Customer Journey

The customer journey is the term used to describe the different stages and actions a customer takes as they develop a desire or problem, and pursue filling that desire or addressing their problem.

At almost every stage, there are opportunities for you and your business to do something that improves the chance that your target customer will choose to go with YOU, to get what they want.

Part 1: Customer Journey Overview

So, what is the customer journey and how will that help my business?

The customer journey is the term used to describe the different stages and actions a customer takes as they develop a desire or problem, and pursue filling that desire or addressing their problem.

At almost every stage, there are opportunities for you and your business to do something that improves the chance that your target customer will choose to go with YOU, to get what they want.

I’m going to provide a high level overview today, but at MLO this concept is central to all of our work, so I plan on going more in depth in the future.

So, what does a customer journey look like? There are several iterations floating around the internet but the basic outline we use looks like this:


  • Awareness – is the moment a person decides they have a need. It’s important to remember that this moment happens way before they step into your store or land on your website.
  • Interest – is when the person decides they’d like to investigate filling that need
  • Consideration – is the process of gathering and weighing options
  • Purchase – is the entire transaction experience – from getting in line (or not having to) to getting a receipt
  • Service – is everything involved in actually receiving the product or service
  • Loyalty Loop – which is either that the customer becomes loyal to you, or doesn’t

Here’s an example of what those steps look like in action:

It’s 7:30 AM, and Tom’s toilet is overflowing.
This is awareness – Tom is now aware that he has something that he wants – a working toilet.

In the Interest stage, we decide whether addressing our need is worth any effort. Tom moves quickly through this stage – totally worth effort.

Tom types “Toilet overflowing” into his phone.
Tom has moved into Consideration – he’s going to check out his options.
He skims the search engine results, glances at a blog and a video, then at his toilet, to see if they seem relevant and DIY-able.

Tom still needs to be at work this morning, so he searches “Plumber near me” and clicks the “Call” button for the plumber with the highest review rating – that’s all the consideration he needs.

Tom talks to reception and schedules service for ASAP, giving his information and getting an ETA, then does as much damage control as he can, including calling into work – Tom is through the Purchase stage now and is into the Service stage as soon as he gets off the phone

Tom is at home waiting for the service tech, and has rigged a system for draining his toilet into his shower.

The plumber arrives, shuts off the water, and fixes the toilet.

The price the plumber tells him is fine, but the plumber needs a check. Tom finally finds his checkbook, gets a receipt from the plumber, and leaves to go to work. He basically forgets it happened.

Because of how the service was handled, our plumbing company does not gain Tom’s loyalty. The next time Tom needs a plumber, he goes back to the start of the journey

So, that’s the customer journey. As your marketing company, we make it our job to consider the whole journey for you, and how we can improve it.

A few quick wins from this example might be:


  • Run simple awareness campaigns so Tom knows your company’s name
  • Make sure your receptionist knows to mention shutting off the water
  • Have a better payment system
  • Follow up with Tom after the service

Part 2: Awareness

This 1st stage of the journey means that I, as a consumer, have the feeling that something is missing. I now have a FELT NEED, as some people like to call it.

This morning, I was having coffee with a friend, and he told me that over the weekend his car didn’t start a few times and he thinks he needs a new battery.

My friend became aware of his problem.

A few more examples of awareness to problems might be:

  • Seeing that your basement is flooded
  • It’s almost almost tax time and you need to file
  • Your foot really, really hurts

So, that’s how you become “aware” of problems.

Basically, something PAINFUL is happening. The PAIN is what causes awareness.

Our bodies are incredibly good at this already – PAIN is something we’re familiar with as a signal that something is wrong, and the level of that pain usually gets us moving to solve the pain.

Quick aside:

The “PAIN” that we experience is usually NOT a “problem.”

Something I commonly see is companies deal with EITHER “The Pain”  OR “A Problem.”

Now, solving the PAIN usually doesn’t solve any deeper problems, and focusing on the deeper problems usually means that the pain might stick around for a long time.

Good doctors know that they need to deal with your headache, your pain, before they can have a longer talk about your caffeine addiction, one of your problems.

So how do we use this as a company?

We hold it as a general best practice that the way to reach customers at this point in the journey is to carefully consider these things, in this order:

  1. What solutions do I provide?
  2. What problems do those solutions solve?
  3. What is the felt pain that makes those problems obvious?
  4. What are the characteristics of the person that feels those pains?
  5. Where do those people spend their time?

Once you can answer those questions, you can craft a message that speaks directly to the PAIN of the customer, which is what they’re actually thinking about and will grab their attention.

**Another Quick Aside

You don’t always have to follow this layout. Sometimes it’s probably going to do really well to focus on creating hype, just having fun, or just getting your name OUT THERE. This is just one way, but we happen to think it’s a VERY GOOD way.

Okay, to speak to a pain,

we recommend showing that you understand what they’re feeling by asking them a direct question, like:

    1. Is your company missing revenue targets?
    2. Does your foot hurt?
    3. Is your basement flooded?

Don’t speak to “The problem” because;

  • You probably don’t know what the problem is
  • There is likely more than one problem
  • They probably don’t know what the problem is

Ok, so what if I’m selling something that doesn’t solve a problem?

So, there’s no such thing as something that doesn’t address a pain, but we have to expand our definitions of “problem” and “pain.”

  • Boredom is a pain.
  • Loneliness is a pain.
  • Hunger is a pain.

These things are happening all the time, they’re in everyone to a certain degree. So, think about those 5 things from a minute ago, in that same order. You’ll come up with basically the same layout.

Once you know where your audience is,

and what pain you should be speaking to, you’re ready to craft your message so it makes sense for the person, and the platform. That kind of message helps people move forward in the journey to actually solving their pain, and hopefully, solving it with you.

If you’re interested in talking more about the customer journey and how to utilize this concept in your business, give us a call. We love to talk about it.

Part 3: Interest

Part 3 of this series focuses on Interest, what it is, when it happens, and how to think about when your customers experience that moment, so you can be there when they do.

This stage is easy to overlook but it’s perhaps the most important part of the journey for most people. It’s where most potential buyers get stuck, so catching people here with JUST the right product, message, or price, can move them straight to purchase without consideration for any other vendor or option, and of course being the only product considered is an incredible competitive advantage.

Now, here’s what the interest stage looks like:

Story of Samantha’s Mom’s bathroom

My mother in law has a beautiful home that she takes great care of. They renovated one of the bathrooms last year, and recently she noticed some water on the wall around the new tile. (There’s the pain) She knows she needs to have it inspected, but she hasn’t called anyone yet.

The hesitating time between realizing what your pain or desire is and actually going to work gathering options to meet your needs, is the Interest stage.

How long this goes on is directly correlated to the story in our heads about how much moving forward will cost us vs how strong the pain or desire is.

If you touch a VERY hot cup, the pain from your fingers will make you VERY interested in NOT feeling that, and you’ll probably overcome any fear you have of dropping the cup or spilling the drink, in favor of pulling your hand away. Even though there’s a price to pay for letting go, the pain is so significant that it doesn’t matter.

In a lot of sales training, we’re told that this hesitating time and the reasons people give us for not taking the next step are called obstacles or objections, and we’re taught how to get around them, which is an ever changing process of dozens of possible scenarios.

I say there are 2 core reasons for hesitation. The first is disinterest, and the other is fear. 

If you’re interested enough in something, you’ll overcome the fear. Rarely are we so afraid of being late that we’re not willing to spend a few extra minutes watching one more youtube video or finishing our show or changing our shirt one more time. We’re more interested in what we’re doing than we are afraid of the consequences of not doing it.

So if disinterest seems simple enough to manage (try to offer people things they’ll be interested in, meaning solve their pains or fill their desires), then fear is the complicated one.

Alfred Hitchcock once said “Nothing is more frightening than a closed door.”

The objections people come up with look nothing like their fear. Fear is very good at hiding and finding other things to put in the way. Like the door – are you afraid of a door? Touching a doorknob? Opening a door? No, of course not. It feels silly to even ask those things.

You’re afraid of the unknown on the other side, and all the things fear has told you are waiting there.

Have you ever gone to ride a BIG roller coaster and looked up, and up, and up at it, and felt the butterflies in your gut churn up to tell you that…maybe the line was a little too long?

When you think of someone having a FEAR as the root of their objections, it can change the perspective (and methods) you approach with. 

For example, when you’re at the park and your friend is saying “I think the line is really long” 

You might go with the pragmatic approach and address the objection;

“What? The line isn’t that long…and the lines on all the rides are basically the same?”

Or you might say “Hey, it’s ok to be afraid of the ride. Want to tackle it or find something else?”

Remember my mother in law? Think she’s afraid of having someone come out to do a free inspection on the bathroom? Of course not. She’s afraid of what the inspection might REVEAL.

Full disclosure: I SUCK at doing that 2nd one. I’m a pragmatist, and it’s because I’ve failed to address the root of the objection SO MANY TIMES that I now know there’s more going on.

Here are some examples of fears people have:

  • This might hurt me.
  • I might get rejected.
  • This might not work and I’ve got limited resources.

Here are some objections people throw out there in place of those fears:

  • Price
  • Time/Convenience
  • Quality
  • Prestige/Status/Perception
  • Functionality

So, in order to help move a potential customer forward in the Interest stage, you really have two options:

  • Increase their Pain
  • Reduce their fear

That’s really what you need to know for the Interest stage. Further on we’ll talk about things we can DO to improve the customer journey in this stage.

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