For ages, marketing convention has centered around “the funnel” – that uniform path all customers supposedly follow: Awareness → Interest → Decision → Purchase. But this linear model reflects an outdated, corporate-centric view. It fails to map how diverse audiences actually experience brands today across winding, nonlinear journeys.
In our complex digital landscape across sites, apps and devices, people engage on personal paths based on individual intent. The days of brands dictating rigid routes are over. To drive real relationships, marketing must embrace the ever-evolving customer journey in all its twists, turns, and nuances.
Limitations of the Funnel
The traditional funnel assumes:
- All customers follow the same orderly progression. But journeys differ wildly based on personal context.
- Interactions happen in isolation. In reality, experiences build continuously across domains over time.
- Customers make rational calculated decisions. Yet emotion and whim also play roles.
- Brand relationships expire after purchase. But loyalty and advocacy bloom through ongoing engagement.
This dated funnel structure results in disjointed experiences optimized for short-term conversion at the expense of lifetime relationships. A human-centric approach focused on mapping unique journeys is needed.
Steps to Map Your Audience’s Customer Journeys
- Conduct qualitative research through tools like interviews, surveys and online communities to uncover drivers across the journey – motivations, pain points, questions, emotions. Look for patterns.
- Layer in ethnographic and social listening data to identify behaviors and pathways across channels and environments – sites visited, devices used, offline activities etc. Pinpoint key micro-moments.
- Analyze CRM data on transaction cycles, refunds, renewals, channel preferences etc. to detect needs at different relationship stages. Note evolving behaviors over time.
- Create detailed buyer personas and maps representing primary journeys, accounting for variances driven by intent and contexts. Identify key segments.
- Define metrics based on persona behaviors to gauge marketing effectiveness at each journey stage – engagement, satisfaction, loyalty – beyond mere conversions.
- Plot targeted initiatives across channels and time to deliver relevance, value and continuity tailored to journey stage and persona needs. Guide customers without dictating rigid paths. Update as you learn.
With insights revealed and journeys defined, human-centric experiences can be crafted based on how different people actually discover, relate to and bond with your brand long after initial purchase.
Brands Succeeding with Journey-Focused Marketing
- DTC mattress brand Casper nurtures customers through their product lifecycle with an integrated rewards program, encouraging reviews, referrals and repeat purchases down the line.
- Red Bull curates content matching interests for different customer journey segments – surfing videos for aspirational youth, music fest coverage for core fans, fitness advice targeting active males 30-45.
- Amazon employs remarketing strategies serving people ads aligned to recent browsing behaviors demonstrating long-term awareness of contexts and needs.
The Path Forward
By starting from a place of mapping the consumer’s expansive journey, marketing innovates beyond myopic conversions to sustain enduring, mutually beneficial brand relationships through ever-evolving customer needs. The future requires letting go of rigid funnels and embracing flexible, human-centric journeys.
The key thesis is that by shifting from optimized but dehumanized funnels to nurturing an integrated journey ecosystem, marketing drives greater loyalty and advocacy. The customer journey should be the compass guiding strategy.
The views expressed herein are personal and do not reflect the views of any of my clients, partners or employers.