Over time, marketing strategies have become customer-centered. It’s safe to say we live in the age of the customer. To survive and thrive in the face of competition from other organizations, brands must recognize and embrace this shift by developing a streamlined, end-to-end customer journey funnel that doesn’t end with purchasing. It goes beyond leads and sales; it is about converting your prospective customers into brand advocates.
Generating brand awareness is hard work, converting a potential customer to paying customer is tasking, and getting customers to become brand advocates is even more difficult. Business owners must regularly evaluate their journey map and make the necessary changes.
What is a Customer Funnel?
The customer funnel represents a customer’s entire path from awareness and interest to consideration and conversion. In simple terms, it is the route an end user takes from the first encounter with your product to when they make a purchase. However, it doesn’t just stop at purchase, but goes beyond.
The customer journey map is a sales cycle that begins with the end-user becoming aware of a product or service, habitually using your service, or even going as far as making recommendations to others in need of a similar product or service. It involves understanding your target market and nurturing customer experiences to ensure that no lead falls through the cracks along the way. As you may have deduced, it accommodates many of the intricacies of end-to-end user experience, from prospect to post-sales experience.
Why Doesn’t the Traditional Model (AIDA) Work Anymore?
A customer funnel is a consumer-focused marketing structure demonstrating the theoretical customer journey towards purchasing goods and services.
The idea of customer funnel marketing is over a century old. A model created by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898 mapped a theoretical customer journey from when a product attracted a customer to the point of purchase. This is referred to as the AIDA model for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.
The stage of awareness is when a prospective customer notices a product, and this can be through advertising, research, or word of mouth. After becoming aware, the prospect expresses interest and goes through an evaluation process where they seek more information and compare the product or services with other brands.
The marketer must provide a convincing argument to sustain the customer’s interest at this level. To get a customer to desire the product, the seller must provide all the information required, answer every question and alleviate the customer’s fear while proving to them that the product or service is the best option. The final stage is the action where the prospective customer becomes an active customer by making a purchase decision (learn more about the consumer decision journey here) or utilizing a service.
The AIDA model has been validated in lead generation and advertising and is still well known today, even though a lot has changed since the 19th century.
There is a total evolution as regards the concept of advertising today. Although the AIDA model summarizes the basic steps customers take on the path to purchase, it doesn’t fully represent the complexity of the modern buyer’s journey.
The ultimate goal of the model culminates in action, which translates to the purchase or utilization of services. However, the ultimate goal should not end with a single purchase. You need loyal customers that will continue buying, steer others to buy, and become advocates of your brand. The goal is to foster long-term relationships with your customers. Other aspects of the customer experience also tend to suffer when the marketing strategy centers on sales.
Considering these loopholes, the AIDA model is no longer considered a viable solution for the sustainable growth of businesses and has been modified by marketing consultants to meet the needs of the modern customer.
Modern customers do not rely on salespeople or seek out ads when they want to purchase but embark on a journey of self-discovery that leads them to the right product for their needs at the right time. This is the reason for the modern customer journey map.
The modern journey funnel considers repurchase intent. It has more than four funnel stages, each creating an opportunity to connect with a potential buyer while providing a wholesome experience that translates to a customer and brand advocate combined.
What is a Customer Journey Funnel?
A customer journey funnel is a path that customers take from initial awareness to the final purchase of a product or service. The funnel helps businesses track how well they are doing at acquiring leads and converting them into paying customers. It aims to retain and grow more customers while focusing on customer experience and maintaining customer loyalty.
This journey is usually not linear. Many customers return to their earlier touchpoints: every interaction they make with your brand as they evaluate a product or service. Hence, tracking a customer’s route to purchase can be tricky, as it requires a lot of information to know exactly what your leads experience before they buy something from you. Collecting enough data can help create a picture that shows you which of your marketing efforts are connecting with people and which ones are not effective.
Although marketing executives may want to use the customer journey and marketing funnel interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.
The journey funnel is about the customer’s experience along the path to purchase, while the marketing funnel focuses on the steps a prospective buyer takes to become a customer.
The marketing funnel concerns a customer’s stage of interest in your business. The customer and marketing funnels are indispensable frameworks that provide insight into the areas you need to focus your energy and resources on for the greatest return on investment. Both are not mutually exclusive and are best utilized when adopted as a package.
You may be wondering why a funnel? Worry no more. The top of a funnel is usually broader than the base. Marketers must cast the net wide and aim to catch as many people as possible at the top of the funnel, even more than they can convert. As the potential customers move down the funnel, a number of them drop off, reducing the number converted when the lower end of the funnel is reached.
Also, more resources are needed at the top of the funnel than at the bottom because generating leads is hard to do effectively, posing one of the biggest marketing challenges.
To curb this challenge, every funnel stage must be nurtured in the context of your potential customers, marketing channels, and goals. This is where the complementary use of the consumer journey map comes into play.
How to Create Your Funnel?
Now that you have a basic understanding of this type of funnel, let’s proceed to how to set it up for your business. To correctly set up a consumer journey map, it is essential to follow these steps:
1. Define your goals
The significance of defining your goals before embarking on this journey cannot be overstated. This is an important step to consider before proceeding. You must ask yourself what your strategy should accomplish, what you want the channel to achieve, what final result you consider a success, and whether you want to build brand loyalty, encourage repeat purchases, or attract new consumers. These questions guide the strategy and direct the next steps.
2. Create a map
Once you’ve set your goals, the next step is tracing the customer’s existing journey using a map. This entails understanding what occurs at every stage of the funnel and putting measures in place to encourage consumers to move to the bottom of the funnel.
3. Establish consumer drop-off points
You need to identify where customers are dropping out of the funnel. This can be done by tracking the conversion point and customer feedback. While mapping your funnel, find out the areas that need improvement and compare them with the different stages where customers drop off. If they align, then it calls for improvement.
4. Create a strategy to curb drop-offs
Once you locate where customers are dropping out of the funnel, you need to devise a strategy to address these drop-offs. This information can stir up opportunities to improve the customer experience (see how you can measure and improve your CX here), such as creating new and relevant content, improving customer service, or redesigning your website to make it more user-friendly.
It may also help you realize the need to work on your marketing campaigns to generate added interest in your products.
5. Evaluate results
Once you have developed a strategy, you need to implement it to see how it performs. It is important to measure your funnel’s results and institute the necessary changes. This involves looking at your conversion rates, customer feedback, and other metrics.
The best way to improve your journey map is to track results and continue making changes over time. There is always room for improvement and optimization, and the process gets easier as you continue.
Should I Use a Template?
Business owners need to regularly evaluate their funnel for consumer journey due to the difficulties that arise in converting potential customers to paying clients. To save time, you can use a template that includes all the steps required to set up an end-to-end path. As you build out your templates, it is paramount to understand the current state of your customer experience and how you want that to change.
A successful long-term relationship with customers is built on a solid grasp of customers’ needs, wants, and frustration. Technological advancements have made customer journeys more complex, resulting in poor customer experience.
As a marketer, you need to understand what your customers think and the struggles they face as they interact with your brand. Therefore, capturing your customers’ experience and solving problems that arise in trying to access your products and services using a map is crucial.
One of the most significant reasons businesses use customer journey maps is to understand better how the customer experiences your product. This helps you to figure out when and how to upgrade your product or service, identify new user pain points, and remove barriers to your customer’s success.
Digital marketing executives are constantly searching for ways to grow their businesses. You miss out on a huge opportunity by focusing on securing new customers alone. Understanding and optimizing the customer journey funnel is a powerful tool to achieve and sustain growth that benefits not just your company but also your customers.
To highlight users’ feelings and challenges in a visual path, follow these steps:
Gather information about deliverables, understand what makes the most sense for the project’s goals and ask colleagues, friends, and network about their experiences.
Decide on the type of map you want to create.
Brainstorm to develop different ideas on what the consumer journey could include and how it may look by employing user research.
Create the first version of the customer’s journey map.
And… you’re done! It’s that simple.
A customer journey centers around a customer’s experience, while a sales funnel centers on the steps a potential buyer takes to become a paying consumer.