You used to see charts depicting the sales process as a funnel. At the top was “Awareness”, with advertising bringing the product to the attention of some impressionable buyer, who then slid down the sales funnel through the stages of “Lead”, “Prospect” and “Sale” like a quart of Castrol.

Well, as this “Four Stages of the Customer Lifecycle” infographic from customer relationship management software maker Nimble shows, the one-way funnel is more of a wandering process today. The graphic uses terminology from business-to-business sales but it’s not much different for complicated consumer products such as computers.

Advertising may not play a role at all—the buyer may hear about the product on social media and do her own research online before arriving at the “Prospective Customers” phase of the cycle. The final phase,  “Evangelists”, is no longer just a nice-to-have: Runaway successes like Uber and Airbnb made customer evangelism the main part of their marketing plan. Businesses need to nurture the customer in all 4 stages to win. Take a look:

Four Stages of Customer Lifecycle