Content is like monkey bars. Without a clear next handlebar for your customers to grab onto, there's a pretty good chance they'll fall short of the end goal. By connecting one piece of content to another, content ultimately narrows in focus and delivers the customer to a thoughtful destination that inspires a clear next step.
A clever call to action, an enticing squeeze page, an easily accessible contact form are are all examples of content that leads the customer through a set of steps that ultimately brings them in for a sale. That interconnected system of content is just one part of what's called the customer journey.
What is the customer journey and why does it matter?
A customer journey is a step-by-step funneling process that ushers your ideal clients from the front door, to your shop (either in-person or online), to your checkout, and through an ecosystem of content that continues to be relevant between purchases. It’s a phase that continually narrows. As time goes on, customer relationships become more intimate, and brand loyalty becomes more affectionate. This combination of content strategy, design, and brand positioning work together to serve the customer and stay top of mind.
When you identify your customer's needs – mentally, physically, emotionally – you see what customers see and feel what customers feel. Journey maps become empathy tools, illuminating Emotional Targets that in inspire compassion-first content strategies.
We understand the customer journey as a customer story, rather than a linear series of events. Our clients crack open their Emotional Targeting Workbooks to better understand the emotional appeal of their brand (the big picture), before whittling down and compassionately understanding their customer’s needs along the way.
Become keenly aware of the existing emotions customers contend with.
What emotions do customers experience when they open their email inboxes? In general, we’ve defined those emotions as anxiety, frustration, and in some cases even dread.
Customers are eager to have useful or interesting things in their inboxes that they can identify with on a personal level, shared by people who truly care about contributing to their well-being or success in a meaningful way.
It sounds simple in theory, right? Write content you think people will love, hit send, and call it good. But the reality is that it's far more common to start the day archiving a few dozen spammy "sale" newsletters, thoughtless "daily mail," and impersonal communication that leaves few, if any, lasting impressions.
Knowing this, a business that wants to be regarded with respect must develop a content language – a lexicon – that respects the customer first, to counteract the usual emotions that customers are already expecting to feel before they even open their inboxes.
As you become more intentional about how your customer journey works, you'll become more intentional about how, why, and when you create content for your customers.
Can humor be intricately scattered throughout the content to disarm the customer? Should the content be written from the founder’s voice, to develop the kind of intimacy that customers crave? How can we write headlines that make customers feel empowered, rather than frightened?
These kinds of discovery questions help us scratch the surface of the ideal customer’s emotional state, making room for content opportunities to alleviate and redirect those feelings into bigger brand love.
Get to know the person behind the persona.
Personas can be so intimate, yet so distant. They can reveal so much about human need, but can often feel so sterile when we don’t do the work of understanding emotions as they are, not as we want them to be.
Personas don’t have to be prescriptive. Strategy doesn’t have to be sterile. When you see and feel from the customer’s eye view, you can see how the content you publish can be a compassionate way of lighting the customer journey.
The personas we write are different. Instead of identifying the typical categories of motivation, fears, and goals, we build personas as slice of life stories. We account for personal triumphs, everyday anxieties, simple delights, and conflicting emotions well beyond the generic fill-in-the-blanks. We create a living, breathing customer DNA, rather than a one-note profile.
Personas have the power to influence content well beyond goals. With emotion as a constant gut-check, content becomes a love letter to customers that continually crave being seen, heard, felt, understood, alleviated, appreciated, served, and applauded.
In this process, our clients receive decks that read like stories rather than bulleted lists. No matter the project, we know this to be true: customers don’t want to be treated like another box to check off on the “brand checklist,” and our clients don’t want to see their prospective customers as “insights.”
That’s why our personas put a finger on the pulse of the people our clients serve, rather than dishing out a Mad Lib of generic qualities that barely scratch the surface of the depths of human experience.
Where does the ideal customer spend their idle downtime at 11 AM on a Wednesday morning? When they’re hungry at the end of a long workday, who do they turn to for a meal and a good deal? If a customer who has recently moved is trying to turn a house into a home, where do they go for artwork that’ll become a family heirloom?
By considering questions like these, we're better equipped to create content for human beings rather than demographics.
Create content that fits context.
Once your customer's emotional needs are defined and personas are refined, it’s time to get methodical about the customer journey.
You might visualize each step of the journey and ask questions like:
Based on the analytics at hand, where are customers typically coming to you from?
Where is your greatest source of traffic? Sponsored posts? Ads? Organic reach? Like-minded Facebook communities? Word of mouth?
Once you’ve identified where customers find you, where do they need to be directed to next?
At the point of sale, checkout, or first contact, what should they know more than anything else?
When they’re hovering above the “buy” button, what do they absolutely need to hear from you that will help seal the deal?
If they’ve abandoned their shopping cart or are still on the fence, what can you say to bring them back and convert them based on the emotional appeal of your brand, product, or service?
After they’ve made a purchase, how can you congratulate and commit to their satisfaction?
These questions are a great way of stepping back to consider how needs and emotions work together. This process also helps you understand the methods of content delivery that work best for your audience.
Discovery uncovers the truth. Truth creates transparency. Transparency evokes trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships build profit (well beyond money).
Right content, for the right audience, at the right time, in just the right way.
With a bird’s-eye view of what happens when, you can tailor your content to reach well beyond the default blog post or newsletter. Discovering about how, when, and why customers interact with your brand will help you narrow down your options to just the ones that are well-suited to the people you want to connect with.
For example, skepticism about a brand can be alleviated through photo stories that show behind the scenes work and connect faces with names. A tough-to-explain concept can be made more digestible through infographics or short videos. Common questions can be transformed into a handsome FAQ page, a downloadable PDF, or an ongoing video series.
Understanding your customer’s needs matters. Understanding your customer's journey matters. Understanding your customer as a real human being beyond the way they interact with your brand matters, too.
By doing the work of uncovering these three pillars, you’re giving yourself a 360-degree view of what matters most in their eyes, all so you can develop content that connects and converts through the heart.