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The hero's journey | Applying traditional storytelling to modern day marketing.

the heros journey

You’re getting your marketing out there. Blog posts, social media, ads and SEO. It’s happening, but it’s not really generating the results you’d hoped for. You’re sure it could be doing better. You’ve heard people talking about the customer journey and maybe even the hero’s journey, but you’re not sure whether it will make any difference to your marketing. 

If that sounds familiar, I have good news, you’re in the right place. In this post I’m going to take you through what the hero’s journey is and show you how you can apply it to your customers and use it to take your marketing up a level.

Here’s what we’ll be covering in the post:

  • What the hero’s journey is in marketing
  • A typical marketing customer journey
  • Why it’s better to look at your customer’s journey as a hero’s journey
  • Turning the marketing customer journey into a hero’s journey
  • An example of applying the hero’s journey to your marketing

 

What is the hero’s journey in marketing

 

In its simplest form, the hero's journey is about making the customer the hero by helping them to achieve their goals. In marketing, we make the customer the hero through the power of storytelling. 

This storytelling technique helps us think about what we, as marketers and business owners, are delivering to the customer. It's not about selling to them or even helping them to buy, it's about helping them find a better way to achieve their goals. The customer becomes a hero when they solve a problem that’s holding them back, they can then become a hero to others by sharing their solution and helping their peers solve a similar problem. 

The hero’s journey is typically used in a story telling setting, such as an email campaign, blog post or video advert. Although we are yet to see the hero’s journey applied in it’s entirety to a single “stand-alone” landing page, understanding where this landing page fits into your hero’s journey will help you to design that asset to communicate the answers they need at that stage of their journey.

 

A typical marketing customer journey

 

In marketing, the customer journey describes the path in which a customer will typically travel, beginning with the first moment of awareness, all the way through to making a purchase decision. The AIDA model (Attention, interest, desire, action) has been around for over 130 years and still provides the foundational structure to almost all customer journeys used today. I’ve provided some examples below to help you understand what a general marketing customer journey looks like.

A typical customer journey looks a little bit like this:

  • The customer becomes aware of your product/service.
  • They become interested in your offering and begin looking for additional information.
  • They grow to desire your product/service.
  • Then they finally take action and make a purchase.

 

To give a more “real-life” example using paid traffic:

  • The customer comes into contact with your business through a paid advertisement promoting a webinar.
  • They sign-up to the webinar, expressing their interest to know more about how to solve the problem you solve.
  • After watching the webinar, they understand how you can help them solve the problem they have and they desire to know more about your solution.
  • They then make a decision to purchase, or to not purchase.

 

Or to use an organic traffic example:

  • A customer searches for “how do I get more sales from my website”. Your landing page appears in the search results, so the customer clicks on it.
  • Once on your landing page, they read your content and decide they want to know more - so they fill out a form in order to gain access to a downloadable pdf titled “How to build a sales sequence for your website”.
  • You follow up the PDF download with a series of emails, where you generate desire for your service through the content you send them.
  • Finally, you make them an offer that they can’t resist, in order to compel them to take action and purchase your product/service. 

Now you’ve got an idea of what a general customer journey can look like, let’s see how the hero’s journey integrates with this.

 

Why it’s better to look at your customer’s journey as a hero’s journey

 

The hero’s journey is very similar to the customer journey - with the main difference being the emotional force that helps the marketer to create a story focused journey where the driving goal is to make the customer a hero, rather than to sell to them. It helps us, as marketers, to deeply understand the problems a customer is facing at a specific point in the customer journey, which allows us to provide the answers they need to proceed to the next stage.

As a reminder of what we learned in the previous section:

  • The customer journey is made up of the physical touch points a customer goes through whilst transitioning from the awareness stage, to the decision stage. 
  • The hero’s journey is the story you tell throughout each touch point the customer encounters.

Viewing the customer journey as a hero’s journey strips away the focus of jumping straight to the sale, and encourages us to focus on the needs of the customer relative to their current position. By making this small change in intent, we can design an experience that is delightful for the customer and, in most cases, more profitable for the business. 

By now, hopefully you understand how the hero’s journey integrates with the customer journey, so let’s see how to begin making a plan on how you can use it in your business.

 

Turning the marketing customer journey into a hero’s journey

 

Before creating a customer journey, where you will communicate your hero’s journey, you first need to define the narrative of the story you are going to tell. A story that places the customer at the heart of a journey, beginning with a problem and resulting in a solution - that makes them the hero in the story. 

Rather than describing the physical actions that the customer goes through, the hero’s journey is the story you tell throughout each touchpoint the customer encounters.

In this section, we’re going to be focusing on the hero’s journey - a journey that takes them from their current ordinary world to a new world filled with new experiences and growth opportunities. 

To help you define your story, ask yourself these questions about the customer you're targeting and the journey that they're on, in relation to the product or service that you are marketing:

    • Who are they?
      • What challenges does their ordinary world present to them?
      • Why are they living with it and what are the consequences of not taking action?
      • What do they need more of?
      • What is preventing them from doing something about it?
  • Why do they decide to do something about it?
      • Where do they look to get an answer?
      • What options do they consider?
      • What do they decide to do?
      • What change do they decide to make?
  • When they’re on their journey what do they learn?
      • What new skills do they acquire?
      • How does this empower them?
      • What new things make them feel uncomfortable, but that they realise are growth opportunities?
  • What does their journey help them overcome?
      • What challenges do they overcome?
      • What is the goal that they achieve?
  • What reward do they get by achieving this goal?
      • What does achieving this goal mean to them personally?
      • What does it mean to them in their role in the business?
      • What does it mean to their business?
  • What are the new challenges they're presented with?
      • What do these look like?
      • Why are these new challenges better than their old challenges?
      • How does their old world look, now they've been on the journey they have?
  • What does their new position allow them to do?

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of bullet points above. Answer them one at a time and you will naturally begin to craft a story. Do a brain dump and get as many points under each question as possible, then you can begin refining your hero’s journey. 

When you've answered these questions, work on merging your answers into a single narrative that tells the entire story of the hero’s journey.

When you've written it, read it through. Ask yourself - does it tell a compelling story of why the customer would buy the product / service?

If yes, then you’re ready to begin thinking about how you are going to communicate your hero’s journey story using the tactical framework of a customer journey, such as the AIDA model.

 

An example of applying the hero’s journey to your marketing

 

With timeliness in mind, i’m going to use a super simplified example of a hypothetical hero’s journey, in order to explain to you how to apply it to your marketing. This example is based around a company trying to sell a personal development course about meditation, but the concept can be applied to any business/product/service. 

Note: the parts highlighted in magenta are the hero’s journey, the parts highlighted in blue are how we will connect with the customer at each stage of their hero’s journey. 

When applied in a marketing use case, the hero’s journey goes a little like this:

1) Who are they: 

Our hero’s are people who are looking to improve their connection with themselves and restore a sense of grounding into their daily life. They are faced with the everyday stress of life, particularly running their own business, caring for a family and trying to have a social life around this. 

Defining the customers needs, wants and desires is the essential first step - getting this right will ensure the messaging of the entire campaign resonates with your intended audience. 

2) Why they decide to do something about it: 

Because their life is becoming overwhelming and unmanageable. They are desperate for a change in mindset in order to restore themselves to sanity. So they head to google to look for help. The page they land on provides answers to all of their questions and offers a free webinar to provide information on 7 secrets to living a fulfilling life. The customer signs up for the webinar and  proceeds to the next stage of their journey. 

Note: Knowing the problems they face and the location they head to in order to find a solution allows you to: be present in the correct place, at the right time, with the right messaging. That’s why step one is so important.

In this use case, the user is searching for a solution on Google, so we create a landing page optimised for key words and phrases our hero is likely to use. The meta description shown in the search results addresses the challenges that the customer is experiencing, encouraging them to click through to the landing page. Once on the landing page, the content resonates with them, so they sign up for the “How mediation restores sanity is busy lives” free webinar. They have now made the transition from awareness to interest in the customer journey. 

3) What do they learn / overcome / achieve?

In this webinar, the user learns how to use a transcendental meditation technique to reground themself throughout the day. This gives them a sense of how meditation can empower them to address their problems. They are presented with an offer to buy the full course at the end of the webinar,  and decide they would like to gain access to the tool which has just proven to them to solve their problem. 

At this point in time, we want to have captured at least one piece of contact information from the customer, such as an email address in case the user drops out of the journey. This will allow us to add them to our CRM system and follow-up with them at a later date to prompt a conversion. However in this case, the customer makes a purchase and we can follow up by providing additional value and ensuring everything is running smoothly for them.

4) What does their new position allow them to do and what new challenges do they face?

With their newly acquired tool, they’re beginning to master the first stage of meditation and want to continue expanding their horizons by diving even deeper into meditation. Having personalised help from an expert would be really valuable to help the progress, so they are offered a 1-1 call each month.

They are now a paying customer and it’s time to present them with an upsell so they can keep progressing. When they finish the mediation course, they are offered an upgraded package that includes a personal 1-1 call with an expert each month. This helps keep the customer engaged and also allows their mentor to offer them additional courses in the future that are a good fit for them.

In conclusion

 

As you’ve now learned, the hero’s journey is not separate to the customer journey - they are both intertwined. Although you could use them both individually, the most value is created when you weave them together, telling the customer the part of the story they need to hear at the current stage they are in. 

Instead of just reading this blog and letting your new knowledge fade away, sit down for 10 minutes whilst you have your morning coffee and draft out the story that your customer goes on to make them a hero. This will really solidify your learning. 

 

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