Like you, your customer is living a rich life full of family obligations, career pressures, and a series of hopes and dreams they chase daily. Only when you stop viewing them as customers and start viewing them as people can you begin to understand the real impact your business can have in their lives. What better way to three-dimensionalize your customer than to bring them to life through the dramatic art of storytelling?
As a former commercial and TV actor turned business owner, I often find myself at the unique crossroads of creativity and business. Because performance is part of my DNA, I tend to use storytelling to solve most of my business problems. When the Capitol Creativity Network in DC asked me to come and speak, I immediately created a new workshop that I’m going to share with you in this article. It’s the art of articulating your customer’s journey so you can better understand, relate to, predict, and prepare for the major joy and pain points in your journey together.
Typical movie structure of a hero’s journey involves the following:
- Exposition: The main character, Precious, is living a shitty life. She’s got a shitty job, drinks way too much, and her family won’t speak with her any longer.
- Inciting Incident: Precious is introduced to something that is going to change her life: a new job, a new drink, and a poodle with a fetish for Asian hookers.
- The Hike Ahead: Here’s where we lay out the impossibility of change ever occurring. My goodness, it looks hopeless for Precious and her poodle.
- Plot Point 1: The AHA moment where suddenly there is hope. Precious and her poodle join a 12-step program, for instance.
- Obstacle 1: The 12-step program meets on Tuesdays, but Precious plays Mahjong on Tuesdays.
- Obstacle 2: There’s a 200-pound Doberman at the group that has eyes for Precious’s poodle.
- Obstacle 3: Precious’s poodle is caught red-handed with a Thai Ridgeback named Susu, and Precious is thrown in the pokey for doggie sex trafficking!
- Mid-Point: While sweating it out in jail, our Precious realizes that if she continues down this same path, she’s destined for a life on the streets. She pledges to make a change and commits to returning to the 12-step program with or without her poodle.
- Obstacle 4: Precious is afraid of staying sober and becoming “normal,” which equates to “boring.”
- Obstacle 5: Precious is afraid of confronting her family and admitting her past mistakes.
- Obstacle 6: Precious is afraid that she doesn’t matter.
- Plot Point 2: In a stunning turn of events, Precious’s poodle runs away with a Sanshu named Sanshu, leaving Precious utterly alone and desperately wanting to bathe herself in gin martinis. Which she does.
- Climax: In a drunken stupor, Precious wanders over to her 12-step program where a huge blowup ensues. She thrashes around, screams at them. She throws things. The 12-step program listens and holds their own when she lies to them and to herself. And there is the epiphany for Precious. The program is always there. She’s not alone. Poodle or no poodle, she has her program and they love her.
- Dénouement: Precious gets her shit together. She stays off the booze and rebuilds her relationship with her family. She gets a better job, evangelizes the program, and even starts spending time with an Albanian Sheepdog, a much more reliable companion.
While it may not appear that your customer is Precious, trust me, she is. We’ve all got a little Precious inside of us. Bad habits that get in our way, relationships that hold us back, fears that inhibit us. Like Precious, we’re all down on our luck in some way or another and struggling to solve an issue in life.
In this scenario, your business is the 12-step program. You are solid, you instill confidence, you know your value and your place, and you know what is best for your Precious. But she is on her own journey, and you cannot do the hard work for her. You can merely guide her and stick with her and give her the tools to change and grow.
Let me break it down for you this way:
- Your customers are in pain.
- They are exhausted from their search for a solution.
- Meeting you is: oxygen and hope and relief.
- There are tangible obstacles:
- You must convince them to engage, and then you must deliver a small breakthrough that gives them confidence to push through the intangible obstacles:
- fear of the unknown
- fear of change
- fear of greatness
- If they are willing to do the work, you must deliver the breakthrough.
- Deliver the breakthrough and your customers will not only be truly impacted, they’ll also be raving fans for life.
Understand the arc of your customer’s journey, and you can be intentional about your role each step of the way.
Corey Michael Blake, author of #Jump (April 2012) is the President of Round Table Companies and Writers of the Round Table Press. In addition to publishing some of the most prolific authors of our time, Corey consults businesses and leaders on using creativity to connect with their customers, instigate culture change, and define the heart of their business.