The Importance of Top-of-Funnel Marketing: Why Your Business Should Aim for the Top

07.18.2023 Sara Brasfield3 min

There’s obvious appeal in marketing to the bottom of the funnel. The wins come faster. So does the revenue—and both of these offer cold, hard proof to higher-ups that your marketing efforts are paying off.

Compared to bottom and mid-funnel tactics, marketing to the top of the funnel is far less glamorous. Prospects are further away from making a decision, and many of them won’t convert. Results are more indirect, especially if you’re under fire to serve up a return on your marketing investment: brand awareness may be important, but it doesn’t move the needle for business leaders quite like a new customer conversion.

But there’s solid data demonstrating the value of prioritizing the top of your digital marketing funnel, including McKinsey’s discovery that brands present in the initial consideration phase are twice as likely to see a conversion as brands that only focused on mid- and bottom-funnel engagement. Moreover, when consumers in the study did switch brands mid-funnel, 69 percent opted for a brand that had been in the mix in the consideration phase.

In other words, it pays to get in early with your prospects. Top-of-funnel marketing is the best way to establish your brand early in the customer path to conversion. And thanks to new technologies and maturing marketing solutions, it’s easier than ever for local businesses to build a cost-effective top-of-funnel strategy.

New Technologies are Improving Top-of-Funnel Performance

As Google, Meta and other leading ad platforms leverage AI and large language models (LLMs) to improve audience targeting and reach, the efficacy of top-of-funnel marketing is seeing great strides that will benefit businesses of any size.

Dynamic ad insertion and other innovative marketing tools are enabling marketing funnel automation early in the consideration phase, streamlining resource costs while raising the ceiling for performance. SEO, paid search marketing, paid social campaigns, and digital video all stand to benefit from these new technologies, many of which are specific to each platform.

Along with these technologies aiding performance, innovative attribution tools are making it easier for marketers to calculate top-of-funnel impact and ROI. Media mix modeling and other data-driven tools are helping marketers allocate their marketing resources to maximize performance and value not only for upper-funnel activities, but for your full-funnel marketing strategy.

More Channels Are Meeting Customers Early in the Funnel

Streaming services have proliferated. Connected TV is growing in consumer adoption. And tools like Google’s Display & Video 360 offer end-to-end campaign management, including more efficient top-of-funnel activities and optimization to improve your campaign results.

The production requirements of some of these channels may require a greater up-front investment, but overall they offer a cost-effective shot at using upper-funnel marketing to spark a surge in bottom-funnel conversion opportunities. If your business uses an affiliate marketing funnel strategy to refer new leads, this channel further expands your brand’s ability to connect with customers early in their journey.

By filling your inbound marketing funnel with a greater volume of prospects, and across a wider distribution of channels, you can improve the quality of your performance data and uncover valuable insights to optimize a multi-channel strategy.

The Right Metrics Can Offer Proof of Your Performance

Attribution tools can fill in crucial gaps to tell a more complete story of your customer journey, as well as your full-funnel customer engagement. Other key performance indicators (KPIs) should be enlisted to help evaluate the success of your upper-funnel engagement.

We recommend the following as a starting point:

  • Pages per website visit: When prospects are visiting your website, how much time do they spend looking around? A higher number of pages reflects a greater degree of engagement.
  • Conversion rate: When marketing strategies prioritize top-of-funnel engagement, conversion rates tend to go down. While it’s important to contextualize a lower conversion rate in light of a higher number of prospects, this conversion rate can also help you optimize your engagement over time.
  • Entrances: How many customers are entering the funnel, and where are they coming from? This is a key metric for top-of-funnel campaigns, especially when managing the brand’s media mix to optimize your marketing ROI.
  • Customer acquisition cost: Want to assess the overall value of upper-funnel marketing? Calculate the average customer acquisition cost, and compare it to your company’s customer lifetime value. Keep in mind that these costs can vary greatly by industry: a B2B marketing funnel, for example, will likely incur a higher customer acquisition cost, but the LTV of those customers is also much higher. The same is often true for SaaS marketing funnel strategies.

Ready to overhaul your marketing strategy to target these top-of-funnel engagements? A small business marketing consultant can help you develop a marketing strategy that balances your marketing budget and business goals to push your campaign performance higher than ever before.

Cox Media can help you identify the right channels, messaging, audience targeting and creative elements to strengthen your brand’s presence at the start of your customers’ journeys. Contact us today to get started.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is a Marketing Manager on Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than nine years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the office, Sara loves spending time running, reading, and supporting her favorite sports teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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