Use story to understand your customer's journey and simplify your marketing

If you’re not using the 5 Tiers of Customers & Their Journey to improve your organization and simplify your marketing, then you must be ok with the status quo and feeling overwhelmed. Here’s why. Your customers are real people like you on an epic journey. They are hunting for a solution to their problem. Like a super vitamin, their journey is packed with power for your organization and marketing. And if you understand and empathize with their journey, you can win the day for them and you!

In this article, I’ll share the 5 Tiers of Customers and show you the gold mine they bring to improving your organization and simplifying your marketing.

First, we must understand the 5 Tiers. Then we can develop what one writer calls “a pathological empathy for our audience.” (I love that statement. We’ll come back to it often.) Finally, we’ll connect our findings and empathy to our organization and marketing. You’ll gain insights to help you focus and clarify what you do and how you market it.

The 5 Tiers of Customers & Their Journey

The 5 Tiers represent the journey of your audience or customer. Every journey starts the same. Your audience has a problem they need help with. So they set out for a solution. The journey progresses like the 9 Rings of Dante’s Inferno…_only with 5 tiers. In the end, our beloved hero (our audience or customer) is either victorious or stalls out. There is triumph. Or there is tragedy.

Tier 1: The Curious

In Tier 1, our hero is curious. He or she leaves the comfort and security of home to begin the active search. For our audience, this used to be a physical search—like get in the car and drive downtown. Later, it would look like thumbing through the phone book or yellow pages. Now it happens online. Through search or social media, the hunt is on. The Curious hero is a customer who has not formally met your organization or business yet. Perhaps they’ve seen you around. But they’ve never stopped to see how you might help solve their problem.

Tier 2: The Confused

In Tier 2, our curious hero finds his or her way to your organization. But the perils of the journey force our hero to make swift decisions. Any delay and the evil problem may overtake him. After a brief look around, confusion confounds our hero. Oh no! (We will come back to why this happens to our hero later in this series.) For now, this customer is someone who came across your brand and was confused about how you could help. So they move on.

Tier 3: The Collector

Progressing to Tier 3, our hero adds you to his or her collection of possible solutions. Soon the fork in the road will force our hero into a decision. For now, your organization is in the mix of weapons the hero could use to slay the enemy. This is a customer who came across your brand while searching for a solution. You are valuable enough for them to keep in mind, but we have yet to convince the hero you are the answer to his dilemma.

Tier 4: The Casual Fan

The time has come for the hero to face off. With your help, the hero beats back the villainous problem who flees the scene to lick his wounds. You’ve given our hero some much-needed relief from the attack of the problem. Congrats. You now have a new casual fan. Though the enemy is not ultimately defeated, our hero knows you can help keep him at bay. This is a customer who trusted you enough to help him/her address the problem. They appreciate your help in keeping the problem at a distance.

Tier 5: The Champion

In the 5th and final tier, our hero charges into battle, slays the problem, and wins the day in stunning fashion. And you were the piercing arrow. You played a pivotal role in his victory. Our hero (customer or audience) is the champ. As he proudly struts forth on his victory lap, he recounts the climactic moment where you—the trustworthy arrow—made the difference. Your place in the hero’s story is forever solidified.  Zeal and passion exude whenever he gets the chance—or makes the chance—to talk about you. If ever there is another in need of such an arrow, he will champion you to no end. This is a customer who loves you.

To recap, this is the journey of every customer or everyone in your audience. It’s not whimsy. It’s real. Your audience or customer has a real problem in need of a real solution. They are on a journey in search of a solution. Their journey will end in triumph or tragedy. The question in this series is, what role will you play in their journey? And what role should their journey play in your organization and marketing?

Start With These Questions for the 5 Tiers

If you cannot empathize with the journey of your audience, you will miss out on reaching your maximum impact and making the world a better place. Next time we will zoom in on the problem driving your audience’s journey. It’s the key to unlocking the power of the 5 Tiers so you know what to say to your audience. Then we’ll unpack how you use the 5 Tiers of Customers & Their Journey to improve your organization and simplify your marketing. For now, take a few minutes to consider where customers may be getting stuck along the journey. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • The Curious: Can our customers/audience find us? Are we visible where they’ll be looking? What could we do to improve our visibility to make us easier to find?
  • The Confused: Can our customers or audience understand how we help them? Are we clear?
  • The Collector: Is there anything we can do to be more convincing about how we help our audience/customer?
  • The Causal Fan: Why do our customers see us as a partial solution and not an ultimate solution helping them defeat their problem?
  • The Champion: How are we identifying our champions? What’s working and how can we do more?

If you love simple math that adds up to growing your impact, then you’re going to love this simple formula. Here it is. 

The more you know about your hero’s problem, the easier it is to be the solution + The easiest solution usually wins.

2 Ways to Better Understand Your Audience’s Problem

You want to win in helping your hero—your customer. That’s why you’re here. So let me share two rules you can use to better understand the problem facing your customer. If you’ll use them, you will make it easier for your customer to choose you. If you don’t, your customer will end up choosing someone else who did. There’s no neutral ground here.

The Setup

If all this series of articles did was help you simplify your marketing, that would be great. But you will also learn some great ways to improve your organization. And this comes free from your customer by way of their 5 movements. Last time we did a flyover of The 5 Tiers of Customers & Their Journey. We ended with some questions for you to evaluate how well you empathize with your customer.

There are 3 parts moving this drama along. (We called our drama The 5 Tiers of Customers & Their Journey.

  1. Our hero (your customer) 
  2. Our hero’s problem or dilemma
  3. The solution to the hero’s problem (you and others who offer a possible remedy). 

New let’s focus on the second part—our hero’s problem.

Rule 1 About Your Customer’s Problem: Size Matters

The size (or scope) of the hero’s problem matters. You must take this into account. A bump is different than a broken bone. The better you understand this, the better able you are to posit a simple solution to your customer. And the easiest solution usually wins. 

The size of your hero’s problem determines…

  • Speed (Urgency): How quickly the hero leaves the comforts of home. For example, a fire in the home means he’s off in a flash. A need for updated curtains likely means she will keep an eye out in the normal course of life.
  • Time: How long the hero will need to make a decision. Larger problems make for longer decisions. Choosing a refreshment happens faster than choosing a retirement plan.
  • Progress: How fast the hero will progress through the 5 tiers (based on urgency and time). Most industries have a standard pace or sales cycle. What’s yours? 
  • Awareness: How aware the hero is of the problem? Some problems are obvious or established. Some are not. Some are old but in need of a fresh solution. Consider home recipe and ingredient meal services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Both are about 5 years old. They made us aware of a real, but new problem: how do normal, busy people cook great meals at home. Most of us did not wake up with that problem ‘top of mind’. Rather, it was just below the surface. Their marketing made the customer aware of the problem. Or take Cyber Monday. It’s a new twist on an old problem: where can I get ‘amazing’ deals on holiday gifts…AND avoid the crowds?

Rule 2: Popularity Matters.

The popularity of your hero’s problem matters. How many heroes have this problem? For example, every human needs water. So the market is overflowing with solutions for the customer. The more popular the problem, the more you need to be clear about your solution. This makes it easy for your customer to choose you. And I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but the easiest solution usually wins.

Take Action With This Free Resource

Not paying careful attention to your customer’s problem is like ignoring the lobster-red tint of your skin the first day at the beach. You’re gonna get burned…and it’s gonna hurt worse tomorrow. Grow your impact instead. Download this handy PDF. I’ve packed it with specific questions. You can work through them yourself or with your team. Each question helps you address the speed, time, progress, awareness and popularity of the problem facing your customer. Remember, the more you know about your hero’s problem, the easier it is to be the solution. And the easiest solution usually wins. Grab your free guide here…

Here’s The Good News

Did you know this entire series is based on a clear gospel principle? Jesus knew our problem well—sin. He took full ownership of our problem so he could be the solution. Note, he didn’t just provide a solution, he was the solution. You follow the pattern of Jesus when you make the effort to know your customer’s problem and serve them with a solution.

The Pay Dirt At The End of Your Customer’s Journey (A Recap)

Imagine a high-profile consultant. He’s got a 100% success rate. And he just handed you 3 goals guaranteed to grow your impact. 

Now imagine his advice cost you nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Wouldn’t that be great?

No more searching for what to do next. No need to experiment with marketing hacks to get more customers. No more doubts flooding your mind, ‘will this work?’ No more anxiety about where to lead your organization next. Instead, this imaginary consultant has shown you the way forward. Like a postmortem Obi Wan Kanobe saying “Luke use the force,” he points the way. 

Oh, what a wonderful Christmas gift it would be.

Good news. If you’ll tap into the 5 Tiers of Customers & Their Journey, your Christmas wish can become a reality.

The Pay Dirt At The End of Your Customer’s Journey (A Recap)

There’s gold in them there Hills…the ‘Hills’ being your customers.  After a brief Thanksgiving intermission, we’re back to part 3 of this series. Here’s a quick recap of the gold we’ve already mined from your customer’s journey.

What We Unearthed in Part 1

  • Your customers are on a journey that begins with a problem and ends when they find a resolution.
  • Your customer is the main character, or hero, in this 5-act story.
  • The 5-acts chronicle the hero’s journey from The Curious to The Champion. (Review the 5 acts here.)

Part 1 Pay Dirt

The better you empathize with the 5 Tiers of your customers and their journey, the better chance you have of growing your impact.

What We Unearthed in Part 2 

Two things matter when it comes to your customer’s problem.

  • Rule 1: The size of your customer’s problem impacts urgency, progression, and awareness.
  • Rule 2: The popularity of your customer’s problem impacts competition and clarity.

Part 2 Pay Dirt

The more you know about your customer’s problem, the easier it is to be the solution…and…the easiest solution usually wins.

The Best Consultant You Can Hire But Never Have to Pay

Our opening scenario featured a top-tier consultant handing you free, killer advice. Well, this Christmas I’d like to offer you the best consultant you can get. He’s available at no cost. Your customer’s journey offers you the best advice money can buy…for free. 

Here is what your customer can tell you about where to head next. Your goal, on a silver platter, served up by your customer’s journey is (drumroll)…

Make your customer a champion. That’s it.

(Let the cymbal crash die down.) Ok. Most businesses have stated or unstated goals. They’re internal. You bat them about at staff meetings. Maybe post them on a bulletin board in the office.

Internal goals for your personal brand or business can be great. They might look like…

  • Double profit margin by the 4th quarter.
  • Decrease customer complaints by 10%.
  • Add Department X by this date.

But there’s a problem.

Don’t Amputate Your Customer from Your Business Goals

The problem with internal business goals is how easy it is to cut off your customer. Like a junior high lunch table, you can quickly fill the 6 seats and forget you’ve got 8 friends.

Think about it for a second. What would help you double your profit margin by the 4th quarter? Making more of your customers champions. Want to decrease customer complaints? Make more of your customers champions. Thinking of adding a new department, service, or product? Here’s a helpful question for consideration. Will it help you serve more customers and move them from Curious to Champion?

It sounds so obvious. But you’d be surprised how many of your internal business goals cannot be traced back to making life easier/better for your customer. They are separate from your customer’s goals. Your goals amputated your customer. (gulp) Their goals are orphans. Nobody wants to more orphans. Especially not at Christmas!

Here’s another way to look at the same principle. If a business goal does not help your customer move from Curious to Champion, you’ve just created the competition for your own goal. You picked a destination and then put in your own roadblock. You created a plan and threw the wrench in it. Thinking you can grow your impact without growing your customer (not just quantity of customers, but improving their quality of life big or small) is like not listening to your friends while muttering the mantra ‘be the best friend you can be…be the best friend you can be…’.

Pay close attention to your customer’s journey. It’s real-time feedback pointing the way to more impact.

Action Steps to Heed Your Top-Tier Consultant’s Advice

I’ve got 5 questions to you can ask yourself. They’ll help you listen to your customer’s advice—the best advice you’ll ever get.

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