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Road arrows

Customer journeys and sales funnels: The differences and the synergies

12th Jul 2017
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Sales funnels and customer journeys are powerful tools. However, they're often used in isolation.

Real value can be unlocked by using both tools so a thorough understanding of the pros and cons is a pre-requisite.

In this post we will look at what each tool really is, what to use them for and how they can be used best in conjunction.

Sales funnel

A sales funnel is a model of your sales and marketing activity that captures four key stages of activity across a customer's lifecycle with your business (Attract, Convert, Nurture, Keep).

There are three sales funnel stages:

  • Top of Funnel (TOFU).
  • Middle of Funnel (MOFU).
  • Bottom of Funnel (BOFU) - the conversion stage in the customer lifecycle.

A sales funnel allows you to plan:

  • How you will bring in (attract) traffic at the top of the funnel.
  • How you will manage and nurture leads at the middle of the funnel.
  • How will convert leads into paying customers at the bottom of the funnel.

When should you use a sales funnel?

A sales funnel tends to focus on acquisition (driving to the point of conversion). Ensure that you think about your funnel as more of a cycle - consider retention and activation as existing customers will (hopefully) re-purchase and in effect keep going through the funnel.

It's a great tool for:

  • Budget planning.
  • Channel selection.
  • Reporting KPIs like conversion rate and CPA.
  • Building sales and marketing alignment.

Customer journey

A customer journey is: a representation of the pathways that your customers or prospects follow when considering making a purchase right through to repeat purchasing.

Depending on your marketing objectives, the customer journey could be the entire lifecycle (from a customer becoming aware of a specific need to habitually using your service) or focused on a specific interaction or stage of relationship with you brand (making a complaint; completing a renewal; buying online).

A customer journey enables you to:

  • Take a customer-centric view of needs, pain points and moments of truth.
  • Think about a customer’s entire interaction with your business, not just sales and marketing.

Customer journey mapping is great for:

  • Designing new services or products.
  • Building strategies for improving customer experience.
  • Scoping how, when and why you should communicate with different types of customers (which may then be implemented through a sales funnel.

Generally speaking...

The sales funnel is used in B2B sales and marketing planning; the customer journey is a marketing planning tool for B2C companies.

This distinction isn’t particularly helpful as both concepts are complementary and should play different roles in your marketing strategy. For example the sales funnel is a great way to plan media channels and potential response within the context of your customers needs and expectations, as defined by your customer journey.

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