Fine-Tuning Your Marketing Funnel Part 2: Understand Customer Journeys

Author: Steve Sturges
Posted: Oct 15, 2018

At VI, we use a marketing funnel to help implement strategy and deploy tactics in a timely manner. Using the funnel as a marketing tool has served us well, but like every effective instrument, it’s healthy to fine-tune from time to time. We strive to stretch our thinking by trying to innovate regardless of our customer journey model. There are many other customer journey tools, approaches and theories around, and many of them offer valuable insight on the decision process.

With deference to the funnel, let’s begin at the beginning. In 1898, Elias St. Elmo Lewis, one of the pioneers of marketing, created the sales funnel to help define the customer decision path and how companies can push a prospect toward a sale or action. The levels of the first funnel, in descending order, were Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. Elias’s funnel is considered the first formal theory of marketing. Today, we use a similar marketing funnel, only our descending funnel levels are Attract, Educate, Engage and Convert. Candidly, when I think of using a tool created 120 years ago, it begs me to question its validity. Especially with regard to modern marketing. But, perhaps we are thinking about it in the wrong way. While tactics and strategies may change, the funnel we use is really neither of these. It is a roadmap to help us understand how a customer makes decisions, as well as the timing of those decisions. Let’s consider a couple of current marketing realities.


Tracking how customers reach out to brands is significantly more important than understanding how brands can reach out to customers.

Think of how a customer searches on the internet or trusts recommendations from friends and family to adopt or try new brands. We live in a customer-centric economy. Contrary to the antiquated “push” method, customers now have the ability to “pull” information from brands whenever they like. This has been a game-changer in marketing. In fact, brands now depend on this pull to improve and better serve their customers in this customer-centric economy. Your marketing team needs to realize this and adopt this mindset. Or you will be the brand “pushed out.”

Brand awareness is more important than product awareness.

When I was a kid, tuna sandwiches were a favorite around my house. In the 70s, in the throes of a competitive tuna market, Starkist introduced “dolphin-safe tuna.” Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea tunas — the other popular brands — were slow to react. We had traditionally been a Chicken of the Sea family, but I distinctly remember switching to Starkist once they pledged to save dolphins. It was perhaps the first time I remember a brand focusing on a current social issue to build customer loyalty. Starkist quickly gained market share by brand advocacy and, by design, sold more tuna. Brand awareness trumps product awareness. Customers start each purchasing process by considering a limited subset of brands. Traditionally, the number of brands simply narrowed as you moved through a decision path. But these days, there seems to be opportunity for new brands to enter under consideration further along in the customer buying experience. Your marketing team should strategize accordingly.

Learn more about fine-tuning your marketing funnel: 
Fine-Tuning Your Marketing Funnel Part 1: Customers Hold the Control
Fine-Tuning Your Marketing Funnel Part 3: Be Flexible 
Fine-Tuning Your Marketing Funnel Part 4: Timing is Key

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