How do you get people to buy your products or subscribe to your services?
You can develop the best solutions in your industry and come up with value propositions no consumer can say no to. And sure, investing in content marketing, social media promotions, and website SEO optimization are superb methods to engage and convert your leads.
But none of these actions will matter if your audience can’t find you in the first place. The only surefire way to attract potential customers is to employ the right top-of-funnel marketing tactics.
In this article, we’ll discuss the objectives of awareness stage marketing, along with the most successful strategies you can employ for targeting the top end of your sales funnel.
A quick look at the stages of the sales funnel
When deciding what products to buy, consumers go through a process commonly referred to as the customer journey. Essentially, this process consists of several phases. Throughout these stages, buyers identify their pain points, explore solutions, and discover products that fit their needs. Then, they consider multiple decision-impacting factors to choose which solution to buy.
In marketing, the term sales funnel depicts a system of various marketing actions that brands can use to lead consumers through the customer journey and ultimately convert them into customers.
Generally, a sales funnel will focus on getting consumers through the following four stages of purchase decision-making.
- Awareness. The top of the sales funnel is called the awareness stage because this is the phase during which consumers become aware of solutions for their pain points. The point of top-of-funnel marketing is to get your content to new people, helping them recognize the value in your offer.
- Interest. Once consumers have become aware of your brand, they’ll enter the interest stage. During this phase of the sales funnel, your job is to help consumers evaluate whether the solutions your business offers meet their needs in the right way.
- Decision. This stage is where people decide whether they’re ready to invest in your products. They’ll consider price, delivery, packaging, and even reviews to ensure that they’re getting the best possible value for money. When targeting this section of the sales funnel, do everything you can to make an offer your web visitors won’t be able to resist.
- Action. Finally, once they have collected all the relevant information, buyers enter the action stage of the sales funnel. The bottom of the sales funnel is where you either convert leads into customers or lose them to your competition.
Awareness stage marketing objectives
As you will see, there is a wide variety of top-of-funnel marketing tactics you can employ to reach your target audience. All of these strategies aim to arrive at similar outcomes.
There are two common objectives with awareness stage marketing: building brand awareness and enabling emotional buy-in.
The elementary goal with marketing tactics for the top end of your sales funnel is building brand awareness. That is, introducing your business to potential customers.
In general, these strategies will inform consumers about:
- What your product does
- How your product can address their needs
- Why your product is different from your competitors’ offers
Buyers choose what brands to support based on different factors. And according to research, many of these factors are emotional rather than rational. So, the second objective of top-of-funnel marketing is building up your brand’s reputation in a way that will inspire consumers to invest in your products.
You can do this by using awareness-stage marketing to:
- Build brand trust and credibility
- Define (and enact) organizational values that your target audience cares about
- Underline the benefits of your audience becoming a customer of your company
- Discuss the risks of customers not choosing your solution to address their pain points
8 marketing tactics for the awareness stage
Once you have a clear idea of what you’d like to achieve with your top-of-funnel marketing efforts, it’s time to get to work.
The following are all excellent tactics you can employ, whether you want to build brand awareness, introduce your products and services to potential clients, or describe the benefits your audience will gain by choosing to shop with your brand.
1. Educate the audience about your products without sales pressure
Generally, consumers in the awareness stage don’t respond well to aggressive sales tactics.
Sure, a time-limited discount or personalized offer presented at the right moment are both great ways to get bottom-of-the-funnel consumers to make that final decision. However, pressuring someone who’s just beginning to explore their options into making a purchase can be damaging to your brand’s relationship with them.
This is, in part, because consumers distrust advertising. According to Nielsen’s 2021 Total Audience Report, fewer than one in five consumers find ads very trustworthy.
Considering this, using hard-sell techniques on segments of your audience still in the top stages of the customer journey is likely to hurt your bottom line and your brand’s reputation.
Top-of-funnel marketing can help you solve this issue. Start by creating educational content that introduces products and services without pressuring consumers to purchase. After all, Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer notes that providing high-quality information makes for the best method of building brand trust.
An excellent example of this tactic in practice comes from Transparent Labs. Since the company sells supplements, the brand heavily invests in awareness-stage marketing to reach new audiences. With a rich blog section covering a wide variety of fitness-related topics, the company makes it super-easy for potential customers to “stumble upon” its content.
Still, the most stand-out feature in Transparent Labs’ approach is how it prioritizes value over product promotion in the content it publishes.
For example, in its 8-Week Guide to Body Recomposition guide, the brand provides readers with a host of helpful advice on how to lose fat and build muscle. Most noteworthy about this article is that out of the 4,000+ words, only three sentences discuss Transparent Labs products.
As you can see, this is more than enough to enlighten readers about relevant solutions for solving this specific pain point. But it doesn’t pressure web visitors to make a purchase.
Instead, it focuses on creating product awareness. It also ensures that consumers form a positive opinion of Transparent Labs and begin to trust the brand as a dependable source of genuinely helpful information (whether they currently plan on buying a supplement or not).
2. Provide actual, actionable solutions in your content
Successful content marketing at the top end of the sales funnel is about providing value. It’s about educating potential customers and giving them expert insight into your world.
When you use your expertise to help them overcome a real-world pain point, you’re buying enormous goodwill and credibility for your brand.
Some companies even go as far as offering insight that could be seen as a threat to their core product. These companies understand that at the very top of the sales funnel, talking about what you can do for your audience isn’t as important as being seen as a helpful friend, guiding them towards a solution.
If you look at Scott’s Cheap Flights’s guide to finding cheap flights, you’ll notice just how deeply the brand’s marketing team has bought into this principle.
The post is a 3,600-word masterclass in breaking a complex issue down for an audience that loves traveling but may struggle with technology.
There are two consequences:
Firstly, the post fulfills its primary purpose of giving readers a solution to a complex problem. And, secondly, it sketches a very clear picture of how much time and effort the reader would save if they did subscribe to the company’s service.
Although, the post never actually spells out the latter point. It very smartly lets the reader come to this conclusion by themselves.
3. Segment visitors by the content they read
Top-of-funnel marketing allows you to reach new consumers who belong to your target audience. But, it also gives you the unique opportunity to optimize the lower stages of your sales funnel to ensure the best possible results.
It does this by allowing you to segment your audience based on the content they have interacted with.
Essentially, when you know what blog posts certain web visitors have read, you can retarget them with relevant product ads and create dedicated landing pages optimized to address their pain points and areas of interest.
There’s a reason why this is so important for your sales funnel.
According to research, most web visitors don’t convert on their first visit to a website. So, no matter how exceptional your awareness stage marketing is, you will have to work hard to create opportunities for additional touches.
With retargeting, you can do this rather effectively. On the one hand, it allows you to keep your solutions at the top of your potential audiences’ minds by delivering interest-specific ads to remind them of your products.
On the other hand, it gives you the opportunity to continually invest in brand awareness, even after web visitors have left your site without making a purchase or subscribing to your newsletter.
4. Give audiences a reason to follow and interact with your brand
When building a sales funnel—especially in the awareness stage of your funnel—ensure that your marketing strategies encourage consumers to connect with your company.
One of the best spaces to do this is, of course, social media.
According to Statista, many internet users use social media to engage with brands and branded content. In fact, 31.1% of people browse social media for entertainment, 29.3% do so to keep up with trends, 27.7% seek inspiration for things to do and buy, 26.2% perform product research, and 22.7% go online to see content from their favorite brands.
These statistics prove how impactful social media can be for getting more out of your awareness stage marketing efforts.
Essentially, you can use social media to distribute content that your target audience will find attractive and entertaining. And even if people don’t know much about your brand (yet), they are likely to develop a deep familiarity as long as you plan your content strategy in a way that builds connections and consistently provides value.
An excellent example of a brand that works hard to create great top-of-funnel content comes from Farrow & Ball. Knowing that most people aren’t particularly passionate about paint and wallpaper, this company decided to turn its Instagram presence into a one-stop shop for design inspiration that helps people get more out of their spaces.
With posts like the one above, the brand gives followers content that is more than just aesthetically pleasing. It also provides actionable tips and value, keeping consumers coming back for more, even when they’re not necessarily in the process of decorating their homes.
Nonetheless, thanks to this awareness-stage marketing strategy, a large percentage of Farrow & Ball’s followers will go to the brand’s Instagram page the next time they think of painting their walls. This maximizes their chances of moving down the sales funnel and becoming the brand’s customers in the future (be it near or far).
Mindbodygreen does something similar, also on its Instagram account. Even though it’s a business that focuses on health coaching and education, the brand understands the role of social media in building an efficient sales funnel.
The brand creates beautifully designed social media posts, constantly providing Instagram users with new and valuable information. Then, once it has successfully grabbed user attention (and cemented its trustworthiness), it directs followers to its website, where it takes them further down the sales funnel, aiming to capture leads and nurture them into paying customers.
5. Humanize your brand voice
People want brands to be “human.” So, one tip that can help you optimize the top end of your sales funnel is to make your brand voice as approachable as possible.
In 2019, Sprout Social surveyed 1,000 consumers to discover what they thought about social media and how brands use it. The results revealed that 78% of people looked to branded social posts to experience a connection. What’s even more interesting is that the key to building consumer-brand relationships turned out to be authenticity delivered through material that humanizes brands.
So knowing that your audience wants to understand your brand beyond just what it sells, it’s not a bad idea to look for ways to humanize your voice.
One way of doing this is to be more vocal about the values that drive your business.
GILI Sports, for example, does this on its homepage, where it expresses its intention to give a portion of each board sold to ocean and sea life charities.
What’s great about this brand’s approach is that it doesn’t allow its brand values to become empty promises. Instead, the founder gives regular updates about how the company works to fulfill its commitments. You can see one of these updates in the video posted to GILI’s Facebook page at the beginning of 2021.
Transparency is another way to humanize your brand voice and improve the effectiveness of your top-of-funnel marketing. Show potential customers that your organization is a relatable entity working hard to become its best self.
The Body Shop provides buyers with information about its packaging and future plans on its website. It doesn’t sugarcoat facts. For example, it states that 68% of its packaging is only technically recyclable and that the organization is working towards developing products that will be fully recyclable. The brand is also open about its current refill scheme only working for eight products.
This approach to transparency is great for awareness stage marketing as it allows the brand to connect with eco-conscious consumers without making promises that it’s unable to fulfill.
And the end result is not just a branding win for The Body Shop. By taking this transparent route to top-of-funnel marketing, the company also attracts consumers thinking about long-term investments, ensuring that each new customer acquired has the highest possible chance of becoming a loyal buyer and vocal brand advocate.
6. Promote your blog posts across multiple channels
One of the main objectives of awareness stage marketing is to reach as many potential customers as possible. So, your sales funnel needs to employ strategies that help you get your content to these audiences as effectively as possible.
One way to do so is to widen your reach by investing in promotion on multiple channels. Publishing content on your blog is a great way to attract consumers. However, it’s not necessarily the fastest way to secure conversion.
Instead, try cross-posting on social media networks populated by your target audience (PEW Research is an excellent resource for finding social media usage statistics based on demographics data). Then, to maximize the chances of your content being seen by your target audience, you can invest in paid promotion, like Hubspot did for its latest content marketing templates.
7. Highlight your USP and company values with sales copy
As you invest in and optimize your brand’s inbound marketing, remember that getting people to your website or social media pages isn’t enough. You also have to ensure that they’re blown away when they reach their destination.
To do this, work hard to guarantee that your unique selling proposition and company values are represented by well-written sales copy, like the one used by Cocoon Tea Artisans.
The following are some copywriting best practices you should stick to when building landing pages for the top of your sales funnel:
- Keep your value propositions clear and simple.
- Highlight the benefits you offer to consumers.
- Encourage web visitors to act with conversion-optimized CTAs.
- Explore multiple formats. For example, survey data shows that 73% of consumers prefer to learn about products through explainer videos than text.
- Find opportunities to express your brand’s values and mission with website copy.
8. Build a community that focuses on problem-solving rather than sales
Nowadays, people have to sift through a lot of options before they find the perfect solutions for their needs. And more often than not, the process is time and energy-consuming. So, many buyers choose to listen to peers, influencers, and industry experts when making purchasing decisions.
Now, there are multiple ways you can use this knowledge to improve the effectiveness of your awareness stage marketing. But one tactic that marketers usually overlook is the creation of communities that utilize your brand’s expertise to solve consumer problems without creating pressure for members to invest in your products.
For example, Aura does this with a Facebook group where it teaches Amazon sellers how to boost conversion on the sales platform, completely free of charge.
What’s great about the approach is that the tips and advice shared in this group hugely benefit Aura’s target audience. But, they also prove that Aura is a trustworthy brand that is capable of solving several consumer pain points (even some that the Facebook group members might not even be aware of yet).
Top-of-funnel marketing that works
Even though consumers are spending an increasing amount of time online, reaching audiences in the top segment of your sales funnel can prove to be difficult (or expensive). Especially if your awareness stage marketing tactics aren’t optimized to deliver results while minimizing costs.
Fortunately, the top-of-funnel marketing tactics described in this guide make for an excellent start when building brand awareness.
Take the time to choose the tips that will work best for you (or even better, combine as many of these strategies as you can), and you’re guaranteed to see excellent results.
Of course, these results won’t happen overnight. But that’s all right. If you’re after quick gains, your best bet is to follow these steps and invest in paid promotion.
Sure, it may not be the cheapest way to get the word out about your company. But it will ensure that the impression you leave con your audience guarantees a bright future for your business.