When you’re thinking of how to frame your marketing, do you view your product as the hero that swoops in to solve your customers’ problems and alleviate their worries? Although it’s a nice thought, it’s probably not quite true—and more importantly, it’s not the most effective story to tell your prospective customers.

Instead of placing yourself front and center, we recommend flipping the script and telling a more interesting tale where the customer is the hero. As a starting point, you can easily adapt the traditional hero’s journey to your customer’s experience, which shifts them back to the spotlight—where they belong. The first five steps of the hero’s journey are the most relevant to our new narrative:

  1. The customer starts off in the ordinary world of their lives.
  2. An unsolved problem or unfulfilled desire calls them to adventure.
  3. But it’s not that simple: there’s resistance to solving that problem or satisfying the desire.
  4. A mentor (your brand) appears and helps them proceed with the journey.
  5. Then, you deliver a gift (your content) that ultimately leads to a purchase.

This approach empowers your customer, rather than treating them as a damsel in distress. But if you want to turn the tables and make your customer the hero of the story, you have to really know them. That means knowing the ins and outs of their experience with your service or product—which is where the experience map comes in.

An experience map, or journey map, is a simple, self-contained, and shareable strategic marketing tool that puts you in your customers’ shoes. Their experience is the core of the project, a focus that allows you to thoroughly analyze and identify weaknesses in your service or product.

Experience maps focus on qualitative information over quantitative data, gathering information about every simple component of the customer’s experience. The comprehensive nature of the map research process creates a detailed picture, which allows you to pinpoint specific problems and find solutions, ultimately unlocking a more compelling and more valuable overall experience for the buyer. So, what exactly will this look like? Here are some examples of successful maps.

These examples work well because they are simple, easy to read, and they guide you through the ups and downs of the user’s experience. Learning how your customers feel at distinct moments will help you adapt to better meet their needs. As Lauren Ventura at Digital Telepathy says, “A key benefit of this part of the exercise is that it gives context for how you should be speaking to your customer. If they’re worried about taking a next step, your copy tone should be reassuring. If they’re excited, you should be excited, too!”

Chris Risdon at Adaptive Path suggests your experience map should have five components:

  • The lens: This is how a particular person views the journey. Each experience map covers one person’s path. Since this journey will not be the same for everyone, you will likely have multiple experience maps.
  • The journey model: This is the actual design of the map, which can be organized in multiple different ways and should illustrate what’s important about different points in the experience.
  • Qualitative insight: Based around a framework of “doing, thinking, feeling” with the “doing” being the journey model, the “thinking” framed as “Can I use this? Will this work?” and “feeling” using responses such as frustration, satisfaction, sadness, and confusion.
  • Quantitative information: It can be used to emphasize certain parts of the journey, or it might be about service or product itself, such as how high people rate of the enjoyability of a particular phase of the journey.
  • Takeaways: These are the meat of the project, and they’ll drive the next phase of the design or strategy by illuminating the journey and helping to identify new opportunities, pain points, and calls to action.

Ready to start your own? Check Adaptive Path’s guide to experience mapping. Once you’ve compiled your information, organized it into a map, and interpreted your results, it’ll be time to begin on the real project: implementing your newfound information so you can turn your customer into the hero.

Creative Spot is a full-service marketing and advertising agency in Columbus, Ohio. If you would like to learn more about how we can help your organization with strategic marketing, please contact us.