Everyone has a process they go through when they’re ready to make a purchase decision. Some people may be impulsive, but most people take time before they are prepared to act.

96% of visitors who come to your website aren’t ready to act.

Marketo

As a marketer, it’s your job to figure out what that decision-making process is for your target customer.

Hot tip: think like you are the customer.

woman scrolling through a clothing store

Once you think you have the consumer decision-making process for your product or service figured out, the next step is to put our marketing funnel tactics into action that appeal to your customer—this is where the Top of the Funnel (TOFU) comes in.

Most likely, you already have a sales funnel and are familiar with TOFU, the start of the sales funnel. But are you getting the right leads generated at the beginning of your sales funnel that convert to buyers?

If not, you’re not alone.

According to Hubspot, 65% of businesses say their number one challenge is generating traffic and leads. If you’re not attracting quality leads at the top of your funnel, then your whole sales process is irrelevant.

It’s critical to attract your target audience at the right time in their decision-making process.

That’s why it’s essential to your sales process to get it right, and different TOFU tactics you can implement in your funnel that will convert.

In this TOFU deep-dive guide, we’ll cover: 

  • Why TOFU is so Important 
  • Stages of the Sales Funnel 
  • 17 of Our Ultimate Top of the Funnel strategies
  • How to Get Ideas for Your Funnel

Why is TOFU so important?

woman doing research

The majority of consumers do research online before they make a purchase, either in-store or online. In a GE shopper research study, 8 out of 10 consumers said they do research online before purchasing in a store. For online purchases, the number increases substantially.

85% of consumers do online research before making an online purchase.

According to Oberlo

Whether you realize it or not, your customer is doing research to solve their need before they are ready to purchase. If you put tactics in place–like TOFU content marketing–to come up during their research phase, the more likely you are to convert them.

All consumers go through a decision-making process when purchasing a product or service. Consider your decision-making process. 

How do you realize you have a need or want?

What’s the first step you take when you are shopping for something?

Research shows that there are five stages to the consumer buying process.

five stages consumer decision process making graphic

Five stages in the consumer decision-making process:  

  1. Need recognition (awareness) 
  2. The search for information 
  3. Product evaluation 
  4. Product choice and purchase 
  5. Post-purchase evaluation

TOFU content fits into the first three stages of the consumer decision-making process—need recognition, search for information and product evaluation. They are the most important steps in the decision process to convert consumers from leads to actual customers. 

And not just leads, but quality leads. Because if you don’t do the work upfront to attract the right leads, then the likelihood of conversion is slim to none. You want to appeal to the consumers that will buy your product, and executing the right marketing tactics at the TOFU will increase your conversions.

Stages of the Sales Funnel 

graphic showing the three stages of sales funnel

There are generally three stages to the sales funnel that align with the consumer decision-making process:

  • Awareness-Top of the Funnel  
  • Consideration-Middle of the Funnel 
  • Conversion-Bottom of the Funnel

At the Top of the Funnel, the consumer becomes aware they have a need or want and starts solving it. Content such as blogs, video and infographics help facilitate awareness. We’ll get into the types of content and ideas for your TOFU later, for now just know that your TOFU content’s job is to generate awareness and attract the attention of your audience. 

The Middle of the Funnel is where the consumer is considering their options. Discounts, educational materials, and webinars or events are all good examples of tactics to help the customer understand which option is best for them. 

Lastly, the Bottom of the Funnel is where the consumer is making their decision and finally purchases. Bottom of the Funnel examples include testimonials, comparison charts, and demos. The goal here is to help the customer make a choice and be satisfied with their decision. 

All three aspects of the funnel work together to convert ready to buy consumers into buyers. The funnel follows consumers through their decision-making process, each playing a different role. 

While we could argue that all are equally important, the start of the funnel triggers the need or desire and filter leads down your funnel. Simply put, without TOFU there is no funnel.

Next, let’s look at the best tactics you can use at the start of your funnel. The objective at the top of the sales funnel is to tickle your visitor and pique their interest just enough to engage further.

17 of Our Best TOFU Tactics

content ideas funnel graphic

TOFU Content Ideas

Editorial Content
Quality editorial content is key. Invest in good copywriters and editors to make your content engaging and grammatically correct. Good content will do half the work for you. It’s one of the first things consumers will interact with as they discover their need and begin their search for information.

Quizzes
Everyone loves a good quiz. Quizzes are very enticing to readers because they are fun and teach them something new. You can use a quiz to help your reader determine which product is best for them. Cosmetic brands such as Aveda and Mary Kay are using quizzes and questionnaires very effectively to guide their customers to the right products, helping them learn about themselves and buy the correct product for their needs.

Video
In research done by Google on holiday shopping, Google found that nearly ⅔ of shoppers said an online video gave them ideas and inspirations for their purchase. Videos draw the consumers attention because they are easy to watch and consume compared to other forms of content, making them very successful at triggering consumers to convert.

Calculators and Online Tools
Online calculators are like quizzes in that they are super enticing and helpful to determine the best option from a cost perspective. Calculators and other online tools or apps are great to use for the sales funnel of major products or services, like purchasing a new car or appliance. A calculator such as how to determine if it’s better financially to own or lease a car, can help the consumer make a decision on the spot because they have all their questions answered.

Infographics
Articles that contain infographics get +178% more links than standard content. It’s proven that people remember content more when paired with a visual than simply written content. If your company has relevant data, create an infographic and watch the shares soar because infographics are attention grabbing.

FAQs
Good old FAQs help to educate the consumer on the product and/or process. They can be used to inform the reader and answer common questions they may have. When consumers get their basic questions answered quickly they can move on to the next phase in the consumer journey, going farther down your sales funnel.

Create Checklists and Timelines
If your product or service has a complex buying process or relates to a major life event, a checklist and timeline can help the consumer in the beginning stages of their problem solving process. For example, creating a checklist and timeline for the homebuying process for first-time home buyers. The easier you make it on consumers, there’s a higher chance they’ll convert.

On Page TOFU Conversion Tactics

Conversion tactics graphic

Natural Internal Related Links (IRL)
As a reader scrolls through your blog or page content, include natural IRL throughout. IRL are links to other pages on your website.

For example, throughout a blog post, you can link to other references to related content your visitor might be interested in reading. IRLs are an easy way to help answer your visitors’ questions and pique their interest. 

Include CTAs
What’s the next step for a consumer who has landed on your webpage content? Most consumers don’t know what the next step is, they need direction. If you don’t tell your reader what to do, they won’t convert, so use use calls to action! Always keep in mind the next action for your reader to take from the web page or content.

Include Mid-Page Engagement Opportunities
Remember IRLs? You can link to other marketing tools throughout the page, not just blog posts. Think about what you have to offer and what makes sense as the natural next step for the reader. You can link to other services/products, a newsletter sign up, a case study, white paper, or a free guide.

Keep enticing your visitor. Continue to create opportunities to keep them engaged and reasons your product or service is good for them.

Reduce Friction 
Friction comes in many forms. One version of friction is when the reader gets overwhelmed with too many things to do. Visitors can get lost if you ask for too much from them.

For example, if you’re doing a sign up, make it one field like their email. And if you want them to go somewhere else mid page, then make the link open in a new tab. Create as seamless of an experience as possible in order to keep their attention and do what you want them to do.

Another form of friction can be the user experience (UX), such as page speed and core web vitals (LCP, FID and CLS).

Make sure you have zero friction.

TOFU Optimization Methods

graphic of man reviewing web analytics and reporting

Measure the Right KPIs 
Focus on conversation rates and bounce rates at this stage in the sales process. Don’t pay too much attention to engagement metrics or you’ll be disappointed. If you can, integrate your analytics tools on one platform to keep control of your traffic sources—it will be so much easier to track your metrics that way. Look at a few key metrics for this stage and don’t worry about anything else.

How to Get Ideas for Your Funnel

You now have a better understanding of how your sales funnel should work and the role the TOFU plays in attracting quality leads that convert. And you realize how the sales funnel and the consumer-decision process go hand in hand. You even have some tactics to try out on your website. But how do you come up with content ideas? 

Since the TOFU is speaking to the customer’s problem or pain point, you can do competitive research, Google search and use Google Search Console to see what questions your potential customers are asking related to your product. Next, create unique, creative content, as well as, evergreen content that answers those questions—and don’t forget to use keywords. Optimizing your content to your buyer persona and for search will aid in attracting leads you want.

hand pointing to copy on a web layout

Take it From the Top

For you and your marketing team, conversions begin at the top. If you’re having trouble with top of the funnel conversion tactics, go back to the beginning and look at your buyer persona and how you are using TOFU tactics.

Do they align? Are they appealing to your target customer and do they prepare them for the next step, to take the action you want them to take? 

When the top of funnel marketing strategies speak to your target consumers’ pain points AND are enticing, then you have a double weapon that is guaranteed to increase your conversion rates.


Written by

Zachary Wilson

I enjoy reading & writing about the web and digital marketing. My day-to-day focuses on ensuring our clients have big wins. That begins with extraordinary website design and UX. The real exciting stuff is helping develop strategies to drive traffic (on-site page optimization) and help conversion rate optimization (getting new sales and / or customers). With all my “other” time, I enjoy exploring new adventures with my 3 daughters and wife.