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What is Top-of-Funnel Marketing? Tactics & Tips

Top of funnel marketing is the first stage of your marketing funnel, or where your customer begins their customer journey.

During the buying cycle, customers usually move from the top, to the middle, to the bottom of the funnel, as they move from awareness to consideration to intent to purchase. Throughout each of the stages, you should strive to nurture the customer with relevant content and interactions that are attuned to where they are in their decision-making process.

In this article, we’ll dive into what’s involved in top of the funnel marketing, and how you can help nurture your customer into the next stage.

Top of Funnel Marketing Defined

When a customer is at the “top of the funnel,” they’re new to your brand. They may just be coming across you for the first time— they don’t know much about you. They’re not actively looking to make a purchase from you at this point.

This is the “awareness” phase and, as such, it’s important to take a light touch and provide a good impression of your brand that leaves them eager to learn more.

While the middle of the funnel may involve more educational content about the benefits of your product or solution, and the bottom of the funnel may involve sales promotions and pitches, the top of the funnel should be broader and focus on content and advertisements that create awareness and leave your audience wanting to learn more.

Expand Your Reach With Top of Funnel Marketing

The top of the funnel is a critical place to focus on expanding your brand’s reach and building your audience.

For example, you can use targeted advertising across social media and publisher networks to build large audiences made of your ideal marketing personas. Your ad campaign might provide a link to your newsletter, display a funny video, or showcase a clever slogan—but in any case, it should be intended to pique your audience’s interest in your brand, rather than encourage them to make a purchase right away. 

Top of funnel audiences can complete conversion goals such as signing up for a newsletter, or even clicking on a link to your website. After they’ve clicked on the link, you’ll be able to retarget them with additional content that guides them further down your marketing funnel. Or, if they’ve signed up for your contact list, you’ll be able to use all of your marketing channels to engage with them through the rest of the sales cycle.

Types of Top of Funnel Content

There are numerous forms of top of funnel content that your brand might consider to help you win over new customers. Here are a few options to consider:


When the goal is to build an audience, it helps to share your message as widely as possible. Targeted ads on social media and publisher networks, direct mail, print ads, video ads, podcast or radio ads, and TV/OTT ads are all ways to build awareness among new prospects who may not be ready to buy yet.

Social Media

Social media is a great way to connect with existing customers as well as raising brand awareness among new or potential customers. You can grow your audience by participating in relevant hashtags, encouraging fans to share your posts, and sponsoring your posts so that they’re served to a larger audience. This is also a great time to leverage influencer outreach by giving influencers your products and encouraging them to review them or try them out.

Content Marketing

Content marketing initiatives can take a variety of forms, including blog posts, video content, podcasts, infographics, and more. Regardless of the content type, the goal shouldn’t be to promote your brand or product. Instead, you should focus on understanding your target customer’s pain points, and develop engaging content that helps them solve their problems. For example, a financial services company that offers individual investing portfolios might offer a quiz that helps their prospects identify the types of companies to invest in that match their values.

Top of Funnel Marketing Goals

As mentioned previously, the goal of top of funnel marketing is not to convert the customer to a sale. They’re not ready for that yet and trying to push too hard at this phase in the customer journey will only alienate your audience.

Your goal should be getting your customers in this stage to gain enough trust and interest in your brand to move to the next step. That next step might include:

Signing Up For a Blog Newsletter

If your content marketing strategy focuses on regular tips and advice, top-of-funnel customers are likely to want to sign up to hear from you. The delivery channel may vary depending on your priorities. For example, you might offer an email newsletter, tips via SMS, a YouTube channel, or a podcast, to name a few options. Or, customers might respond to a prompt to sign up for web push notifications, so they’ll get an alert when you have published new content. Whatever the case, once they’ve subscribed, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your interactions with these curious prospective customers.

Following You on Social Media

Once they’ve seen your social content, either via a friend, a hashtag search, or a promoted post, top-of-funnel customers might be intrigued enough to follow you, which will give you further opportunities to share your content with them on an ongoing basis.

Downloading Your App

If your visitors enjoy your content, they’ll be primed to explore your brand further. Include CTAs in your content marketing and social media streams encouraging them to sign up for your app to explore what else you have to offer.

These are just a few potential conversion paths for top-of-funnel customers, but any strategy that gives them the ability to stay connected to your brand will serve as an important next step in the process. As you guide them down the funnel, you’ll be able to make use of cross-channel marketing strategies to engage them across all of the channels they use, so that they’ll begin to consider your brand and, ultimately, choose to make a purchase from you.

Iterable is a cross-channel marketing platform that powers unified customer experiences and empowers marketers to create, optimize and measure relevant interactions and experiences customers love. Leading brands, like Cinemark, DoorDash, Calm, Madison Reed, and Box, choose Iterable to power world-class customer experiences throughout the entire lifecycle. Discover our growth marketing solutions for personalization, increasing customer engagement, and more. Discover our platform and schedule a demo today.