Achieve Sustainable Growth with Strategic Customer and Buyer Journeys

The Customer Journey versus the Buyer Journey

The Buyer's Journey versus the Customer Journey, acquisition versus retention… How each journey is crucial in winning customers and turning them into lifelong advocates.

Bastian Moritz
Mar 2024

The terms "buyer journey" and "customer journey" often come up in marketing and customer experience discussions. Although they may seem interchangeable at first glance, they refer to different aspects of a person's interaction with a brand or product. Let’s breakdown the differences to understand their overarching benefits and their unique advantages.

Common definitions of both Customer Journeys and Buyer Journeys are too broad and generic. You are better off asking ChatGPT for such and don’t need to read an keyword-stuffed article for that.

Let’s combine the best literature on that topic with a customer-centric growth strategy to get a nuanced view of the buyer's journey and customer journey, highlighting how these concepts are interconnected yet distinct in terms of focus and application in business strategy. This interpretation slightly shifts the traditional definitions but still retains the core essence of each journey's role in the customer-brand relationship.


The buyer's journey is like a trip you take from thinking about buying something to actually buying it and using it. It starts when you first realize you need or want something, and it doesn't end until you've bought the item and started using it. It's not a snap decision; people take their time to think about what they need, look at their options, and then choose what to buy.

The customer journey is how your business fits into that trip. It's about all the places your business gets to say "hello" and make an impression on people as they're deciding what to buy. By mapping out these moments—like a treasure map—you make sure you're there at the right time and place to guide them, rather than leaving it to luck.

A Flywheel of Engagement with Your Brand

I want you to take a holistic approach to understanding and engaging with the buyer's and customer's journeys.

I want you to see these journeys not just as a linear progression of steps leading to a sale but as an ongoing cycle of engagement where your brand can actively influence the customer's experience through strategic touchpoints.

This perspective underscores the value of thoughtful customer journey mapping in creating a comprehensive, proactive strategy for customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention.

The Buyer's Journey in a Comprehensive View

The modern buyer's journey encompasses the entire buying experience, from pre-purchase to post-purchase experience.

The post-purchase stage is sometimes left out of the Buyer’s Journey, but it's a crucial experience to build lasting relationships with your customers.

Including the post-purchase experience, thus blends elements typically associated with the customer journey. But for enduring value delivery we must emphasize the continuous process a customer goes through from initial awareness to the ongoing use of a product or service—because the only thing worse than someone buying our product or service is non-consumption by them not getting value out of it.

"The buyer's journey is a quest for solutions, starting with the awakening of a need and culminating in the selection of a remedy and feeling better. It's the roadmap from problem to value realization."

This modern understanding comes from usage- and subscription-based business models where it is not enough to sell your product or service once but want to deliver ongoing value to your customers and clients.

Phases of the Buyer’s Journey

It typically includes stages such as Awareness, Consideration, and Decision and also extends beyond the point of purchase to include the utilization of the product or service, mirroring the entire lifecycle of a customer's engagement with a brand.

Each phase represents a different part of the journey a buyer takes from realizing they have a problem that needs solving to choosing a solution and generating value with it.

Goal of the Buyer’s Journey

The goal of understanding the buyer journey is to optimize marketing and sales strategies to guide potential customers towards making a purchase.

Therefore, within the buyer journey we primarily focus on the steps a potential ideal customer (ICP) takes before making a purchase. It outlines the process that leads a human (ICP) from becoming aware of a need or a problem to considering various solutions and finally deciding to purchase a product or service that solves that problem.

Why Understanding your Buyer's Journey Matters

The overall benefits of understanding and engaging in your buyer's journey are gaining clarity and a comprehensive understanding for informed decision making.

By considering the entire buying experience, from pre-purchase to post-purchase, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the customer's path. This holistic view is crucial for creating strategies that address customer needs at every stage.

Understanding the buyer's journey enables businesses like yours to develop more targeted marketing and sales strategies that align with the customer's mindset and needs at each phase.

This results in at least 2 distinct advantages:

  1. Focused Conversion EffortsA deep dive into the buyer's journey allows for the optimization of efforts aimed at converting prospects into customers. Knowing what information or support customers need at each stage enables businesses to tailor their messaging and interventions to improve conversion rates.
  2. Predictive Analysis and PersonalizationBusinesses can predict common pain points and questions that arise at each stage, allowing for the personalization of the customer experience. This proactive approach can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Why These Matter: A thorough understanding of the buyer's journey facilitates a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to customer engagement. Businesses can anticipate needs and tailor their offerings, thereby improving customer acquisition and retention rates.

The Customer Journey: A Brand-Centric Approach

Brand’s Place within the Buyer’s Journey

The Customer Journey is your brand’s place within the Buyer’s Journey

Here, we focus on how a brand intersects with the buyer's journey through various touchpoints. It's about the brand's strategy to engage with customers at different stages of their journey, ensuring meaningful interactions that guide them towards making a purchase and beyond.

Phases of the Customer Journey

The Customer Journey encompasses the entire relationship.

In addition to the pre-purchase stages, the customer journey includes Retention, Loyalty, and Advocacy. These stages focus on the experiences that lead to a customer becoming a customer, a repeat buyer, a loyal supporter, and even a promoter of the brand.

"Your customer journey is the full spectrum of experiences your customer has with you as a brand, from initial curiosity through every interaction post-purchase. It’s the ongoing story of engagement between you and your customer."

Therefore, the customer journey maps out the entire experience a customer has with your brand, product, or service. This includes not only the steps leading up to a purchase but also the post-purchase experience, which can involve using the product, receiving customer support, and making repeat purchases or upgrades.

Mapping Touchpoints

By mapping out these touchpoints, a brand takes an active role in shaping the customer's experience, aiming to positively influence their journey at every stage. This approach is strategic, focusing on planning and optimizing each interaction to foster a seamless and satisfying customer experience.

Goal of the Customer Journey

The goal of mapping out the customer journey is to understand and improve every touchpoint a customer has with your brand, thus enhancing customer satisfaction, loyalty, and lifetime value.

Why Planning your Customer Journey Experience Matters

The overarching benefits of understanding and engaging with the customer journey means an enhanced customer experience and having strategic control.

By focusing on the brand’s touchpoints within the buyer's journey, you can craft a customer experience that is not only seamless but also highly engaging and satisfying.

Mapping out the customer journey gives you the strategic control over how you interact with your customers. This enables a more deliberate and effective approach to building relationships and loyalty.

This results in at least 2 distinct Advantages:

  1. Retention and LoyaltyThrough a well-mapped customer journey that addresses each touchpoint, businesses can enhance customer retention and loyalty by consistently meeting or exceeding expectations.
  2. Brand AdvocacyA positive customer journey fosters brand advocacy. Satisfied customers are more likely to share their experiences, acting as brand ambassadors and attracting new customers through word-of-mouth.

Why it Matters: The customer journey encompasses every interaction between the customer and the brand, making it crucial for maintaining a positive relationship. By strategically managing these touchpoints, businesses can ensure a high-quality, consistent experience that builds trust and loyalty over time.

Application in Strategy: The HubSpot Example

Stages and Touchpoints: Looking at HubSpot illustrates how a company can delineate its customer journey into specific stages — pre-purchase/sales, onboarding/migration, and normal use/renewal — and identify critical touchpoints within these stages. Each touchpoint is an opportunity for HubSpot to meet its customers' needs and guide them through the buying process.

Strategic Engagement: Through targeted content and interactions (e.g., blog posts, nurturing emails, technical support), HubSpot actively engages with customers at each stage. This approach is designed to not only attract customers but also to retain them and foster loyalty by continuously providing value at every step of their journey.


In summary, while the buyer journey is a subset of the customer journey the customer journey encompasses the entire lifecycle of a customer's interactions with a brand, from initial awareness through post-purchase experiences and beyond.

Understanding both is crucial for businesses aiming to attract new customers and retain existing ones by providing a seamless, positive experience at every stage.

"Harmonizing the buyer's journey with the customer journey creates a holistic view of the consumer's path: beginning with the search for a solution, transitioning through the purchase, and evolving into an enduring relationship. It's about turning shoppers into lifelong patrons."

If you also emphasize the importance of seeing these journeys not just as a linear progression of steps leading to a sale but as an ongoing cycle of engagement where your brand can actively influence your customer's experience through strategic touchpoints; then, you should take our holistic approach to understanding and engaging with the buyer's and customer's journeys.

The value of customer-centric growth is thoughtful customer journey mapping that creates a comprehensive, proactive strategy for customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention.

Achieve Sustainable Growth with Strategic Customer and Buyer Journeys

Both the buyer's journey and customer journey offer vital frameworks for understanding and improving how customers interact with a brand.

The buyer's journey focuses on converting prospects into customers by understanding their decision-making process, while the customer journey emphasizes the importance of the ongoing relationship.

Together, they provide a comprehensive strategy for not just winning customers, but also retaining them and fostering brand loyalty. This dual approach is crucial for businesses aiming to achieve sustainable growth and a competitive edge in the market.

Now you might be interested in the different stages in the Buyer’s Journey and understand what a buyer is doing and thinking at each stage.

Why do we need an improved Distinction between Customer and Buyer Journeys?

The nuanced understanding and strategic focus on both the buyer's journey and the customer journey, particularly their integration and importance in fostering ongoing relationships, is heavily influenced by trends seen in usage- and subscription-based business models.

These models have been instrumental in shifting the emphasis from one-time transactions to sustained customer engagement and value delivery.

The rise of the subscription economy has highlighted the need for businesses to not only attract but also retain customers by continuously proving their value.

This economic shift has led companies to invest more in understanding the complete customer journey, recognizing that every stage—from awareness and consideration to adoption, satisfaction, and advocacy—is crucial for sustainable growth.

Subscription and usage-based models benefit from direct, ongoing interactions with customers, providing rich data that can be used to personalize experiences and improve products and services. This feedback loop is an integral part of both the buyer's and customer journeys, enabling businesses to adapt and respond to customer needs in real-time.

Impact of Subscription Models

Ongoing Engagement.

Subscription and usage-based models thrive on continuous customer engagement. The success of these models depends not just on acquiring customers but on retaining them over time through consistent delivery of value.

Lifetime Value Focus.

These business models prioritize the lifetime value of a customer over the value of a single transaction. This approach necessitates a deep understanding of the entire customer lifecycle, from initial awareness (buyer's journey) to ongoing satisfaction and loyalty (customer journey).

Customer Experience as a Differentiator.

In markets where products and services are increasingly commoditized, the customer experience becomes a key differentiator. Subscription models, in particular, depend on superior customer experiences to justify recurring payments and foster customer loyalty.

Comprehensive Strategy

Businesses that effectively map and integrate the buyer's journey with the customer journey are better positioned to create compelling, personalized experiences that attract new customers and retain existing ones.

This holistic approach is particularly crucial in subscription-based models, where the cost of customer acquisition is amortized over the customer's lifetime, and the profitability of the business model hinges on long-term customer retention and loyalty.

Maintaining a Relationship that Continually Delivers Value

While the principles of the buyer's journey and customer journey apply across various business models, their detailed exploration and strategic integration have indeed been propelled to the forefront by the rise of subscription and usage-based models.

These models underscore the importance of not just winning a customer once but maintaining a relationship that continually delivers value, thereby securing ongoing revenue streams and fostering brand loyalty.

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