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The Marketing Conversion Funnel: BOFU, MOFU & TOFU Explained

Have you ever heard of the marketing conversion funnel? If so, then you might have come across the marketing terms —BOFU (bottom-of-the-funnel), MOFU (middle-of-the-funnel), and TOFU (top-of-the-funnel).

But do you know why these stages exist or how they work together to help your business succeed? Knowing the answer gives you valuable insight into creating effective campaigns for your business, as well as an excellent opportunity to increase sales.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the value offered by each step in a successful marketing conversion funnel and explain how the customer journey and sales funnel come into this. We’ll take you through each conversion funnel stage in detail and give you some helpful examples to show you how these stages work together to increase website traffic, brand awareness, and customer conversions.

What is a conversion funnel?

A conversion funnel describes the different stages that a potential customer goes through before they buy your product or service.

A good way to visualise it is as an obstacle course. If you’re in sales or marketing, it’s your responsibility to help guide your potential buyers through the stages in the smoothest way possible, without confusion or frustration. Getting them closer to the finish line and your desired result…conversions.

Conversion funnels act as stepping stones to success for many businesses. They give potential customers that nudge towards finding out more about your brand, and ultimately buying your products or services. Think of it as a way to lead people on an exciting journey from just being aware of your brand right through to becoming your loyal customers.

Marketing funnel vs customer journey: one and the same?

Since the marketing funnel does appear to show some of the different stages of a customer’s journey, you’d be forgiven for thinking the customer journey and the conversion funnel are the same thing. But trust us, they’re not.

The customer journey is critical to sales success, however, it doesn’t follow a linear sequence like the conversion funnel does, which moves in one direction from the awareness stage to the conversion stage. It accounts for all the touchpoints and actions a customer might take on their journey to buying. This means the customer journey can look very different from person to person.

We asked two of our clients if we could use their customer journeys as examples – we’ve changed their names for confidentiality purposes.

Griffin* is a business owner looking for some help with his Business to Business (B2B) positioning. He types in “positioning” into Google, discovers the Proof Content positioning service page, reads a few blog posts about the topic, and then hits the Contact button. He then has a quick call with sales, weighs up the pricing and other options, and comes on board as a customer.

Julie*, on the other hand, goes a completely different route. She works at an agency and found out about our company through word of mouth. She signed up for our regular newsletter as she enjoys writing, staying on top of AI developments, and getting B2B content marketing tips from experts. After receiving three newsletters, Julie realises she needs some serious help with a client’s Key Messaging and website rewrite. She pops us a mail, has a chat with our founder about her client’s needs and prices, and believed we can take care of her problem for her. She converted.

As you can see, Julie and Griffin had two very different customer journeys, but they both follow a linear process from “awareness” of our services through to “conversion”. More on this later.

How does a sales funnel come into this?

The concept of a sales funnel is also often confused with the conversion funnel. But they are not the same.

Although similar, these two marketing strategies focus on different things. Sales funnels are all about making an initial connection with a customer who is already aware of your brand or products/services – for instance, when they access your online shop if you’re in e-commerce.

When you connect with those customers who have never heard of you before, that’s where the conversion funnel comes into play. It warms up leads by creating trust through multiple interactions until they reach the end goal…purchasing from you. Conversion funnels represent every step along this journey so potential buyers can make informed decisions throughout.

Let’s take a look at the conversion funnel stages and steps below.

What are the conversion funnel stages (and what does TOFU have to do with it)?

The conversion funnel stages are the key elements in understanding how to drop the “potential” from potential buyers.

One of the easiest ways to comprehend this is through the top-middle-bottom funnel approach. This focuses on the following steps:

  • Sparking interest in your products/services
  • Informing potential buyers about what they need to know (specs, features, prices, etc.)
  • Convincing them that buying from you is the right choice
  • Encouraging repeat customers

These steps can be organised according to top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU), and bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) marketing.

What is top-of-funnel marketing (TOFU)?

Let’s start from the top with top of the funnel marketing, also known as upper-funnel marketing.

TOFU marketing looks at creating initial awareness for your product or service. It’s most often used in the beginning stages of the customer journey – when potential customers don’t yet know about you but could be interested in what you have to offer.

The main goal of TOFU marketing is to get people to learn about your brand and introduce them to your products/services engagingly. Typically, at this stage, a person is just starting to research a product or service. They aren’t yet sure about what they need or how a product/service would help them. This is why this stage focuses on building awareness.

The objective here is not necessarily generating leads right away. But rather casting a wide net and building recognition among more people who may eventually become leads down the line.

TOFU marketing tactics

You can use a variety of tactics for top-of-the-funnel campaigns, such as:

  • Content creation: like blog posts, infographics, and videos
  • Paid advertising: through Facebook Ads, Microsoft Ads, or Google Ads
  • PR & media relations
  • Events & conferences
  • SEO optimisation, and more

TOFU marketing example

Here’s an example of TOFU marketing being put into play for a Business to Consumer (B2C) company:

Let’s say you’re launching a new luxury skincare line aimed at women aged 35+ with combination skin types who, until now, have been unable to find suitable solutions from other brands in their local shops.

To get your message across effectively and reach your target audience, you’d cover different topics and questions relevant to your campaigns. These might be questions like:

  • Do I Need Sulphates?
  • What Makes Natural Skincare Better?
  • Why Combination Skin Needs Special Attention

You may then answer these questions in content pieces like blog posts and videos. You could distribute them through channels like social media networks and search engines – so your ideal customers can stumble upon these while they search online or browse through their social feeds.

In this way, you raise awareness about a topic relevant to your audience and begin the process of preparing them for the next conversion funnel stage, the middle of the funnel.

What is middle-of-funnel marketing?

Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) marketing refers to the tactics used to reach potential customers once they are aware that something exists. People in this stage are now weighing up their options for making a purchase or taking action.

For example, when someone who is researching golf clubs sees an ad for Titleist clubs, they are in the middle of their purchasing funnel. They’re interested in what the brand has to offer but still evaluating whether it’s worth it and how it compares to others.

MOFU marketing helps potential customers make informed decisions about what to buy by building trust and creating meaningful customer experiences. It helps bridge the gap between prospects having just discovered what you offer and actually becoming your loyal customer – all while keeping them engaged along their journey.

MOFU marketing tactics

MOFU strategies include techniques like:

  • Webinars
  • Product/service recommendations
  • FAQs
  • Whitepapers
  • How-to content and “unboxing videos

By providing helpful information at this stage, marketers can move people further down the funnel toward making a purchase decision. It’s also worthwhile to actively engage with your prospects on platforms like social media or through email marketing so you can develop trust and credibility. This increases the chances that they will buy from you.

MOFU marketing example

We mentioned social media and email marketing as effective ways to get potential customers to engage and learn more about you.

Here’s an example of how you could put these into play for B2B at this stage.

As part of your business tax services company’s MOFU marketing, you create an email marketing drip campaign that educates subscribers on topics related to their interest in your service, but doesn’t explicitly say “work with us”. You get them closer to making a decision to use your services by educating them about topics like business tax relief and investment schemes, but without aggressively pushing them. Instead, you develop trust and credibility with your readers, demonstrating to them that your company is an authority in the field.

You also use social media as a way to amplify your brand presence among potential clients who may be considering various options before making a decision. You decide to execute an Influencer marketing campaign to drive additional awareness around your key differentiators and benefits while leveraging pre-existing communities on platforms like LinkedIn.

What is bottom of the funnel marketing?

Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) marketing is an approach that focuses on securing the sale and converting customers into paying customers. Its main objective is to effectively drive sales, creating a win-win situation for both the customer and your business.

Ultimately, bottom-of-funnel marketing requires marketers to think strategically about how best to convert leads into loyal customers by utilising proven strategies like personalisation and segmentation.

When done correctly it can be incredibly successful in boosting profitable conversions while also helping businesses stay ahead of their competition by delivering great customer experiences that result in long-term loyalty too.

BOFU marketing tactics

At its core, BOFU marketing involves leveraging tactics like:

The idea is simple: focus your efforts on those who have already expressed interest in what you’re selling and take them through a series of steps until they ultimately convert into paying customers.

BOFU marketing example

To illustrate how effective BOFU (aka lower funnel) marketing can be, let’s look at a B2B example:

You own a legal tech company that sells software to legal firms globally. One of the ways you could capitalise on BOFU marketing is by offering a free demo of your software to interested parties. It’s mutually beneficial as you can then collect the potential customers’ details while allowing them to see how your solution would look and operate in their own business environment. A master stroke of a closing move that’s likely to achieve success.

Another example can be shown in the use of keyword targeting in the SEO world. If you’re looking to target people at the bottom of the funnel through organic search, you might want to write and publish content on your site covering certain BOFU keywords.

Let’s use a B2C retail tech accessory business for illustration.

This company wants to target people ready to buy their latest product, the X20 Switch Keyboard. Through keyword research and competitor analysis, they identify some low-competition, high-converting keywords that will capture customers who are ready to buy. These keyword phrases might look like this:

  • “Buy X20 Switch Keyboard”
  • “X20 Switch Keyboard for sale”
  • “Best X-series Keyboard”

By doing this, they focus specifically on people who are at the point of conversion.

A quick look at two conversion funnel marketing models

There isn’t just one way to look at the conversion funnel journey. They come in all shapes and sizes – from incredibly simple to complex, with a variety of levels.

We’ll take a look at two well-known conversion funnel models below: the AIDA funnel and the Three-Step funnel.

AIDA funnel

Aida conversion funnel illustration

The AIDA model was created by advertising advocate Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. It describes a series of steps or levels that a business can go through to get a person to take the desired action (make a purchase, sign up, etc.)

The levels are:

  • Attracting Attention
  • Generating Interest
  • Stimulating Desire
  • Ensuring Action

Or Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action (AIDA) for short.

Attracting Attention: In this stage, potential customers first become aware of your brand, business, solution, service, or product. This step can be achieved through various channels such as social media ads, radio advertisements, and even word-of-mouth. Basically, if your potential customers don’t know about you – or your product or services – they won’t be interested in buying from you. So make sure they know who you are.

In this stage, you’re looking to get people to say, “What is it?”

Interest: After becoming aware of your offering or service, users will usually develop curiosity and start researching more about it before making a commitment – showing they’ve entered the interest phase. To keep them engaged during this period, provide them with relevant content such as interesting blog posts, example case studies, and so on. This will allow them to get acquainted with what you offer before taking any major steps.

In this stage, you’re looking to get people to say, “I like the sound of that!”

Desire: If done right, your prospective customer should show signs they have developed a desire towards purchasing from you. At this point, all research has been completed; now is the time for persuasion! Focus on showcasing advantages over competitors while highlighting key features and benefits associated with each of the products or services you offer. Use visuals whenever possible to showcase how these solutions would look in real-life scenarios.

In this stage, you’re looking to get people to say, “I want that!”

Action: Finally once your prospect has completed the previous stages – action needs to be encouraged. Provide users with crystal clear calls-to-action (CTAs), guiding them through the checkout and purchase process quickly. This could include anything from free trials, sample products, or tempting discounts when applicable.

In this stage, you’re looking to get people to say, “I’m getting that!”

At the end of the day, AIDA is about providing users with a helpful and well-planned journey, driving them closer toward desired outcomes efficiently whilst simultaneously enhancing their experience with your brand.

Three-stage funnel

This is a fantastic approach, purely owing to its simplicity. It divides the conversion funnel into three easy-to-grasp levels.

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Conversion

Here’s an example of how these levels come into play in digital marketing.

Awareness: Create awareness and get people to your website. Attract potential customers with informative content like valuable blog posts.

Consideration: Use more of your brilliant content to get those people to sign up for your email list and begin weighing up the pros and cons of your product compared to competitors.

Conversion: Persuade, persuade, persuade. Now they know you and want the product, urge them to buy from you. Offer a discount or value-add they can’t resist.

Conversion funnel marketing: What’s next?

After reading this post, you should feel confident to bandy about terms like AIDA, TOFU, and marketing funnel with aplomb. But as much as we love talking the talk here at Proof (and using words like aplomb and bandy), it’s just as important to be able to walk the talk.

In our next post on the conversion funnel, we’ll take you through how to build an effective conversion funnel from scratch, how to optimise an existing one, and how to conduct a sales funnel analysis. Watch this space.

Looking for help with your content strategy? We love helping people with their content problems and solutions at Proof. Contact us.

Featured image showing an abstract conversion funnel

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