Consumer Decision Journey

Most Start-ups, often forget about the decision-making process involved in purchasing. They develop their Marketing Strategies thinking that customers are always ready to buy. The reality is different.

Developing Marketing Strategies with this idea in mind can be very dangerous. All leads are not created equal. Some have just discovered your products while others are ready to buy. We have to treat all of them differently.

Yet, some funnels are not optimized for this kind of parameter. This article gives you an overview of how to design your Conversion Funnel & Marketing Strategies in order to effectively reach customers and to convert them easily.

You don’t use it?

Think about it for one second. When you make a purchase, you go through many different steps. Depending on the duration of the Sales Funnel, you don’t just end up looking for a product and buying it just because it pleases you. You start by “suffering from a need”, look & compare solutions, and finally, make your decision.

Not integrating this kind of framework inside your Marketing Strategies can significantly lower your ROI. In order to be effective, you have to consider Customers as Individuals. Customers that just discovered the solution, are not as ready to buy as others, you have to consider them differently.

Considering all consumers equal, whatever step they are in, can result in a very ineffective marketing. You develop strategies that don’t fit their state of mind. They’re not yet ready to buy. Don’t send them discounts. Try to create a real connection with them.

Your Marketing Actions will lead to no Result. You won’t have as many customers as you could. They’re just too broadly targeted, your message doesn’t resonate and appeal to them.

Thinking that all Customers are on the same wave length, can really hurt your business. All customers are different. They’re individuals. Target each of them individually and treat them according to their position in the funnel.

The Old Approach

Before buying, Customers go through numerous steps. One framework that simplify this process, generalize Consumers into 4 steps. They go from not knowing your product, to purchasing it.

Awareness: Consumers don’t know yet about your product. They may not even be aware that they have a problem. They discover your products through one way or another. They know your brand.

Consideration: they start by looking at all the parameters behind your offering. They look for information wherever they can. They now think your offer can fulfil their needs.

Preference / Intent: they looked for information and contenders, they are now ready to make their decision. They have all the required information and evaluated the pros and cons of all the possible solution. They prefer one solution over another.

Purchase: they are purchasing your product. You can now edit an Invoice and count the cash in your bank account. They fully understand what you are selling, you add value. They are customers!

What about this “Old Approach”?

This model has firstly been developed in the early 20th century. Quite a long time ago… Although it has a lot of weaknesses, plenty of companies continue to use it.


Marketing evolved a lot during this time. Actually, there is almost no similarities between nowadays Marketing and this “old” Marketing. So why should we use the same model? It still work, but it doesn’t take into account all the particularities of current marketing practices.

This approach is only designed to take into account the pre-purchase decision process. However, Marketing doesn’t end there. We have to design the experience while people use the product. We have to encourage them to purchase again.

New approaches have been designed in order to resolve those issues. Approaches allowing us to create recurring purchase and to encourage loyalty.

The New Approach

Marketing has evolved a lot during the last few decades. Customers evolved as well and their Buying Decision Process with it. Marketing consultants, like Forrester and McKinsey designed new approaches to the Customer Buying Decision Process.

From McKinsey, this new approach states that Customers go through 4 steps:


Initial-consideration set: Customers consider one set of potential brands that could fulfil their needs. They already hear about it from various sources and are able to cite names.

Active evaluation: they now evaluate all the possibilities and the pros & cons of each options. They basically reduce the list of “potential brands” to a minimum.

Moment of Purchase: they decide to go for one specific brand and actually execute their purchase. They’re now your Customers.

Post-purchase experience: they’re using your product for a while. They experience various emotions & feelings about your brand & product.

Forrester also described their own approach, the Customer Life Cycle. I recommend you to read a bit about it and to choose the model that best suits you.

For this article, I’m now only going to talk about McKinsey’s model. I think it’s easier to understand than Forrester’s.


Consumers may go through those 5 steps in a few seconds. If you’re shopping in a mall, you can discover a new shop, buy one new pair of jeans in a few seconds. You are going through all the steps extremely fast.


On another industry, people can go through all those steps in several months. Think about your product & your customers, how are they likely to purchase it? Is it a must-have product, solving a real critical business problem?

Some Sales Cycle can last for a few seconds. Other last for months. Don’t make the mistake that people will necessary buy in a few minutes.


Initial Consideration Set

Reach them through Inbound Marketing or any other way. They have to know you offer before they start considering options. You’ll therefore go through the following step and being considered during their buying decision.


Collect their email with free added value. Without their email, you can’t really reach them. With their email, you can send them free resources they’ll look at and enjoy. Those resources will start to create a relationship with consumers.

Active Evaluation

Customers now consider your offer. They have a need for this kind of service. They want to learn more about your service, they’re interested. They are Prospects / Leads.


Since you acquired their email during the first phase, you should continue using this asset and send them great content. Make use of strong Lead Nurturing in order to make them jump to the Purchase.

Contact them often. Emphasise your competitive advantage. Show how you differentiate from others. They should choose you because you’re better than competition. Show them how.

Don’t loose customer at this step from a lack of follow-up. They’re hot prospect right now. Don’t miss on the opportunity of loosing customers from laziness.

Moment of Purchase

Consumers now choose your offer. You won the battle. They’re now paying customers. It’s only the first step in your journey, so continue to take care of them.


Reduce friction inside the process. Purchasing should be easy. Don’t ask for too much information. Reduce the process to the minimum.

Right now, after their purchase, they are in a momentum. They’re like children in front of a new toy. Use this momentum to your advantage. You can ask them to refer you to a friend, follow you on Twitter, Facebook…

To be successful at this step, make it easy to buy. Take advantage of their momentum in order to build a relationship with them that you’ll nurture over time.


After the Purchase, Customers will start to use your product. They will experience your whole offering. Plenty of feelings will come along this experience. Make sure to delight them in order to keep them as customers for the longest possible.


Don’t hesitate to contact customers personally. Discover who they are. How they enjoy your product. How you can help them to take the full advantage of your product.

Survey them. Ask for Testimonials. Recommendations. They’re very likely to help you to build a better software since they can also benefit from it. Try to be close to them and create a genuine relationship.

Loyalty Loop

Depending on the post-purchase experience, customers may, or may not, decide to purchase again from you. This is why you need to make the most of the purchase phase.


If they still have the need and you did your work carefully during the Purchase phase. They’ll want to buy again from you. They don’t even want to go elsewhere because of your relationship with them.

This is very powerful as you could use your existing customer in order to bring more leads & prospects. Although you would still need to focus on Acquiring more customers. Retaining existing ones is generally cheaper.


Triggers are events that make Customer go through one step to another. They go from Initial Consideration Set to Active Evaluation after a trigger has occurred.

Screenshot 2014-05-21 18.49.08

Triggers are very important to take into consideration while designing your strategies. You could design Triggers for your specific Customers in order to make them purchase your product.

Let’s take an example. You now have your old Macbook since 2006. You think it lacks performance. Apple is sending you a message regarding their brand new Macbook pro emphasising on its performance. They have triggered the need for you to buying this Macbook.


Marketing Strategies

To rightfully implement this model, you have to integrate it inside your overall strategy. It’s even better if you can use it to craft your company’s DNA.

Design Marketing Message that appeal to Consumers depending on their state of mind.

Use the right channels in order to target users depending on where they are. You don’t reach people who don’t have a need, the same way you reach existing customers.

Promotion is a very important piece of all Marketing Strategies. Use them effectively to encourage users to pursue your relationship together and to purchase your product. Again, and again.


After fully read the article, I thought it missed some practical and concrete guidance to help you move the needle. So I decided to add this paragraph to give you some precise and clear points into the implementation of the framework. Keep in mind that there are many other ways to implement it.


Most start-ups build their websites with others in mind. They design the experience as they see it. They almost copy others, thinking they’ll be as successful as the one they’re copying.

Screenshot 2014-05-19 23.39.43

The main issue is that Customers may not be as used to hear from Basecamp as they’re used to hear from your service. Branding. And there is plenty of other issues.

Your website – your main store front – has to be fully integrated inside your Marketing Strategy. Meaning that, best practices may not apply to your own business. Design your website by keeping in mind your customers and their position on the Decision Journey.

Many website only features macro-conversion (signup), however, Customers may not be ready to purchase on their first visit. Setting up micro-conversion (lighter conversion, like newsletter), allow you to keep the relationship going.

Touch Point

Your sales cycle may be comprised of many touch-point. Selling software follow a true cycle. Even more in B2B, more and more customers need to be contacted personally in order to close the sell.

Here is a non exhaustive list of possible touch-points:

  • Email
  • White paper
  • Webinar
  • Meeting

Designing the wrong touch-point can harm your business. One bad touch-point could be to send discount to your user before they even signup. If users are not ready to buy, there is just no reason to send them discounts.


Keep in mind the stage users are at. When people just signed up, send them more information. When they purchase, send them tips & tricks of how to get the most out of your product…


Keep in mind this model while designing your Strategy & Company’s DNA. You’ll therefore ensure that you’re rightfully targeting consumers depending on where they are towards buying.

Never forget that Customers go through steps while buying products. Your main aim should be to delight them, explaining your offerings and making the purchase easy. After all, you’re fulfilling their needs, it should be easy to sell…

Develop your Marketing Message according to their state. Don’t send discounts to people who don’t know you. Show them how your solution can help them solve their problems.

Finally, keep this model in mind. It’s very helpful while designing Strategies & crafting the Marketing Message. Always try to mimic customers and understand them. Without understanding customers clearly, you’ll struggle to get your solution out there.

Pierre Lechelle

I help Marketing and Sales leaders to better align to maximize efficiency and drive growth.

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