March 22, 2021
The marketing funnel describes the stages of the customer journey: from when an individual first discovers a product to when they make a purchasing decision. Top of funnel marketing targets potential customers at the beginning of the customer journey in the awareness stage.
Top of funnel marketing strategies bring a company new website traffic and leads. These people are often just becoming aware of your company or offering and are in an educational stage in their buying journey.
For B2B customers, it is a longer and more complicated path from awareness to purchase. B2C marketers are generally looking to solve a single problem for their potential customers, while B2B marketing must speak to many different buyer pain points and challenges. Additionally, the B2B customer journey lasts longer and is usually complicated because there are many stakeholders involved in a purchasing decision.
The average buying cycle for B2B customers lasts up to 3 months: and in 80% of cases, up to six people are involved in the purchasing decision.
Top of the funnel (TOFU) marketing helps capture the attention of people who aren't ready to buy today but who may be customers in the future. This is the first step in creating sales opportunities for your business.
New business leads must be found and nurtured to become qualified for sales outreach for a business to grow and succeed. Marketers can ensure that potential customers are in the pipeline by consistently generating new leads at the top of the funnel.
Focusing only on sales-ready leads – for example, skipping directly to a 'contact us' form or phone number – is an enormous missed opportunity. Without TOFU content, your business won't connect with potential customers who want to learn more about your product or offering but are not ready for sales outreach.
Creating top of the funnel conversion points (like downloadable content, webinars, and blog posts) immediately widens the lead pool, building a dialogue between brand and customer earlier in their journey. This keeps new leads in the pipeline and offers the chance to nurture top of funnel leads, guiding them through the marketing funnel to become qualified for sales outreach.
Businesses that nurture leads through the sales funnel create 50% more sales-qualified leads at 33% lower cost per lead.
Increasing website traffic alone doesn't mean that your marketing strategies are working. The best top of funnel marketing strategies are targeted to bring in relevant B2B leads who could be a good business fit.
Top of funnel digital marketing strategies that can bring in relevant leads that can be nurtured include the following.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) means that buyers are provided content through a search engine, like Google. To optimize search engine results, marketers should focus on publishing content that contains relevant keywords. Think about why a buyer would search for your product – to solve a specific challenge or overcome a pain point? Then tailor keywords on your website and in published content to answer those challenges directly.
Content marketing involves the strategic use of information to create a dialogue with a potential customer. Original content can be targeted to buyers at different points on their journey. Often, awareness-level content is available in an 'ungated' form, like a blog, where someone new to the product or brand can educate themselves. Content further down the funnel, like eBooks, guides, and case studies can be 'gated' – requiring a lead to complete a form to download. These forms are called 'lead capture,' because they give marketing teams information about who a lead is, their business or industry, and what stage of the journey they are in, allowing marketing to estimate when they may be sales-ready.
There are a wide variety of platforms that support B2B advertising. Consider where to find your target audience – what sites do they visit? Are there any professional associations for your ideal buyer or target industry or preferred social platforms? A comprehensive paid strategy may include:
Paid ads can help to bring in new leads and scale quickly, provided the strategy is sound and that you can access metrics to track ROI accurately.
Social media platforms are growing exponentially, both for personal and professional use.
Social media users number almost 4.2 billion globally; spending an average of 2.5 hours per day on various platforms
It's important to make sure social posts are in a tone appropriate to the platform and include information relevant to buyers at the awareness stage of their journey. Top of funnel social media marketing not only increases reach; it is also a great way to reinforce messaging and connect with your target audience.
Instead of casting a wide net and bringing in leads from any company, account-based marketing (ABM) focuses on specific targets for marketing efforts. While this may decrease the number of leads that a marketing campaign brings in, it increases the relevance, resulting in a better overall ROI.
Once website traffic and new leads are in the pipeline, marketing has another focus: nurturing those leads through the funnel until they are qualified for sales outreach. This involves staying in touch with leads, supporting them along the customer journey, and offering new content relevant to the challenges they are concerned about at every different stage. Some ideas to consider for nurturing are:
Taking an inventory of existing content and mapping its place in the customer journey benefits businesses in a few ways. First, a content map helps a marketer understand what content should be offered at each stage of the journey to have the greatest impact. It also helps identify missing pieces of content that would help the buyer down the funnel so that those can be added to an ongoing marketing strategy.
Nurturing leads through regular emails can be the best tactic to keep people engaged. By sending targeted emails over time to your contacts, you can gradually encourage more engagement. This momentum is critical.
Nurtured leads have a 23% faster sales cycle and produce on average 20% more sales.
Read more: How to Nurture Content Leads
Building a rich database of content marketing gives more purpose to your nurtures. It also gives leads more information to help them come to a purchasing decision while providing marketers with a rich source of data that can be used for future strategies. In addition to being directed to buyers at different stages of their customer journey, content can be shared and even tailored to different stakeholders for maximum impact, further improving B2B lead generation.
Demand Gen Report, "2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report, "2018.
HubSpot, "30 Thought-Provoking Lead Gen Statistics You Can't Ignore".
JonesPR, "10 Stats to Back Up Your Lead Nurturing Efforts," 2019.
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