Does top of funnel content really work?

Does top of funnel content really work?

At this very moment, how many potential customers are surfing the web looking for your product? Chances are, that number is small. But how many are using the internet in their daily lives: learning about things, making plans, solving problems, making decisions? That number is vast.

This is the premise of top of funnel content marketing: Reach those people where they are, and build trust with them by giving them something that helps them right now—even if that thing is simply good information, rather than your product. This proposition might seem like a gamble, and it is. There’s no guarantee that those potential customers will ever become actual customers. So what confidence can you have that the effort will pay off?

Let me give you a real-world example. 

Last winter, I was walking around Hoi An, Vietnam, with my partner Van. The town is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and a textile and tailoring destination—many tourists go there to have custom formalwear made. We weren’t really in the market for suits or cocktail dresses; we were there to explore and to sample the banh mi, which are supposed to be the best in the country. 

We quickly learned that shopkeepers and salespeople in Hoi An are pretty aggressive—nearly every store we walked by had someone out front trying to lure in passersby. The repeated hard sells were unconvincing, and we did our best to tune them out. 

As we walked by a row of cashmere vendors, a woman approached and struck up a conversation. I was skeptical that she was going to try to make a hard sell for us to come inside one of the shops. Instead, she offered us a coffee shop recommendation and a tip to stick around until nightfall to see the lanterns turn on. 

We chatted a little longer, and she asked us if we were there to have clothes made, since that’s what the town is famous for. We might browse around, we said. 

That’s when she made her pitch: Can I tell you about my family’s tailor shop? We obliged, and she ran through a few talking points: Her family has owned a tailor shop for 20+ years. They prioritize quality above all else because they want customers to recommend them to friends. And the kicker: They’re the #1 shop on TripAdvisor, with thousands of five-star reviews. 

Finally, she asked if we’d like to visit the shop. We were non-committal, so she gave us a card and went on her way. We googled the name of the shop and found that it was, in fact, the top-rated shop in town, with more than 6,000 reviews and an average rating of five stars. Impressive social proof. She got us thinking: All those reviewers can’t be wrong—right? Maybe we should think about getting a few things made.

We continued walking around town, got some coffee—her recommendation proved to be good!—then found ourselves passing the shop. Their TripAdvisor accolades were on the door, but we would’ve paid little attention to them, were it not for our chat with their brand ambassador.

Because a person had met us where we were, given us a few helpful insights, and got us interested in their product, we decided to go inside.

A top of funnel content strategy aims to reproduce this experience in an article format: 

  1. Choose topics. Identify a selection of topics that are relevant to your audience and that your brand can speak to. What can you authentically provide helpful information about? What questions can you answer that no one else in your space is answering yet, or not answering well? 
  2. Create good content. Author content that showcases your brand’s expertise and offers readers something of genuine value. Connect with readers through a strong brand voice and point of view. Package insights in a way that is engaging, digestible, and helpful for your audience—think: well-written articles with navigable formatting. 
  3. Optimize for organic discovery. When creating content, consider the context in which readers will find it—e.g., in their search results or in their LinkedIn feeds—and optimize for that. That can include writing snappy headlines that will catch readers’ attention on social media and following SEO best practices to maximize the chance that Google will rank your articles for relevant search queries. 
  4. Mention your brand or product when relevant. Once you’ve earned some trust by delivering good, helpful content, look for opportunities to weave in mentions of your brand and relevant products. The mention might be in the text itself or in a strategically placed visual module. 
  5. Offer a path to learn more. Give readers the option to click through and learn more with well-placed CTAs. 

A reader might not click through or take any direct action at the end of that first encounter—and that’s ok. In fact, that’s not the expectation. 

A top of funnel strategy has three goals:

  1. Grow awareness by exposing more people to your brand.
  2. Build trust with your audience. 
  3. Build intent to purchase. 

The tailor shop’s brand ambassador successfully did all three. Since we arrived in Hoi An without the intent to purchase, we could’ve easily enjoyed our afternoon without setting foot inside a tailor shop.

But that conversation, which began with coffee, got us in the door.

Ultimately, we walked out with two custom suits. It was refreshing to see that those 6,000+ TripAdvisor reviewers were right. So if you find yourself in Hoi An, check out Ba Ri tailor shop. They’re the best in town.

Interested in exploring a top of funnel content strategy? Get in touch—we’d love to share case studies and tailor a custom proposal for you.


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