In one of our recent blog articles we talked about the top challenges facing marketers in 2023. It included 24 different challenges marketers believe will haunt them as they sleep this year. However, the number one biggest challenge was catching the customer’s attention. Competition is stiff these days. Heck, go to the grocery store and see how many different types of hot sauce exist, or search online for alternatives to google analytics… the gist? The competition (no matter your industry) is insane right now.

To help you (the marketing genius you are) tackle catching your customer’s attention, we made a list of seven ways to differentiate yourself in marketing:


Seven ways to catch your customer’s attention with marketing.

Jump to:

  1. Create Eye-Catching Visuals (Creative)
  2. Offer Promotions or Discounts
  3. Leverage Influencer Marketing
  4. Personalize Everything
  5. Rely on Content Marketing
  6. Engage with Social Media Marketing
  7. Make use of Email Marketing


Now this list isn’t in a specific order (e.g. creative isn’t more important than email marketing). It’s more of a checklist of things. And a few might not apply to you (although I’d argue that regardless of your industry, I can make the case it will or should).

So, in the spirit of this list not being a ranking or prioritization, we’ll begin in reverse with email marketing.


Use email marketing to catch the attention of your customers

email marketing tips to gain customer's attentionThere are two main ways you can use email marketing: warm and cold.

– Warm email marketing are lists that you’ve naturally obtained through people giving you their email through newsletter sign-ups, promotional sign-ups, etc. They’ve willingly opted into communications with you. You usually manage these lists through third parties email platforms like Klaviyo or MailChimp.

– Cold email marketing is just like it sounds, cold email lists you’ve obtained through list acquisition services. This might be prospecting efforts where you specify a specific target audience and then send these prospects emails without them knowing they’re a part of your campaign to get more leads/sales.

You might be engaging in both tactics (a lot of companies do). Regardless, here are some details on how to make your email marketing campaigns stand out vs. the competition:

    • Include personalization – Addressing the recipient by name and tailoring the content of the email to their interests and preferences can help to make the message more relevant and engaging. One of my favorite things to due with email marketing is dynamically adjust the date. For instance if you’re asking someone to hop on the phone for an intro call, ask them to hop on the call 2 days from now with a dynamic tag that adds two days from the current working date.
    • Catchy subject lines – Using a subject line that is attention-grabbing and relevant to the content of the email can increase the likelihood that the recipient will open the email. This should be a no-brainer, but again, use this as a checklist for your efforts.
    • Provide compelling content – Creating content that is valuable and interesting to the recipient, such as exclusive discounts, new product announcements, or helpful tips and advice, can keep them engaged and interested in the business. The operable word being “value,” provide value!
    • Visuals – Including eye-catching visuals such as high-quality images and videos can make the email more visually appealing and increase engagement. I think only outlook blocks images anymore. So get a bit more creative with your emails while respecting common html coding practices.
    • Mobile optimization – Emails are read on a mobile device more than ever. Why do you think email templates are usually so skinny? Making sure that the email is optimized for mobile devices can ensure that it is easy to read and navigate, increasing the chances that the recipient will engage with the content.
    • Have a clear call-to-action – Including a clear and prominent call-to-action that encourages the recipient to take a specific action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter, can help to drive conversions. After all, what’s the point of your emails? Even in cold email sends, what the heck do you want the people to do?

Use this checklist as your minimum to stand out from the competition and catch the attention of your customers; increase engagement and drive conversions (and sales).


Utilize social media marketing to stand out vs. the competition

win at social media marketing to stand out against the competitionIt’s all about creating a unique, valuable, and engaging presence on social media. Try the following list at a minimum to achieve this:

    • Be Consistent – Consistently posting high-quality content that aligns with your brand message can help you build a strong and recognizable  identity on social media. For new brands or new accounts, we recommend posting 10-ish times a week with highly valuable content.
    • Have visual appeal – Using high-quality images and videos that are visually appealing can help you catch the attention of your target audience and encourage them to engage with your content. If you’re a b2b company, leverage LinkedIn’s file upload for PDFs (hint: it turns them into a slideshow and gives a little bit of extra attention on people’s timelines).
    • Be authentic – Being authentic and genuine in your social media presence can help you build trust and credibility with your audience. Build a community with long-term relationships and increased customer loyalty is important regardless of your niche or industry.
    • Engagement – This might be the hardest for smaller or newer accounts. Engaging with your followers by responding to comments and messages, asking for feedback, and running contests or giveaways can help you build a strong and loyal community on social media. It’s also hard and time consuming to do. Create your own perfect balance with this one (but reply to comments and likes at a minimum).
    • Influencer partnerships – Partnering with influencers who have a large following on social media can help you reach new audiences and build brand awareness. Some platforms like Instagram have great features for influencers and brands to work together on the platform.
    • Paid advertising – That leads to paying to get ahead of the competition. Utilizing paid advertising options such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, or Twitter Ads can help you target specific audiences and increase the reach of your social media marketing campaigns. Eventually we all hope your community grows and becomes your promotional arm on social. Until that starts happening, you might have to boost your posts with dinero.


Rely on content marketing to beat the competition

use content marketing vs. the competitionWhat does your customer need that neither you or your competition is providing (that content can help solve). Maybe it’s video tutorials on how to change out a part, or recipes to leverage your best product (ingredient)? No matter what it is, find it! For example, this article. This article is something for our clients to leverage. It’s a simple, valuable checklist for marketers to use to try and make sure their implementing (at a minimum). It’s not the greatest list ever created, but we think it will help people.

Content marketing is the research, the creation, and the amplification of content. And no, amplification doesn’t have to mean “paying for views.” To explain further, checkout this list of ways content marketing can help:

    • Establishing thought leadership – This is extremely crucial. How do you become the authority in your industry? By creating high-quality content that provides valuable information and insights to your audience! Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, this will help you build trust and credibility with your audience (which will lead to increased brand recognition).
    • Improving SEO – There are a lot of bad apples out there in the SEO agency world, but don’t be dissuaded. Optimizing your content correctly for search engines can improve your website’s search rankings, making it easier for potential customers to find your business when searching for relevant topics or keywords.
    • Building brand awareness – By creating content that is informative, engaging, and shareable, you can increase brand awareness and reach new audiences on social media (and other digital channels). Don’t know what that means (“other digital channels”), reach out and we’ll explain it (no charge, promise).
    • Providing value to customers – Seeing a trend yet? Maybe start by asking what will provide value that I can create? Then create content that provides it to your audience. We mentioned it in the opening paragraph; think tutorials, how-to guides, recipes, educational content… whatever. You can build stronger relationships with your customers and increase their loyalty to your brand by providing content of value.
    • Making better content that your competition has already created – This is my favorite thing to do. Take something ranking well by the competition and create it bigger and better. By creating unique and original content that showcases your brand’s personality and values, you can differentiate yourself from competitors.  Build higher quality, provide more value, and win the day.

By investing in content marketing, you can build a strong and loyal customer base that can drive growth.


How will personalization in marketing help a company stand out vs. the competition?

use personalized marketing to beat the competitionPersonalize everything. I really don’t need to make a list here (smiley face). Tailoring marketing messages and offers to specific customers can help your company stand out and make customers feel valued. Here’s a couple ways this helps you stand out:

    • Improved the customer experience: By tailoring your marketing messages and offers to the specific interests and preferences of your customers, you can create a more personalized and enjoyable experience for them. Think of specific life events your customers are going through. If you’re b2b, think about specific time/seasonal use cases instead. Doing so allows personalized messaging. Maybe you sell baby strollers, running promos in July and August with personalized messaging welcoming births would make sense right? As august is the leading month for babies being born every year. This level of personalization will not only increase satisfaction with your brand, but think about repeat purchasers, increased conversions, and authentic communications.
    • Increased engagement – By personalizing your marketing messages even with just demographic information (or first/last name) will increase the likelihood that your customers will engage with your brand and respond to your calls to action. Want to get advanced with it? Go down the quantcast route with psychographics information for advance personalization.
    • Better targeting – Speaking of demographics – by using data and analytics to better understand your customers, you can target your marketing efforts more effectively. And a lot of marketers are having problems with GA4 being too complicated, so check out alternatives to Google Analytics 4 to ensure your tracking continues later on this year. Reach the right people at the right time.
    • Have a review feedback funnel to increase loyalty: A major bi-product of personalization –  providing a personalized experience for your customers can build stronger relationships and increase their loyalty. You cared, they noticed, everyone wins. This is extremely important if your products that rely on reviews. I’m saying your customers care that you care about them, so make sure you’re asking for a review when the experience is positive.

Personalization can help your company stand out from the competition. Invest in personalization and your customer base will thank you (not to mention the long-term growth and success you’ll achieve).


Some influencer marketing tactics you can deploy to stand out versus the competition.

leverage influencer marketing to win vs. the competitionPartnering with influencers on social media can help businesses reach new audiences, drive conversions, and build brand awareness. You’re leveraging their pre-established communities that believe in their authenticity to drive your marketing efforts. Here is a checklist of tactics to consider to win-the-day against the competition:

    • Partner with niche influencers – Instead of partnering with influencers who have a large following but may not be relevant to your brand, consider partnering with influencers who have a smaller following but are highly influential in your niche or industry. These influencers are usually called micro or nano influencers. This can help you reach a more targeted audience and establish credibility with potential customers. This is extremely valuable with b2b influencer campaigns.
    • Develop long-term partnerships – Instead of working with influencers on a one-off basis, consider developing long-term partnerships. Grow together, create content together, synchronize your messaging together, and more. Create more engaging content and drive greater results with this type of marketing methodology.
    • Focus on storytelling – Name a brand that failed when they created wonderful storytelling that was engaging to their audience (and non-offensive)? Instead of simply promoting your products or services, work with influencers to create engaging and authentic stories that showcase your brand values and message.
    • Leverage user-generated content – This might feel “old-school,” however, encourage influencers to create user-generated content, such as reviews, tutorials, or how-to videos. More times than not, it helps showcase your brand in a more authentic and relatable way.

Influencer marketing tactics can help your company stand out from the competition (even in B2B marketing). If you can, invest in influencer marketing and spend some brain power thinking of creative ways you can leverage the power of influencers at every level. Trust me, they’re open to whatever craziness you come up with.


Offer promotions and discounts to beat your competition:

use promotions and discounts to stand outDo we need a list for this one? It’s pretty self-explanatory right?!?

    • If you’re competition offers 10% off, offer 11%!
    • If they’re offering “buy one, get one free,” offer bogo plus some loyalty points!
    • If they’re offering a free consultation, offer a free consultation and analysis!
    • Introduce “fear of missing out (FOMO)” with a limited time offer – e.g. buy a shirt, we’ll throw in a limited-edition hat with a rare creative we’ve never used before. If you provide a service, find where your margins can fit something custom.
    • Got a loyalty, affinity program? If not, why not?

The gist? Win if you need to beat your competition, Defend if you don’t. But since this is an article all about beating your competition for customer attention. Just win.


How to create eye-catching visuals (creative) to beat your competition for customer’s attention

use eye-catching visualsEye-catching visuals are those that are visually appealing and can quickly grab the attention of the viewer. They are designed to stand out and make an impact on the viewer, often using bright colors, bold typography, and striking imagery. This can be difficult sometimes in the confines of brand guidelines (or web styleguides), but usually working with your art or creative director for the brand, you can achieve some latitude to express differently for the sake and advertising.

Think of using unique creative in your advertising (of course), but also your social media posts, website design, and product packaging (or service information). Focus on creating the ultimate (positive) first impression. Attract attention to a product or service, and communicate key messages in a memorable way.



Why stand out vs. the competition using marketing as a tool?

In a world where people are constantly bombarded with marketing messages, these tips can help a business stand out and capture the attention of their target audience.

It’s all about winning-the-day, driving more conversions, and creating a high-level of return customers. Use this as a checklist of things to do at a minimum to stand out.


And as always, shoot us a message if you have any questions.



What are the top challenges marketers are facing (in 2023)?

We analyzed the top 10 google search result pages (SERPs) and ChatGPT Pro version to compile the top challenges marketers are dealing with in 2023. And you’d actually be surprised at just how bad Google’s search engine algorithm is (even in 2023 with Artificial Intelligence all the rage) as a lot of the results actually copy each other’s answers but their articles still manage to rank in the top 10 results.


Our approach to building the list.

The approach was two fold. First, we asked ChatGPT (paid version) what it though the top issues where plaguing marketers. And then we asked it again (to re-formulate it’s answer). Second, we google’d the phrase “top marketing challenges in/of 2023” and cataloged those results. We then took the list from each website and coded the answers (if needed). E.g. if the item was “Measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts,” we would count that as a point for analytics, KPIs, and data-driven strategy. Coding each list was necessary because one list might state “tomato,” when another states “to-ma-to.” They’re both talking about the same thing, but referencing it with different descriptors. After coding was complete, we tallied the number of references across all the lists to create an ultimate list in which we’ve shared below.


The downfall of Google search.

I mentioned it before, our easy-to-duplicate approach showed that a lot of the lists actually copied entries from each other, making it almost impossible to determine who the originating authors were. And we’re not talking “tomato” vs. “to-ma-to.” No, we mean word-for-word copies. E.g. “Leveraging my CRM to its fullest potential” vs. “Leveraging CRM to its fullest potential,” something the #3 search result and the #7 page shared in their list. Yet, regardless of the plagiarism by one of the pages on the other, these all came in the top 10 results. And after all these years of SEOs hearing duplication and plagiarism hurt organic ranking, all of these lists were ripping each other off and gaming Google.

But I digress, back to our attempt at gaming the system and creating the ultimate issues marketers are facing this year.


The Top 3 Challenges Facing Marketers:

The best three challenges all actually tied for the top three spots, making it easy to make this headline.

  1. fighting for customer's attention in marketingCompetition for customer attention: this is the challenge that marketers face in a crowded and noisy marketing environment where consumers are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information and advertising. With so many brands vying for a limited amount of time and attention, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to capture and retain the attention of their target audience. To succeed, marketers must create engaging and relevant content that stands out from the competition and resonates with their target audience. They must also find innovative ways to reach customers across multiple touchpoints and channels, and deliver a seamless and personalized customer experience. The competition for customer attention is a key challenge that marketers must overcome in order to achieve success in the digital age.
  2. Data-driven marketing strategy, analytics, and KPIs: this is the marketing approach that uses data and insights to inform and guide marketing decision-making. The goal of a data-driven marketing strategy is to make informed, evidence-based decisions that lead to more effective and efficient marketing outcomes. Marketers collect and analyze data from a variety of sources, including customer behavior, marketing campaign performance, and market trends, to gain insights into their target audience and the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. This data is then used to inform strategic decisions, such as determining which channels to target, which messages to communicate, and how to optimize marketing spend. A data-driven marketing strategy helps marketers make informed decisions, reduce waste, and achieve better marketing outcomes by leveraging the power of data and insights.
  3. Staying up-to-date on the latest trends & technology: means staying informed about the latest developments and advancements in the marketing industry. This involves continuously learning about new marketing tools, techniques, and platforms, as well as monitoring changes in consumer behavior and preferences. Marketers who stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technology are better equipped to make informed decisions, stay ahead of the competition, and deliver a more effective and efficient marketing experience to their target audience.


The Top 10 Challenges Facing Marketers:

We’ve started the first three, what about the top ten? There were 24 items between the top ten search result articles and chatGPT, here’s the top ten.

  1. Competition for customer attention.
  2. Data-driven marketing strategy, analytics, and KPIs.
  3. Staying up-to-date on the latest trends & technology.
  4. Data Privacy & Security in Marketing EffortsData privacy and security: in marketing refers to the protection of personal information collected and used by marketers for their campaigns and initiatives. As more and more consumer data is being collected and used for marketing purposes, it’s becoming increasingly important for marketers to ensure that this information is handled in an ethical and secure manner. This involves implementing measures to protect consumer data from unauthorized access, misuse, and theft, as well as ensuring that data is collected and used in compliance with relevant privacy laws and regulations.
  5. Personalization: we’ve heard about this one for the last fifteen years. Personalization in marketing refers to the customization of marketing messages, content, and experiences to meet the individual needs and preferences of each customer. The goal of personalization is to create a more relevant and engaging customer experience by delivering content and offers that are tailored to the specific interests and behaviors of each individual. Personalization can take many forms, such as personalized email campaigns, targeted advertising, and personalized product recommendations. By using data and insights about customers, marketers can create a more personal and meaningful relationship with each customer, increase engagement and conversions, and build customer loyalty. Personalization is becoming increasingly important in today’s competitive digital landscape, as consumers expect a more personalized and relevant experience from the brands they interact with.
  6. Hiring talent: is the issue in marketing referring to the difficulty that companies face in finding and attracting qualified candidates for marketing positions. In 2023 a major factor in finding talent is a shortage of skilled marketing professionals combined with the new, highly competitive job market since covid.
  7. Creating better and engaging content: the process of producing high-quality, relevant, and compelling content that resonates with the target audience. This can include a wide range of content formats, such as blog posts, videos, infographics, and social media posts. The goal of creating better and engaging content is to capture and retain the attention of the target audience, build brand awareness and trust, and drive conversions and sales. Effective content marketing requires a deep understanding of the target audience, a focus on delivering value and solving problems, and a commitment to continuous improvement and testing. By creating better and engaging content, marketers can differentiate their brand, establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry, and drive more meaningful and impactful marketing outcomes.
  8. Customer trust/social values in brands/maintaining brand consistency and authority: Maintaining consumer trust in marketing refers to the importance of building and maintaining a positive reputation and relationship with customers through transparent, ethical, and value-driven marketing practices. This involves being honest and transparent about the data collected and used for marketing purposes, delivering relevant and engaging content, and consistently providing a positive customer experience. Maintaining consumer trust is critical for building and sustaining long-term branding for companies. Brand authority in marketing refers to the perception of a brand as a credible, knowledgeable, and trustworthy source of information and products in its industry. A brand with strong authority is seen as a leader in its field and is able to command attention, influence customer behavior, and shape industry trends.
  9. Economy crashing, recession, or other major event: there’s no major definition in marketing for an economy crashing. Recession marketing refers to the strategies and tactics used by companies to market their products and services during an economic recession. During a recession, consumer spending typically decreases, and businesses face increased competition for a limited pool of resources. As a result, companies must adapt their marketing strategies to remain competitive and maintain their customer base.
  10. Generating Traffic/Leads: the process of attracting potential customers to a company’s website or other marketing channels and converting them into leads, or individuals who have shown interest in a product or service and provided their contact information for follow-up. The goal of generating traffic and leads is to increase the visibility and reach of a company’s marketing efforts, build relationships with potential customers, and ultimately drive sales and revenue.


Which results were from ChatGPT (AI) vs. blog articles (authors/people)?

So, is a robot better than a human in determining which challenges we’ll face in this year’s marketing landscape?

You be the judge!


ChatGPT (Pro/Paid Edition) list of marketing challenges for 2023:

Items in bold made the top ten list above.

First Pass:

  • Data privacy and security.
  • Competition for customer attention.
  • Data-driven marketing strategy, analytics, and KPIs.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Personalization.
  • Integration and collaboration.

Second Pass:

  • Privacy and personalization.
  • Competition for customer attention.
  • Managing cross-channel marketing.
  • Data-driven marketing strategy, analytics, and KPIs.
  • Staying up-to-date on the latest trends & technology.
  • Creating better and engaging content.
  • Customer trust/social values in brands/maintaining brand consistency and authority.


The full, compiled, and ranked list of challenges facing marketers:

A chart of the full list of marketing challenges marketers can expect in 2023Call it the full ranked (or prioritized) list that includes the percentage of which it was mentioned. The higher the percentage the more times articles mentioned it.

  1. Competition for customer attention (~9%).
  2. Data-driven marketing strategy, analytics, and KPIs (~9%).
  3. Staying up-to-date on the latest trends & technology (~9%).
  4. Data privacy and security (~8%).
  5. Personalization (~8%).
  6. Hiring Talent (~8%).
  7. Creating better and engaging content (~5%).
  8. Customer Trust/Brand Authority (~5%).
  9. Economy Crash/Recession/major event (~5%).
  10. Generating Traffic/Leads (~5%).
  11. Managing cross-channel marketing/multiple channels (~3%).
  12. Leveraging CRM systems (~3%).
  13. 3rd-party cookies and the impact to first-party customer data (~3%).
  14. Google’s Algorithm and the amount of changes (~3%).
  15. Managing cash flow or budget concerns (~3%).
  16. Artificial intelligence & machine learning (~1.5%).
  17. Organization of marketing efforts (~1.5%).
  18. Less invasive advertising (~1.5%).
  19. Growth of interactive (image/video) search (~1.5%).
  20. Short video marketing (~1.5%).
  21. Streaming platforms marketing strategy (~1.5%).
  22. Website  accessibility (~1.5%).
  23. Mobile-first marketing focus (~1.5%).
  24. Connecting with young generation (~1.5%).


Now what?

Which issues are you facing? Did the robot or “the people” summarize your marketing issues the best?

header - customer journey vs. buying stages: what's the difference

Lately, I’ve observed many marketers incorrectly discussing the customer journey using buying stage terms. Or visa-versa, describing consumer buying stages using customer journey lingo. And one can understand why there may be blurred lines.

customer journey vs. buying stagesFor example, as a consumer goes through the buying stages, some might call this a journey in decision making. Or as one describes a customer’s purchasing path, they might describe the customer as being involved in a buying stage. The terms can be interchangeable, however let’s clear up any confusion.

The customer journey describes the path a consumer will make toward a purchase, while buying stages describe the consumer decision-making process.


What are the customer buying stages?

The customer buying stages are theoretical framework(s) in marketing designed to describe a consumer’s decision-making process that lead them to a purchase.  
Also known as the ‘consumer buying process,’ or in business to business interactions – the buyer decision process.’

Are you talking about a a marketing funnel?

marketing funnel: the difference between buying stages and customer journeyYou may also hear words like marketing or purchasing funnels to describe this process. I think the visual of a funnel is a great representation for a customer’s purchase intent.

Yes, a marketing funnel, the consumer buying process, customer buying stages, and buyer decision process are all meant to represent the same concept; the decision-making process a customer goes through when procuring a product or service.

I am not talking about a sales funnel. A sales funnel is highly specific to each organization. Sure, there are some similarities, but a sales funnel really captures an operational procedure specific to that organization’s customers and nuance.


To understand the customer buying stages, let’s take a moment to explore what scholars consider to me our normal, human decision-making process.

“Decision making is the process of making choices by identifying a decision, gathering information, and assessing alternative resolutions.”

According to University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, there are seven steps in the decision-making process.

The Decision Making Process as described by Umass Dartmouth

Scholars believe this is the decision-making process we all should go through in order obtain the highest levels of success:

decision making process: buying a carStep 1: Identify the decision

Understand there’s a decision to be made in the first place. Let’s use the example of buying a new (or used car). Your new place of work is 20 miles away from your home, it’s time to stop relying on public transportation and procure a vehicle.

decision making process: optionsStep 2: Gather relevant information

Do your homework and consider your needs vs. wants. Which car(s) satisfy your need? Which dealership treats customers the best? Which car has the best consumer ratings? And more.


decision making process: alternativesStep 3: Identify the alternatives

Alternatives might come in many forms. Instead of a car, will the bus work? Or maybe a motorcycle? What about a bicycle?  The car body type, or level of luxury might be alternatives to consider. Identify them all.


decision making process: weight the evidenceStep 4: Weigh the evidence

Play the “What if…” game. If you got car A, what does that mean to your monthly budget? Does Car ‘B’ mean more funds for travelling vs. Car ‘C’? With a bicycle, will the time lost commuting to work be worth the monetary savings? Make a list, pros and cons, rankings, whatever makes the most sense to you.

Step 5: Choose among alternatives

decision making process: take actionMake a choice.

Step 6: Take action

It’s time to take action on your choice – in our example it’s time to buy a car, bike… or whatever your decision was.

Step 7: Review your decision & its consequences

It’s a day, week, or month later. Was the right choice made?

decision making process: analyze your choice


Now, not all decisions go through such a prescribed process.
If you need to use the restroom or buy a pack of gum, the process is much simpler; have a need or want and satisfy it.

A more involved decision could be anything. Should I get a dog? Do I want to save up for a trip to Fiji? Or should I get married?

[While] In marketing, the buying stages revolve around the decision to transact between parties.

Or put simply… the decision-making process we all go through when we purchase something.


What are the different buying stages’ methodologies?

Well, just like the decision to get a dog, go to the bathroom, or buy a car; there are varying levels in making any decision.

Since marketing’s inception, many folks have put together their own frameworks to try and explain this process – to get inside of the customer’s head. And some methodologies are very much similar to the scholarly definition of the decision-making process.

There are four buying stages’ approaches that generally encompass all the varying frameworks:


1.    ACID – buying stages’ approach

Step 1: Awareness –

Customer is aware they have a new need/want, a decision needs to be made.

Step 2: Consideration –

They are doing their homework, thinking of all the alternatives.

Step 3: Intent –

The customer may have entered the process believing product A was the right choice, and the intent may have stayed or changed during step 2 – either way, they’re ready for a purchase.

Step 4: Decision –

The customer is ready for a purchase and moves down the purchasing path.


Thoughts on ACID:

As you’ll see later, ACID might be the simplest framework. My biggest issue is the lack of follow-up and customer loyalty considerations.


2.    The Loyalty Loop – buying stages’ approach

Step 1: Initialize Consideration Set –

Imagine this as the first two steps of our scholarly decision-making process above.

Step 2: Active Evaluation –

Not only has the homework been done, the customer is actively evaluating the options. What does that mean? In our car example, a customer might test drive each car multiple.

Step 3: Make Purchase –

The customer may have entered the process believing product A was the right choice, and the intent may have stayed or changed during step 2 – either way, they’re ready for a purchase.

Step 4: Loyalty and Post-Purchase Behavior –

The customer is ready for a purchase and moves down the purchasing path.


Thoughts on The Loyalty Loop:

I like the emphasis on post purchase tracking and evaluation; the strong need to keep the customer for life. This considers the entire customer life cycle vs. other frameworks.

I also like the purchase phase is simple – sometimes these methodologies tend to exaggerate the purchase as two or three steps. Even if your buying a house, when it’s time to make the purchase, it’s time. I don’t believe most customers pine over the “intent” stage. NOTE: However, the intent stage is highly relevant in some industries. Think of Boeing’s latest disaster with the 737 Max, in a B2B environment, I might be holding formation in an intent or considering the alternatives phase.


3.    AIDA/R/A (AIDA + AIDARA) – buying stages’ approach

Step 1: Awareness –

Customer is aware they have a new need/want, a decision needs to be made.

Step 2: Interest –

I always liked to think of this step as the initial consideration set for a customer + the homework they’ll complete. E.g. Using our car example, a customer might understand Honda & Toyota vehicles as extremely long-lasting and dependable. Thus, they may do their homework starting with those two automobile manufacturers.

Step 3: Desire –

Similar to our scholarly decision-making process – weighing the evidence, and building a preference toward a purchase.

Step 4: Action –

This step is a combination of the “active evaluation” phase of the loyalty loop combined with the actual purchase. Again, think of the customer taking a test drive. They might fall in love with a Volkswagen and immediately purchase it, or be more patient and write a long list of pros and cons for each (to which a purchase is made after weighing the options).

Step 5: Retention –

AIDA (the first four steps here), are what most marketers learn in school as the classic “marketing funnel.” This step – Retention, was added later as marketers realized it’s cheaper to retain customers than to find new ones. Retention is exactly what it sounds like. The activities that keep customers with a specific product, service or brand. This could be a loyalty program (think of points in the grocery store), or in today’s high-quality-at-a-low-price-point type of market (thinks of Ross/T.J. Maxx/Nordstrom Rack vs. the dying Sears/K-Marts/JC Penney’s) where marketers spending a ton of time with product & place; think Ross tracking it’s customer movements through the store to maximize product layout/exposure.

Step 6: Advocacy –

Another step added to the AIDAR framework is advocacy. If we all agree that retention is extremely important, advocacy is paramount. Not only is it cheaper to keep customers vs. finding new ones, but if that customer turns into a brand ambassador your word-of-mouth marketing soars. A personal example for me is Fruit of the Loom. I wore FoTL boxer briefs for 36 years of my life, growing up I got all my brothers (6) to wear them, and occasionally throughout life the “…which underwear do you wear?” conversation came up and I always responded that Fruit boxer briefs were the best. However, some time ago they changed the product formula and new boxer briefs began falling apart after only a couple weeks. The shape and curvature also changed in the design and the underwear wore very uncomfortably.
I switched to Costco boxer briefs immediately. Advocate disappeared after 36 years.

And advocacy isn’t a simple formula. Whether you subscribe to the 4 marketing Ps (or 5, 6, 7), advocacy involves all stages in marketing to get right.


Thoughts on AIDARA:

I can’t emphasize steps 5 and 6 enough. Win an advocate and your sales can expand exponentially.

AIDARA is my go-to framework when putting together a client’s go-to-market plan or tactical plan.


4.    Job To Be Done (JTBD), aka “consumer buying process” – buying stages’ approach

Step 1: Problem Recognition –

This framework considers decisions and problems that need a solution as one in the same. E.g. I have a problem getting to my new job, a car might be a solution. The customer is aware they have a problem, time to figure it out.

Step 2: Information Search –

Like our scholarly definition, this is the homework phase.

Step 3: Evaluation –

Referencing our Loyalty Loop once again, this is very similar to the Active Evaluation step.

Step 4: Purchase –

The customer is ready for a purchase.

Step 5: Post-Purchase Evaluation –

This is more about understanding the customer’s post-purchase behavior. Did the purchase solve the originally identified problem? If so, and the satisfaction level was high you may have built a return customer (or better yet, an evangelist).


Thoughts on JTBD:

First all, you might not know this framework by the name “Job To Be Done.” Most know it as the sole consumer buying process. However, calling it the “consumer buying process” wouldn’t be 100% correct. Some marketers also add a sixth step to this framework for the purchasing decision (separating the decision from the action).

In the digital marketing world, this framework is used more than the rest. I use it while building client marketing strategies (digital or traditional) as I like the combined advocacy and retention step vs. AIDARA. If you google, “consumer buying process” or “customer buying stages” this framework is 90% of the results.



customer journey: what is it?What is a customer journey?

Now it’s time to talk about the customer journey.

The customer journey is the path (start to finish) the customer traverses to complete a transaction with a business. Think of it like the yellow brick road. Consumer’s travel along a path (whether it’s digital or physical) to purchase a product or service. And just like Dorothy, that path may be riddled with barriers along the way causing major friction or maybe even impeding them from completion.


Let’s start with a simple, retail example in the real world.

A customer needs milk.

They go through a quick decision-making process (the buying stages) and conclude the convenience store is where they should go. The customer grabs their keys and purse, hop in the car, and drive over to the convenience store.

customer journey: path start to finishThe customer gets to the store and soon discovers there are two different brands for a gallon of milk. This individual also makes note that the name brand milk is $2.59 / gallon, the generic brand milk is $1.99 / gallon.

And while the customer really wants a gallon of milk, they come to realize the generic brand, half-gallon milk is on sale for $0.75 / each.

The customer buys two, generic brand, half-gallon milk products and returns home.

If you’re a marketer for the generic brand of milk, this might be one of your customer journeys.


And you may have multiple customer journeys…

Path 1 might be physical, path 2 digital, path 3 word of mouth, etc. Or, they might all be digital with different origination points: direct (straight to a site), from amazon, from a complimentary site, from earned media, etc.

Mapping multiple customer journeys
Mapping multiple customer journeys


Customer Journey vs. Buying stages

Going through all these buying stages’ frameworks and what the customer journey is – you can understand why people combine (or mix) the two up.
customer journey and buying stages combinedAnd combining the customer journey along the decision-making process can be a very advantageous exercise.

As a customer moves through their journey, they may be going through their decision-making process at the exact same time.

E.g. Using our milk example, the customer may have decided it was just too expensive at the convenience store and drove across the street to the grocery store (another journey to consider).



What is customer journey mapping?

Whether you combine the two activities or leave them entirely disparate, mapping the customer journey is exactly as it sounds (and is displayed above).

Customer journey mapping is:

  1. Identifying the path(s) customers travel to purchase your product. This could be various marketing channels, physical routes, digital routes, complimentary routes, etc.
  2. Take each path and document the steps from start to finish. Think of our milk example, the customer needed milk, went to the convenience store, compared products, made purchase, returned home.
  3. Document customer pain points. Be sure to document pain points. Price, friction, anything that might inhibit a clean path to purchase


NOTE: There’s no right or wrong way to do this. One map might focus on the journey from social media to purchase, while another documents production to wholesale.


The Gist? Why do either of these concepts matter in marketing?


Imagine building out buying stages and discovering your product/brand isn’t in the consideration set (due to an issue you found in your research).

Or imagine discovering an entirely new customer journey where 20% of sales are coming from an external complimentary product (think of peanut butter and jelly).

Whether you combine the two activities into one or leave them disparate, these activities can save and/or make your organization a lot of money.


Tips for defining consumer buying stages.

  • Write the stages down on a piece of paper or whiteboard and just start filling them out – go off of your experience and intuition first. Map our what you think the customer is thinking and how deep that decision-making goes. Then objectively try to prove or disprove what is in front of you.
  • Use visual queues if you need to. If funnel imagery works for your brain, use that. If bullet lists work, go for it. There’s no right or wrong way.
  • Should I combine this with my customer journey(s)?
    1. I like to keep these two activities separate. Why? While I do find value occasionally in the combination of the two, 9 times out of 10 you’ll have multiple customer journeys to consider. Defining a customer’s decision-making process for your product doesn’t usually change depending on the avenue of consumption. You may end up with 3 distinct customer journeys and they all went through the same buying stages. It’s redundant to document the stages over and over again.

Tips for documenting the customer journey.

  1. Keep it simple stupid (KISS). E.g. Don’t document the 800 micro steps that a potential customer takes to get into their car and drive to your location. Just state “consumer drives from home to store,” I think everyone understands this statement.
  2. Any point of friction needs extra work. Really try to understand where the friction is and why it’s happening (then you and/or your team can work to fix).



Q&A: Customer Journey vs. Buying Stages


1. How can businesses use data analytics to optimize each stage of the customer journey?

Businesses can use data analytics to gain valuable insights into consumer behavior at every stage of the purchasing process. 

Companies can identify patterns and trends that inform decision-making by analyzing data from various touchpoints.

Some examples: 

A) During the awareness stage, businesses can analyze website traffic data to understand what content attracts visitors. 

B) In the consideration stage, tracking engagement metrics on product pages can reveal which features are most appealing to potential customers. 

C) And in the decision stage, examining conversion rates can help optimize the checkout process.

Use Google Analytics to monitor your website performance and customer interactions. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems such as Hubspot or Salesforce can track customer interactions and sales data, providing a holistic view of the customer’s path. Advanced analytics techniques, including predictive modeling and machine learning, can forecast customer behavior and preferences, enabling more personalized marketing strategies.

According to a McKinsey report, companies that leverage customer behavior insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth and more than 25% in gross margin.


2. What are some successful case studies of companies mapping and improving their customer journeys?

Several companies have successfully mapped and improved their customer experiences, leading to significant business benefits. 

A) One notable example is Amazon. Amazon continually refines its customer engagement strategies by utilizing advanced data analytics and customer feedback. Their recommendation engine, which suggests products based on past purchases and browsing history, significantly enhances the buying experience and boosts sales.

B) Another example is Disney, which has perfected its customer engagement strategies across its parks and resorts. By employing data analytics and mobile technology, Disney created the MagicBand system, a wearable device streamlining park access, ride reservations, and payment methods. This innovation improved operational efficiency and enhanced the overall visitor experience.

These case studies illustrate the importance of continuously gathering and analyzing customer data to refine and improve engagement strategies. 

According to a Forrester report, companies that prioritize customer experience see x1.6 times higher brand awareness and 1.4 times higher customer satisfaction rates.


3. How does customer journey mapping differ in B2B versus B2C markets?

Customer experience mapping in B2B markets is typically more complex than in B2C markets due to the longer sales cycles and the involvement of multiple decision-makers. 

In B2B scenarios, the process often involves several stakeholders, including procurement, management, and end-users, each with different needs and pain points. Consequently, B2B companies must create detailed maps for various touchpoints and interactions throughout the sales process.

In contrast, B2C customer mapping is generally more straightforward, focusing on individual consumer behavior. B2C mapping emphasizes quick, seamless transactions and immediate satisfaction. The stages typically include awareness, consideration, purchase, and post-purchase, emphasizing emotional engagement and brand loyalty.

According to a study by Gartner, B2B buying cycles have increased by 22% over the past five years due to the growing number of stakeholders involved. This underscores the need for B2B companies to adopt a more nuanced approach to mapping and managing customer experiences.


4. How do emerging technologies like AI and machine learning impact customer journey mapping?

Emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning transform how businesses map and manage customer experiences. AI can process vast amounts of data quickly, accurately identifying patterns and predicting future behaviors. Machine learning algorithms can analyze customer interactions in real time, providing personalized recommendations and offers based on individual preferences and behaviors.

For example, AI-powered chatbots can enhance customer service by providing instant responses to queries, improving customer satisfaction. 

Machine learning can also more effectively segment customers, tailoring marketing efforts to specific groups based on predicted needs and behaviors.

According to a report by Deloitte, companies using AI for customer analytics can complete up to x10 times faster decision-making processes. This rapid analysis and response capability allows businesses to adapt quickly to changing customer needs, enhancing overall customer satisfaction and loyalty.




  1. McKinsey. (2020). “The Power of Insights: How Analytics Drives Customer-Centric Growth.”
  2. Forrester. (2019). “The Business Impact of Customer Experience, 2019.”
  3. Gartner. (2021). “The Growing Complexity of B2B Buying Cycles.”
  4. Deloitte. (2021). “AI and Machine Learning in Customer Analytics: Accelerating Decision-Making and Improving Outcomes.”

Depending on what point in the calendar year is an organization’s fiscal year, client-side leaders in charge of digital marketing efforts have already planned their future (2020) goals.

Goals Senior Digital Marketing Managers are focusing on

According to Altimeter’s recent Digital Marketing survey conducted Q2, 2019 that targeted senior marketers around the globe, here are the top 5 Digital Marketing Strategy Goals for the next year:

header - digital marketing goals in 2020


It’s all about Brand…

  1. Increase Brand Awareness and Brand Health – 37% / 100%

Brand, Brand, Brand, it’s all about brand. At ENDURANCE, we believe heavily in Digital + Brand. It’s reassuring that top marketers around the world agree.


Create New Prospects

  1. Increase number of new leads/customer prospects – 26% / 100%

This one feels a bit misleading to me. Doesn’t ever company whether an commodity company, service business, straight ecommerce, etc. all want to increase customers? We might want to dive into this goal a bit further in the future because #1 leads to #2 and #2 can live alone. 


Is Customer Experience a top digital Marketing goal for you?
Is Your Customer Experience the same online than it is in the store?

A unified Customer Experience

  1. Deliver a high quality, unified customer experience across all digital channels – 20% / 100%

This might seem easy and straight forward, however in larger organizations, many stakeholders have many agendas. One leader may want to invoke the speech of Abraham Lincoln in their marketing messaging, another Donald Trump. Unifying the experience no matter a customer is on a blog webpage or instagram story is harder than it sounds. 


Increase Product/Service Affinity

  1. Increase awareness and positive sentiment around new products – 13% / 100%

This is how companies grow. They expand service/product offerings, define the plethora of details in a marketing plan, and Go-To-Market with that plan. I’m surprised it’s actually not a higher priority! However, some organizations have product launch vs. product maintenance in different silos, so this might explain the low priority on this goal.


Take advantage of existing business

  1. Increase Business Revenue w/ existing customers – 5% / 100%

This is easier said than done, and a lot of times uneducated internal resources are leading the way on these marketing iniatives. As the study suggests, this may be an undiscovered opportunity for many companies. Especially if your agency isn’t help with these types of efforts – get them involved asap.


All done digital marketing goals of the future


Well there you have it!

Do these goals line up to yours? Do they line up to what your agencies are working on? Do your agencies have solidified mandates their driving toward?

Success and excellence in digital marketing is obtainable for all, and if you need help define what success looks like for you and your goals in FY2020?

Don’t be shy! Reach out and ask us if we can help

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