Are you a marketer who’s hoping to luck out with your next piece of brand awareness/attraction content?
Well, I’m afraid luck has nothing to do with it.
As a B2B content writer, I’ve spent many years at the Top O’ The Funnel, where articles, blog posts, presentations, and similar forms of content reside. The Top O’ The Funnel can be a magical place full of wonder and charm. Or it can be a no man’s land—dull, desolate, and depressing.
It all depends on the caliber of content you’re producing.
Great Top O’ The Funnel content lights a spark, lingers in the consciousness, and draws prospects closer.
Bad Top O’ The Funnel content (a broad category that spans from mediocre to tragically funny) leaves audiences wondering why they bothered. And the “thud” you hear—the sound of content falling flat—makes you feel like you’ve wasted your time, resources, and creative energy.
So what makes the great stuff engaging and effective? What makes the bad stuff annoying, cringeworthy, or forgettable?
I’ll break it down for you here.
The Hallmarks of Great T.O.T.F. Content
Top O’ The Funnel content is not, “Here at Company X, we’re industry pioneers. We do great things for our clients. And we continue to earn recognition and respect.”
In other words, content is not copy.
Top O’ The Funnel content differs from traditional marketing copy (say, a print ad or brochure) by way of the personality it conveys and the feelings it inspires.
Ideally, when you sit down to write T.O.T.F. content, you’re launching from an emotional place (passion and empathy) rather than your knowledge base. Your aim is to build a relationship, not spout impressive facts. You’re letting yourself be human—and vulnerable—to touch your prospects more deeply.
Here are the four characteristics of Top O’ The Funnel content done right.
Easily Digestible Format
You could be the most eloquent public speaker in the world, translating your subject-matter expertise with skill and finesse. But if you made your way onstage in a tattered, ill-fitting suit and cheap shoes, no one would take you seriously.
How you present your brand is critically important. Here I’m referring to organization and appearance—the look and feel of your content.
- Are your accompanying photos/graphics first class and customized to represent your brand?
- Is your content broken up into scannable portions?
- Does the text flow easily, both visually and logically?
- Are you using subheads to clearly and cleverly convey meaning?
- Are your spelling, punctuation, and grammar PERFECT?
If you can’t confidently answer “yes” to all five of these questions, you’re not ready to publish.
Your prospects really don’t care about you or your brand. They aren’t interested in the office-party pictures you post or your recent inclusion on some “best of” list.
If you deliver self-centered content like this consistently, you’re making yourself—rather than your ideal prospect—the hero of your brand story.
As a Top O’ The Funnel content creator, your job is to understand your prospects’ needs, anticipate their questions, and help them overcome challenges. In essence, you’re giving audiences exactly what they want and need, no strings attached.
The message your egocentric T.O.T.F. content sends is this: “We assume you care as much as we do, or we believe you should. We lack the capacity or will to connect with you meaningfully.”
At the Top O’ The Funnel, you must take yourself out of the equation. Conceive and write content from your prospects’ vantage point. Steep yourself in their world.
- What do they care most about?
- What are their biggest hang-ups and turnoffs?
- What kinds of shared experiences can they relate to?
- What kinds of cultural references will resonate?
- What might inspire them, make them laugh, lighten their load, or brighten their day?
If you care enough and take the time to do your homework, it will show. Your prospects will know they are driving your content efforts, and they’ll appreciate it. Thus they’ll be more likely to engage with your content, share it, and come back for more.
One-on-One Conversational Feel
So you’re bursting with industry expertise and dying to share it. That’s great! Be as generous as you wanna be. Just remember: At the Top O’ The Funnel, you’re not addressing your peers. The people you’re trying to reach aren’t living and operating in your industry or technical bubble.
Here’s how you can meet your prospects in their comfort zone.=
- Distill the information and ideas they will value most.
- Simplify your language (syntax, sentence length).
- Illustrate by example.
- Be warm, friendly, and conversational.
- Add some special sauce—your unique voice. Inject some personality where you can.
In short, write like you’re having a conversation with a friend—someone you’d like to get to know better, build a relationship with, and keep around for a while.
Demonstrates True Thought Leadership, Where It Exists
Many of us have read this someplace: “Want to be a thought leader? Step 1: Start a blog!”
Don’t be fooled. Content is not thought leadership. Content is just a means of transmitting thought leadership in a way that serves readers.
Experts define thought leadership as a fundamentally new way of viewing the market landscape, conducting business, or solving problems. It’s the intellectual heft and courage to question, rethink, and disrupt the status quo. It can’t take root without deep, Zen-like awareness and reflection.
If your goal is to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, that’s not a marketing goal. It’s an organizational goal that requires far more than a clever campaign toachieve.
Truthfully, that bar is too high for most of us.
But if you do have something revolutionary to offer, content is the perfect means of broadcasting it—not as a subject-matter expert, but as an audience advocate.
How Do You Judge Top O’ The Funnel Content?
What’s your formula for outstanding Top O’ The Funnel content? What T.O.T.F. blunders drive you crazy? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Since 2001, Becky Tumidolsky has written awareness-building content for B2B brands and their discerning audiences. Her work has appeared in leading publications such as Forbes, U.S.News & World Report, Bloomberg Markets, Newsweek, and Inc. as well as corporate blogs, websites, white papers, and other content assets.
Becky loves writing fluid, error-free prose. She’s even more passionate about building the foundation for her work—uncovering core brand distinctions, framing them thematically, and developing fresh, compelling narratives that advance corporate strategies.