How Top-of-Funnel Marketing Works and Top 3 Tactics to Try

Top-of-funnel marketing is a lot like fishing.

You ‘plaice’ your bait on the line, cast your net widely, and wait to see what bites. If you approach it from the right ‘angle’ and ‘hook’ the right leads, the results can be ‘reel’y good…

OK, that’s enough of the fishing metaphors and puns – promise!

But there are similarities. When you’re fishing for leads you need to find the right location, use the right bait, and try new tactics to land the best catches you can.

What is Top-of-Funnel Marketing?

Top-of-funnel marketing is a type of marketing strategy that focuses on attracting leads and engaging early-stage prospects. 

The aim of top-of-funnel marketing is to grab the attention of potential customers and bring them into the company’s sales funnel. 

There are several ways to do this, including:

  • Content creation: Creating engaging content such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social media posts are all ways to get potential leads to notice your brand and engage with it.
  • Paid advertising: Displaying online ads can be an effective way to get people into your sales funnel, such as search engine ads, social media ads, native ads, and banner ads.
  • Email capture:  Ideally, you want people to engage with your brand enough to share their email addresses, so you can build a list of engaged leads. You can achieve this by offering a lead magnet or newsletter, then you can launch email campaigns to nurture sales.
  • Website optimization: The first thing that most people will do when they find out about your brand is check out your website. For this reason, you need to make sure that it looks good, loads quickly, and your website is fully optimized to maximize conversions.
  • Referral campaigns: Referral campaigns tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing by incentivizing people to refer colleagues, family members, or friends to your brand in exchange for a bonus or reward.
  • SEO: Search engine optimization is an effective way to get people into the top of your funnel. By using the most commonly searched terms (keywords) in your web copy and content, and applying technical SEO strategies, you can rank more highly in search results, thus attracting more visitors.

How Top-of-Funnel Marketing Works 

Top-of-funnel (TOF) marketing involves creating and distributing content that is carefully planned and designed to attract a wide audience. When it is done right, TOF marketing can generate awareness and interest in your brand. 

The key to successful TOF marketing is to offer valuable information, entertainment, solutions, or some other value that serves the needs of your target audience. If you can do this, then you’ll attract more visitors to your website and other online platforms. When people engage with your brand in this way, they’ll learn more about what you have to offer and become qualified leads or prospects. At this stage, you are already moving to mid-funnel marketing, which requires well-thought-out nurturing campaigns that will result in a good conversion rate.

Top-of-Funnel vs Bottom-of-Funnel Marketing

Top-of-funnel (TOF) and bottom-of-funnel (BOF) marketing refers to different stages in the customer journey and the type of content used at each stage.

  • Top-of-funnel: Refers to the initial stages of a sales funnel – i.e. attracting potential customers and leads. TOF content is typically broader and aims to educate or inform the audience about a general topic that relates to their interests, without directly promoting a specific product or service. The goal of TOF content is to generate leads by building trust and providing value to the audience.
  • Bottom-of-funnel: Refers to the end stages of a sales funnel. BOF content is more focused on closing the deal and converting leads into customers. At this stage, the audience is already interested in the product or service and is closer to making a purchase. BOF content should emphasize the benefits of the product and include calls to action, purchase incentives, discounts, and offers.

Types of Content to Create & Use for TOF Marketing

In general, high-quality content tied together with strong visuals can help to build relationships with prospective buyers and bring in new leads. Some common types of top-of-funnel content include:

  • Blog posts: To attract new leads, the topics should be niche enough to engage the right kind of people, but broad enough to drive a good amount of traffic to your site and that enough people will be searching for. For example, a construction company could write a series of blog posts giving tips and advice on how to plan and manage small renovation projects.
  • Landing pages: Landing pages are web pages that are customized to attract and engage a specific target audience. They are usually optimized for conversions to encourage an interaction between the visitor and the brand, such as using web chat, filling in a contact form, or buying something directly. Landing pages are often used for promotions and sales to highlight special offers.
  • White papers: White papers are especially popular for tech and B2B companies as they can help to explain new and complex technology in a longer format than blog posts and with more graphical elements included.
  • Infographics: Infographics are a good way to attract new leads, especially if they explain or communicate complex ideas in a very clear way. Infographics can be posted on social media and generate interest in your brand through organic sharing.
  • How-to guides: User guides and how-to guides are often published as a series of long-form articles that are great for SEO. 
  • E-books: E-books are ideal for brands that want to position themselves as thought leaders in a certain field. If the content is valuable, the book may be shared by individuals or business departments, which can help you to gain more top-of-funnel leads.

3 Top Tactics for Top-of-Funnel Marketing  

1. Native recommendations

Native recommendations are a powerful tactic for top-of-funnel marketing because they enable brands and businesses to engage with consumers on the open web, such as news, sports, and entertainment sites, where people spend a lot of time browsing content that interests them. Advertisers can target high-potential and relevant audiences, thanks to advanced algorithms employed by the engines that drive native recommendations.

Beyond placement and targeting, another enormous benefit of native recommendations is the way they fit seamlessly on the web page and don’t stand out as ads. Readers can get exposed to the brand, and build awareness around it, without having their online experience interrupted. This is the reason why online users look at native ads 53% more than regular display ads, and native ads are known to generate 18% uplift in purchase intent – a clear indicator of how native advertising as a TOF tactic has a positive impact later on in the funnel.

2. Paid social ads

Paid social ads are effective as they allow businesses to reach new prospects and drive brand awareness by targeting specific audiences. Brands can reach a large audience on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, depending on the niche they are targeting.

The effectiveness of paid social ads is rooted in the ability to identify and target customers with specificity and creativity. Through the use of different variables such as interests, behaviors, and personas, companies can design a targeted ad campaign that will resonate with their desired customer base. 

Additionally, careful optimization of online advertising budgets means that companies can reach their ideal audience and maximize ROI at the same time. Paid social ads are often a good way to introduce potential customers to your products or services, while keeping budget costs low enough to still turn a profit. 

Another benefit of this approach is that social media platforms provide detailed analytics and metrics, allowing businesses to track the performance of their ads and adjust their strategy accordingly.

3. SEO 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an effective tactic for TOF marketing. It can increase brand visibility, awareness, and affinity by helping your website appear higher up in organic search engine rankings and results. 

SEO works by optimizing your web content to make it more discoverable. SEO techniques include:

  • using key phrases and keywords that target specific audiences
  • utilizing title tags
  • meta descriptions
  • internal linking structures
  • backlink profile building
  • other on- or off-page tactics. 

The goal of SEO is to attract people who are searching for certain topics or services to your web content. When executed correctly, it has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective tactics for TOF marketing.

Metrics: How to Measure Top-of-Funnel Campaigns

Measuring the success of top-of-funnel marketing campaigns is critical to understanding whether your content and tactics resonate with your target audience. 

One useful approach is to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) such as:

  • Audience reach: tells you how many prospective customers are being exposed to your message.
  • Impressions: how many times your content or ad has been seen. It allows you to estimate the exposure your campaign has among your target audience.
  • Click-through rate: gives you an indicator of how many people are taking the next step and engaging further with your brand.
  • Time on site: insight into how long viewers spend on your web pages, indicating how engaged they are with your content.
  • Bounce rate: the percentage of people who leave a website after only viewing a single page. If the rate is high, it indicates that the content is not providing the right information or experience that visitors are looking for.
  • New visitors: helps to measure the effectiveness of campaigns in driving new traffic to your website, landing page, or content.
  • Social media engagement: monitor the number of likes, shares, comments, and followers generated by top-of-funnel marketing efforts.

Combining these insights can be incredibly valuable for marketers, helping them to understand what is working and what isn’t in order to maximize effectiveness over time.

Prime Examples of Effective TOF Marketing Campaigns 

We’ve taken the time to root out two of the best examples of TOF marketing campaigns – so you don’t have to! 

Red Bull

Everyone’s heard of Red Bull energy drink – it gives you wings apparently! One of Red Bull’s masterstrokes is to share engaging and entertaining content that aligns with the brand’s high-energy image. Red Bull uses a wide range of content, including articles, videos, and high-quality images to appeal to their target audience. (Who can ever forget the Red Bull Space Jump video, which has garnered hundreds of millions of views?) The content creates a powerful emotional connection, thus strengthening brand engagement.


Airbnb’s referral program is a prime example of a good top-of–funnel marketing campaign. By offering current users a bonus reward when they refer new members, the travel platform has established an effective viral loop. The program helps to accelerate customer acquisition efforts and drive word-of mouth publicity for the brand, driving up bookings by 25% in some markets. Ultimately, this strategy creates a loyal community around Airbnb as well as growing its user base significantly.

Mattress Firm

America’s biggest specialty mattress retailer, Mattress Firm, successfully partnered with Outbrain to target ads at specific segments based on buyer personas. The ads and paid content were highly effective with 33% lower CPC for blog traffic compared to the average social media results and the CTR increased by 500% compared to lookalike audiences. 

Strong Top-of-Funnel Marketing Builds a Stronger Funnel

TOF marketing is your chance to build brand awareness and capture the attention of a relevant and high-potential audience. The better you can do that, the stronger your funnel will be in the middle and bottom. And that ultimately means more leads and more conversions, which is the aim of every marketing game. Try the top 3 TOF marketing tactics outlined above to play your best game.

Want to learn more about the marketing funnel? Check out our articles about Mid-Funnel Marketing and Bottom-Funnel Marketing, as well as the Guide to Full-Funnel Marketing.

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