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“If you build it, they will come.”

This 1989 quote from Field of Dreams makes it pretty obvious that none of the screenwriters has ever been a digital marketer.

Posting your online content, or streaming your office hours on Facebook Live, or launching your new website does not guarantee hundreds of new customers. In fact, posting content that no one sees is a complete waste of time and resources.

Digital marketing requires a real marketing strategy to attract new and unaware audiences. It moves people who have never heard of you or your company into an awareness stage, and then quickly moves them through a marketing funnel. But how?

The top of funnel (ToFu, for those into marketing jargon) is what sales and marketing teams refer to as the area in which people go from no awareness to familiarity with your brand. For example, when a visitor clicks on your blog for the very first time because he is interested in the topic you wrote about. Or, it’s the woman who downloads your E-book after she searched for information about your industry and found a few compelling case studies on your site.

In both of these cases, there’s a clear pattern:

For the prospect, they are moving from complete unawareness of your brand, to interest, to trust. They begin to trust you, because you have offered something of value to them. Your blog post (ideally) educates your target audience, who then, in turn, become sales leads. When a prospect has engaged with your content, they become MQLs: marketing qualified leads.

Why does this matter? For one, it drives top-line growth. If your top of the funnel content has turned a prospect into a sale, your marketing team looks smart (yay!). But even more importantly, you can justify your marketing budget, and win more resources for your team. You have proven your team’s ability to generate leads.

Lead generation is a relatively new term used to describe how marketers attract new prospects. Think of it like advertising. In the old days, companies would buy billboards or lead lists. Maybe they would send their team to conferences or tradeshows to meet new people. That was how major companies did top of the funnel marketing back in the day.

Today, the marketing funnel looks very different. Billboards cannot give you any usable data about their performance and ability to take a customer to the next stage of the funnel. But blog posts, which are tracked with tools like Google Analytics or UTM tracking, give you immediate feedback from your customers. Last century’s lead lists were outdated almost as soon as a company bought them. Today, a high-converting call to action at the end of a blog post tells a marketing and/or sales team what messaging turns leads into customers.

There are many ways to “do” top of the funnel marketing. You can use social media, piggybacking on popular hashtags or trending topics. You can use content marketing strategies that provide value to your target audience. You can provide free trials of your software, or offer discounts on your product or service. There are many ways to reach potential customers.

The best part? Most of these tools are free! You don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars of software to do your top of the funnel marketing. Save that money for PPC (pay per click) ads, or sponsored social posts. Many software companies advertise themselves as providers of “inbound leads.” That sounds nice, but ultimately, most of those applications don’t have any value until you have already gotten your prospect to a landing page, website, or social profile. Even with those marketing tools, you’re still on the hook for driving people to the top of the funnel. Most marketing software doesn’t even kick in until you’ve hand-delivered a prospect to it.

The top of the funnel is an exciting place to be. You can rapidly determine what campaigns are effective—and what campaigns are not—based off of data like conversion statistics. At the start of this post, I mentioned the “old” ways people did top of the funnel marketing: billboards, lead lists, and tradeshows. Those methods were expensive, and lost value almost as soon as a company paid for them. Today’s top of the funnel is a lot more responsive, meaning you can quickly react to customer behavior. That means more money for you, and better brand experiences for your prospects. It also means a shorter sales funnel, and in turn, faster revenue growth. Everyone wins!

If you’re in the decision making process for your team or your budget, determining your top of funnel marketing strategy is essential. Need some help? We offer a completely free 30-minute web audit to qualified companies that are ready to grow the top of their funnel. We provide strategic SEO and content recommendations that help you get in front of new audiences. Schedule your web audit and start getting your top of the funnel marketing to drive real sales!