The marketing funnel: one of the many tenets in marketing that every marketer becomes all too familiar with from inception. Like a fishnet casts a wide net across waters brimming with sea life, the top of the funnel represents the widest point of entry into this proverbial funnel, with the idea that bringing in as many leads and prospective customers as possible, will naturally push them down. The closer they get to the bottom of the funnel, the higher the chances of conversion happening are – whatever that conversion looks like (a sale, a download, an email address, etc.)

It’s a weathered concept. Established by an advertising agency executive, Elias St. Elmo Lewis, in 1898, the funnel represents different levels of cognition purchasers go through as they move through the decision-making process. This model is referred to as AIDA: Awareness (top of the funnel), Interest (top middle), Desire (bottom middle), and finally, Action (bottom of the funnel).

Image by John Conde from Pixabay 

The Customer Journey aka “The Messy Middle”

Fast forward a century and some odd years later, marketers are coming to terms with the now evident truth: the path to purchase is anything but linear. In fact, it’s as frenzied as they come. Recently described as the “the messy middle” in an article published by Google Think, titled “How people decide what to buy lies in the ‘messy middle’ of the purchase journey,” it is particularly relevant when describing how the pandemic has altered consumer behavior. Data scientist Christopher Penn refers to this messy middle in a much more romanticized way; he refers to it as the Customer Journey. Both descriptors are accurate. Per the aforementioned Google Think publication:

“We know that what happens between trigger and purchase decision-making is not linear. We know there is a complicated web of touchpoints that differs from person to person. What is less clear however, is how shoppers process all of the information and choice they discover along the way. And what is critical, what we set out to understand with this new research, is how that process influences what people ultimately decide to buy.”

– via Google Think

Christopher Penn further makes the point that:

“Funnels are for marketers at the expense of customers,

Journeys are for customers at the expense of marketers.”

In discussing this journey, Christopher maps out four steps:

  1. Trigger that sets off the initial consideration: customers are exposed to several brands and begin consideration
  2. Active Evaluation: pros and cons of each brand are weighed against each other
  3. Moment of Purchase: the customer selects a brand
  4. Post-purchase Experience: customer evaluates the entirety of their experience which will inform a possible next purchase

To help customers down this path, Christopher encourages marketers to follow the data. Just as he describes the Customer Journey as a pathway, becoming data-driven is the same. To be more specific, he encourages the use of a “Data-Driven Customer Journey.”

As we wrap our heads around this journey, it’s important to remember the psychology driving consumer behavior, in its full complexity and expansiveness. To help would-be customers embark on this journey, marketers need to learn and apply the art of persuasion along the way. This is where the six principles of persuasion play a pivotal role. 

Photo by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash


Concept: People feel obligated to give back to others who have given to them.

One podcast that I absolutely love listening to, “The Digital Marketing Podcast,” provides a ton of free content both on their website,, and through their podcast. If you want to learn more, you can sign up for their website – so they’ll get a little more information from me (zero party data) in exchange of more content.


Concept: Fear Of Missing Out – FOMO – people want more of those things that they can have less of.

There are many classic examples of this, from countdowns on websites during Cyber Monday (4 hours left to buy!) to booking hotels or airlines online (1 master suite left! / 3 seats left!). The idea that if you don’t take action, you will miss out – well, that’s a very powerful force, especially in the age of internet connectivity where most people are driven by the idea of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ Most also certainly don’t like to lose out on a good deal.


 Concept: People follow the lead of credible and knowledgeable experts. 

Although the following example also falls in line with the celebrity endorsement, it also speaks to the success of this brand due to the authority of this particular person. And that would be Michael Jordan’s Nike partnership. People purchased (and continue to purchase) Air Jordans because the authority in the sport of basketball – the greatest player of all time himself (arguably, according to myself) – wore the shoes during games, said a lot about the quality of the shoes. If Michael Jordan uses them while dunking the ball, then the shoes must be amazing. And of course, we all want to be “like Mike.”


Concept: Asking for small initial commitments that can be made.

This one hits close to home. As an SEO at the toy company Jazwares, I am constantly on the hunt for marketing templates that cover the gamut: from content marketing templates to SEO dashboard templates. And how do I get these online for free? I get hooked on an article explaining how to use a particular spreadsheet and the amazing benefits of it, and then they ask me for my email address and a few other bits of information before I can download it. It’s a trick that always works.


 Concept: People prefer to say yes to those that they like

The most effective sales people are typically the ones that excel at this: you are most likely to make a purchase from someone who you enjoy speaking with, someone that you like. If they excel at small talk, and they hook you in, the chances that you’ll close a sale with them skyrocket.


Concept: People will look to the action and behavior of others to determine their own

These are just a few examples on how to perfect the art of persuasion. To help drive customers down the funnel – or through the Customer Journey – we must be able to convince them that it’s a path worth making, and learning the psychology behind consumer behavior and how purchase decisions are classically made, is one way to help you get there.