If you really want your business to generate more targeted leads, you may want to take a look at your top-of-funnel content strategy.
In the world of content marketing, top-of-funnel content is those blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, or micro-content (think Instagram or TikTok) that gets your audience’s foot in the door of your brand and products. At this stage, your customers might not really know who your brand is and how you might be able to help them.
Because of this, most top-of-funnel content is focused on education and value. You aren’t necessarily telling your customers that you can solve their problems using your unique solutions. You’re only showing them solutions, tips, or information they might actively be looking for right now. But you’re not yet trying to get them to become a paying customer.
Here’s an example.
Your product or service could be an agency of graphic designers who specialize in social media ads and content. You might then invest in writing and promoting blog posts on topics like how to grow a social media account using great images, or give ideas on different visuals every business should post to increase their conversions.
In this article, we want to help you create better top-of-funnel content that will attract those leads and customers. But we’ll also show you what to do afterward in order to move your audience down the funnel so they actually become paying customers.
Ready to get started? Read on to discover 7 essential steps to create effective top-of-funnel content that will seamlessly take your leads down your funnel towards conversion.
7 Steps to Create and Publish Top of Funnel Content
1. Identify your buyer persona
Having a clear buyer persona isn’t handy just for creating high-value products and services people want to buy. A buyer persona can actually be a crucial tool you can use to brainstorm top-of-funnel content that will get your audience to your business.
You’ll especially want to focus on the areas of your buyer persona that tell you two specific things: first, what solutions your buyer may be looking for in their lives or business; and second, where they are searching for these solutions.
The first one is important because this will tell you what kind of content will pique your users’ interest and get them on your website or lead generation efforts.
For instance, let’s take a look at this blog post from Time Doctor. The blog post is about how marketing agencies can maximize their profits when they’re outsourcing to freelancers or BPOs.
If a marketing agency that was struggling to maximize their profits were to stumble upon this blog post online, they would likely want to read through it and get tips from actual agencies like theirs who have done the same thing.
So make sure that when you’re planning your top-of-funnel content, it’s always based on actual needs and solutions your customers are looking for. This serves as your hook to get them inside the door.
2. Map out your buyer’s journey
The second step has to do with understanding your buyer’s journey as they go from audience member to actual paying customer. It’s no secret that as leads go down through the funnel, they’ll require different content that matches the stage that they’re currently in.
Let’s quickly go through what a standard buyer’s journey might look like, then we can see how exactly you can plan out your top-of-funnel content based on that picture.
Here are the typical stages of a buyer’s journey:
- Awareness stage. In this stage, customers know they have a problem or a need. They’re going to actively look for solutions to their problem. For example, they may search on Google how to get more clients for their freelancing business. Or they might search for different tips for managing their finances as a small business owner.
- Consideration stage. By this stage, customers are aware of different solutions to their problems. If the problem is not getting enough clients for their freelancing business, they might have discovered on their search that they need to invest in collecting leads and nurturing them via email marketing and social media. They’re aware of possible solutions, so they’ll begin looking at more solution-specific content, like tips to get started with social media or email marketing as a freelancer.
- Decision stage. During this stage, the customer already has an idea about how to solve their problem. They know about different companies or services that can provide those solutions. In the example above, maybe they’re considering investing in email marketing providers or other freelancers who can help them implement this strategy to generate and nurture leads. Now, they’re trying to decide which solution provider to actually go with.
For top-of-funnel content, this is mostly going to be content that users are looking for in the awareness stage.
Here’s an example: a blog post on social media management tools published by Blue Tree, a marketing firm that specializes in organic growth strategies for their clients. By creating a blog post like this one, they understand that potential clients might be struggling to manage their social media themselves (problem aware).
Clients are aware that their biggest problem is leveraging their social media better. They’re exploring how to streamline their processes and may be searching for tools and tips.
And Blue Tree’s blog post shows them tools that help with just that: streamlining and managing social media pages using apps, discussing each app in detail, and how each one might be used to effectively manage different channels or accounts.
Get clear on your own buyer journey, then commit to creating content that helps solve their needs. Of course, you’ll want to focus on creating top-of-funnel content to get those leads in through the door, but also devote some time brainstorming and creating content that will move them along the funnel based on every stage they’re in.
3. Identify the right keywords
To make sure your content stands a chance of getting discovered by your prospects and leads, you want to invest in finding and using the right keywords that will get their eyes and ears on your content.
Identifying the right keywords can be as simple as doing an auto-complete search on search engines like Google. How this works is you start typing out words inside a search bar, and these are what you think your audience is looking for as well.
If your audience is looking to grow their social media platforms, for instance, this is what a Google auto-complete search will show you.
Many search engines will do this, including YouTube and Pinterest.
You can also move on to doing advanced keyword research, using tools that will help you understand the search volume of each keyword as well as the competition you might have when you attempt to use these target keywords on search.
Going back to our point about understanding your buyer’s journey: identifying the right keywords also means understanding the search intent behind each keyword or keyword phrase.
For example, if a user searches “tips for weight loss,” then they’re likely in the awareness stage. If they’re searching with the keywords “weight loss supplement,” they’re likely in the consideration stage. If however, they’re mentioning a particular brand in that search – e.g. “weight loss supplement [Brand Name]” or “[Brand Name X] vs [Brand Name Y] weight loss supplement” – then they’re already in the decision stage.
Get to know all the context you can around your chosen keywords, so you can focus on creating top-of-funnel content based on customers in the right stage, i.e. awareness.
4. Publish content based on your customers’ preference
An important tip we want to share is to choose content formats (blogs, emails, podcasts, videos, etc.) based on what your customers actively consume themselves.
As technology gets better and internet connections get stronger, people’s habits may also begin to change. For instance, we’re seeing evidence that micro-content, like 30-second videos or audio bites, is increasingly becoming more popular.
Be aware of general trends in the market, but ultimately what should sway your decision-making about content platforms and formats is what your users prefer. After all, why invest time in creating TikToks, for instance, if your audience isn’t even on the platform?
Think of it as a way to maximize your top-of-funnel content efforts. If you’re investing time and resources in creating high-quality top-of-funnel content pieces, then you want to make sure these content pieces actually get seen or heard by your ideal customers.
Go back to your buyer persona. Check which platforms your customers might currently be on. If you haven’t yet, update your buyer persona by doing new surveys and customer interviews to really get to know your customers’ habits.
5. Use content to help, not to sell
Top-of-funnel content is meant to be helpful in nature. It educates and informs customers and doesn’t propose your brand as a solution just yet.
Because of this, when you’re writing top-of-funnel content, focus on delivering high value in each content piece. You can, of course, mention your brand or product, but don’t make the entire piece about it.
Strategically place brand mentions in your top-of-funnel content, but don’t expect that a user will convert right away. If your prospect is looking only for information, they don’t want to be bombarded by an ad disguised as a blog post.
Aim to offer solutions to the problems your consumers are facing right now, like this freelance pricing guide published by Waveapps. This established Waveapps as a trusted authority that knows its market and industry. Only when you can prove to prospects and customers that you are an expert by sharing useful, authoritative content will they be more primed to learn more about your business and offers.
6. Gate your content offering
A helpful way to make your top-of-funnel content work harder is by gating it, so you can take customers through a nurture sequence that warms them up and turns them into red hot leads.
Of course, do this sparingly. You don’t want to gate every single blog post. Instead, what you can do is offer a lot of value inside your main content, but then tell your audience that there’s even more information or value you can provide inside, say, a report.
This works well with publications like whitepapers and slideshows you can send, but this can also be helpful for lead generation. Consider gating content offers behind lead magnets like high-value webinars that are only accessible if they opt-in to your newsletter.
For example, Braze (formerly Appboy) gates informational webinars with industry speakers to turn audiences that trust them into warm leads.
You’ll want to gate content that helps take your audience from the awareness stage to the consideration stage. Give them helpful information, then offer them ways to get even more from you if they actually opt in.
7. Promote your content
Finally, you’ve created your content, it’s valuable, it’s going to move your users through the sales funnel – now it’s time to promote your content.
The reality is simple: no one is going to discover your work unless you make a conscious effort to promote it regularly. Go on social media to share new content and posts. Reshare evergreen content on other platforms.
Get your content on popular websites and channels natively, or invest in doing paid advertising.
No matter which direction you take, don’t forget to track your results and ROI. Which channels are getting you the best bang for your buck? Monitor your results, and invest more in winning campaigns and strategies.
Top-of-funnel content is often the first touchpoint your audience might have with your brand. Even if it isn’t, it’s still a channel where you can get your audience to trust you as an authority in your niche.
Because of that, invest time in creating the right top-of-funnel content that will eventually turn into qualified leads, then continue to nurture them with more content in the right stage of the funnel until they’re ready to convert into a sale.