The Buyer’s Journey in Your Inbound Marketing Plan

By Scott Anderson Miller

The Buyers Journey is the next evolution from the product Purchase Funnel. Even the first word in this concept is revolutionary. Including the word buyer denotes a radical shift from product-based marketing to consumer-centric purchase paths. The term journey connotes a more thoughtful, deliberate movement over time than the mindless, gravitational free-fall suggested by funnel.

The concept of the Buyers’ Journey was coined by Hugh Macfarlane in his 2003 book, The Leaky Funnel. Mcfarlane’s model is characterized by:

  • Customer-centric selling

  • Sales and marketing units

  • Mapping and measuring your sales pipeline

  • Identifying and managing prospect leaking from the Buyer’s Journey

Following are some of the key Buyer’s Journey takeaways from The Leaky Funnel.

Hugh Macfarlane summarizes his original Leaky Funnel concept as follows:

The main idea that a sales funnel has a smooth progression from top to bottom and no leakage was a flawed metaphor. Is this just picky? Maybe, but the issue isn’t so much that some leak from your funnel, but what you do about that. For example, do all buyers leak from the same point in your funnel? Perhaps not. And do they leak at the same rate regardless of how they got there? Almost definitely not. And finally, the idea of ‘leakage’ from your funnel invites another kind of big question: “What do I do with the leaked buyers?”

The Leaky Funnel refers to a simple methodology for building your sales and marketing plan, and here’s the essence: Recognize that everything is about the buyer, not you (the seller). So, start by making your strategy buyer-centric. This means proceeding according to the following steps:

  1. Work out what problem you want to solve for buyers.

  2. Master solving that problem. Do your best to become the best in the world at solving it.

  3. Work out who most has that problem and make them your focus — even ignore all other buyers unless they show you they have this same problem.

  4. Work out the journey each individual buyer takes from hello to thank you.

  5. Figure out how many buyers need to move to each stage every month for you to meet your plan. (Ideally for three years, but you can cheat and make it shorter.)

  6. Choose your tactics so that they’re good enough to move those buyers at that rate through your funnel, and back into the funnel when they leak (as most will at some point).

  7. Measure progress. Don’t measure how many times you do something (send, call) but how many times the buyer moves (clicks, reads, downloads, calls).

Inbound marketing is designed to attract and reattract based on customer needs, rather than on a product’s features and benefits. The Leaky Funnel provides direction in planning your outcomes mathematically. This involves examining trend data of the percentages of prospective target customers that convert to customers and identifying those prospects that “leak,” or do not convert.

Understanding that not everyone is your customer is an important first step. And further, not everyone who fits your target customer profile is going to complete the entire journey down the purchase path. This is okay. It actually provides freedom to attract those most likely to buy, resulting in messaging clarity designed to attract those most likely to become your ideal customer.