The ending to a great film will make you feel something intense, whether it’s sadness, fury, happiness, exhilaration, or some combination of these emotions. This is achieved through a steady process of priming you to see things in a particular way. Without the context of the events leading up to it, the ending wouldn’t seem all that important.
This is the power of storytelling: it gets people invested, slowly but surely. When you build a strong narrative, you can focus attention as it unfolds, ensuring that the conclusion has the perfect opportunity to leave an impact — and in the world of ecommerce, proving impactful is a matter of absolute importance.
And like an excellent story, a successful customer journey typically features numerous steps before it reaches the purchase. If you want to maximize your sales, you need to plan out a compelling journey — so why not use storytelling to do it? Here are some core tips for using storytelling to create a formidable customer journey:
Clearly identify the instigating issue
Something needs to start a customer journey, because it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. There’s always a fundamental motivation pushing someone in a particular direction. If you can identify the source of that motivation, then you can cater to it while setting up the broad story of how someone goes from a prospect to a customer.
Below is an example of an opening statement for a big brand (Spotify, to be exact). It promises millions of songs for everyone for free. From this, you can easily figure out what’s motivating the potential Spotify customer: a desire to listen to more music (more songs and/or more variety) and frustration stemming from unnecessary payment.
This is a really obvious example, but you can imagine the power of telling a story featuring a protagonist who struggles to find the right music to enrich their life. Perhaps they can’t afford to pay for individual songs or albums — then along comes this streaming service to solve that problem. If you’re going to tell a story about your customer, then you first need to have a very clear understanding of what began their quest. Only then can you tailor it accordingly.
Show empathy for the customer
Though you can tell specific stories (more on that next), the general story you’re telling is of the possible customer you’re directly targeting with your marketing and sales materials. If you’ve identified why they’re on the lookout for a solution, then you can start moving them towards yours, but it’s essential that you show empathy.
This manifests in what you say and how you say it. Here’s the thing about simple but classic stories: they’re so effective because they push us to root for their protagonists. When you share your life story with someone, don’t you expect them to consider your perspective? If they understand your position but don’t show any empathy, then you’re not going to want to spend much time with them or listen to what they have to say.
Even though you’re the writer, you’re telling the prospective customer’s story, so you need to clearly see their grievances as serious and legitimate. It might be that the instigating incident is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but don’t be flippant about it — it matters to them, so it has to matter to you. If you can do it delicately, then feel free to add comments about how annoying a particular situation can be (if you go overboard, you’ll seem condescending).
Tell existing success stories
I mentioned using specific stories to push things along, and you should specifically be telling stories about your existing customers. How have your products and/or services helped them overcome their obstacles and achieve their goals?
Try to pick out stories from people or brands that fit the context: for instance, if you’re building a customer journey for a B2B business, then use a case study from a B2B business. The more the reader can identify with the subject of the case study, the more effective it will prove.
If possible, use visuals to reinforce this social proof. Below is an example I found on the main page for the Shopify POS system: not only is there added credibility when there are faces put to the attached names, but there’s also the benefit of having a wholesome photo of a photogenic family. After all, if the system is good enough for these nice people, isn’t it good enough for you?
In the end, you’re trying to paint a rosy picture of the future — to explain that buying from you is the path to giving their story an uplifting ending. The more similar stories you can tell, the more easily the reader will believe that theirs will follow a similar route.
By using storytelling elements, you can create a customer journey that understands motivation, presents a compelling solution, and proves real credibility. Give it a try.
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