Many flavors of ice cream or maybe gelato?
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Consumers are turned off by sales and are more interested in a marketing all-you-can-eat buffet. A report by Express Writers Founder Julia McCoy showed that “most modern consumers are wise to the sales pitch, that they can spot it a mile away, and feel vaguely uncomfortable with traditional sales tactics that too-obviously focuses on wresting their money from their wallets. McCoy’s view is backed up by a HubSpot study that revealed only 29 percent of consumers are willing to engage with a sales representative. Meanwhile, a survey by Clutch showed that 67 percent of consumers find content marketing extremely useful. The remaining 33 percent thought content marketing was biased — and yet 73 percent of those who thought it was biased have gone on to purchase a product as a result of content marketing anyway.

This all means one thing; the buyer journey is more content-centric than ever before, and marketers need to know exactly what kind of content to create, and at what stage of the buyer journey to reveal it. This is where Top of the Funnel (ToFu), Middle of the Funnel (MoFu) and Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) content comes into play.

What Is ToFu Content?

ToFu content involves raising brand awareness and generating customer engagement with a high volume of leads who are not familiar with your brand. With ToFu, there is an emphasis on delivering content that doesn’t pressure customers to make a purchase, but focuses more on providing information that addresses either a need, problem or question. Examples of content used at this stage include blogs, infographics, white papers and eBooks.

“[ToFu content] is where strangers become familiar with your brand for the first time. Maybe a viral campaign, a video or something interesting caught their eye somewhere on the web,” said Gaetano DiNardi, director of demand generation at Nextiva. “At this stage of the game, you don’t care about conversions, you care about piquing intrigue.”

Coralle Wood, paid marketing manager at LoginRadius, explained how the content should be formatted for ToFu. “Top of funnel content needs to be much more digestible and informative to ensure you are positioned as a thought leader. Datasheets, infographics and blogs are all great example of more digestible content that is easy to consume,” said Wood.

Related Article: Content Modeling: What It is and How to Get Started

What Is MoFu Content?

With MoFu content marketing, brands can start positioning themselves as the market leader of a product that addresses a consumer’s needs. At this point of the funnel, content can include targeted offers and the content itself can go into more depth. Types of content used in this funnel include comparison charts, white papers, eBooks, webinars and videos.

“[MoFu] is usually the most complicated funnel stage because of how hard it is to define,” said DiNardi. “The wide net of interested leads [captured in ToFu] who haven't been fully qualified could range from needing more info on product features to someone who merely just wanted to check out a webinar. If you are too shameless about plugging your products or services [during the MoFu stage], you’ll come across as pushy and likely turn off buyers. Be helpful and knowledgeable, while guiding your prospects into the right decision."

What Is BoFu Content?

BoFu content represents the closing stages of the buyer’s journey. At this stage of the funnel, marketers can direct prospective consumers to content that sells the product and will use content types such as case studies, product walk-through videos, live demonstration webinars and consultations. “[BoFu] content needs to cement a decision that is being made or has been made,” said Wood. “Help the [consumer] realize you are the right solution by providing case studies and testimonials that demonstrate how your product or solution adds value to their business.”

“It’s important to note here that BoFu content can also lead directly into validation. This starts to cross the line from traditional content marketing to things like product marketing and customer testimonials,” said Mike Baker, marketing director at Lola.com. “As you work closer to the bottom of the marketing funnel, your content should shift from purely educational to a more consultative, product-focused and a 'show don’t tell' style of marketing.”

Related Article: 7 Interesting Content Marketing Trends to Look Out for in 2019

Blending  Types: The Key to Moving Customers Down the Funnel

With ToFu, you are creating content for people who are not in your target market. However, ToFu content does manage to achieve its objectives in helping you raise brand awareness and increase engagement. As you work your way towards to the bottom of the funnel, the audience size will, by definition, become smaller and more aligned with your target market.

In order to filter down to your target market brands need to focus on the subject matter of their content. “If you’re casting a wide net at the top of the funnel, you’re going to want to write about more generalized topics. But as you create content for the last two stages of the funnel, your subject matter should evolve. One way to think about this transition is to make content pieces more similar to your product as you work your way down the funnel,” said Baker.

What this means is that the content in MoFu and BoFu should show how consumer problems can be resolved with your product or service. However, as Baker highlighted, you can also use the ToFu stage to create informative and engaging content that resonates with your target market, this will make it easier to transition ToFu leads into customers.

However, if you are a startup, then DiNardi advised brands to start with BoFu content in the first instance. “If you’re starting from absolute scratch, you should start with BoFu content. This is because you need a final destination for prospective customers who are ready to buy. Once they become familiar with your brand and get past the research stage, they will be ready to make a purchasing decision.”