/ Growth

Where Customer Journey Meets Marketing Funnel

Amber Coffman
The customer’s journey, or buyer’s journey, is a simplified model that breaks the consumer experience down into three stages: Awareness, consideration, and decision. The funnel is structure to support the customer journey.

During the first stage, the buyer identifies a problem and decides they need to find a solution. At this point they may never have heard of your brand. According to the customer journey model, this is the time to establish your company as a trustworthy resource; it is not the time for a sales pitch.

Once a buyer becomes aware of possible solutions (including your brand), they enter into the consideration stage characterized by defining and researching the problem. Most buyers will turn to Google and look for educational materials and information. As a consumer becomes more knowledgeable, they begin to develop ideas about what they need and narrow their scope to just a few companies. 

At this stage, material like industry reports, eBooks, and white papers are critical. Potential buyers seek out trials, reviews, testimonials, and demos, or even seek out sales reps to answer questions. 

After comparing and contrasting options, consumers will settle on a solution—hopefully yours.  But the journey doesn’t end there. 

Some versions of the Buyer’s Journey involve another step in which consumers “evangelize” the brand. That is to say, if the purchase experience is positive and buyers are happy, they’ll become a powerful marketing resource by recommending your brand or providing positive testimonials. 

And if they’re not happy, you’re going to hear about it. 

Making the sale isn’t enough; you have to ensure that every touchpoint delights the buyer, even in content like instruction manuals. Did you know that 40% of all after-sales contact is due to bad instructions?

Every stage of a buyer’s journey matters, and you’ll have to understand each one in order to address customer needs.

Mapping the Journey

Sound simple? It’s not always. Your clients won’t all walk the same path and that can make it difficult to conceptualize what the buyer’s journey looks like. But if you’re going to create and sustain a relationship with clients, understanding what the journey looks like from their perspective is essential.

As with all unfamiliar places, it helps to have a map on hand. 

A buyer’s journey map illustrates how different kinds of clients interact with you—their processes, desires, perceptions. It’s like telling a story from the customer’s point of view, built around the emotions they feel, the thoughts they think, and actions they take throughout the journey.

Step One: Know Thine Audience

Like persona development, journey maps are not an exact science. The persona represents an audience in the way that a map represents the experience of that persona, and there are two ways to discover what personas are looking for: Website analytics and anecdotal research.

Website Analytics

You can use website analytics to better understand what users are looking for, and then plot the trajectory of different customer journeys. Consider your different audiences. What are the triggers that set them on the journey that lead each to purchase (consider that the spot marked by ‘X’)?

Understanding their triggers will give you an idea as to what traffic channel they jump into—paid, organic, a Facebook group, a magazine, etc. This is important because a visitor coming from Facebook is going to be different from a visitor coming from a YouTube ad or a visitor from Google organic search. For example, if you have an idea of what kind of persona comes through Facebook, you can create a user experience specifically around their needs. 

Anecdotal Research

If you wanted to take a more direct approach, you could use customer interviews or a survey, or speak with salespeople who regularly interact with customers. 

This isn’t as reliable as website analytics, but it’s quicker and can serve as a decent starting point for those who don’t have the time or resources to conduct research. Your first journey maps will be hypothetical and can be refined over time.

Step Two: Analyze Touch-points

There are usually multiple touch-points leading up to a sale and so every single touchpoint within the journey map is a landmark deserving of your attention—social media posts, phone calls, emails, website analytics, etc. 

Analyze the timeline of a journey, noting what customers are doing at each touchpoint, how they’re likely feeling, where their pain points are, and anything else that might play into whether or not they decide to make the final purchase. 

Step Three: Visualize

List out the story of the buyer and the experiences they’re likely to have. To make the story more digestible, it may be helpful to illustrate the journey through diagrams. Of course, customers won’t all share the same journey, so you might also consider creating multiple maps depending on how diverse your audience is.

What you end up with is a detailed outline of how someone progresses from lead to customer. Many of the steps along the way will involve some form of marketing collateral, and this is where a funnel comes in handy. 

The Marketing Funnel

While the customer journey map models the buyer’s experience, the funnel analyzes the same process from the point of view of the company. What do we give to leads in order to move them along on their journey? 

A funnel is literally defined as “a tube that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom.” In marketing, it’s a visual representation of the steps that lead to a conversion; the trajectory of a prospect as they move from brand awareness, to interest, to purchase. While there are many marketing models that illustrate this process, the funnel is tried-and-true. However, it helps to have an understanding of a few consumer-focused marketing models in order to avoid common pitfalls.

First, there is the traditional funnel, which is the typical model for B2C. Although endless variation is possible, the steps that constitute this funnel are nearly universal, and are often summarized as AIDA, or some other variation. 

The A represents awareness and the top tier of the funnel (the wide part). This stage is about getting people's attention. Perhaps it involves a PR campaign that dazzles. It involves initiatives that build awareness among a large group of potential buyers: content marketing, advertising, podcasts--mediums that are free for users and have considerable reach.

It follows that “widening the funnel” is exactly what it sounds like—casting the net more broadly in order to reach new audiences. 

This is an important concept when you consider how funnels work. 

Whether you’re talking about cooking or marketing, a lot is poured into the top of the funnel, but only a small amount trickles through the bottom. Not a perfect metaphor, because eventually everything will make its way through a household funnel, but the idea is this: Only some customers who enter your site or encounter your content are going to follow the marketing funnel all the way to its end. 

Ensure your reach is wide, though, and you stand to increase your conversions. The funnel works in stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Knowing these stages and what strategies to use at each stage is imperative to creating real conversions.

Brand awareness or offer awareness relies on making sure your team is getting information in front of the consumer first. Creating awareness can take on many shapes: advertising, SEO, AdWords, face-to-face, social media, and so on. 

No matter how that recognition is generated, once your audience is aware, some of them will become interested. Their curiosity is piqued. They’re now considered leads. 

The key at the interest/lead stage is to create content that engages with them at an emotional level. If they like what they see, these leads become prospective customers who can be nurtured with personalized content, or with case studies and free trials they might find relevant. 

As the marketing funnel progresses and those “in” it become fewer, businesses market in even more personalized ways, whether through an online chat, engaging social media interactions, or some other method.

Some prospective, interested customers will see how your offering can help them in a tangible way. This generates desire. Prospective customers like your product. They may even want it. In terms of marketing collateral, this is the opportune stage to create further emotional connection by sharing features and benefits. 

You now have a very real audience with whom to share the significance of your offering and frame it in a way that’s irresistible.

The final stage of the marketing funnel is action. It’s at this point that customers do what the company wants them to. That might be downloading an item, making a call, visiting a website, or making a purchase. 

Done well, AIDA is a fairly effective way of viewing the customer lifecycle and is therefore a considerable tool when it comes to marketing, to sales, and ultimately to growth.  

How the Journey and Funnel Fit Together

The buyer’s journey is similar to the marketing funnel, but different in that most of the emphasis is on the consumer experience as opposed to how the consumer impacts revenue. That’s not to say the two are incompatible; on the contrary, the buyer’s journey can overlay the marketing funnel. Top-of-Funnel (TOFU) is encompassed by awareness: SEO, PPC, advertisements, social media, and all the other touchpoints that generate traffic and leads. Consideration captures Middle-of-Funnel (MOFU), as both revolve around generating prospects. And finally, the decision stage perfectly aligns with Bottom-of-Funnel (BOFU), where customers are generated.


Nuances of B2B Funnels

The traditional funnel and the buyer’s journey are all insightful ways of looking at the customer experience through an inbound marketing lens. But for B2B, things are a little different when it comes to answering the question of “How can we create value for customers at every stage of their journey?” 

While B2C and B2B begin similarly, with the search for information, they quickly diverge after that initial stage. For consumers, it’s as simple as comparing products and adding the best option to their cart. 

For businesses, there is typically a team involved. In these situations, buyers don’t just read reviews, they share their research with other stakeholders. They will need product demonstrations and contract proposals. 

It’s never as simple as “adding to cart,” and the journey doesn’t typically end there. The evangelization phase is especially important for B2B companies. In other words, after an initial purchase, the work has just begun. 

There’s an onboarding process, and then the effort to retain buyers by keeping them satisfied and successful. Following that, there might be opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. This is sometimes referred to as the Marketing Hourglass. 

Another variation on a theme, this model is particularly suited to digital marketing and appears as a funnel whose bottom meets with the top of a pyramid. 

The top, inverted half is similar to a traditional funnel while the bottom, pyramidal half addresses the post-purchase experience in which the emphasis is on not just retention but proliferation—growing business through the evangelism of loyal consumers. 

It’s also important that B2B funnels are fluid and ever-changing, seeking out the sweet spot of optimization. In an efficient funnel, the middle of the funnel would flow in either direction—to the top or bottom of the funnel. 

For instance, if a customer ends up on a landing page through SEO, and that page was geared toward mid-funnel advertisement, the customer would be able to sign up for a newsletter or informational document that would allow them to begin at the top of the funnel. 

It’s a feature that may or may not be important for your business, but these are factors you will need to consider when defining your funnel. Can a customer enter the funnel at any point, seamlessly? Do they need to?

Finally, realize that success differs among industries and channels, but the most important metric of success is your history: month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter, year-over-year.

Having your customer journey and marketing funnels nailed down are the key to selling well. It doesn’t matter how amazing your product is if you can’t market it to the right people. 

If you’re struggling to figure out who your audience is, how they operate, and what they want, consider teaming up with growth experts. At Orogamis, we use insight-driven data to inform journeys and funnels that will serve you and your customer base for years to come.

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