Top of the Funnel

Users that are beginning to research a product or service are at the top of the sales funnel. They are in the information-gathering stage and now is when you are most likely to lose them as customers if they aren’t persuaded to move further down the funnel.

What Happens at the Top of the Funnel

Sales funnels are created to move users along on their buyer journey. They start at the top of the funnel then move to the middle and finally the bottom where they become a customer. Well, that’s the goal anyway.

The structure of a marketing funnel is designed with user intent in mind. The top of the funnel is all about making your presence known and making contact with as many people as possible. A company draws users into the funnel through a variety of tactics: PPC campaigns, social media posts, blogs, etc. 

At this stage, the focus is on the user’s needs, wants or interests not what the company has to sell. So much so, the topic of the content or marketing campaign may not be directly related to the product/service. It’s about making a connection that gets the user to visit your landing page and subsequently the sales funnel. 

When we talk about what happens at the top of the funnel we’re discussing two separate things: the company’s goals and the users’ objectives. 

Company Goals at the Top of the Funnel

There are two primary goals at this part of the funnel. First and foremost, the company wants to attract as many new prospects as possible. Second, they want to build awareness for their product/service/brand. 

User Objectives at the Top of the Funnel

At the top of the funnel, the vast majority of users aren’t looking to make a purchase. Instead, they’re comparison shopping. They are there to learn more about the company and what it has to offer. These users are looking for high-level information that will tell them if they want to invest more time learning about the company. Rarely, a user will already have done their research to the point that they’re ready to purchase as soon as they enter the funnel.

There are two concepts to keep in mind at the top of a sales funnel: awareness and discovery. Users don’t yet know that your company/product/service exists. They only know that they have a need and are looking for a solution. At this point in the buyer journey, users may not fully comprehend the need or problem they have, and they certainly aren’t aware of the best way to address it yet.

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What Type of Users Are at the Top of the Funnel

Marketing campaigns from all over the web and real world direct users to the top of the funnel where they can discover your product or service. You’re casting a wide net to get as many people to the top of the funnel as possible.

For that reason, the users that are in the top of the funnel will be more diverse than at any other stage. Some will be a part of your target market while others have little to no actual interest in what you’re offering. The latter group will make up the bulk of the bounce rate.

Often there are many users that fall somewhere in between. They may simply be interested in the topic of the marketing campaign or content that directed them to the funnel. Or they might be trying to figure out the root of their problem/need and how to fix it. 

All-in-all, users at the top of the funnel are information gatherers. They are “browsing” in an effort to get a better idea of what’s out there. These users are a prospect, but they won’t necessarily turn into a hot lead.

Getting Users to Move Further Down the Funnel

The first goal is to get users to the top of the funnel, but you don’t want them to stay there. You want them to keep moving further down the funnel.

Improving sales funnel efficiency starts at the top. There are two primary ways to do this: improve the quality of the leads that make it to the top of the funnel and improve the messaging within the funnel to encourage more users to move further down.

Your conversion rate will likely be low at the top of the funnel, and that’s to be expected. The group of users in the top of the sales funnel are in the discovery phase and many aren’t actually a part of your target market. It will take quite a bit of convincing to get qualified prospects to continue the buyer journey. But as people move down the funnel the likelihood they will convert to a customer increases. 

Strategies for Moving Prospects to the Middle of the Funnel

Educate Users

At the top of the funnel, you should be answering users’ questions and helping them define their needs. You want them to think of you as a thought leader and feel more knowledgeable themselves.

Create a Sense of Value

To generate leads, you need to create a sense of value. The easiest way to do this is to offer something of value for free, such as an email newsletter with industry updates and exclusive discounts. Or you could provide a white paper or free trial in exchange for the user’s contact info. 

Content That’s Easy to Digest

The top of the funnel isn’t the place for complex topics and explanations. It’s best to keep things simple and easy to digest. In the middle of the funnel you can go into the details. 

Good Visuals

Videos, images, and infographics can serve you well at the top of the funnel. They help grab people’s attention and can make an emotional connection.

Keep Things Buyer-Centric

You want the user to get a better idea of what your brand is about, but the focus has to remain on the buyer and their needs if you want them to take the next step.

Avoid Information Overload

At this point, users aren’t prepared to invest a lot of time. Too much information and details can overwhelm users rather than draw them in. The better tactic is to use “snackable” content that gives users a taste of what you have to offer. 

Resist the Urge to Sell, Sell, Sell

Being overly salesy this early in the buyer journey can be a real turnoff since many users aren’t ready to buy just yet. Instead of selling to users, the better option is to establish expertise and offer assistance with or without a sale.

Know What Users Want Next

Users that make it to the middle of the funnel are seriously considering your solution. They need more details on how your product or service can help them in their specific situation. They need to be convinced that your solution is the best option. Keep this in mind at the top of the funnel so that you can make a smooth transition. 

Analyze User Behavior at the Top of the Funnel

One of the best things you can do to get more users to continue down the funnel is to analyze their behavior. An analytics platform like Mixpanel gives you the ability to establish a funnel, benchmark key performance metrics and see what users are doing before and shortly after they enter the funnel. 

This invaluable information can tell you where the best leads are coming from and possible sticking points that are preventing users from continuing down the funnel. For example, you may discover that users from Instagram don’t engage with a landing page that only has one image and quickly bounce. A possible solution to A/B test is adding more visuals to keep users interested and relay easy to digest information. 

The Takeaway

You can influence both who enters the top of your sales funnel and how many people continue on to the next stage. However, at this point in the funnel you can’t expect everyone to convert because they are just starting the buyer journey, gathering information and exploring their options. 

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