ToF (Top of Funnel), MoF (Middle of Funnel), and BoF (Bottom of Funnel) refer to the stages in your customer’s buying cycle. These are used for targeted marketing at each stage, particularly for content marketing.
A customer’s buying journey has many stages. And it can take them a long time – sometimes years – to run through them all.
To help identify the different marketing and content techniques that can be used for each, a simple terminology was identified. By using the visual of a funnel, each step was named from the widest at the top to the narrowest at the bottom.
Top of Funnel (aka ToF) is the largest audience reach. These are people you want to introduce your company to now, even if they are a long time away from buying.
Middle of Funnel (aka MoF) is a smaller portion of this group. These folks are actively researching a new or ongoing problem.
Bottom of Funnel (aka BoF) are the smallest but most valuable group, as they could be days – or minutes – away from making a purchase. Bottom of the funnel folks can also include existing customers as you work to increase lifetime value and turn customers into promoters.
The reason these three steps are specifically called out is because how important it is to treat them differently.
After all, you wouldn’t want to scream “Buy Now!!!” at someone who hasn’t even thought about the fact that they need your product – yet.
Instead, a gentle introduction to your company and the benefits of your products can help plant the seeds for when that day comes. You can also think of them as browsers, shoppers, and buyers.
These three stages are referred to in the form of a funnel because it helps illustrate two key points.
- The difference in reach through the various stages of the conversion funnel.
- The importance of a narrower focus as you get closer to the bottom of the funnel.
The Buyer’s Journey vs the Funnel Approach
These are similar, in many ways, to the purchasing phases of awareness, consideration, and purchase buyer decision process that has long been held as a fundamental truth of marketing.
The traditional buyer’s journey often goes something like this:
In the Awareness stage, your potential customer has identified a problem or a need. They probably have not yet figured out exactly what that need or problem is, or how to solve it. However, they are actively doing research in order to help frame up their current problem.
In the Consideration stage, the customer has defined what problem they are trying to solve. They are currently searching for possible solutions to that problem. There may still be some opportunity to provide an alternative resolution to their problem. However, they are already on the path to purchasing something that will make the problem better.
In the Decision stage, the prospect knows what they are looking for and is now trying to decide where to buy it from. There is less wiggle-room in this stage to provide alternative solutions, as they have consciously decided what they want to use to remedy their problem.
ToF, MoF, and BoF Funnel Examples
The funnel approach, particularly when it comes to content marketing, can often take a step back in the customer purchase journey. Sometimes it starts even before the awareness stage has even begun.
Or, perhaps, it is more accurate to say that they may have started the purchase journey for a product your company doesn’t carry. But what they are researching could have a strong correlation with a future need of your products or services.
Let’s take, for example, a Home Decor site such as Art & Home.
Art & Home offers a wide range of DIY Decor tips, advice, inspiration, and tutorials. They also provide recipes and cooking tips for the aspiring chef.
Neither of those topics relate directly to the products sold by Art & Home. However, they target an audience that has shown an inclination towards home decor purchases. And that’s a good thing and a good audience to connect with.
If a prospect engages with Art & Home regularly on such general, home-related, topics, that’s great news. When the time comes to purchase a home decor product, they might now have an affinity with the brand. And brand affinity leads to higher conversion rates.
It Is Important to Keep ToF, MoF, and BoF Content on Brand
Top of the funnel content could include practically anything that speaks to your target audience. However, from a branding perspective, it is important to narrow that focus down to things that support your brand’s positioning.
For example, when developing the content marketing strategy for Perfect Sense, a Canadian mattress retailers, we selected two primary ToF (Top of Funnel) topic categories for our content creation focus:
- Bedroom decor & design
- Fun facts about Canada
The reason for these two was pretty straightforward. Bedroom design & decor spoke to potential customers who cared about making their bedroom a relaxing and inviting space. Whereas fun facts about Canada was utilized to celebrate the company’s Canadian roots.
For middle of the funnel content, the focus shifted toward two distinctly problem-solving topic categories:
- Sleep science
- Mattress information
These articles target those who were looking for a way to improve the quality of their sleep. Or for people wo are looking for broad information on mattress sizes and specs.
Finally, bottom of the funnel content was utilized to help users pick PerfectSense as the mattress supplier of choice, including:
- Product details and benefits, including comparison with key competitors
- Tools and calculators
- Customer reviews & testimonials
How to Establish Your ToF, MoF, and BoF Content Strategy
The first step to formalizing your content marketing strategy is to understand your customers, your brand, and where they could overlap.
Your choice about where in the funnel to start your creative process is up to you. It is good to utilize a balanced approach with an equal mix of ToF, MoF, and BoF content being created.
Be careful not to focus exclusively on one of these stages. If you do, you could end up with a skewed content strategy that misses key opportunities.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to approach the content development plan from the top down. But you can just as easily approach it from the bottom up. In fact, we often run it both ways. Top down and then bottom up. That’s because sometimes new opportunities arise when you look at things from a different perspective.
ToF (Top of Funnel) Content
Think about your current and future customers, what they are interested in, and what drives their curiosity. Find overlaps with your brand – even if they are relatively indirect.
But don’t stray too far from the core values of your brand.
Content marketing is about planting the seeds for future growth, showcasing your company’s expertise, and providing deep, rich, relevant content to your customers and to search engines.CLMB Marketing
This is the place where you can sew the early seeds and make a connection with your customer. Plus, this type of content is a pressure-free environment of providing informational content.
Pick your subjects wisely, balancing the customer’s interest, your brand’s personality, and the search or social popularity.
For some brands, these Top of Funnel topics will be pretty evident. For others, it may take a bit of thought and research to find the right mix of topics. Just make sure that they support your company’s goals and are of interest to your potential customers.
Top of Funnel content is the least likely to drive an immediate purchase. However, I firmly believe that the sooner you can get in front of these potential customers the better. Even if it doesn’t materialize into a sale until 18-months down the road.
MoF (Middle of Funnel) Content
Middle of the Funnel content is a bit more direct, with a stronger sense of “this will solve problem.” However, it tends to somewhat more subtle than content in the final step in the funnel.
Middle of the funnel most closely overlaps the consideration phase in the purchasing journey. The prospective customer has identified an issue and is currently looking for ways to solve that issue.
For this stage, it’s important to be informative, trustworthy, and knowledgeable without being too sales focused. People tend to mistrust information when it is directly connected to a sales pitch. Therefore, you want to do your best with MoF content to GENTLY steer the customer in your direction.
A great example of this is the “4 Ways to Solve Problem X” approach. This article would highlight 4 ways a customer can solve their issue, one of them being your product.
My Good Green, a Barrie-based Bokashi organic compost system manufacturer, recently came to us to develop their content marketing strategy.
A post about “4 Ways to Compost Indoors During the Winter” was the perfect middle of the funnel article. It worked well because it targeted a particular need & gently positioned them as a viable solution to that need.
Plus, I have always found that there is a certain benefit to being confident enough about your product that you’re not afraid to have it compared – side by side – with other alternatives.
BoF (Bottom of Funnel) Content
This group have the highest likelihood for completing a purchase with you, which is why excellent BoF content is crucial.
You may do a really great job of leading your horses to water using ToF and MoF content. But it is all for nothing if your BoF content can’t make them drink.
This is your chance to close the sale. Which is why BoF content tends to be much more product related. That is simply because it provides stronger benefit-oriented statements in a way that will resonate with your client.
Types of Content Within the Funnel
Keep in mind that content marketing does not solely refer to blog posts. Content marketing can also include product pages, white papers, case studies, tutorials, FAQs, videos, interactive tools, podcasts, and more.
More often than not, ToF content is presented in more of a blog or article format. This is because you are discussing topics that are much more loosely related to your products or services.
MoF content can also be presented as blog posts, but it often includes more in-depth pieces such as case studies, interactive tools, and white papers. That type of content is best suited for people who are heavily invested in the research phase.
Blog posts are not usually the best way to present BoF content, as you want the user to be as close to the purchase flow as possible. Although I have seen some excellent BoF blogs posts out there. When I do, they usually center around How / Why / Where to purchase a particular product or service, but they can still be very effective.
Other key examples of BoF include product details pages, reviews, testimonials, FAQs, and user guides.
But, in the end, content is content. If it is something that user can watch, read, or listen to online, it is content.