Marketing Funnels vs Customer Journey Maps: What You Should Know

Marketing funnel and customer journey are similar ideas, but they actually mean different things and should not be used interchangeably.


You've probably heard business people and marketers mention 'marketing funnel', and you might even have an idea of what it looks like—a classic funnel.

The idea of a marketing funnel — or sales funnel — is that it represents how customers move through the buyer's journey when interacting with your company, visualized in the form of a funnel.

At the top of the funnel are a whole bunch of leads who have their first interaction with your business in different ways: some may accidentally happen upon you; some may be referred; others are just in the information gathering phase.

Irrespective of how the leads made their first interaction with your business, the idea is that they move down and through the marketing funnel, gathering more information and having more touchpoints.

Some of the leads fall off the funnel and don’t convert to customers (which is why the funnel gets narrower at the bottom), but some of them stay the course and eventually convert into buyers and complete a purchase.


So, how does the marketing funnel differ from the customer journey map?


Marketing Funnel vs. Customer Journey Map: How They Differ


Marketing funnels and customer journeys are two buzzwords with very similar ideas, but they should not be used interchangeably because they actually mean different things.

The marketing funnel, as already explained above, is a model of marketing or sales process that's visualized from a company’s point of view. Leads start at the top of the funnel and as they learn more about your business they move downwards to the bottom of the funnel where they make a purchase.

The customer journey map, on the other hand, is a diagram that represents the customer’s actual journey from lead to customer. It is a visual storyline of every engagement, interaction, and all the steps customers followed from first interaction with your business to making a purchase. 

While marketing funnels are presented as linear, this is a generalized representation that is simplified out of necessity, tracing only the most straightforward path a lead can take from awareness to sale.  

The customer’s real journey from lead to customer, however, is rarely so simple or linear, which means that you shouldn’t rely soley on your marketing funnel alone for actionable sales insight.

The customer journey is a map of the actual route a customer takes from the time they first encounter your brand to the time they make a purchase, which can deviate from a company's prepared marketing funnel. And that's the primary way the two marketing buzzwords differ.

Since marketng funnels and customer journey maps are related and differ only slightly, using the two marketing tools in tandem with each other is a powerful way to not only tailor your marketing materials to the right leads, but also target the right audience and create a smoother, more seamless path for purchase.


Tips to Create & Use Marketing Funnels vs Customer Journey Maps - Infographic


The marketing funnel and customer journey maps can be used in complementary ways. For example, you can use a marketing funnel to design the right kind of assistance and support that leads likely will need beforehand, and use customer journey maps to answer the specific important questions and pain points customers actually face along the buyer’s journey for a more efficient lead nurturing process and better customer experience.

Check out the infographic below from Salesforces to learn more about customer journey maps and the marketing funnel, and how to use them. Both are valuable tools to have in your marketing arsenal.


Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword research to recovering from Google Algorithm updates and changes. She writes on the side as a freelancer and works as the Marketing Manager for a Travel Company, Discover Corps, full-time.