Imagine for a moment that you’ve got a problem.
A whopper of a problem. The, finally-receiving-that-long-awaited-phone-call-but-getting-cut-off-midway type. Or, finding-out-your-biggest-client-goes-bankrupt-with-your-10K-bill-not-yet-paid.
THAT kinda problem.
Got one in mind?
Now imagine you’ve just found THE solution.
Cue excruciatingly high-pitched song sung by 150-person choir, unicorns flying in the skies and confetti coming at you from all angles.
Now, let’s take one final turn…
How would you feel if that unicorn-flying, confetti-exploding, song-producing solution was so close. Yet you, an otherwise intelligent person, can’t seem to find the info you need to buy it.
Or, how about if you HAD actually managed to buy it but the instructions were so unclear that you now felt new frustration on top of the old frustration.
My educated guess would be that you’d be thoroughly under-amused.
If you run a business, it’s vital that you provide your customers with an effortless experience. Give them a path all the way from their problem to your solution. If you don’t you’re depriving them of a potential fix.
Your solution to your customer’s problem
But before you wonder about the word ‘problem’, here’s the thing..
Problems aren’t just high-drama issues like a bankruptcy, depression or deportation. EVERY problem, no matter how big or small they seem to you, IS a problem.
That means that even if you offer a non-essential product or service, like artwork or a bouquet of flowers, you are still a solution to another person’s problem.
After all, there is no universally dictated hierarchy of problems. A problem for one person may not be a problem to others.
A very applicable Jewish proverb that my dad loves to quote goes ‘Every man cries according to the pain they have’. So, no matter the problem, if it’s something you can solve, you’re doing a service by offering it through your product or art.
A part of that solution is your offering, another part is the information you give to potential customers to get familiar with its maker and the product.
If you’re a maker, artist or creative and you’re still unsure what problems you are solving, here are some ideas:
the problem of living in a sad looking house;
the problem of staring at white walls;
the need and desire for change;
the problem of feeling unproductive;
the problem of wanting to feel great in the clothes you wear;
These are all REAL problem areas where you can offer a solution with your art, creative practice or handmade pieces.
No clear path = you at the mercy of your customer
Without a clear path of information you’re relying on your potential clients to conduct a skilled search and are hoping they won’t get distracted before they arrive at your offer.
That, to me, doesn’t sound like a solid plan for growth or sales.
So, how do you create that path?
Meet the Customer Journey, a tool that is commonly used in software development to make sure a customer happily gets to their desired point in the software.
If you don’t know me well (yet), my education and corporate career are in product development for the tech industry, which I did for over a decade before joining the more artful side of product development.
I’ve used the Customer Journey tool in many projects and belive it applies to ANY process in which you serve your customer by leading the way.
The Customer Journey is an INCREDIBLE tool that gives you back control of the conversation. Through it you’re able to offer your would-be clients a clear journey to learn about how you see the problem and what you can do to lighten their load.
Stages in the Customer Journey
‘What do we include in the Customer Journey’, you may ask?
Every experience your customer has with your business has a part to play. In my course I Made This Brand I teach students to look at their Customer Journey in 3 stages:
Stage 1: Discovery
Stage 2: Buy
Stage 3: Maintenance
These stages provide you with a way to understand the order in information your give your customer. It also helps you to write in a way that is in line with their place in the journey. This is because in each stage the customer has a different view point, knowledge and goals.
Consider how you would look for a new computer. When you first start out you don’t know how much RAM you need, or the number of USB ports. But while you’re in the Discovery stage, you’re learning what you want AND what’s out there. Once you go into the Buying phase, you’re aware of what you want and now you’re looking for pricing, guarantees and delivery options. After you’ve bought the computer, you want to know how to set it up or who you can call for help.
If you received information about delivery while you’re in the Discovery stage, that information would be noise, unimportant information that you’d discard because it’s not relevant at that moment.
What a customer journey might look like
In order to get to a Customer Journey, I suggest using post-its to write out every step, keeping the stages in mind.
On each post-it you write one piece of information you’d like to give your customer. This could be anything, from a welcome email to the receipt. Feel free to write out everything in your mind first and then groom the list until you feel it flows.
When you’ve got all those pieces written out, you’ll order them in chronological order.
Content to include in your Customer Journey
To get even more practical, here’s a list of communication you may want to include in your Customer Journey. Please note that this is just a selection, there are a gazillion other pieces of content you could add.
A freebie download that helps your customers tackle a problem like framing artwork, picking colors for the home, or something else that you are an expert at helping with
A specific blog/podcast episode on your website that establishes you as an expert
A sequence of emails welcoming new subscribers that introduces them to your business and you as the person behind the product
Photos on Instagram of your studio space
Behind-the-scenes information about your process
A website page filled with details about the raw materials you use
Worksheets helping customers take action they can be proud of
In all the steps of your Customer Journey, make sure to be suuuper specific about what you want to craft for your customer.
So instead of putting an item of ‘blog post’ as step 2 on your Customer Journey map for your baking blog, write ‘blog post of 1500 words that gives step-by-step instructions to create a cake topper with fondant’. Or, ‘A set of 5 photographs for Instagram Stories showing the behind-the-scenes of me working on a piece of art in my studio’.
“Specific is a kind of bravery”, as Seth Godin says.
Steal this Customer Journey Map
Something like the following would be a great way to structure your customer messaging for the Discovery phase.
Let me break that down for you how I use emails in the discovery phase of the customer journey. For this you’ll need an Email Service Provider, like MailChimp, MailerLite, ConvertKit or Flodesk.
I use Flodesk* as my Email Service Provider because it’s ability to style content is important to my brand, but you should go with whatever works with your budget!
You start the conversation by offering your potential customer a valuable FREE resource in return for their email address. This is a form that you create inside your Email Service Provider. If you want to see the way I do that, check out the Brand Type Quiz.
Then, through a workflow in your Email Service Provider you deliver the free resource through an automated email.
After this is sent, through your workflow in your Email Service Provider (ESP), a Welcome Series email gets sent. Over the course of 2 weeks your schedule out emails in your ESP that that touch on different topics of your business and yourself. You can space these emails 2 to three days apart, starting from the day they get your freebie. If you’re an artist or maker the emails could be centered around something like the following:
Description of who you are, how often you’ll send them emails and what your business is about;
A more personal look into who you are;
A selection of your favorite resources on your blog;
How you help your clients and/or the services or products you offer, like your latest collection;
An expectation of what you have in store for them in your podcasts/emails/blog posts (or however you want to add value)
Following their completion of the welcome series, you add them to a new group of people (a segment) that received regular emails from you. This could be updates describing your work, new podcast episodes/blog posts, collection launches, new projects, etc.
Finally, if you launch new products or collections, you’ll likely want to build up to that as well with specific launch content or through your regular outlets.