The customer journey reveals a lot. Why do customers purchase certain items from specific vendors? Marketers try to understand how one action leads to the next. Then, they can effectively drive traffic and attract new leads.

The problem is: your business is not the only voice — it’s one of thousands that shout from the rooftops and say the same things. With so much noise, a customer’s decision process isn’t always linear.

Trading in Funnels for Maps

Traditionally, marketing efforts are thought of in terms of sales funnels. You start big and broad, you educate your target audience about your brand and its offers. Eventually, those people become aware of how your company can solve their common but specific pain points.

They investigate deeper and considers your services over others. Maybe you offer content that compares the benefits of your services with those of your rivals. Maybe you have salespeople who try to help would-be customers justify the purchase. Loyalty is supposed to be a byproduct of the quality of your offering; only, the buying process doesn’t always go that way.

Moving Beyond Maps: It’s a Maze out There

The buying process is all over the place. Some call it a maze. One person may be compelled to purchase something for one reason, while  something completely different compels someone else. Many marketers reason this with customer journey maps. They study their customers’ steps and try to develop insights into the process.

Meanwhile, some use different buyer personas to target their ideal customer. Others approach each step like a choose-your-own-adventure book — they define the multiple ways consumers discover your business, the various methods they use to research your brand, and the hurdles they face throughout.

Examining the Customer Hourglass

It’s more accurate to look at the buyer’s journey as an hourglass or a loop. The reality is, while marketing funnels and customer journey maps can help make sense of the buying process, they are poor representations of the said process. They overlook what happens after the sale. It’s an important detail that could impact customers’ perceptions of the company.

The marketing hourglass seeks to correct that. It allows for what happens after the sale. It goes over how well the service fulfills its purpose to the buyer and whether it opens the door to upselling or cross-selling. The ideal result is customer loyalty, but even this conception is inadequate.

The marketing hourglass eliminates the possibility that a customer finds you outside of the routes you’ve identified. It discounts one of the most valuable weapons in your arsenal: repeat business.

Creating a Loyalty Loop

According to research from McKinsey, roughly 2 out of every 3 marketing touchpoints are consumer-driven. Customers talk to their friends and read reviews to make decisions about what to buy.

One of the only ways to increase customer loyalty is to improve your contact and available communication channels. The goal is to make asking questions (and getting answers) as easy as possible. For instance, you could use a cloud call center that includes a CRM.

When customers don’t have to repeat their personal information and the issue they’re trying to resolve over and over again — and, more importantly, they’re connected to the right person immediately — they’ll eventually get the answers they need. They’re thus more likely to have a positive customer service experience, and want to buy from your company again in the future.

Turning Customers into Advocates

Marketing is not linear, as funnels and even customer journey maps fail to account for the way sales happen. Customers seemingly follow a maze to make a purchase, and that process continues long after the sale is made.

Marketing hourglasses come closer to understanding the interconnections, but the buying process is really more of a loop. Remember that as you prioritize your marketing efforts. Once you see the buying journey as a loop, it becomes easier to make decisions that encourage loyalty and help turn customers into advocates.