Now that you know about customer journey maps, it's time to introduce a related concept: the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel, also called the sales funnel or conversion funnel, is an idea that's older than the Internet. In fact, marketers have used it for over a 100 years. If it's been around that long, it must be a pretty powerful tool. What is a marketing funnel, and how does it work? A marketing funnel is a visual representation of the process through which people go from first learning about a brand to becoming loyal customers. The funnel is wide at the top and narrows toward the bottom because a lot of potential customers will enter the top of the funnel, but only some of them will reach the bottom to become loyal customers. Of course, people will drop off at every stage in-between, so you want to make sure you're doing everything you can to keep them moving through the funnel. There are a lot of different versions of the marketing funnel, and you'll learn about a few of them later. Right now, I'm going to introduce you to a simple version of the funnel that has four stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty. At the top of the funnel is the awareness stage. This is when a potential customer encounters a brand for the first time, maybe from an ad or a recommendation. At this stage, the customer probably doesn't know enough about that company to form an opinion. They're just aware it exists. Awareness is the widest tier because even though a lot of people might know about a company, only some of them will think about doing business with them. That's why it's important to raise as much awareness as possible among target audiences. A target audience is the group of people most likely to purchase a company's products. They're the ones whose attention your digital marketing efforts should capture. Things start to narrow at the next stage: consideration. This is when some potential customers from the awareness stage start to think about doing business with a company. At this point, they could be actively browsing the website or comparing different brands, so making a good impression is key. Those who move beyond consideration go to the conversion stage. Conversion is when someone decides to make a purchase and become a customer. To increase the chances of conversion, businesses should demonstrate their value and provide a user-friendly experience. The last stage is loyalty. It takes a huge amount of effort to move potential customers from awareness to conversion. Once a customer completes a purchase, you want to give them reasons to return. Making current customers happy can increase trust and keep them coming back for years to come. If you're thinking that this all feels pretty similar to a customer journey map, you'd be right. Marketing funnels and journey maps are related concepts, and they're best when used together. Here's how they complement one another. First, you know that a journey map traces the customer's path to purchase along specific touchpoints. But a marketing funnel is part of a business's plan for moving customers along their journey. A journey map adopts the customer's perspective, but a funnel considers that same process from the position of the business. Second, the structure of a marketing funnel is simpler than a journey map. Customer journeys are complex because they demonstrate how customers might interact with the brand. Their paths to purchase are unique, and they can repeat or loop back on themselves. In contrast, the funnel is a linear model that breaks this journey into broad stages. It's not about how specific customers reach consideration or conversion but what a company can do to move lots of customers from one stage to the next. Remember the weather app example? Let's think about a few of the touchpoints our hypothetical customer encountered and how they might fit into a marketing funnel. The customer was reminded of the app by the online ad in search results, making these awareness activities. The trial membership could be a consideration offering since it helped the customer learn about the product. But it was the reminder email that finally got them to commit, so that's a conversion tactic. Funnels like this one help businesses focus their goals and marketing efforts, making their path from awareness to loyalty as smooth as possible. They drive engagement and make it more appealing for customers to do business with a company. When used together, journey maps and marketing funnels help marketers understand and serve their customers better than either can alone. Let's review: Along with customer journey maps, a marketing funnel is a powerful tool that allows businesses to focus and coordinate their marketing efforts. To get the most out of a funnel, they should try to optimize their work at each stage. From awareness to consideration, conversion, and loyalty, a carefully- planned funnel can help businesses succeed online. Coming up, we'll explore a few different versions of the marketing funnel and discuss how they evolve through e-commerce. Meet you there.