Now is the time to embrace the path to purchase

In Articles by Josh Robbs0 Comments

My parents and parents-in-law live about 2 hours away. Well, that’s what Google and MapQuest and Waze tell me. But we never get there in 2 hours. It’s aways closer to 3.

Why is that? It’s good software – smart software. (I really enjoyed Waze when it had Morgan Freeman’s voice. If we made that mandatory, there would be no road rage. So calming.) But the software is always wrong.

The map apps can only do point A to point B. They can’t predict when I’ll want to stop for food or a stretch or a bathroom break.

Life doesn’t move in a straight line. It doesn’t go from point A to point B. Life is full of twists and turns, advances and set-backs.

Marketing needs to embrace that.

The marketing funnel

Kissmetrics has a great article on marketing funnels. Here’s their definition:

“A funnel is the set of steps a visitor needs to go through before they can reach the conversion.”

This is not the Path Purchase

This is not the Path Purchase

And their example using the required steps to make a purchase on Amazon:

  • They have to visit
  • They have to view a product
  • They have to add a product to the cart
  • They have to purchase

Now that you know what the marketing funnel is, I’m going to add 1 more Kissmetric quote. And then I’m going to lose my mind. I loathe the marketing funnel.

“There are additional steps/actions that can be taken in between each of these steps, but they do not matter in the purchase funnel. For example, a visitor may view Amazon’s About page, Contact page, and Careers page, but we don’t need to count these in the funnel because they aren’t necessary steps.”

Look at that list. When shopping on Amazon, do you follow those steps? Mostly. Are those the only steps? Not even close.

The Path to Purchase

So what does the buying process really look like?

There’s a little thing called the Buyer’s Journey. Per Hubspot:

The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service.

It has 3 stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. Those are phases of activity.

The path to purchase is the series of events or actions that lead a buyer through the Buyer’s Journey.

If the Buyer’s Journey is the mission, the Path to Purchase is the map.


Awareness comes in a handful of varieties. The journey can start internally or externally. The brakes on your car might go out. Then you have a need.

Or you see a message on – insert your favorite social media here – and that starts the journey.

It could even be something you see on a TV show. I didn’t know I wanted a quad that turns into a jet ski until I saw it on Top Gear.


This is the research phase. This process starts in your brain and expands until you find a solution that best meets your need and you trust.

  • Personal experience
  • Advice from friends
  • Advice from trusted experts
  • Research via social media
  • Research via search engines
  • Research via review sites

The research continues until you find a solution, adjust your criteria (lowering quality requirements to meet your budget), or quit.


And then the decision is made.

It might be a simple process. You need brakes so you take your car to the mechanic you know and trust.

It might be a bumpy road if there are multiple people that need to approve the decision. Each person may raise new questions or objections.

The Path to Purchase and your marketing

The Path to Purchase feels like this

The Path to Purchase feels like this

Look at all the activities listed in this article. Look at all the places you could interact with potential buyers. And each of those interactions has a chance to direct the rest of the journey. Each is a chance to put them on your path.

  • Are you using marketing to create awareness of the problems you solve?
  • Are you answering questions and overcoming objections with your website? On social media?
  • Does your website position you as a trusted advisor? Does it build your credibility?
  • Is your website (and your content) built to get on Google?
  • Is your site’s content remarkable enough that people are sharing it and spreading awareness for you?
  • Do you have an email marketing plan that keeps you top of mind with previous customers?

That’s 6 (ok, technically 8) questions. I could go on about this for days. But the horse is both dead and well beaten.

The takeaway

1. You should know where your business is coming from.

  • How are your new customers becoming aware of you?
  • How did your present customers become aware of you?
  • How did they find you?
  • How did they interact with your business before they became a customer?
  • Where were they gathering information?
  • What convinced them that your solution was the right solution for them?

2. If you don’t know, you need to find out.

  • Do customer surveys
    • How does the customer describe the problem you solve?
  • Use analytics
    • What pages are being viewed?
    • What pages are being ignored?
  • Research search terms
    • Which ones lead to the most sales?
    • Which lead to the highest sales?
  • Watch social media
    • Where are people talking about the problem you solve?
    • Where are people giving advice about the problem you solve?

Here’s some extra credit work for those of you who can answer those questions already. Answer those questions for your competition.

I hate the sales funnel because it’s too simplistic, it starts too late in the actual buying process, and it isn’t even a funnel (don’t get me started). The path to purchase is what is really happening.

Sales and marketing has become a long and winding path. You should be helping along the way – providing direction and handing out refreshments.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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About the Author

Josh Robbs

Josh is the founder and cynic-in-chief at Rust Belt Webworks. When he's not testing marketing strategy and tactics, he's spending time with his family or playing guitar (poorly).

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