If you hang around marketers, you’ve probably heard them talk about TOFU. You’ve probably guessed that they’re not referring to jiggly soy protein, especially if you’ve heard them mention MOFU and BOFU in the same sentence.

So what exactly do all these acronyms mean, and why do they matter?

For marketers, TOFU stands for top-of-funnel. MOFU is shorthand for middle-of-funnel, and BOFU — you guessed it — stands for bottom-of-funnel. The funnel is a simple way of mapping how people interact with your brand, all the way from the first time they hear your company’s name to the day they become loyal customers. Here’s what it looks like:

But TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU mean much more than where you are in the buying funnel. Each of these acronyms contains a whole set of goals and best practices that help marketers craft and execute campaigns.

Take TOFU, for example. The goal of TOFU content is to raise awareness about your brand by engaging suspects (people who may never have heard of you, but might someday become customers once they do understand your value) and prospects with interesting, informative content. Here’s a simple set of best practices for TOFU content:

TOFU Goal: Awareness

  • Engage suspects & prospects
  • Minimize product mentions
  • Keep it interesting & informative

We can map out the rest of the funnel accordingly. Your middle-of-funnel goal will likely be some version of consideration — telling people a little more about your product or solution and turning prospects into leads.

MOFU Goal: Consideration

  • Turn prospects into leads
  • Include high-level product info to help address pain points

BOFU Goal: Purchase

  • Turn leads into customers
  • Focus on product/solution benefits

As you can see from the graphic, the top of the funnel is the largest portion. And for marketers, that makes a lot of sense. For every 100 people who might be interested in reading an interesting blog post, only a few will be ready, able, and willing to consider actually buying your product or service. And of those few prospects, only a very few will actually decide to buy right now.

In general, content and social marketing — my area of expertise — focuses on TOFU and MOFU. That means not only creating helpful, informative content that helps address prospects’ pain points, but also strategizing distribution so that our content reaches the right people at the right time. Here’s what that looks like:

At Salesforce, we create a LOT of content. For each piece of content we create, we think through where it belongs in the funnel — and which distribution strategies will help it reach its target audience.

Want the full scoop? Check out our Slideshare — a delicious TOFU asset just for you.