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The Lead Gen Customer Journey – A Step-By-Step Guide

Published: December 5, 2018

Author: Brad Banyai

Whether you’re a large B2B firm, a niche B2C retailer, or anything in between, it’s important to understand who your customer is and the various ways they engage with your brand. Even more imperative, your digital marketing efforts need to consider the mindset of the customer at every stage of the journey. That’s why savvy advertisers develop comprehensive customer journey maps to ensure their advertising efforts reach potential customers from the Discovery stage all the way through Acquisition and Retention.

In this post, we’ll outline the specific steps in the Customer Journey for a mid-sized regional bank (B2C) looking to acquire new checking account customers (Lead Generation). We’ll also cover the various tactics to employ in order to effectively target potential customers on every step of the way and how to measure engagement at each level.


The first step of any customer journey is Discovery. Depending on the industry or vertical, it’s unlikely you’d be able to acquire a customer who is unfamiliar with your brand. This is especially true of a bank with whom a customer is entrusting a significant portion of their money, if not their entire life savings. In this case, it’s imperative that prospective clients are at least familiar with your brand at the Discovery stage, before you even enter Research or Consideration.
Gaining awareness at the Discovery stage is all about upper-funnel tactics. Here we leverage prospecting audience targeting such as Similar Audiences (generated off of existing customer lists) or Custom Intent audiences with ad placements on the GDN, YouTube, and Gmail. Creative at this stage should be general brand messaging that speaks to the bank’s strong reputation and customer-centric philosophy. Since activity at this stage is focused solely on making users familiar with the brand, expectation for user engagement is low and is measured by impressions and view-through rates within the applicable audience segments.


At the Research phase of the journey, customers are generally more engaged than in the Discovery stage. Using the bank’s target audience as an example, at the Research stage, they have established intent to open a new checking account but have not collected enough information on the various features and benefits they’re looking for in order to make a decision, or even narrow down the list of options.
At this stage, broad, short tail keyword-targeting like “best checking account” or “checking account rewards” are employed. To narrow the targeting and improve efficiency on these upper-funnel terms, consider layering in In-Market Audiences, such as users looking for debit and checking services. This ensures that your campaigns are maximizing visibility on users who are actively researching the services you’re advertising. Ad copy at this stage should highlight the bank’s key value props that differentiate their checking product from others in the peer set. Engagement during the Research stage can be measured with click-through traffic and page views; it’s still unlikely users have enough information to begin the application process.


Once customers have identified key players in the space, they move into the Consideration phase. At this step in the journey, they’re narrowing the list of choices down to a few competitors who best fit their needs. At this stage, users have most likely visited your site while performing research, so remarketing audiences become useful. Whether targeting users on the GDN, GSP, or the search network via RLSA, you should ensure that your ad copy and creative is highly specific to the benefits and features of your offering.
In the bank’s example, users are likely to begin the application process – so tracking both started applications and completed applications as separate conversions goals is a good way to evaluate how effectively users are navigating through the process. If users are starting to apply for a new checking account but dropping off before completion, that may be an indication that the application is overly complex or confusing. Since the completed application is a ‘soft’ conversion and not actual customer acquisition, the process should be simple and user-friendly.


As customers conclude the decision-making process and identify the bank who best fits their needs, they complete the process of opening a new checking account. Although this is the one stage that isn’t directly supported by any digital marketing activity, it’s still important to track this action in order to appropriately assign value to all touchpoints in the journey that preceded it.
Since the process of booking a new accounts is typically done through a phone call with a customer service rep or an in-branch visit, it’s unlikely you’d be able to designate this as a trackable conversion goal in Google Ads or any other reporting platform. In the specific example of the regional bank, we’re able to report on these actions through a combination of the following three tactics:

  • Internal Reporting: By assigning a specific marketing code to all paid search activity, the bank is able to actively track all new checking accounts that originated from a paid search campaign and report that data back to 3Q on a weekly basis.
  • Google Store Visits: Though not a strict conversion action, Store Visit data allows us to gain visibility into users visiting a branch within a 30-day period of clicking on a paid search ad. Fractional conversion value can be assigned to store visits with the assumption that a portion of those visits result in new booked accounts.
  • Store Sales Direct: One step further than the Store Visit tracking, Google’s Store Sales Direct program enables advertisers to retroactively assign offline conversions to online activity. On a monthly basis, Google reports new account conversions from offline activity back to the specific campaigns that drove those booked accounts.


Retention / Deepening the Relationship

As all marketers know, the customer journey doesn’t end with the initial transaction. Regardless of vertical, businesses rely on repeat purchases and customer retention to be successful. In the example of the bank, the checking account acquisition is the entry point into an ongoing relationship with its customers. From there, the Retention phase includes opportunities to deepen the relationship with savings products, mortgage lending, credit cards, and money market accounts. While each of those service offerings requires its own unique decision funnel, they also represent the final step of the initial customer journey.

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