How To Differentiate Customer Journey vs. Marketing Funnel9 min read

Explore the basics of Customer Journey vs. Marketing Funnel. Learn how they impact your marketing strategy and the main differences to keep in mind.

Throughout my years in the digital marketing world, I learned that understanding Customer Journey vs. Marketing Funnel is like navigating two different roads to success.

Imagine the Customer Journey as a scenic route, exploring every aspect of a customer’s experience. On the other hand, the Marketing Funnel is a direct path, focusing on turning potential customers into actual ones.

In this post, I’ll share with you the distinctions between these two strategies, helping you become a pro in steering your way through the marketing landscape. Ready to explore the differences? Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways:

  • A marketing funnel guides customers through awareness, interest, decision, and action stages, optimizing strategies for effective conversion.
  • Customer journey maps provide a holistic view, enhancing overall experience by identifying key touchpoints and optimizing strategies at each stage.
  • The AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) serves as a classic guide, helping marketers create engaging communication strategies at each stage.

What Is a Marketing Funnel?

A marketing funnel is a strategic framework that illustrates the journey a customer takes from being aware of a product or service to making a purchase. It is often represented as a funnel because at each stage of the process, the number of potential customers decreases as they move through the stages of awareness, interest, decision, and action.

Marketing funnel simplified

Simplified Funnel by SEMrush

The top of the funnel represents the widest part, where potential customers first become aware of the product or service. As they move down the funnel, they become more interested and engaged, leading to the final stage of making a purchase. Businesses use marketing funnels to understand and analyze the customer journey, identify areas for improvement, and optimize their marketing strategies to increase conversions and sales.

By understanding how customers move through the funnel, businesses can tailor their marketing efforts to effectively guide and nurture potential customers through the buying process.

Marketing Funnel Stages: AIDA

AIDA is a classic marketing model that represents the stages a consumer goes through in the process of making a purchase decision. The acronym stands for:

  1. Attention: Attract the attention of the target audience through compelling and eye-catching content or advertisements.
  2. Interest: Generate interest by providing information about the product or service, focusing on its unique features and benefits.
  3. Desire: Cultivate a desire for the product or service by showcasing its value and addressing the specific needs or wants of the consumer.
  4. Action: Encourage the consumer to take action, usually in the form of making a purchase or completing a desired behavior (e.g., signing up for a newsletter or requesting more information).

The AIDA model serves as a guide for marketers to create effective communication strategies that move potential customers through these key stages of engagement.

AIDA Sales Funnel

What Is a Customer Journey?

A customer journey is basically a story that unfolds every time someone interacts with a brand. Imagine it as the series of steps a person takes from the moment they discover a product or service to the final decision of making a purchase.

The customer journey encompasses various touchpoints such as advertisements, website visits, and customer service interactions.

The journey typically starts with the “Awareness” phase, where customers first learn about a product, followed by the “Consideration” stage, where they explore and compare options. The “Decision” stage marks the choice to purchase, while the “Loyalty” and “Advocacy” stages reflect the post-purchase relationship.

Understanding the customer journey helps businesses tailor their strategies to create seamless and satisfying experiences at each step.

Customer Journey Map

Let’s look at the following customer journey map, which is fundamentally a visual representation of a customer journey.

customer journey map with various touchpoints

Image created with Visual-Paradigm

The phases of the customer journey

  1. Awareness
    Customers become familiar with a product or service through various channels, such as advertisements, social media, or word of mouth.
  2. Consideration
    Customers actively explore and evaluate different options, seeking more detailed information to make informed decisions.
  3. Purchase
    The pivotal stage where customers commit to making a purchase, selecting a specific product or service that aligns with their needs.
  4. Retention (Aka Loyalty)
    Post-purchase, customers assess their experience and decide whether to continue their relationship with the brand based on satisfaction and quality of service.
  5. Advocacy
    Enthusiastic customers who had positive experiences become advocates, willingly sharing their satisfaction and influencing others positively.

Recognizing and understanding these phases enables businesses to tailor their strategies, providing a seamless and satisfying journey for customers at every step.

How does the Customer Journey differ from the Marketing Funnel?

The Customer Journey and Marketing Funnel are distinct concepts in the realm of marketing, each offering a unique perspective on the path to purchase:

AspectMarketing FunnelCustomer Journey
NatureHolistic and non-linearLinear and goal-oriented
FocusEmphasizes overall experience, satisfaction, and engagementPrimarily concentrates on the conversion process
RepresentationRepresented as a comprehensive map of customer interactionsRepresented as a linear model of sequential progression

In essence, while the Marketing Funnel is a strategic tool for conversion, the Customer Journey encompasses a broader view, considering the entire spectrum of customer interactions and relationships.

How to Use Customer Journey Maps and the Marketing Funnel

Blend the power of customer journey maps and marketing funnels to supercharge your strategy. Customer journey maps provide a holistic view, helping you identify key touchpoints and enhance the overall customer experience.

Dive into each stage — Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Loyalty, and Advocacy — understanding the nuanced interactions. Meanwhile, the marketing funnel offers a linear approach, guiding prospects through sequential steps for conversion.

Merge these insights for a dynamic strategy: Attract attention with compelling content, engage and nurture interest, guide decisions, foster loyalty post-purchase, and encourage advocacy. This harmonious integration ensures a customer-centric approach, maximizing your ability to connect and resonate at every crucial point in the journey.

Funnel Mapping Tools

  1. Visual Paradigm Online: FREE online drawing software developed for the community
  2. Lucidchart: A versatile diagramming tool that allows you to create detailed funnel maps with ease.
  3. SmartDraw: Offers templates and tools specifically designed for creating marketing and sales funnel diagrams.
  4. Funnelytics: A dedicated funnel mapping platform that provides analytics and insights to optimize your sales process.
  5. ClickFunnels: Combines funnel mapping with landing page creation and sales funnel building.
  6. Visio: A Microsoft tool suitable for creating diverse diagrams, including funnel maps.


What is the difference between a buyer’s journey and a funnel?

The buyer’s journey and the marketing funnel both navigate the path to purchase but differ in focus and structure:

AspectBuyer’s JourneyMarketing Funnel
FocusEmphasizes customer experience, needs, and decision-makingConcentrates on sequential stages and the sales process
StructureTypically depicted as holistic and non-linearIllustrated as a linear model guiding through stages

In essence, the buyer’s journey offers a comprehensive view of the customer’s experience, while the marketing funnel provides a more structured approach to guide potential customers toward conversion.

What is the difference between customer lifecycle and funnel?

The customer lifecycle provides a holistic view of the customer’s entire journey, while the marketing funnel is more focused on the steps leading to a purchase.

AspectCustomer LifecycleMarketing Funnel
FocusEncompasses the entire customer journey and relationshipConcentrates on stages leading to a purchase
StructureBroader, including post-purchase engagement and advocacyNarrower, specifically addressing the sales process

What are the 5 stages of the marketing funnel?

The traditional marketing funnel comprises five key stages, each representing a distinct phase in the customer’s journey:

AwarenessIntroduction to the brand or product; creating awareness through ads, content, or social media.
InterestCapturing audience interest by providing detailed information about the product’s features and benefits.
ConsiderationProspective customers actively evaluating and comparing offerings based on factors like pricing and reviews.
IntentDecision-making stage where potential customers express a strong intention to make a purchase.
PurchaseCulmination of the funnel; the prospect becomes a customer by making the actual purchase.

What Is The Difference Between Marketing Funnel vs Sales Funnel?

The terms “marketing funnel” and “sales funnel” are often used interchangeably, but they have nuanced differences. The marketing funnel covers the complete customer journey, emphasizing marketing efforts, whereas the sales funnel specifically concentrates on converting leads into customers during the final steps of the sales process.

What Is Funnel Mapping?

Funnel mapping is a strategic marketing approach involving visualizing the customer journey through a funnel-shaped diagram. This method analyzes how potential customers progress from awareness to conversion, mapping touchpoints and interactions. Insights gained help optimize the customer journey, enhancing engagement and conversion rates.

Funnel mapping is a valuable tool for tailoring marketing strategies, identifying areas for improvement, and guiding customers towards successful outcomes in a structured manner.

team working on a sales funnel

Final Thoughts

Mastering the Customer Journey and Marketing Funnel is crucial to implement successful digital marketing strategies.

 Think of the marketing funnel as a guide to sales and the customer journey as the full customer experience. To succeed, use both strategies together.

Learn the details, use the AIDA model for engaging content, and try customer journey maps for a complete approach. This mix ensures you not only guide customers to buy but also create memorable experiences. Use them together to boost your marketing skills and achieve long-term success.

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Isabel Mauro
Isabel Mauro

Hi, I am Isabel! I love writing about online business and marketing . Let me know what content you'd like to read to help with your entrepreneurial endeavors. Thank you for stopping by!

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