We have to respect today’s buyer, and they just won’t hurdle from the top of the marketing funnel to becoming a customer. This is particularly true if you have a product or service that requires a heavy lift on the customer’s end — such as a high price or investment of effort and time.
The funnel has changed remarkably in the last few decades. We’re all digital consumers, conducting most of our research online — and it’s unlikely we’ll talk to sales before we reach the last stages of our journey to purchase.
An Introduction to The Marketing Funnel
While the marketing funnel has transformed with the digital age, the basic idea has not. There are three stages that reflect the buyer journey.
Top of Funnel (TOFU): The top of the funnel, or awareness stage, is when your customer first becomes aware of their problem. With a strong TOFU marketing program, you should be seeing a lot of TOFU leads. But often, these leads won’t be qualified — they’re ultimately never going to purchase or they’re not your ideal customer.
Middle of Funnel (MOFU): The middle of the funnel, or consideration stage, is where your customer has defined their problem and is narrowing down their options. If you have a strong lead qualification process, then you’re likely seeing fewer leads moving into this stage. But that’s alright, because these leads are more likely to buy.
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU): Here your customer is ready to purchase — they’re in the decision stage. They’re assessing their options, talking to vendors, and they know who you are and what you do. These leads are qualified and ready to buy.
How to Grow Your Top of Funnel
This is where things get mucky — especially for early stage companies with smaller budgets and aggressive revenue goals. Sales want leads now, but building a top of funnel program takes time, credibility, good content, and reach. In addition, these leads aren’t ready to convert immediately, so if you just ask them to buy, buy, buy … they’ll bail.
Would you ask someone to marry you on the first date? No, so don’t do it with your prospects!
TOFU is all about providing helpful, relevant content and reaching the right people with that content. This content might include:
- Blog posts
- Social media
- Print/digital media placements
- In the TOFU stage, ideally prospects are finding you through organic search, but paid methods like Google Search Ads can also be effective.
Nurturing Your MOFU
Your MOFU leads have defined their problem and know you may offer the solution. But, they still are probably not ready to purchase. They’re talking to their networks, learning about solutions, and doing research. In the middle of the marketing funnel, you can offer content such as:
- Surveys or quizzes
- White papers
You can reach MOFU prospects through marketing channels like email, retargeting, and social media.
Converting Your BOFU
At this point, your prospect is ready to talk to sales. That said, this doesn’t mean a hard sell. If you focus on helping the customer and giving them the information they need to make an informed decision, you’ll have better success. At this stage, offer content like:
- Case studies
Don’t Try to Skip the Marketing Funnel
It’s so tempting to just go for the sale, but don’t try to skip the steps! Today’s customers won’t go for it.
You’ll end up spending money and generating very little in the way of qualified leads. Why? Because you haven’t educated and engaged your audience. You haven’t built credibility. You’ve asked them to marry you on the first date.