It’s Time to Move Beyond TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU

I’ve been working as part of an agency team to create a white paper for a technology client and we’ve been having some back-and-forth discussion about the outline and direction the white paper will take. It was, according to the agency brief, initially envisioned as a “top of funnel” piece. After a review of the draft of the outline, though, one of the client reviewers indicated that she felt it was more “middle of funnel”—and an interesting exchange and spirited debate ensued.

Meeting Consumer Information Needs

In this case, it struck me that the group was being overly—and, perhaps, unfortunately—focused on semantics when, in fact, their white paper should actually serve consumers who are TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU, as most pieces of content should do in my opinion.

Here’s why.

While we can, and should, segment and target our audience to put our content in front of those most likely to have an interest and need for what we have to offer, it’s unlikely that we can precisely target people who have no awareness of the product (TOFU), need more information about the product (MOFU) or are ready to make a purchase decision (BOFU). The truth is they’re all represented among any audience we attempt to influence. And because of that, our content needs to serve all of their needs.

Beyond the AIDA Formula

In the old days, when I first began writing copy, attending all sorts of seminars and reading all kinds of books on the craft of copywriting, the focus was on creating content that followed the AIDA acronym—attracted Attention, developed Interest, created Desire, and led to Action. It’s really the same concept as the funnel approach, except the intent was to do all of these things in one piece. That really makes sense to me unless you can clearly segment out potential buyers at each of these stages and deliver precise copy just to them. The other challenge, I think, is that we don’t proceed through the funnel in a linear manner. We might go back and forth between stages a few, or several, times before finally making a purchase decision.

This is particularly true when making very complex purchase decisions or considering a major expense.

I recently stumbled upon a piece that Allan Thygesen wrote for Google back in 2018 that challenged the concept of a marketing funnel and this linear purchase decision-making process. He wrote: “In the last six months, Google looked at thousands of users’ clickstream data from a third-party opt-in panel. We found that no two journeys are exactly alike, and in fact, most journeys don’t resemble a funnel at all. They look like pyramids, diamonds, hourglasses, and more.”

Write for Wherever They Are in the Journey

It is for precisely this reason that I think content creators need to take a more holistic approach to the consumer journey—recognizing that it’s unlikely that a consumer lives only in one part of the proverbial funnel at any given point in time.

Or that we’re even dealing with a single consumer. In the business-to-business (B2B) space, for instance, there are generally multiple people involved in a purchase decision; they’re likely all at different places along the traditional funnel. And, even in business-to-consumer (B2C) settings, we’re often not dealing with a single decision-maker. Consumers may be influenced by friends and family or may be making purchase decisions together.

The bottom line: marketers are better served if they don’t try to pigeonhole their potential audience into a certain slot along some contrived funnel. Make your content as multi-faceted as the people you’re attempting to influence.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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