them. They’re perhaps going to be evaluating you and some of your competitors at that point.

Then we come to the decision stage. The decision stage is where your prospect ultimately makes a decision on which product or service they’re going to go with—whether it is yours or a competitor’s.

In each part of the funnel, you need content that helps the consumer take the necessary actions at that stage. Now that you’ve reviewed what a full marketing funnel looks like, continue on with us for some examples of great top of funnel content that will help amplify your marketing plan.

Examples of Top of Funnel Marketing Content You Can Implement

Try incorporating some of the following tactics into your top of funnel strategy to ultimately build an effective full-funnel marketing plan. Companies have used each of these to help fill their funnels and get new clients or customers—and we’re confident you can, too!

Blog Posts

Blogs are one of our absolute favorites types of content here at Uhuru. Blog posts are a really great example of something you should have at the top of your funnel. For instance, if you run a cycling studio, we would recommend creating content such as “how to clip your SPD cleats into your shoes” and other cycling questions that people are generally going to be searching online. Just remember, you’re not trying to sell your product or service quite yet. Show them you care and are there to help them, not just yourself. This will build trust with prospects.

Social Media Updates

Another piece of top of funnel content you can create is social media updates. It’s really important, especially for digital health companies, to not implement paid social media ads and assume that it will be enough. If you’re a B2B company, you should aim to have a very active social media profile so that you gain credibility when people come to your page on Facebook, LinkedIn, or whatever other channels you’re on. People tend to be less trusting of organizations that do not stay active or keep their pages updated and consistent.

Infographics

Infographics catch people’s attention quite well. Everyone’s different, but a lot of people are more visual and would rather read smaller blurbs of texts set alongside graphics than long essays. Assume your audience has a short attention span and make things convenient—and appealing—for them. Depending on what it is you’re selling, infographics can be an awesome way to get people aware without directly selling your product.

Other Imagery

There are also other graphics you can utilize outside of infographic formats. For example, posting images of your products on your social media page is simple yet impactful. Unlike blogs, images can go anywhere. But making sure that you have images that align with your brand and communicate your message—once again, not in a salesy or pushy way—is extremely important. Frame the feeling of satisfied users using your product, or capture their happiness or success because they use that product.

Podcasts

If you’re reading this, you’re in the top of our funnel right now! This blog actually correlates with our podcast, and we’re going to use this “written podcast” to try to get you to take an action in hopes that it will then move you down the funnel. (Watch out, it’s coming!)

Podcasts are a fantastic way to get people at the top of funnel stage. You can build loyal audiences and a solid subscriber list this way. Podcasts are so important, and I personally love listening to them. I would say that podcast hosts have become some of the biggest influencers and best salespeople I’ve encountered in my life. I will buy their products because I genuinely trust them. Try starting a podcast for your company and see if it works for you.

Videos

Videos kind of go hand in hand with images and infographics. Like other imagery, you can put videos on all different platforms. You can use them on your website as another medium and post them to social media as organic posts. Videos are versatile. You can recycle and reuse them—especially if they’re created for the top of the funnel. You may even find that using videos will get more views and attract more people than traditional, static graphics. They’re eye-catching in their own way.

Something to consider is that YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google (which owns YouTube, as you might know). If you’re posting videos on YouTube and doing it right, it will also help you get seen by audiences that you might not find on Facebook or LinkedIn. Do video, do it in a lot of different places, and test what works for you.

E-Magazines or E-Publications

I’ve also seen people create their own e-magazines or e-publications—for instance, company newsletters. It doesn’t even have to be digital; top of funnel content can be some sort of mailer. Be creative. Play around with this content. It can be really entertaining; it can be funny; it can be inspirational—but it all should deliver value and build trust for your brand. It should never take away from your brand. It should always add to your brand so that people get to the point where they’re ready to purchase from you.

Tips About Top of Funnel Content

The top of the funnel is one of the best places to be creative because you have so much flexibility. It doesn’t have to be—and should not be—specifically about your product. It should be about an aligning topic that can eventually get your prospect or reader to the product at some point.

The key thing to keep in mind here is that no matter what format you choose, all of this content has to be educational. It has to deliver value to your audience. It also needs to be accessible, so you don’t want to gate it. You want to make sure that it’s easy to find. This is why search engine optimization is so important! It should all be easily reachable for your audience to give them a positive experience and not frustrate them.

Purpose of Top of Funnel Marketing

Here are some ways to take advantage of your results and analyze them for future success.

Top of Funnel Is NOT About Getting Sales

First, we should talk a bit about something that you should NOT expect. Throughout my marketing career, one of the most common questions I’ve gotten is, “How is this piece of content going to sell for me?” I understand that people don’t always understand the top of the funnel because we’re so used to being in that sales mindset, but top of funnel content is not about getting sales—it’s getting people to become aware of you.

It’s getting people to be aware of the problem. It’s getting people to trust you. That’s what you should be doing—if you have their trust, the sales will come. You need to be patient, but it will all work out. If you’re selling without building that trust first or setting expectations, you’re going to have a tough time.

You’re going to struggle with customer satisfaction when they actually do buy, retaining and nurturing those customers, and avoiding churn. Build trust and deliver value first, and then you can move down the funnel to the sale. KPIs are vital—you should be looking at things to measure how you were doing at the top of the funnel since you’re not measuring sales, you’re measuring your audience.

Properly Assessing Your Audience Through Metrics

Depending on if you’re using paid ads or not, one metric you could be looking at is your total pixel audience. Your pixel audience is made up of people who have seen your ad, clicked through to your website, and whether they took action on that click or not—in other words, whether they converted. You want to be looking at new visitors and how many new people you’re attracting.

You also want to look at your total visitors at the top of funnel stage. How many people are landing on your site? Then, look at the breakdown of total visitors and new visitors. Out of all of your visitors, what percentage are new? If it’s equal to your returning visitors or more than your returning visitors, that’s a pretty good thing because it means that you are constantly attracting new people to your site.

Other things to look at are direct new visitors. If you have people coming to your site directly, that means that there’s some level of brand awareness already. You can also look at your pixel segments. How many people are searching for your brand? How many people are typing in your brand name—or your product name or related terms to your brand and product—and finding you that way?

Determine what share of the search you’re getting for your target keywords and your target search queries. Take a look at your bounce rate at this stage, too, because your bounce rate can tell you a lot of things. It can tell you if your user experience is good or poor. If you have a poor user experience, people are going to bounce. The other thing your bounce rate can tell you is if people are getting what they expected to get when they click your link to land on your page. If they’re not getting what they expect, they’re going to bounce.

If your site is really slow, people are also going to bounce. If there’s some other technical issue with your site, people are just going to leave because they’re not going to be patient enough to sit around and wait for this brand that they know nothing about to give them the content they want. They’ll go find it elsewhere if you don’t make that good first impression.

Next, take a look at your inbound links. These are people who are linking to you from other sites. Inbound links are a good thing to measure. If people are linking to you from outside sites, that means that there is some level of brand awareness. It also means they trust you enough to share you with their audiences. That’s a valuable metric to measure.

After that, check on how your pages per visit are doing. If a person lands on your site, are they just staying on that page and then leaving? How many pages are they looking at? How long are they looking around? Take a peek at your average session length. Then, if you have a blog, content-specific subdomain, or even a subfolder for your blog or your podcast (maybe you have a video page on your site or something), see how many visitors go there, and how many new visitors as well.

Additionally, look at your social media followers. You can look at things like followers, likes, and comments. Those are sometimes called vanity metrics—and they are if you’re just looking at them and saying, “That’s how many people saw my post? I’m so popular.” They’re actually critical things to look at because they tell you that people like the content you’re sharing and, better yet, that they’re engaging with it.

How to Get Started on Top of Funnel Marketing

It’s time we discuss how to go about getting leads into your funnel. You need to find what people are looking for in top of funnel content. This really relates back to those buyer personas we’re always talking about. Without your buyer personas, you’re going to have a lot of trouble defining what content people want at this stage.

You could also take a look at Google Search Console to get an idea of non-branded search terms that people are using to find you. If you don’t have a lot of SEO data, you can look at competitor sites using tools we like to call “spy tools.” At Uhuru, we are big fans of SEMrush. It can remove some of the guesswork and tell you the keywords your competitors are ranking for.

Keyword research is useful for all stages of content, but especially top of funnel content. Let’s say you’re a diabetes management platform. Examples of top of funnel content are “how to help patients manage diabetes,” “how to help patients remember to take their meds,” and even “how to help patients take care of themselves.” All of these are very top of the funnel. You wouldn’t be selling your product in these blog posts.

Figuring out why customers go looking for you is really beneficial, as is learning about your competitors and which trending keywords they’re ranking. If you sneak a peek at that, you can get a sense of whether a topic they’re writing about might be good for you to do, too. Just be careful not to copy them. You are doing this for inspiration! Never plagiarize—Google will blacklist you for that.

You’re looking at where your top competitors are starting to get more and more traffic because that could mean that their audience is very interested in a topic and how that topic relates to their problem. Now, let’s go over some dos and don’ts.

Top of Funnel Marketing Dos and Don’ts

Here is more advice on what to focus on and what to do to optimize your chances of success.

Do

Be Helpful

You need to be positioning yourself as a thought leader so that consumers look to you when they need questions answered and problems solved. You don’t want them to have to go someplace else for help. This is the main goal of top of funnel marketing.

Be Educational

Provide real value. Whatever media format you’re using, think, “how can I help people get a quick win of some sort?” Figure out how you can make them successful in a way that is simple and easy for you to do, but to them seems like, “oh wow, this person—or this brand or company—has my back. They’re really trying to help me here.”

Provide Entertainment

Be entertaining if it makes sense for your brand. Try not to be too dry. Of course, for industries like medical, you will have to use more serious language. No matter what, you should always try to make your content interesting.

Be Respectful

If we’re dealing with matters of life and death, it’s important to be respectful and be really cognizant of that. But if there’s a time where you can add a little bit of light humor or make a piece more interesting for your audience, do your best to figure out how to do this—it will entice your readers to want to read more. If you can’t think of a way to do so, at least illustrate your points in some way that they’ve never seen before. Bring the subject alive. A great writer can sprinkle in a bit of flavor.

Watch Your Metrics

As mentioned earlier, do keep an eye on metrics—even the vanity metrics, such as likes, shares, followers, and comments. Focus on ensuring things are trending in a positive way.

Don’t

Don’t Try to Sell

Do not try to sell at the top of the funnel! You already know this by now, but we cannot stress it enough. Almost no one is going to buy during your top of funnel stage. The majority of people need you to nurture and help guide them to the point where they’re ready to buy.

Because of the internet, the majority of your audience is out doing their own research these days. They’re looking for solutions. They’re Googling. They’re asking their friends. They’re talking to people. They’re reading papers or articles. They come to their decision without ever talking to a salesperson.

If you’re the one who’s guiding their research and guiding their education, then you’re the one who has that opportunity to build trust with them. If it’s your competitor who’s doing it, you’re going to have to work harder to get that person when it’s finally time for the sales process.

If you’re avoiding that hardcore sell at the top of the funnel but you’re educating them and building that trust, it’s going to be a lot easier at the bottom of the funnel when they’re ready for that conversation—there won’t be as much uphill work as there could be otherwise.

Seriously, Don’t Try to Sell!

So, don’t mention your product—unless it’s in passing. Be careful and delicate. You don’t want to scare anyone by being prematurely aggressive. People need to feel like they’re coming to you—not the other way around.

Top of Funnel and Beyond—Let’s Get You Set Up

If you recall, this is top of funnel content for us, so we’re trying to educate you. Our goal is to help you understand how to properly and effectively build your marketing funnel. At Uhuru, we love educating people on how to build a sound marketing strategy so that you trust us and want to come back for more. This is what you will ideally do with your prospects, too. And I hope you do want to return to our site for more because we really are nice people.

Here’s a call to action. I told you it was coming! We want to give you even more value, so we would love for you to go download our full inbound conversion funnel guide. It gives you information on how to build your full inbound conversion funnel and a map of what your full inbound conversion funnel should look like, which is pretty cool to see it visualized. Go get yourself a copy of that! Check it out and let us know if you have any questions or need help putting your full inbound conversion funnel together—we’re more than happy to oblige!

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