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Sales Funnels & Customer Journeys

Sales Funnels and Customer Journeys

What Are They and Why Do You Need Them?

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In simplest terms, sales funnels drive revenue growth and customer journeys drive earnings growth. Sales funnels are about client acquisition. Customer journeys are about retention and client development.

One could argue that sales and marketing, comes down to designing, implementing, and refining these two critical processes. Unfortunately, the reason so many sales and marketing efforts fail is the complete absence of both frameworks.

Complete Absence Sounds Harsh

Yup, it’s a bitter pill. But it’s time to hold your nose and swallow. There’s a reason your sales and marketing performance sucks. The message is likely all about you, and nobody cares except you and your mom.

Who you are and what your story is, are irrelevant to people until you address their needs. People only care about themselves. When they are looking for a product or service, they tend to start out being superficial, judgemental, impatient, tight-fisted and distracted. Your job is to meet people where they are and enroll them in the possibility you represent.

What’s In It For Me (Your Clients)?

This mindset needs to be your sales and marketing mantra. If you’re not focused on your customer’s needs, you might as well flush your marketing dollars down the drain.

The real challenge is, you want your sales and marketing to be about you.

Sorry to tell you, it’s time to give up that idea. Get over it and move on. It’s not about you. Sales and marketing are about helping people get their needs met.

The goal is to make it easy for people to find you and as mentioned, understand the possibility you represent. It’s about supporting their decision to buy, then making it simple for them to complete a purchase. Once they’ve completed their first purchase, the work of turning customers into long-term clients begins.

Does This Sound Like Your Marketing?

Probably not. It’s more likely you talk about yourself; your company, your products or even you personally. You want to tell people everything about your products. It’s all about what it is, what it does and how it works. These are the features and the sizes and colours it comes in. Your customer’s needs are largely absent from your marketing and sales communication.

Have a look at almost anyone’s marketing material and it’ll be all about them.

It gets even worse when a client decides to buy because often, it takes an incredible effort to complete the purchase. Their journey through your business is entirely unscripted and up to them to navigate. There’s no map to lead the way. Why? Because you haven’t mapped out a path for people to follow yet.

What’s the Alternative?

The alternative is you flipping the process around and make your business about meeting your target client’s needs. You script the experience you want clients to have with you.

This is not just about the first transaction either. This is about designing the relationship you intend to create with ideal clients over time.

This approach is called Customer Centricity. It’s not a new approach; it’s been practised for decades.

Customer centricity is just uncommon because the industrial revolution was all about mass-produced consumer goods. This drove mass marketing messages designed to influence patterns of consumption. It was all about brand preference and product sales. Marketing still has a hangover from the last 100+ years of mass marketing.

What is Customer-Centricity?

In simplest terms, customer-centricity is about shifting your focus from what you sell to whom you serve. You make your business about being who your clients need to solve their problems.

It’s a radical shift from our mass marketing roots, but it’s not a revolutionary idea either. It’s simply a choice. Consider these questions:

  • Where do you want to focus?
  • How do you want to differentiate your business?
  • Will your profit model be transactional or relationship-based?

Transactional profit models are based on single and repeat sales. Relationship-based profit models are based on the lifetime value of client relationships. How will your profit model work?

Making the Shift to Customer-Centricity

The practice of customer-centricity involves six steps:

  1. Define Your Target Client. You can’t be customer-focused if you don’t define your target audience first.
  2. Understand Your Target Client’s Needs and What Triggers Them to initiate a purchase.
  3. Define Your Lead Offers. Lead offers are a client’s most likely first sale. Ideally, you create one or more lead offers to give clients a choice of starting points.
  4. Map Your Customer’s Journey Through Your Business. How will your products and services meet the needs of your clients over time? What is their logical sequence of needs and how will you meet them?
  5. Map Your Client Acquisition Sales Funnel. How will you create awareness and interest, build trust, then entice a prospect to act? The sales funnel is a ramp you build to make the first purchase as simple, risk-free, and painless as possible.
  6. Engage New Clients by helping them appreciate what’s possible if they continue to work with you long-term.

Sales Funnels Are About Closing First Sales

Your sales funnel begins when you make first contact with a prospect. First contact could be through advertising, search engines, social media, direct sales, or an in-person meeting. It does not matter how it happens. It begins when you gain the prospect’s attention, you earn some trust, then incite them to act. You want them to identify themselves. You need their name and permission to follow up with them. Ideally, you want a sale, but a name and email address will do for now.

Your Sales Funnel is Your Conversion Mechanism

You use your sales funnel for converting that first contact event into a paying customer. There is usually some low-risk, often free or very low-cost offer, ideally with a high perceived value, that is easy to say yes to. Typical offers include free downloads, free events, free trials or a chance to win something of value.

Once you have their name, their contact info and their permission, you get busy following up. You auto follow-up by email. Then follow-up by phone. You send them something of value to aid their decision making. Then you encourage a social follow and to join your mailing list. Design your sales funnel to persist for several weeks or months while you prepare the prospect for the first paid purchase. The sales funnel continues through the first sale with welcome messages, support, how-to’s, acknowledgement, offers for training, upgrades, feedback requests and more.

The sales funnel needs to generate a positive experience. From a sales perspective, funnels are all about increasing conversion rates, reducing unit costs per sale and reducing the average sales cycle times.

A Customer’s Journey is All About Lifetime Value

Your customer’s journey starts with your sales funnel experience. If your business is transactional, the goal is to generate repeat sales—ideally larger and more frequent sales at that. Grocery stores are great examples of this. After you make your first purchase and join their loyalty program, you start receiving their weekly fliers and emails. They want you to start buying gas from them as well as alcohol and pharmaceuticals. How can they get you to buy more stuff more often? Some call this brand loyalty, but it’s mostly about fostering preference and re-enforcing purchase habits.

For example: If your business is relationship-based, you do the same things, except you get to learn about your clients and lead them where they need to go. If you’re a dentist for example, you want the client’s whole family coming to see you until you retire. It’s the same thing for GP’s, chiropractors, hair salons, and financial advisors.

What’s different is it’s not just about repeat purchases. It’s about an escalation of trust and support. You’re working to lead people down a constructive path that serves their best interests. You’re working to become a trusted advisor and confidant. You can accomplish this in an unscripted way, or you can anticipate your client’s needs long before they’re aware of them. You do this by aligning your products and services by following the lifecycle needs of clients.

A good example of this is financial advisors. Their business model starts when you get your first real job and have a bit of money to invest. Then they move you into health insurance and tax planning. They escalate when you start having kids by getting you to think about life insurance and wills, followed by pre-retirement planning and on through to estate planning. They’ve built a business model designed to support clients through a 60+ year relationship.

How long are you planning to work with your clients? Have you anticipated their lifecycle needs? What would it look like if you did? Mapping your customer’s journey through your business is all about the escalation of value for clients and earnings for your company. It’s about crafting long-term win/win scenarios.

Both Scenarios Help You Lower Costs and Maximize ROI

Sales funnels and customer journey mapping are both about maximizing sales, scripting customer experiences, and reducing the cost of sale or client acquisition. Customer journey mapping is also about client retention and earnings growth through the escalation of value.

Ideally, both mechanisms are used together as one extended sales and relationship development framework.

Marketing is Not About You

When you start thinking about your clients and designing your business around meeting their needs, it becomes increasingly obvious why people ignore your marketing messages. If you’re talking about yourself, it’s challenging to be relevant to people who’re fixated on their own needs and goals.

If you want your marketing to work, you need to move all the messaging about you into the background. Don’t worry; you’ll get your chance to talk about yourself. However, you’ll need to wait until your clients get curious and want to know more about you.

The point is to start with your client’s wants and needs. Develop a whole system around meeting their needs. Then, make sure you’re as authentic and transparent as possible when clients go looking to learn more.

Where to Begin?

If you’d like to learn about sales funnels, customer journeys, offer hierarchies and customer-centric marketing, please take advantage of all the free content we’ve prepared. There are nearly 20 free marketing eBooks on our website to download. We’ve also prepared 40+ posts like this on our blog and written a book called Mastering Marketing.

The book is designed for beginners. It breaks the marketing and business development process down into three phases and twenty logical steps. The goal is to help you see marketing as a system and understand how to set up your earnings growth system. We hope you’ll take advantage of our content to help you Master Marketing.

About the Author

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing and the author of Mastering Marketing, the Being Profitable Program, several ebooks and an avid blogger. He serves as a sales and marketing coach and fractional Chief Marketing Officer for companies that cannot yet justify a full-time CMO. He's focused on helping startups and growth-focused companies develop powerful brands, customer-centric websites, sales leads and complete commercialization programs.

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