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Marketing Funnel Vs Customer Journey – The Difference

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Marketing Funnel Vs Customer Journey – The Difference

If I had a dollar for every time I've seen marketers swearing by their sales funnels as the be-all-end-all of growth frameworks… well, let's just say I'd be lounging on a beach right now.

But as crucial as marketing funnels are, there's another map just as critical for any serious brand – the customer journey.

Now I know some of you reading this are probably scratching your heads right now. Journeys and funnels sound basically identical on paper, right?

Both show how customers move through key stages on their journey toward becoming delighted loyalists. Totally interchangeable!

Well, I hate to break it to you funnel diehards, but that assumption can totally sink your experience optimization efforts.

While these frameworks do share common DNA, they each serve very different (yet equally important) purposes. Relying solely on funnels while ignoring journeys means you're likely missing out on serious revenue opportunities hiding in plain sight.

In this post, I want to walk through the distinct use cases and advantages of marketing funnels versus journey mapping - and when used together they unlock a complete view. My goal is to help you understand how to get the most value from both frameworks (not just one) to accelerate growth.

The Marketing Funnel Focuses On Sales Stages

Alright let's start with what most of you should be familiar with – marketing funnels. Even if you're just slightly familiar with modern marketing, you've likely seen one of these bad boys before.

The whole purpose is mapping the stages customers pass through on their journey converting from complete strangers to loyal brand champions. Pretty much the dream sequence for any growing business.

Most funnels structure this high-level sales process in stages such as:

​Awareness → Consideration → Evaluation → Purchase → Retention

Sales Funnel Example

So first people become aware of your offerings through ads, content, and word of mouth. Then they consider solutions by researching their options. Next comes comparing the shortlist head-to-head and deciding on the winner. After purchase comes delivering so much value they stick around forever.

Simple enough, the funnel shows the stepped path to moving visitors along towards that beloved purchase moment and retaining them over the long haul. All through the lens of what WE want them to do as the business.

And over the years marketers have invented all types of fancy funnel frameworks – flywheels, circular funnels, hourglasses, tornadoes. But at their core, each still focuses on guiding customers through our desired funnel steps optimized to hit our KPIs.

However, that narrow view is a bit self-interested. We obsess over conversions and retention from the brand perspective rather than worrying about truly delighting customers!

​So while crucial for high-level conversion tracking, marketing funnels can also suffer from tunnel vision. They show expected outcomes, but not underlying emotions, motivations, and experiences from the customer’s point of view. 

Customer Journeys Map Experiences From The User POV 

Customer Journeys Map Experiences From The User POV

Now on the flip side, you have customer journey maps. Unlike funnels that show the sales process, these paint a picture of ALL touchpoints through the eyes of actual users.

So not just how to convert them, but how they feel across every interaction – researching products, accessing support, managing accounts, joining loyalty programs, hassling with payments. Yeah, not always sexy brand stuff!

The goal here is to expose the naked truth around emotions, pain points, perceptions, priorities, and more from their authentic point of view. The good, bad, and even the ugly.

This means capturing someone's journey from that very first touch with your brand – maybe finding a helpful blog post or seeing an enticing social ad. Through becoming a happy repeat customer and everything in between.

Unlike funnels that laser focus on hitting conversion and revenue benchmarks, journey mapping reveals experience gaps and friction that degrade perceptions. As well as moments of delight that earn love.

It's essentially like walking a mile in your customer's shoes to better serve their needs versus obsessing over what you want them to do next. This outside-in view uncovers barriers you may be blind to if you focus solely on your funnel numbers.

The chance to not just meet expectations, but consistently exceed them by understanding someone's holistic journey beyond your conversion plan. You morph from just another brand talking AT them to an indispensable ally improving their lives. And there's no faking that emotional connection.

At the highest level – funnels guide conversion strategy while journeys inform experience optimization opportunities.

Key Differences and Similarities Recapped

While their core focuses differ, customer journey mapping and marketing funnels work better together rather than viewed as competing concepts. They provide complimentary lenses onto growth opportunities.

Marketing funnels deliver crucial high-altitude visibility – are prospects converting from initial awareness to loyal customers at expected rates as they hit key revenue milestones? This 30,000 foot view locks in goal context.

However, fly too high and you risk missing experience obstacles or bright spots hiding at ground level. Overlaying detailed customer journey mapping exposes specific barriers and pain points that may degrade perceptions between funnel stages.

For example, your high-level funnel may show website visitors dropping at the consideration phase. Further investigation via journey mapping uncovers confusing, conflicting content steering prospects astray during research.

Likewise post-purchase, granular CX data could unveil a disjointed account management system frustrating even longtime customers. Journey insights spotlight where disconnected processes fail to nurture loyalty across touchpoints.

Simply put, marketing funnels provide key performance context while detailed CX journeys offer an emotional x-ray revealing hidden friction and moments of delight that funnel metrics often overlook.

Savvy brands synthesize these lenses to inform strategies that both accelerate conversions and cultivate positive customer perceptions. Connected data fills the complete toolkit for impactful decision-making.

When Used Together They Offer a Complete View

When Used Together They Offer a Complete View

Layering these frameworks together provides the complete picture. Marketing funnels keep the end sales goals in focus while detailed customer journey mapping exposes tactical experience optimization opportunities tied to conversion rate influencers.

You need both the 30,000-foot and ground-level view. For example, a funnel may show website clicks are converting at expected rates, but the journey reveals a clunky, confusing checkout process causing 80% of abandons.

Pairing these sister frameworks provides quantitative goals context and rich qualitative visibility that round out insights and opportunities. With both tools in your toolbelt, you can create holistic strategies to accelerate conversions through optimized experiences.

So are you still relying solely on marketing funnel metrics to call the shots? Adding an outside layer of customer journey mapping may reveal eye-opening opportunities to reduce friction and accelerate results.

Last Remarks

With so much to consider between marketing funnels and detailed customer journey mapping, it can feel overwhelming to decide where to focus first. The key is avoiding analysis paralysis. Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

Pick one known revenue leak or friction point identified in your funnel tracking and do a mini two-week sprint. Overlay journey-focused insights to dig deeper. Where are emotional perceptions being degraded between stages? Identify a few likely experience improvements to test based on findings.

Map even just a key subset of the full journey end-to-end. No need to capture every single interaction from first touch to forever customer out of the gates. Identify your biggest conversion obstacles and experience pain points to focus on understanding better.

Then quickly implement small experience tweaks or messaging changes to smoothen rough edges. Monitor both funnel conversion rates and sentiment metrics from journeys for signs of improvement. Are abandons decreasing alongside social mentions or positive ratings?

Focus on a few key friction improvements at a time versus trying to journey map everything perfectly right away. Funnel and journey insights will continuously evolve, but getting started is the most crucial step.

So don't get distracted endlessly planning without taking action. Leverage these sister frameworks together to uncover quick wins, then build positive momentum from there. Consistently smooth out pain points through an outside-in customer-centric lens – your marketing funnel will only continue improving as a result.

​However, if you find yourself wanting to delve even deeper into learning the differences between marketing funnels and customer journeys, I’d highly suggest you join us inside Diamond. Not only do I talk about funnels in great length, but you’ll gain access to all my seminars, master classes, lectures, and podcasts about other relevant topics.

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