Guest post by Marilyn Cox, Director of Marketing at Second City Works

Marketers have long preached the importance of defining the customer journey.  I am one of those marketers.  The customer journey consists of steps that lead through the funnel to (fingers crossed) eventual purchase.  And as marketers we tend to develop our content and market along those steps.

Which is fine and I don’t disagree with that.

But where we may be missing opportunity is neglecting the customer narrative.  What’s the story that’s told on that journey path?  What are the considerations, concerns, and needs of the customer?  As marketers we recognize the need to be better storytellers.  And we struggle because we’re often too focused on the steps of the journey and using the data to dictate what stage someone is in, or should be in.  We need to take that same data and put it on its feet.  We need to form a narrative, a story, that speaks to the individual while they’re on that journey.

Here’s the journey I defined for Second City Works.

Interest – Educate – Evaluate – Justify – Purchase – Optimize – Expand – Advocate

Against each of these journey phases I mapped the corresponding Content Asset, Content Type, Product Category, Product Type, Business Segment, and Role.

I started doing what I had always done.  It’s what’s comfortable and familiar, and it’s a best practice.  But in a meeting with my colleagues regarding a new website our President continued to stress “what’s our narrative?”  Honestly the question didn’t connect with me at first.  But as I put myself in the position of the customer I realized that I had nothing to build a story around.

In reality what I had created was more like navigation or directions, and not really a journey.

So we started identifying the challenge of the customer.  Simple?  Yes.  Forgotten in the process? Yes.  We then took that same journey and began to map the story that needed to be told at each phase.  We immediately recognized that while the customer journey steps were relatively static, the narrative is dramatically different depending on the need of that customer.

This is how we’re defining what narrative needs to be told at each phase of the company journey.

  1. “We Can’t Innovate. I can’t remember the last time anything around here changed.  In fact, we fear change and don’t take risks.” [Interest]
    • Navigate an Uncertain World in No Uncertain Terms. [Educate]
      • Try not to invent, but try to discover as a practical way to keep creative. [Evaluate]
        • Innovation is constantly desired, but it isn’t magic. Teachable skills are needed to unlock an abundance of ideas. [Justify]
          • Create an experiential, immersive laboratory to learn and practice cooperation, openness to new ideas, active listening, and raising confidence in solving business challenges [Purchase]
  1. O “Our clients sit on the sidelines.  We don’t seem to ‘get’ our clients and our brand reflects that”. [Interest]
    • Co-create your story with everyone that wants in. [Educate]
      • The Philosophy of “Yes, And” provides a framework for action. [Evaluate]
        • The default tendency in business is to do nothing. And that doesn’t work. It’s never been more vital to engage audiences – both internally and externally. [Justify]
          • Unite all the players, explore and put the brand on its feet through scenes, songs, monologues and improvisation [Purchase]
  1. “Our story gets lost in translation. My team can’t tell the brand story and because of that our audience doesn’t engage with our story.”. [Interest]
    • Show, don’t tell. [Educate]
      • Start in the middle to make impactful and genuine communications. [Evaluate]
        • Most messages miss the mark. The impact on your business impedes success if you’re not heard. [Justify]
          • Immerse your team in collaboration to map the brand story and identified a purpose that touches customers, employees and vendors. [Purchase]
  1. “Teamwork? What’s teamwork? We just don’t work well together.  We need to ad authenticity into the mix and collaborate on something other than trust falls.” [Interest]
    • Build real connections with empathy. [Educate]
      • “Bring a brick, not a cathedral” to extoll the power of the group mind. [Evaluate]
        • Human beings are not oriented to play well with others which inhibits achieving the collective goal. [Justify]
          • Practice experiential exercises that improve listening, empathy, rapport, and resiliency. [Purchase]
  1. “I don’t want to make the wrong move on Diversity and Inclusion.  My company views D&I as a minefield and our teams don’t know how to tangibly contribute to our inclusion efforts.”. [Interest]
    • Become others-focused to see another POV. [Educate]
      • And improviser’s mindset is one where “obstacles are gifts”. [Evaluate]
        • The tricky areas, the difficult conversations, the minefields: ignoring and glossing over the hard stuff is the absolute worst option. [Justify]
          • Through interaction and improvisation create a culture of inclusion, model behavior, set tone at the top, and manage inclusive teams.
  1. “I have passive listeners instead of active participants. I need my audience to actually remember my message.” [Interest]
    • Engaging and funny beats dry and boring. [Educate]
      • “Give and take with equal intensity,” provides a powerful edge in selling, building and leading. [Evaluate]
        • People are notoriously bad listeners and you can no longer ignore the habit of poor communication. [Justify]
          • Participate in interactive on-your-feet experiences grounded in insights, with real tools to go forward and conquer, increase message retention, and ensure that the message is shared. [Purchase]
  1. “We have leaders that dictate and command. Our teams find our leaders to be ineffective and apathetic.” [Interest]
    • There’s more than one way to collaborate. [Educate]
      • “Follow the follower,” giving them the ability to tap into the leadership of their employees. [Evaluate]
        • The leadership hierarchy stopped working decades ago – so why are you all still using ladder metaphors? [Justify]
          • Apply improvisation with your company’s talent philosophy to create leaders and teams that will flourish in today’s work environment. [Purchase]

As we move forward with our narrative work we’ll expand the story to encompass the Optimize – Expand – Advocate stages.

As in life the journey is important, but it’s the story that connects and is remembered.  And without the story all you’re left with is navigation.