man standing in front of maze

How to Create Content for the Top of the Funnel

The act of buying a consumer product is simple: find something you like, enter your credit card information, and voila — a purchase! In B2B sales, buying can involve multiple decision-makers and an uncertain path to purchase known as the buyer’s journey. It’s important to have well-planned top of funnel content to attract and convert these potential customers.

Depending on where they are in their journey, buyers have different interests and needs. Understanding your buyers helps your marketing team deliver valuable and targeted top of funnel content. This is where the marketing and sales funnels blend to help close a sale. Effective content marketing moves prospects from their earliest interaction with your brand to where your sales team begins selling.

This blog is the first in a three-part series on understanding the buyer’s journey. We will cover how the right content marketing strategies support the buyer’s journey while simultaneously moving them through your sales funnel.

We will cover:

  • Top of funnel content
  • Middle of funnel content, and
  • Renewals

The first stage of the buyer’s journey is known as the top of the funnel, or TOF, which is where marketing can help sales pre-qualify and warm up the lead.

Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey doesn’t start with the resolve to make a purchase. The first leg of the journey begins when the buyer becomes aware of a “pain point.” While they may already manage the symptoms of their pain, they haven’t yet identified causes or cures. At this point, they only know there’s a problem in need of a fix.  

Also known as the Discovery or Problem Awareness Stage of the marketing funnel, TOF marketing is NOT selling. Instead, it’s about building trust and providing relevant, engaging, and valuable information that makes prospects aware of your products and services as a possible solution to their problem.

Prospects couldn’t care less about your products at this stage. They have a problem, and they are looking for a solution. If you jump right into sharing how great your products are at this stage without connecting with them, they won’t trust you and will keep looking for someone like them.

Solution Selling author Michael Bosworth says in the Story of Sales documentary, “Today, my definition of selling is helping [people]. It’s helping your customer achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need.”  This is the embodiment of TOF marketing. 

What is Top of Funnel Content? 

At this stage of the buyer’s journey, the goal of companies is to repeat the prospect’s problems back to them. It sounds strange, but gaining trust has a lot to do with feeling understood. Your website messaging needs to assure your targets that they are in the right place to help their issue.

Additionally, you need to have other content that helps educate and answer questions at this early stage. This can be a blog, video, podcast, whitepaper. The more valuable your content is, the more the potential buyer will trust your brand as a resource for helpful information. 

As the widest part of the funnel, the Top of Funnel Stage is where prospects first become aware of your products and services. However, many of these leads will drop off as they move through the funnel. Given this attrition, the importance of personalizing your content at this stage cannot be overstated. Regardless of the size of your marketing team and other factors, “The recommendation is still to overinvest in content marketing activities that grow the top of your funnel,” asserts HubSpot.  

What Funnel Content Works Best? 

What content will reach the largest group of potential customers to fill your funnel with qualified leads? Engaging, informative, and personal topics pertinent to your brand and value to your targets.

If you can empathize with your target and think up all the early questions and objections your salespeople field, that’s an excellent place to start. Marketers will use heat map technology and page abandonment data to determine the pages on your site that need work. E.g., If visitors leave your site and spend little time on pages that you think are very informative, rethink their messaging and location in the buyer’s journey.

Or, you may need a different medium to deliver your message. This could be using blogs, sales pages on your website, paid ads, social media, video marketing, podcasts, and influencer outreach. Testing your campaign hypothesis takes a lot of time and patience at this stage.

Timing Is Everything

One important rule of thumb with TOF marketing has little to do with your business and everything to do with buyers and their interests and needs.  Today’s buyers are more discerning and demanding than ever before. Creating the right content is only part of a successful content market strategy and planning. Also essential is understanding the buyer’s journey to deliver prospects the right content at the right time. 

Each prospect is coming to you with a unique history relative to their problem. They may be looking to replace a current solution which means they arrive with a good understanding and vet you against their current solution. For others, this may be a new problem, and they may have lots of newbie questions.

Know When to Close

Often, we jump right ahead to ask for the order or at least asking prospects to schedule a call. That might be too much of a leap at the top of the funnel. Everyone is wise that you will immediately start emailing them (or should be), and they may not be ready for that yet.

The type of close is also important at each stage. Maybe an invitation to a webinar offering them more information would be less of a commitment for them but still gets you their email. You need to think about what your prospect will find valuable enough at this stage to give you their email address.

Commit to the Goal

Lead generation at the top of the funnel needs to be planned and tested. Even the smartest of marketers can only make an educated guess what your unique prospect will want and what actions they will take. You will try and fail. Then, you need to try something else and something else. Once you have a winning formula, you can replicate it over and over.

That’s how early-stage, top of funnel marketing works.