We won’t perform a funnelectomy here today and dissect the old sales and marketing metaphor.
You get the idea of the funnel, right?
The top of the funnel (sometimes referred to as ToFU) is the where prospects become aware of your brand or enter into your marketing fold for the first time.
Our goal here and now is to do a deeper dive on seven types of ToFU content worthy of bumping with advertising dollars via a content discovery network.
1. Research reports
Original research is probably the most powerful approach to publishing content bound to drive traffic to your website.
While it takes serious time and effort to conduct research, crunch the numbers and present your findings, it’s likely to pay-off. A strong, relevant research report can position your company as an authoritative leader and tends to produce a remarkable amount of shares and links.
Ace content strategist Andy Crestodina explains the power of research-based content:
- New research is original and owned by you, making your site the primary source.
- Numbers are convincing and lend credibility.
- Data can support your sales messaging.
- The outreach involved in research grows your network.
- Research gets more links and shares than any other content format.
The infographic, published first on HubSpot has earned close to 2,000 shares in a few months, and more than 100 backlinks.
Here are additional examples of wildly successful research reports from the world of digital marketing.
- Content, Shares and Links—a collaboration of Buzzsumo and Moz
- 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report—an annual study from Social Media Examiner
Here’s a handy 7-step guide to creating research content from the SaaS startup Outreach Plus.
2. Quizzes and interactive content
If your goal is to expand your contacts list, while also learning more about your customers and prospects, then quizzes, assessments, and other various forms of interactive content are ideal candidates to promote.
Interactive content is raging hot, and quizzes are its hottest form.
On the Buzzsumo blog, contributor Stephen Walsh describes quizzes as “content marketing’s secret weapon.”
“Data shows that on average a quiz gets shared 1,900 times. That’s quite a lot higher than you might get from an infographic or longer form article (which will likely take longer to create).”
ShortStack is a leading SaaS company that makes it easy to create what they dub as “BuzzFeed-Style Quizzes for Marketing.” The post I linked to claims quizzes are popular simply because they’re entertaining.
What’s more, personality quizzes - the most popular type of online quiz - enable you to use “psychometrics” to learn more about the interests of your customers.
"Which wine is your perfect match?"
It’s a simple question Noble Wines knew prospects and customers would like to have answered. Their quiz asked a few questions related to food and wine pairings, travel and lifestyle, and delivered recommendations based on the answers.
In response to the data they collected, Noble Wines offered those that completed their quiz a link to where they could learn more about their “perfect match.”
Netizens love visual content. Infographics have proven to have enormous staying power as click magnets, making them an ideal ToFU content play.
The behavior of social media enthusiasts has proven time and again that infographics are very good at inspiring social shares, earning backlinks, and republication. My own experience with creating infographics has proven this to be true - and then some.
Want ideas to jumpstart the creation of an infographic with the potential to go viral? Checkout The great big list of infographic ideas (a post that, of course, features an infographic).
4. Lists, checklists and cheat sheets
Take a quick look at some covers like this, or most any popular magazine…
Now, after you get over the fact the lead story in every issue is a feature about staying slim and getting ripped, zoom into the story teasers.
Notice how numbers jump off the page? 25 ways to defy your age, 31 this, 49 that.
- Specific timeframes (Your killer 28-day plan)
- Promises of ease and speed
- Formulas and steps
Now let’s get back to tactics for feeding your funnel - offer lists, checklists and cheat sheets. Readers want them. It’s that simple.
The “Cranking Your Ranking—21 Point SEO Blog Checklist" is one of the many checklists offered on my website.
Here’s another fun exercise. Pick a number, pick a noun that's list worthy (ways, hacks, secrets, methods, ideas, etc.), then pick a verb (improve, get, gain, lose) and run a Google search.
I searched: “7 + ways + improve.” These results came forth. My point is this tactic is easy and effective.
Here’s the tactic being applied in a Taboola feed on a popular news site. The list/cheat sheet tactic is used because it works. Try it.
I’m new. I’m confused. Give me guidance.
Ever felt that way? My guess is you feel that way every day for one reason or another.
We’re talking about human nature - if we're about to climb a steep and scary mountain, we prefer to have a guide who’s scaled the terrain before.
This little slice of psychology makes for a simple, practical and powerful approach to creating and promoting content via advertising.
Write, design, or record a how-to.
The how-to form of content is the master, monster and main man of top-of-the funnel content. It’s what people seek - your prospects have a question, they want to know how to accomplish something meaningful. You have an answer.
Compose, publish, and promote it.
Want help getting started? Fill in the blank with a lesson you can deliver.
How to ___________________ .
Want a variation? Review the title you created and 86 the “how to”. It’s still a how-to with potentially immense pulling power.
Here’s an example, which you’ll notice is inspired by the topic of this post:
- How to create effective top of the funnel content to build awareness for your brand.
- Create effective top of the funnel content to build awareness for your brand.
6. Tools and templates
Utility is the name of the game in content marketing, and magnetic as all get-out.
An immensely powerful way to attract new prospects is to provide practical tools or templates.
The Website Grader from HubSpot is an epic example - it’s been kicking butt and taking names (and email addresses) for years.
Here’s another tool on the digital marketing front, from CoSchedule, which has generated a ton of interest, shares, and links.
Moving on to templates now - look at this offer from QuestionPro. Their templates obviously serve as great accelerators for prospects looking to get started with surveys.
Use your imagination, and perhaps some budget for development, and you can conceive all kinds digital tools, such as:
- Widgets and plugins for websites and blogs
- Predesigned and/or prewritten templates
Video is the web’s hottest medium, and it’s not looking like that'll change anytime soon. A lot of people prefer to watch than read or interact. Fair enough.
I’ll spare you all the “growth of video content” statistics you see on so many sales and marketing blogs and simply suggest you make video an element of the ToFU content you promote via advertising and social channels.
Your options are immense - consider one or more of the following approaches:
- How-to’s, tutorials, or “explainer” videos
- Short video courses
- Live streams you’ve archived
- Customer stories
- User-generated content (UGC)
- Product demos (Some may be more aligned to middle or bottom of the funnel)
Want a list of inspiring ideas for creating video content to use atop your funnel? Here are 21 video marketing ideas.
Finally, promote worthy content
Think about your goals. Obviously, when we’re talking about investing ad dollars in driving people from a website “in the wild” to yours, we’re talking about brand awareness - a classic ToFU objective.
- But think also about subsequent goals…
- Can you capture an email address?
- Can you start a meaningful conversion?
- Can you get a newbie to share your content?
- How might you inspire a ToFU prospect to make his or way quickly into a try-or-buy scenario?
My list of goals isn’t exhaustive, nor is my list of seven tactics for top of the funnel content. To be sure, some leading contenders for content are featured, but this article was meant to inspire a brainstorm on your end.
Of course, you can promote product pages, special offers and blog posts, but don’t limit your options. Get creative and experiment.
A version of this post was first published on the Taboola blog.