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Using the buyers journey as part of your growth strategy

Article originally published in January 2023 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in March 2023.

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In order to be effective, agile marketing teams need to measure the buyers journey, which is how prospects move from knowing nothing about you, to ultimately purchasing your product or solution.

What is the buyers journey?

The buyers journey gives you a simple lens through which to view the journey of a prospect or customer when they interact with your business.

“The buyer’s journey describes a buyer’s path to purchase. In other words, buyers don’t wake up and decide to buy on a whim. They go through a process to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.”


A visual representation of the journey enables marketers and growth teams to both understand, and communicate, the typical path to purchase.

Why you need to understand the buyers journey?

In addition to providing a useful visual aid, the buyers journey provides a constant reminder of the importance in building a relationship and trust with customers over time. Using the marriage analogy, too many marketing teams try to force a customer to marry them on the first date.

Here are some additional advantages in clearly defining your buyers journey:

  1. Identify where prospects are in the journey and market to them appropriately
  2. Identify and prioritise where growth efforts can have the biggest impact at any point in time
  3. Improve internal alignment across marketing and sales teams
  4. Understand core metrics and KPIs for each stage in the journey
  5. Map content and key assets to relevant funnel stages
  6. Identify moments of customer influence and customer goals for each stage
  7. Understand the impact of higher-level funnel activity on lower funnel stages
  8. Ensure focus is given to both demand creation and demand conversion activities

A funnel gives you a logical way to track and analyse the performance of key stages of your user journey so you can determine what’s working and what’s not, allowing you to prioritise efforts on things that have the greatest chance of driving growth. It helps you turn data into insight, and insight into action.

Nick Schwinghamer, Director of Growth @ Shopify

Buying journey terminology

There are literally hundreds of terms, phrases and visuals for describing the same – relatively simple – buying process. We’ve included a number of these below for completeness.

Visual categoryExample terms
JourneyCustomer decision journey
Buyers journey
Customer journey
FunnelMarketing funnel
Conversion funnel
Sales funnel
MomentsBuyer journey moments
LoopThe customer loop
The purchase loop
Buying journey loop
MapCustomer journey map
Customer journey mapping
Ladder / StagesLadder of awareness
Stages of awareness

Buying journey examples


Top of funnel, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel is one of the oldest frameworks for mapping the customer journey.

(Top of funnel)
Unaware or Problem awareHow to get better results from marketing spend
(Middle of funnel)
Solution awareHow agile marketing platforms can increase marketing effectiveness
(Bottom of funnel)
Product awareWhy choose the Growth Method agile marketing platform

The AIDA Model

AIDA was by American advertising pioneer Elias St. Elmos Lewis in 1898. The four stages are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action

Chartered Institute of Marketing Buying Journey

Below are the five stages of the customers’ buying journey according to the Chartered Institute of Marketing:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Purchase
  4. Retention
  5. Advocacy

The 5 Stages of Awareness

In 1996 Eugene Schwartz’ published the classic book Breakthrough Advertising in which he described the 5 stages of awareness:

  1. Unaware
  2. Problem aware
  3. Solution aware
  4. Product aware
  5. Most aware

Gartner B2B buying journey

Gartner illustrate the modern B2B buyers journey around 4 non-linear buying stages:

  1. Problem identification
  2. Solution exploration
  3. Requirements building
  4. Supplier selection

Active Campaign Customer Lifecycle

Similar to HubSpot who also use lifecycle stages, Active Campaign talk about about the 5 stages of the modern customer lifecycle represented in an infinite loop as follows:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision
  4. Growth
  5. Advocacy

The idea of the loop is to depict how your best customers should be advocates for your brand, bringing more people back into the awareness phase.

The Pirate Funnel (AAARRR)

Dave McClure defined the AAARRR (aka pirate funnel) in his 2007 Startup Metrics for Pirates presentation:

  1. Awareness
  2. Acquisition
  3. Activation
  4. Retention
  5. Revenue
  6. Referral

The Inbound Methodology

The HubSpot Inbound marketing methodology has evolved over the years but has remained centred around 3 key phases:

  1. Attract
  2. Engage
  3. Delight

The goal is to use these 3 phases to turn strangers into prospects, customers and finally into promoters.

Within the HubSpot product, lifecycle stages are used to categorised contacts and companies based on where they are in your marketing and sales process. There are 7 lifecycle stages by default:

Lifecycle stageStage definition
1 Subscribera contact that has opted in to hear more from you by signing up for your blog or newsletter
2 Leada contact or company that has converted on your website or through some other interaction with your organisation beyond a subscription sign up.
3 Marketing Qualified Leada contact or company that your marketing team has qualified as ready for the sales team.
4 Sales Qualified Leada contact or company that your sales team has qualified as a potential customer. This stage includes sub-stages that are stored in the Lead Status property.
5 Opportunitya contact or company that is associated with a deal (e.g., they’re involved in a potential deal with your organisation.
6 Customera contact or company with at least one closed deal.
7 Evangelista customer that has advocated for your organisation.
HubSpot lifecycle stages

Ladder of Product Awareness

The Ladder of Product Awareness (LPA) is a framework originally developed by Julian Shapiro for writing ad copy to help in understanding how aware and in-need of a product your audience is. There are 5 levels to the ladder as below, which goes from the most in-need and aware (1), to the least in-need and aware (5).


Marketing teams should focus on those between levels 1 and 4. For small teams and earlier stage companies, focus in on levels 1 to 3.

Here are some examples of activity to move people up the ladder

Their stageYour activity
1 Motivated and believe your type of solution is bestThe goal is conversion. Drive them to the product page—maybe with a promo or bonus offer.
2 Motivated but aren’t sure which solution is bestHighlight features and benefits to show them that your product is the best solution. Compare you to your competitors.
3 Aware solutions exists but aren’t sufficiently motivatedMotivate them to take action on the problem. How your product solves the problem – focus on features.
4 Experiencing the problem but unaware solutions existsShow them that there’s a solution to their problem (your product category). Educate with an article, educational video or webinar invite.
4 Not experiencing the problem your product solvesCall out the problem. Educate with an article, educational video or webinar invite.

The product-led growth (PLG) funnel

In the traditional B2B sales-led funnel a user visits a website, fills out some kind of form (contact request, get in touch, price quote etc), there is some level of qualification before purchasing and becoming a customer. In this model the marketing team is responsible for generating leads to fill the top of the funnel, as well as for nurturing and qualifying leads into MQLs (marketing qualified leads).

The product-led funnel is centred around more of a self-service experience where the user visits the website, signs-up for a free plan, activates in the product through some kind of in-product qualification, and can then either keep using the product (on a free plan) or purchase.

In the product-led growth funnel marketing is still driving top-of-funnel (TOFU) traffic and leads, but since customers can access the free product straight away, the primary lever for qualification is the product. The product led funnel is less “show” (via a sales demo) or “tell” (via a marketing campaign) and instead “do” (use the product themselves). PQLs (or product qualified leads) rather than MQLs (marketing qualified leads) are then passed over to the sales team.

“Sales-led growth and product-led growth approach the customer journeys and funnels very differently. Each motion has benefits, and most successful B2B companies eventually layer both. You need to understand the differences between the two funnels because eventually you’ll need to build data infrastructure, design org charts, and create workflows to enable the measurement and coordination of both funnels.

Hila Qu, Growth Advisor & EIR

Using buying journey stages in Growth Method

We advise all marketing and growth teams to map their funnel stages and ensure growth goals and activity are focused on a single funnel stage at any point in time.

This singular focus and prioritisation is critical to ensuring teams don’t get distracted and work in the most efficient way possible.

Funnel mapping in Growth Method

This enables us to build a basic visual of funnel stages and to calculate conversion rates at each stage, in order to compare to industry benchmarks and discuss where to focus improvement efforts.

Funnel visualisation in Growth Method

Look for big drop-offs in your buyers journey – where are you below industry benchmarks? Segmenting by growth channel and campaign can also reveal interesting data. Tools such as Google Analytics 4 (conversion funnels, behaviour flow report and goal flow report) as well as MixPanel and Google Data Studio can assist with this analysis.

For most growth teams, the solution to growth then comes down to 1 of 3 problems:

  1. Improve conversion rates – is there enough of the right people in the funnel but we need to improve conversion rates, perhaps through better education or improved sales efficiency.
  2. Improve quality – do we have lots of prospects at the top of the funnel that aren’t converting? This may be a lack of alignment between marketing and product.
  3. Increase volume – do we just need to grow the size of our audience and get more people coming to the website

Final thoughts

Here are some general tips and best practises to help when thinking about how to use your buyers journey:

  1. Focus on the bottom of the funnel stages first
  2. Understand conversion rates across your funnel, and by acquisition channel
  3. Pick ONE area to focus on at a time
  4. The is no “one size fits all” when it comes to funnels
  5. As a general rule, simple is better than perfect

Remember there is no such thing as the perfect funnel. Aim to be helpful, educational and informative for prospective buyers and use funnel analysis to make data-informed decisions and improve your marketing effectiveness.

Got questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

Additional resources

Recommended additional reading on marketing funnels and journey.