receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure


Meet the Consumer Decision Journey: How to Understand and Leverage the New Marketing Funnel

Clayton Dean
Clayton Dean

The funnel, a classic and longstanding marketing concept, serves as a linear metaphor, allowing a company to understand how a prospective customer moves from initial brand awareness to an eventual purchase.

Like a funnel, the first stage is broad. The consumer has a wide range of brands to choose from.

As the consumer moves down the line, they narrow the options to familiar brands, then to their top picks, before finally making a decision and coming to the end of the funnel, the purchase.

But the funnel approach existed long before social media, blogging, or digital content marketing ever existed. So, does the funnel metaphor still hold up? Not quite.

With the traditional model, there were a limited amount of “touch points” where a company could reach out and influence a consumer to make a decision; from social media campaigns and blog posts to white papers and infographics, digital touch point opportunities are nearly endless now.

Currently, the funnel is less a linear path and more so a circular journey that features constant two-way communication between consumers and a company.

Now more than ever before, brands must ensure that they are delivering the appropriate messaging to individuals regardless of where they enter the funnel.

Traditionally, most prospective customers entered the funnel at the top, but today, with so many digital touch points accessible to individuals, marketers and businesses lose the ability to control the messaging in the same way that was possible before.

The brand also has to engage customers regularly along this path to retain their loyalty, that’s part of the reason why most companies often have large digital footprints.

However, a company doesn’t have to reinvent their overall marketing approach to appeal to today’s customers; they simply need to work to guarantee that all potential customers have what they require to become a part of the modern, circular funnel.

Related Article: Using Sales and Marketing Automation to Improve Your Bottomline

The Audience

Firstly, before adapting your marketing model to this modern funnel, it’s important to take a moment and consider your audience.

For instance:

  • What are your customer pain points?
  • What is the messaging or content to help them solve their pain points?
  • What is it that you offer?
  • Why do consumers want it, and what makes it unique?
  • What is your audience’s demographic?
  • What is their preferred mode of interaction with your company?
  • When consumers search for you, your products or your services, what search terms do they tend to use?
  • When it comes to better understanding your company, where do consumers go to learn more?
  • Do you have a social media presence?

By answering these questions, a marketer can develop insight into the various available touch points, and then begin the process of developing a digital content marketing strategy.

The Funnel Stages

The current circular funnel, or consumer-decision journey, as popularized by McKinsey & Company, has roughly four stages: initial consideration, evaluation, the purchase, and the critical post-purchase experience. So, when developing a strategy, a company needs to address awareness, or initial consideration, first.


Awareness. How will you, as a company, stand out from the crowd, and prove to your audience that your product or service is truly unique? It’s up to you to convince them. Building trust, grabbing consumers’ attention, and educating them about your offerings is critical in this stage.

According to McKinsey & Company, two-thirds of the key touch points relate to “consumer-driven marketing activities.” In other words, reviews (blog or E-commerce related), social media conversations and verbal referrals are critical for driving awareness.

So, consider the following efforts:

  • Target valuable search keywords and craft SEO content that’s highly shareable and easy for search engines to find.
  • Promote social media discussions by sharing or promoting Tweets and Facebook posts.
  • Encourage feedback from consumers so you can determine what they want.
  • Craft easy-to-share content like infographics, blog posts or top-ten lists that highlight the usefulness of your products or services.  

By executing these efforts, you’ll entertain consumers, provide useful information and also showcase your overall value.

Related Article: The Full-Time Funnel: Improving B2B Lead Nurturing with Marketing Automation


Interest. Now that you’ve increased awareness, it’s time to enter the evaluation stage and prove your value to your audience. As a company, your role is to solve whatever issue or dilemma your audience might have. At this point, you need to ask: what kinds of content can I create that will encourage my audience to come to me for answers or support?

In order to determine that, use the information you gleaned when researching your audience to create content that addresses their needs. In short, create content that delivers solutions.

  • Craft case studies, newsletters or other forms of information-dense content that highlights your company’s overall worth and provides solutions.
  • Consider crafting a regular email blast, featuring shareable content like blog posts or infographics, to consistently engage your audience.
  • Use sharable tools, like eBooks, to provide valuable and practical information to consumers. For example, if your business specializes in designing websites, then you can release an eBook that features foolproof website-building tips.

Remember, with the middle-of-the-funnel, it’s critical to offer the audience information or data that’s not only useful, but also helps to differentiate your company from other brands.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Use Marketing Automation to Boost Leads and Conversions


Purchase. You’ve increased online awareness, and you’ve convinced your potential consumers that you’re worthy of their time. Because consumers tend to do their own research, you’ve generated enough online conversations (via social media) and offered plenty of resources (like white papers and eBooks) to help sway consumers during the evaluation process.

Now they’ve made a decision, and they’re going with your company.  In the traditional funnel model, this stage would end with brand loyalty, the consumer bought a product, and now they’re hooked. But the so-called post-purchase experience point is something that the traditional model never considered.

According to McKinsey & Company, more than 60 percent of facial skincare product consumers will head online for additional research after they make a purchase.

They might check other customers’ reviews, seek out the opinions of friends on social media, or they may read a few articles to learn more about the company that they just purchased from. At this stage, it’s critical for a company to reinforce this fledgling relationship. You can help support this relationship by:

  • Posting testimonials from customers online or to social media.
  • Encourage noteworthy bloggers to review your products, and if they enjoy the products, share their reviews on your social media accounts.
  • Send promotions via email or create a rewards program for loyal customers. Or share unique developments within the company, like efforts to become sustainable, with the audience consistently.
  • Encourage consumers to share their thoughts about your products with you or with their friends via social media.

By reinforcing the relationship, you’ll help to generate loyalty and awareness, which leads back to the beginning of the funnel.

The idea of the marketing funnel has changed dramatically, but the underlying concept has remained relatively unchanged: companies have to utilize touch points, in this case digital touch points, to capture leads and generate sales.

By increasing online awareness, providing enough useful information to help consumers in the evaluation process, establishing trust, creating content to help your audience solve a problem and building loyal brand advocates, a marketer will be able to convert leads into crucial sales.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Clayton Dean
Clayton Dean Member
Clayton is the Co-Founder, President, and COO of Circa Interactive, a digital marketing agency specializing in higher education. He is also the Director of Marketing Operations at Indigenous, an all-in-one website platform geared toward small businesses and the Co-Owner of Helm's Brewery Co. Outside of work, Clayton is an active board member of two San Diego non-profit organizations.