Understanding the TOFU, MOFU, BOFU funnel model

Published Oct 27 2023 Last updated Mar 21 2024 7 minute read
funnel marketing strategy
  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Top marketers and their sales team simply love TOFU. Nope, not that silken dish adored by health enthusiasts the world over. We’re talking about top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), the initial stage of a powerful lead management strategy known as marketing and sales funnels. 

Marketers and brands adore conversion funnels as they are proven to boost business profits through a process known as conversion optimization. The systematic process helps you spend less energy, time, and resources to convince and convert your leads into quality customers — or as some old-school businesses might say, “eliminate the guesswork” in the buying process. Conversion funnels are similar to kitchen recipes. Following the right order gives you the most fulfilling results.   

With reliable marketing and sales funnel strategies in your marketing toolkit, you’ll have a framework to help your team provide the most satisfying customer experience across every stage of the conversion funnel. 

Introduction to the funnel marketing strategy

The marketing and sales funnel isn’t a novel concept, although it continues to evolve with the times. It's like a traditional cookbook with yellowed pages containing many beloved recipes, which have since become digitized. The funnels that sellers and brands have come to trust and love go back to 1898, when its core structure was introduced in the AIDA model, developed by sales guru, Elias St. Elmo Lewis. Elias’s revolutionary strategy outlined the customer phases that lead to a successful sale:

  1. Awareness: The potential buyer is aware of the problem that they face and the possible solutions to fix the issue. 
  2. Interest: The lead at this stage shows interest in a series of products or services and is still spoiled for choice. 
  3. Desire: At this stage, the prospect has made an unofficial decision and homes in on a specific brand that caught their fancy. 
  4. Action: The prospect is at the cusp of making a purchase and sellers only need to deliver a gentle push in the right direction to secure the deal. 

AIDA set the stage for a more in-depth interpretation of the shopper's journey via modern marketing and sales funnels. We could visualize the marketing and sales funnel from the perspective of preparing the perfect cake. 


Understanding TOFU - Top of funnel

We begin the buyer’s journey with TOFU - top of funnel. Marketers often refer to this initial phase as the awareness stage. This is the opening moment to boost your lead generation efforts by promoting broad awareness of your brand offerings. It's like preheating your oven in preparation for your cake.

There’s no stress or heavy selling and promotion involved at this stage. It’s all about giving prospective customers relevant information to connect them with your brand offerings - which converts them into leads further down the funnel. 

How does TOFU boost lead creation?

Top of funnel content is about subtly leading your potential customer toward the direction of your brand's offerings. You'll find a broad audience in TOFU, ranging from highly qualified leads to a passerby conducting market research with no real intention of making a purchase.  Therefore, the conversion rate for this stage of the buyer's journey is estimated to be only 4.6%.

Missing out on top of funnel strategies reduces the chances of potential customers progressing to the next stage of the marketing and sales funnel, which has a markedly higher rate of conversion success. 

Succeeding in TOFU

Essentially, you want to cast a wide net when it comes to TOFU marketing techniques. You should spread your brand message far and wide through inbound marketing. You can boost lead creation at the TOFU stage with the following above-the-line strategies aimed at a broad audience, including:

  • Combining broadcast tools to communicate via multiple platforms and channels, such as email marketing, webinars, and social media outreach. These wide-scale tactics help guide potential customers to the top of your sales funnels. 
  • Leveraging sponsored content to help work toward a clear marketing goal by attracting a well-defined audience. 
  • Implementing display advertising to expand your campaign outreach, engaging prospective customers through links to your site and dynamic displays that promote brand visibility. 
  • Applying pay-per-click (PPC) advertising as a method to attract prospective customers by leveraging trending keywords based on popular search queries. 

Marketing via social channels, blog articles on DIY tips, optimized FAQ pages, ebooks, research reports, and engaging infographics are also popular ways to gain TOFU leads. 

The risks of poor TOFU strategies

Inefficient TOFU strategies prevent even the most promising potential customers from stepping through the front door of your business. These could lead to less profitable marketing campaigns. You can prevent these missteps with a strategic approach to attract more leads who are more likely to engage with your brand. 


Exploring MOFU - Middle of funnel

Qualified leads from the TOFU stage proceed to the middle of the funnel (MOFU), which is sometimes called the consideration stage. MOFU is like the main preparation stage, where you mix your ingredients and bake the cake. As such, you'll need to ensure that you have the proper ingredients added in the right amount and thoroughly mixed to achieve the taste you want. 

Here is where your brand needs to provide useful and practical information in lead nurturing (beating that batter). Leads in this stage have an awareness and clarity of what they want in a product or service, so it is important to avoid providing generic information in your ad campaigns and landing pages. Similarly, you probably wouldn't add mango to apple crumble even though it's a tasty ingredient. 

Your team should also emphasize the unique selling points of your business in the middle of the funnel, particularly in addressing the common pain points experienced by your competitors.  It's similar to providing just how resourceful you are in harvesting the freshest apples for your crumble. 

A key consideration of MOFU — Your target audience

Potential customers might spend more time on middle of funnel content than other stages as they deliberate about the best option and conduct online searches before settling with a brand. It is also the stage where leads divide their time across multiple brands to learn about and compare their unique selling points.  

Back to the baking analogy, here's the stage where people learn about all types of crumbles and preparation methods so they can pick the best. The MOFU stage can be challenging because there’s ongoing competition between your brand and companies offering similar solutions, and many teams find a well-defined buyer persona helps them create the perfect content for middle of the funnel outreach. So it's important to locate your apple crumble aficionados if you're hoping to whip up a nice plate of them.  

Succeeding in MOFU 

Succeeding in the middle of the funnel requires a strong emotional connection with your leads. Your brand can strengthen MOFU outcomes by fostering lasting relationships in an active customer community. These communities provide your leads with the opportunity to share interests, read testimonials, and learn from customer stories. 

MOFU initiatives with social proof nurture leads and help them finalize their research by keeping your brand high in terms of top-of-mind awareness (TOMA), a metric that determines the level of awareness that a customer has for your brand when they think of a particular market. 

Drip email marketing, detailed guides, and newsletters are also effective middle of funnel strategies to help you nurture your leads into progressing through the funnel. Email marketing is particularly effective at this stage of the funnel, with reported success in 72% of use cases

MOFU strategies may seem to take a while to engage potential customers. The MOFU and BOFU stages of the funnel are where potential customers seek all the assurance they can get to line up their expectations with a brand on top of the competition. Factors like higher price points and the frequency of use could also prolong MOFU to BOFU transitions since they'll require customers to weigh their options even further.  But hard work pays off, with effective MOFU strategies yielding an impressive 75% conversion rate


Diving into BOFU - Bottom of funnel

Only a small percentage of prospects from the start of your funnel make it all the way through to the bottom of funnel (BOFU). Marketing professionals consider this the conversion stage that focuses on customer acquisition. The BOFU is the main event that determines the success of the effort you invested in earlier stages of the funnel. Essentially, here's where you add the icing on your cake and hone in on what your audience wants, catering to their tastes and sealing the deal. 

Leads at this stage of the funnel have conducted comprehensive research on your brand. They have browsed through the information given to them while probably conducting research online and making competitor analyses to arrive at the most feasible purchase decision. 

Making BOFU convert

Interaction is key to success in the conversion stage, where your BOFU content should focus on providing leads with meaningful interactions and engagements to help them connect with a solution. Effective ways to increase conversions in this stage include live product demos, free trials, detailed case studies, and tutorial videos.  

BOFU also provides the perfect opportunity to go all out in your personalized marketing campaigns with targeted discounts and offers that appeal specifically to your lead. Interactive bottom of funnel content such as polls and surveys can provide your brand with the insights needed to tailor BOFU marketing campaigns based on customer preferences and address each pain point. 

Research shows that only 14% of marketing professionals prepare BOFU content while 50% actively generate TOFU materials. Doing one without the other is counterproductive since you miss out on converting leads into paying customers (which should be the primary goal of any effective funnel). It’s like adding the perfect batter into the oven without preheating it. Studies show that a research lead nurturing strategy can help guide 50% more sales-ready leads, with 47% of those becoming eventual customers who invest in larger purchases.

Going beyond BOFU

BOFU isn't the final stage of the sales process. Once marketing professionals convert their customers, it is crucial to maintain those good relations. You can't ignore them and expect a healthy relationship going forward. Strong and lasting customer relationships depend on your after-purchase strategies that should apply right after customers pass through the conversion funnel. It's about attracting someone back for a second helping of cake because the first slice exceeded their expectations. 

Here's where you need to constantly engage your customers with relevant content (based on marketing analytics gathered throughout the funnel) that keeps them engaged with your brand. It could be sending personalized emails with specific product recommendations or an invite to an exclusive community webinar. Cross-selling and upselling campaigns can boost your outreach by making your offerings more accessible to re-engage your customers, along with link-building opportunities. 

These initiatives help strengthen brand loyalty and boost customer satisfaction. With enough practice, you could transform buyers into enthusiastic brand evangelists who will help spread the message of your offerings and create an organic cycle of new customers. 


Applying a full marketing and sales funnel


Now that we have gone through the different stages of the conversion funnel, let’s summarize the main benefits of TOFU MOFU BOFU strategies. The key advantages of a conversation and sales funnel include:

  • Refining on-site content that captures interest and drives engagement. Your team can connect with prospects and leads with methodical strategies such as optimal keyword research that helps your content rank on search engine results pages.
  • Gaining visibility over your marketing processes. The TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU breakdown allows you to pinpoint each pain point in the areas responsible for customer loss to help you respond faster to issues. 
  • Building customer loyalty. Insights gathered from the conversion funnel inform your team about a customer’s interests and product preferences. Your marketing team can apply the updated information to re-targeting campaigns and personalized engagement, which helps streamline the customer journey.

Market research has shown that brands that apply a full funnel strategy gain 45% higher ROI than competitors that focus on a single stage. By optimizing each sales funnel stage, you can guide prospects into becoming quality leads. And from there, you'll work towards turning leads into loyal customers. You're accounting for every stage of the cake-making process. TOFU MOFU BOFU marketing is a step-by-step process that leaves the best impression, drives that precious revenue, and perhaps calls for a celebration over a nice bowl of actual tofu. 

Also read: How marketing professors think about the funnel


How Funnel can help

At Funnel, we provide in-depth solutions to empower businesses to manage every stage of their buyer journey with effortless precision. Consider us the seasoned chefs here to ensure that your funnels (i.e., recipes) guide you toward creating the most savory dishes. We help fine-tune your marketing efforts, tweak the taste to suit your audience, and meet your desired business outcome.

Whether you’re operating a B2B or B2C business, we offer the specific tools to monitor, manage, and deliver TOFU MOFU BOFU marketing content that converts and helps make your most complex marketing campaigns a piece of cake.

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