The Secret to Audience Targeting throughout your Customer Journey

The principal behind the customer journey is quite simple. Identify where the consumer is on their journey to becoming one of your customers and deliver them the appropriate message to help them along the way. If you can segment your users at each stage of the journey, then you’re beginning to deliver highly personalized experiences that drive real action.

The challenge for marketers comes in targeting your audience throughout the customer journey and segmenting data in a meaningful way. Is it worth the trouble? Studies suggest so.

  • Prospecting combined with retargeting can lead to 147% higher conversion rates within some industries — DataXu Study
  • Companies that nurture leads make 50% more sales at a cost 33% less than non-nurtured leads — Forrester Research
  • 76% of buyers prefer different content at each stage of their research — State of Demand Generation 2013
  • On average, a lead requires 10 marketing-driven touchpoints to convert from the top of the funnel into a customer — Aberdeen Group
  • 96% of B2B marketers say segmentation is the most valuable method for improving conversion rates — Econsultancy

From the stats it’s evident that building a segmented customer journey works, but what’s the best way to transfer this to an effective strategy?

The Marketing Funnel

In this blog we’ll be defining the customer journey using the marketing funnel model. It’s a simple model that provides marketers an easy way to visualize each stage of the customer journey.

customer journey marketing funnel segmentation.png

In this example the funnel is three stages, but yours can be more dependent on how you map your customer’s journey to purchase. (Many funnels have four stages or more and split the middle of the funnel into Interest and then Consideration stages.) Other funnels take into account the stages after the conversions as well, such as Retention and Loyalty.

The top of the funnel aims to make people aware of your brand, the middle of the funnel aims to engage and educate these people and the bottom of the funnel aims to convert. The idea is that once a consumer reaches one stage your job as marketer is to guide them through the funnel to the next stage.

The key to success is ensuring you’re targeting and segmenting your data correctly at each stage. There are lots of different factors you can use to do this. But defining where someone is in this customer journey comes down to what behaviours they exhibit, or for the matter, don’t exhibit.


Top of Funnel Targeting

At the top of the funnel you should target people who are unaware of your brand and introduce yourself to them. Therefore you need to ensure you are targeting people who haven’t shown they are already aware of your product or campaign.

Target people based on their interests, affinities, keywords and other broad targeting sets. Exclude people who have recently shown awareness of your brand or product—such as visiting your website, viewing your video or engaging with you on social media. The goal here is to find new prospects you are introducing yourself to for the first time.


Middle of Funnel Targeting

At the middle of the funnel you should engage and educate people who are already aware of your brand. Use different retargeting tactics to target people who have exhibited behaviours that show they are already aware of you. These could include targeting website visitors, video viewers, social engagers, email lists and more.

The goal here is to continue educating an already aware audience why your brand can help them, so that when they reach the purchase stage, you are top of mind.

If you split the middle stage of your funnel into two stages such as Interest and Consideration, then identify the exact behaviours that highlight these. This might include engaging with certain combinations of pages and content on your website or assets that show they are researching a product vs considering purchasing.


Bottom of Funnel Targeting

The bottom of the funnel is where you should target people who are ready to convert. Use specific retargeting audiences to focus on customers who have exhibited very particular behaviours on your website and other assets. These could include visiting specific product pages, abandoning a checkout procedure, viewing pricing pages for a service.

The goal here is to identify people who are ready to purchase and place your brand in front of them at the right moment. If you have built awareness and educated your prospect well, you’ll have an advantage over your competitors. This will give you a real chance to break through the noise and win a new customer.

What More Can You Do?

Audience Segmentation

In addition to behavioural targeting at each stage of the funnel, you should also segment your audiences within each stage. Segment and group your audience by similar characteristics to deliver more personalized messages. This will also enable you to effectively measure and optimize the performance of these segments. For example, you could segment by demographics such as age, gender or location, or by characteristics such as interests, device usage and many more. Facebook particularly has a wide variety of targeting you can segment by.

Audience Exclusions

At each stage you should ensure there is no overlap between audiences, otherwise consumers will be receiving different ads at the same time. This will be detrimental to your carefully crafted messages aimed at guiding people through your customer journey. Be sure to use exclusion audiences so that at each stage your are not targeting consumers who are already at the stage below.


As with all types of marketing, you never actually know what is going to work. This is why testing is imperative. Test different messages at each stage and with different audience segments. Test different targeting and segmentation splits. Test different funnel lengths — perhaps a four or five stage funnel with multiple steps of engagement will work better for you. Test everything you can and then test again. You’ll always learn something new.


Marketers that embrace the data they have on customers to build segmented, targeted customer journeys will have a much better chance to create more relevant, personalized communications. In addition, you’ll be able to better optimize campaign spend and see greater return on investment.