Introduction to the Marketing Funnel

The first and most important step in any marketing strategy is learning about your customers. It is easy to think of a business strategy is all about them – about ways to bring in customers, boost profits, or grow their online presence. But a really effective marketing strategy starts with learning about customers needs and pain points.

Pain points are the specific problems customers and potential customers want to solve. Instead of asking, “How do we sell more products?”; the most successful businesses want to know, “How do we help customers address their pain points or achieve their goals?” One is about the company’s goals the other is about the customer journey.

Customer journey

What is a customer journey? Well, think about when you want to buy a product or service. Customer journey – the path you take from learning about a product to getting your questions answered to make a purchase. For example, buy a blender. You first do an online search for the most reputable brand. Then you go to their website to learn more about them and their product offerings. You select the product you want to purchase for more information. You check out product reviews as well as the product picture. You post a question(s) under the Q&A, if any, or chat with customer service. Once you have the product, you sometimes need a follow assistance like technical issues or return.

Each encounter in the example above refers to as a touchpoint. Touchpoint – each interaction with a brand during a purchase journey. Every touchpoint has the potential to hurt or impress the business brand. With enough customer research, a marketer can create a customer journey map.

Customer journey map – an example of customer journey map for an app
An example of customer journey map for an app

A customer journey map – a visualization of the touchpoints a typical customer encounters along their purchase journey. You can have multiple journey maps based on the patterns and behaviors of different types of customers. They help you understand how and why customers are interacting with your business. When you know how customers are finding you, how they’re learning about you, and what problems they want to solve, you can work to make their experiences better. Better customer experiences ultimately mean a better success for your business.

Marketing funnel

Marketing funnel

It’s time to introduce a related concept: the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel, also called the sales funnel or conversion funnel, is an idea that’s older than the internet. If it’s been around that long, it must be a pretty powerful tool.

Marketing funnel – a visual representation of the process through which people go from first learning about a brand to becoming loyal customers. The funnel is wide at the top and narrows toward the bottom because a lot of potential customers will enter the top of the funnel, but only some of them will reach the bottom to become loyal customers. People will drop off at every stage in-between, so you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep them moving through the funnel.

There are a lot of different versions of the marketing funnel, but let’s check out the simple one first. A simple version of the funnel has four stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty.

Marketing funnel

At the top of the funnel is the awareness stage. This is when a potential customer encounters a brand for the first time, maybe from an ad or a recommendation. At this stage, the customer probably doesn’t know enough about the company to form an opinion. They’re just aware it exists. Awareness is the widest tier because even though a lot of people might know about a company, only some of them will think about doing business with them. That’s why it’s important to raise as much awareness as possible among target audiences. A target audience is the group of people most likely to purchase a company’s products. They are the one that your digital marketing efforts should capture.

Things start to narrow at the next stage: consideration. This is when some potential customers from the awareness stage start to think about doing business with a company. At this point, they could be actively browsing the website or comparing different brands, so making a good impression is key.

Those who move beyond consideration go to the conversion stage. Conversion is when someone decides to make a purchase and become a customer. To increase the chances of conversion, businesses should demonstrate their value and provide a user-friendly experience.

The last stage is loyalty. It takes a huge amount of effort to move potential customers from awareness to conversion. Once a customer completes a purchase, you want to give them reasons to return. Making current customers happy can increase trust and keep them coming back for years to come.

If you’re thinking that this all feels pretty similar to a customer journey map, you’d be right. Marketing funnels and journey maps are related concepts, and they’re best when used together. Here’s how they complement one another. First, you know that a journey map traces the customer’s path to purchase along specific touchpoints. But a marketing funnel is part of a business’s plan for moving customers along their journey. A journey map adopts the customer’s perspective, but a funnel considers that same process from the position of the business.

Second, the structure of a marketing funnel is simpler than a journey map. Customer journeys are complex because they demonstrate how customers might interact with the brand. Their paths to purchase are unique, and they can repeat or loop back on themselves. In contrast, the funnel is a linear model that breaks this journey into broad stages. It’s not about how specific customers reach consideration or conversion but what a company can do to move lots of customers from one stage to the next. When used together, journey maps and marketing funnels help marketers understand and serve their customers better than either can alone.

More on marketing funnel:

  1. How the Marketing Funnel Works from Top to Bottom
  2. Traditional an Digital Marketing Funnel
  3. How to Create a Powerful Marketing Funnel Step-by-Step

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