Some things just kind of naturally go together. Think Bonnie and Clyde, Batman and Robin, and my personal favorite – peanut butter jelly toast.

It doesn’t matter how old I get, I never get tired of the ooey, gooey, warm deliciousness that is a peanut butter jelly toast sandwich.

There’s something special about that combination of peanut butter and jelly, and when you toast the bread, it truly elevates this childhood favorite to the category of culinary classic.

But take out any of the individual sandwich ingredients (or any two, for that matter), and you’re left with a tasty but somewhat uninspiring snack.

That’s the key to peanut butter jelly toast. You need all three ingredients to make magic. It would be kind of like what would happen if the Wonder Twins broke up – hard to activate those powers with just one twin!

TOFU, MOFU and BOFU are the peanut butter jelly toast of the inbound marketing world. You can’t build a great inbound strategy without addressing the top, middle AND bottom of the funnel. Remove one, and your plan won’t work. Here’s why.

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The Sales Funnel

Understanding the sales funnel and developing strategies to attract and nurture prospective clients at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel is at the heart of what makes inbound marketing such an effective strategy. The concept of the sales funnel is nothing new.

Every seasoned sales person knows that at the top of the funnel (otherwise known as "TOFU") is a very large pool of unqualified leads. The goal is to sort through those leads to find the hidden gems – prospective customers that need your product/service and have the budget to pay for it – and ultimately qualify those leads and convert them into customers. Inbound marketing uses content to accomplish this.

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

At the top of the funnel, a buyer is typically trying to solve a problem or meet a need. As a result, they are looking to be educated and to find information that will help them figure out the best solution. At this point, their value as a lead is low because they are unqualified and the probability that they will buy is uncertain. 

If your business is like ours, there are literally thousands (if not millions) of potential customers out there, but you might not want to do business with a large number of them. Before you can qualify those leads, you need to help them find you online and make sure they know you exist. 

How do you do this? By offering them answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. Because most people begin their buying process online, one of the most powerful strategies for attracting visitors and converting leads at the top of the funnel is to create keyword-rich content in the form of blogs.

The idea is that when someone is out there Googling to learn more about a topic related to your products or services, they find you. Think of blogs as the fuel that makes your inbound marketing engine go. In fact, research by HubSpot indicates that companies that blog get 55% more website traffic than those who do not.

How do you make sure your blogs get found? The first step is to properly optimized your posts for search engines. Are you using relevant long tail keywords in the blog title and copy? Do you have good meta titles and descriptions that include your keywords and fit within the character limits imposed by search engines (generally, 60 characters for titles and 160 characters for meta descriptions)?

Once your blogs are optimized, then it’s time to let the world know all about them. It’s kind of like that old saying, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Make some noise and get your blogs in front of the people you’re trying to reach by promoting them via social media. And if your blog content is “evergreen”, remember to continue promoting it beyond the initial publication date. When you do this, blogs are like the gift that keeps on giving!

TOFU content like blogs is great for increasing website visitor traffic, but what good is traffic if you can’t turn those visitors into leads and capture information about them? That is the purpose of middle of the funnel offers. A TOFU strategy without a MOFU strategy is like toast. Tastes good, but without something in between the two slices, you don’t have a sandwich.

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

While blogs are very effective at bringing visitors to your website, they won’t help you qualify prospects or make a sale. MOFU offers are arguably the most critical part of the sales funnel because they turn visitors into leads and help separate good leads from bad.

Prospects in the middle of the funnel know that they have a problem or a need that must be solved and have moved on to determining the best solution. As a result, their commitment to making a purchase is higher and the probability of closing a deal with them greater. Because they are one step closer to making a purchase, MOFU prospects are usually pretty good leads, and the content you offer them at this stage will determine whether it is worth having a salesperson contact them directly.

Whereas top of the funnel content is aimed at educating buyers and showing them how they can solve their problems, middle of the funnel offers show why your products or services are the best choice. They distinguish between casual information gatherers and the people who really are interested in buying (hopefully from you!).

It’s not enough to simply offer your website visitors great content. You need to capture information about them so that you can qualify and nurture the best leads. Do this by “gating” your content and putting it behind a landing page with a conversion form. At the very least, make sure your forms require visitors to provide their name and email address. With this information, you can create email lead nurturing campaigns and personalize those emails (a great way to increase open and click through rates!).

Once a prospect has moved through the middle of the funnel, you should know whether they are planning to make a purchase or not. At this point, having a good BOFU strategy is critical to converting your leads into customers. An inbound strategy without BOFU offers would be like a peanut butter toast sandwich. Meh. You’ve got to add the jelly to make the magic happen.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

By the time a lead reaches the bottom of the funnel, they are ready to buy and the only question is who they will buy from. These leads are the "low hanging fruit" of the sales funnel. Often times, leads at the bottom of the funnel just need a gentle nudge to get them to take action. The right BOFU offer can be very effective in helping you to speed up the rate with which you close deals.

Ironically, most websites are full of BOFU offers like free trials or assessments, “schedule a meeting” buttons, coupons, etc. While it’s definitely important to have a few good BOFU offers, most of your website visitors are nowhere near ready to buy.

There’s lots of research out there to indicate that buyers get between 60 and 70% of the way through the buying process before they are willing to speak to a salesperson. Given that BOFU offers are essentially an invitation to be sold to, odds are that most of your visitors won’t convert on these.

A better approach is to combine your BOFU offers with MOFU offers so that you have something to offer visitors regardless of where they are in the buying process. This will dramatically increase your lead conversion rates AND keep you in front of prospective buyers at a much earlier stage in their decision making process, allowing you to influence their choice of solution and positioning you as the preferred provider.

It’s important not to forget that the bottom of the funnel is about more than simply closing deals. It’s also the jumping off point for closed loop analytics. The best inbound marketers are constantly evaluating the effectiveness of their campaigns and adjusting their strategies to maximize results.

For example, if you see that social media is generating a ton of traffic to your website, you might assume you should put more resources into it. But, if your visitor to lead or lead to customer conversion rates are low for social media, but high for email marketing, you might get better bang for your buck by focusing on email.

This is another great example of the need for an integrated TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU strategy. Too many marketers rely solely on visitor traffic numbers to guide their marketing strategies without taking the time to truly understand how effective each marketing channel is in turning those visitors into leads and customers.

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

The right combination of TOFU, MOFU and BOFU strategies truly is the secret recipe to inbound marketing success. Attract the right leads (make the toast), move them down the funnel (spread the peanut butter), and close deals (add the jelly), and you’ve got a marketing strategy that is going to yield real and measurable ROI.

Now, why do I feel an inexplicable craving for a peanut butter jelly toast sandwich?

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Originally published Jun 9, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated March 29 2024


Inbound Marketing Sales Process