Customer Journey Marketing. Your Alternative to a Sales Funnel

This blog is my reaction to an article I read on Marketing Week. I highly recommend you give the original article a read. ‘Forget funnels, here’s a new model for the path to purchase.’

Have you ever used a sales funnel? Do you use them often? I am sure the answer is Yes and No. Of course, if you use Facebook adverts or Google Ads, their process follows a sales funnel model, and rightly so!


Sales funnels are perfect for Ad campaigns. They track metrics and stats, allowing for optimisation and better spend. However, when it comes to modelling more complex customer journeys, they often fall short.

Complex customer journeys and profiling how a customer learns about your business, build affinity, and then purchase from you involves many communication channels. From seeing your brand on social media, in print, on radio, TV, signage, events, physical locations, offers and competitions. The route to purchase can involve a few or many steps. How do you track these customer paths?

James Hankins, the Marketing Week article author (follow him on Twitter @JCPHankins), might have the solution. For this reason alone, we shall follow his lead and call this alternative customer journey model the Hankins Hexagon.


The Hankins Hexagon

This theoretical model attempts to represent the complexity of the modern customer journey. As marketers, we face important decisions when choosing where to place our efforts, resources and time. Therefore, we must understand our customers’ route to purchase so we can work efficiently.

James Hankins, the inventor of the Hankins Hexagon, says about this model,

“The first thing we need is something to help visualise the complexity of the path to purchase. One of my regular doodles is a pentagram star. My note pads are full of them. What’s interesting is that you can draw a pentagram without removing your pen from the paper. Each point is connected to every other point. This got me thinking, what if each point was classified as a ‘decision node’ or a point of inflection?

This interlinked model allows all points to be connected to all potential decision nodes. The benefit being there are no pre-formulated pathways or directions. As each node is linked to every other node this theoretically represents a vast number of potential paths to purchase.”

I love this concept. Instead of forcing customers down a defined funnel, A to B to C to D to E, you can instead visualise multiple journeys to E. This is a more realistic way of looking at the customer journey.

In a world of multiple communication channels and many touchpoints, no two journeys will be the same. Hankins Hexagon provides a tool to visualise this complexity and allow marketers to plan and explain their ideas.

It also touches nicely on the concept of seven points. The theory being a customer needs to see or interact with you on average seven times before they are likely to make a purchase.


Making Your Own Hankins Hexagon

One of the points touched upon in the original blog is that the Hankins Hexagon can be used to explore many situations. You can make it your own.

Therefore, we have developed the following using our experience to help map a general customer journey for many of the businesses we work with.

customer journey marketing with a hankins hexagon

Attention / Interest: Something you do to captures the customer’s attention or interest enough for them to examine your business in more detail.

Understanding: Customers learn about your product or service. These are often features and benefits that your business offers to the chosen market.

Revisit: After initially finding out about your business and understanding the products or service, the customer may revisit your website, social media profiles or store.

Discussion: The customer discusses your service or product with a third party, often someone close to them professionally or personally, to further decide upon the purchase or confirm their decision.

Small Purchase: The first time a customer purchases from your business. Initially, this could be a minor tester purchase.

Larger Purchase: Customers that become your bread and butter. They regularly purchase from you or buy large ticket items.



The Hankins Hexagon is undoubtedly a powerful tool for helping visualise the customers’ journey. However, the sales funnel still has its place. For example, there is probably no better way of analysing the efficiency of Facebook ads. Sales funnels allow you to put a cost on each stage and as a result, improve advert efficiency.

Hankins Hexagons are a great tool to use in conjunction with the older style sales funnel and lend themselves better to marketers and creative professionals.

Which tool do you prefer, the sales funnel or Hankins Hexagon? Would you be inclined to use one of the other or maybe both?