Some things never get old. This also goes for the marketing funnel, which goes back to 1898! While the entire AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) concept stayed the same, everyone’s understanding and the techniques applied at each stage of the marketing funnel are a bit different these days. 

Those different views make many people, including marketers, feel utterly confused about what exactly is ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu content and why it’s so important to know when and how to nail them down. 

Well, keep your eyes on the screen and scroll down! I’m about to shed some light on these notions. So, you’ll have a complete understanding of the differences between all three and what mistakes to avoid when crafting your content marketing strategy.

The Content Marketing Sales Funnel in a Nutshell

I mentioned AIDA, but most marketers divide the content marketing funnel in these three stages:

  • ToFu (top of the funnel) 
  • MoFu (middle of the funnel) 
  • BoFu (bottom of the funnel)

Let me give you a very simple and relatable example of how the three funnels work.

It’s like when you want to buy a pair of shoes. 

  1. You go to a new shoe store and have a look (this is the ToFu stage). 
  2. You’re looking at several pairs of shoes (this is the MoFu stage). 
  3. You decide to try two pairs and finally buy the most comfortable ones (this is the BoFu stage).

On a typical day, out of 2.000 shoe store visitors, only between 15-40 people actually buy a pair. Hence, the idea of a funnel that keeps getting narrower.

stages of the marketing funnel

It’s pretty much the same when you create online content for your business. The first step is to get online traffic. Then, you want users to subscribe to a newsletter or download ebooks, white papers, etc. At this point, you can start targeting users with personalized content to grab their attention further and hopefully get them into action, aka buying your product or service.

The Differences Between ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu

ToFu – The Awareness Stage

This is the point when a large number of users might become aware of your product or service. All these users are your leads or potential customers.

Content should be focused on educational information and not push it into a salesly approach!

Examples of ToFu content:

  • blog articles
  • social media posts
  • infographics
  • video
  • podcasts
  • newsletters
  • white papers
  • ebooks
  • online ads

Content Mistakes at ToFu Stage

Gated content: Gated content is an effective way to segment your audience, but it shouldn’t start from this stage. Most people wouldn’t want to deliver their personal information to a company they’ve never heard of before. So, typical pop-ups where you request online visitors to fill out a form before they can access a piece of content will only make potential leads puzzled and confused. 

Solutions-based content: Potential customers just found out that you exist and that they might have a problem you can solve. That means they need a bit of time to figure out if that problem is genuine before you start explaining to them how your product is a surefire way to solve their issue.  

Testimonials: TOFU leads barely understand your product, so reviews or client testimonials won’t say much to them. 

 MoFu – The Engagement and Building Trust Stage

At this stage, users get interested and start digging deep into your product or service. Content should focus on a combination of educational information and emphasis on your product’s benefits and how it solves a problem.

Examples of MoFu content:

  • educational resources (e.g. in-depth blog articles)
  • webinars
  • surveys
  • guides
  • how to’s
  • newsletters
  • case studies

Content Mistakes at MoFu Stage

Pushy or promotional communications: MoFu leads are one step away from the action phase (e.g.buying your product or solution), but they’re still considering their options. If you insist on throwing them ‘Buy me now’ messages, you risk scaring them away. 

Inappropriate case studies: Let’s say you’re selling a fast project tracking tool and your target audience is formed of tech-savvy readers. 

You still need to cover some non-tech details for the business decision maker which can be the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or CIO (Chief Information Officer) – people who most times don’t have advanced technical knowledge. You need to take them into consideration and include specific info about your product’s benefits along with technical information.

Trials and demos: You’ve piqued MoFu leads’ interest, but your competitors might have done the same thing. They’re not ready to take your product for a spin and see how it works because they’re still deciding which product that offers the same solution is the right fit for them. 

Free trials should naturally come after they’ll put you on the ‘short list’, which is in the BoFu stage.

BoFu – The Conversion or Buying Stage

In this phase users are close to making a purchase, and it’s the best time to make a sales pitch. Content has to be compelling and align with the previous messaging from the ToFu and MoFu phases.

Examples of BoFu content:

  • demos
  • free trials
  • customer stories (testimonials)
  • product comparisons
  • user-generated content as social proof

Content Mistakes at BoFu Stage

Demos and free trials without a CTA: The CTA is the guide towards the buying decision. If you don’t include one, you’re missing the opportunity to turn your leads into buyers. So, give readers a clear message on what they should do next.

Here’s another common mistake related to product marketing that can negatively impact all your content marketing efforts up until the BoFu stage: free trial limitations. Offering a free trial that provides access to only a few product features will have the outcome of frustrated users who don’t fully understand your product’s idea.

How Do You Know When You’re Making a Mistake With One Funnel?

These three funnels help you figure out at which stage you’re facing conversion issues, so you know how to pivot and rethink your strategy. If you lose customers in the first stage, you know that you need a better brand awareness campaign. 

The general rule is that ToFu content usually drives fewer conversions compared to MoFu and BoFu content. That’s because users are just getting to know your website.  

But you can check your blog analytics and evaluate reach, engagement, consumption, and retention, along with specific metrics about search intent, like pageviews or referral traffic coming from Google. 

With MoFu content, you can check metrics such as bounce and exit rates specifically to see the number of readers who arrived on a different web page after reading an article. Additionally, a simple metric is how many newsletter sign-ups are directly linked to that article.  

As far as BoFu metrics, things are usually simple because in the end, you count the number of sales. Apart from these, you can look at lead metrics like whitepaper downloads, or in the case of demos and free trials: demo/trial conversions and the ratio of demo/trial requests.

Whenever the numbers are too small or unsatisfying, it’s an indicator that you need to adjust your content, whether it’s creating more or adjusting your message into a more extensive and compelling one. 

Conclusion – The Right Ratio Between ToFu, MoFu,  and BoFu Content

The eternal dilemma is how much content to create for each marketing funnel stage and do you always start with ToFu? It’s not always a linear path and your strategy should align with your company’s position in terms of growth and maturity. 

For instance, new companies will focus on creating more content for the top of the funnel. They won’t ignore the middle and the bottom of the funnel, but their first essential goal is to get people to know their name. That’s why known brands would need less ToFu content, aiming to build a trust relationship with their audience. 

If you take a look at any well-built sales landing page whether it’s a new or an old company, you’ll see that it includes:

  • a link to a demo or free trial (BoFu)
  • a ‘how to’ section showing how a product works (MoFu)  
  •  links to blog articles or a video (ToFu)

Even when you’re just releasing your business and your website, you need at least a bit of it all.

As your company grows, your content efforts should keep an even mix and balance of all three content funnels and adjust your strategy based on the success or fail metrics mentioned above.

It’s not an easy ride, but you’ll learn how to create effective content that works for your business!