The original "Choose Your Own Adventure" book was created by Edward Packard called the "Adventures of You." Between 1978 and 1998, it was a phenomenon for kids (and adults), because it was the first time the reader was given control over the outcome. With so many options to end the story, the unexpected twists brought the reader back to try it again and again.
If this behavior sounds familiar, it's because it also describes today's customers. With so many choices and ways to buy, customers are crafting their own "choose your own adventure" in their purchasing path. So as the author of your story, are you confident that you're connecting with your customers and showing them how they can be a part of building their own version of your story that makes them want to come back again and again?
Let's be real here: People buy because of people. It's our interactions and experiences with others - whether we know or even trust the source - that lead us to any purchase. This is what makes the buying cycle so sophisticatedly unique, every time, and out of our control as marketers. Combine this with varying levels of customer loyalty, and their overall satisfaction of every interaction with your brand, it's clear that their journey is going to be different every time.
What you can control is how much, as a marketer, you put into earning your customer's trust. The quality of your content, information, and the choices you make to connect with them is under your control.
Here are 5 ways to build a customer adventure that is sure to connect with your current and potential customers:
1) Use Personagraphics. The demographic is dead. Your message is everywhere and your referrals and influencers exist all over the place. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say that their potential customers aren't on Facebook. Wanna bet? They may not be on there for business, but as individuals they are being influenced through connections and friendships. Don't discount the shattered geographical boundaries that online networks have created; it's where interactions of all kinds - personal included - that open up new opportunities.
2) Journey Mapping. "Life is a journey, not a destination," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Brilliance! Mapping out as many customer journeys that you can think of will help visualize unexpected interactions and steer experiences that will really matter to your customers.
3) Test. Scale. Optimize. Doing something for the first time only gives us a benchmark. It's the documented shifts along the way that ultimately gives us a better rule set for us to market against. After all, every experience is unique and different to a brand and customer. Next time you say "we know what works" if it's only been done once... think again. And don't be fooled; just because something can be measured, it doesn't mean it should be. If the information you're collecting doesn't directly relate back to a business objective, it can't be used to optimize anything (except your trashcan).
4) Offline Interaction Still Lives. It's the total experience that shapes whether we buy something or not, and until a customer really understands what you're selling, their experience won't be complete. Depending on what you're selling, this can come in the form of a conference call demo, a face-to-face meeting over coffee or an in-store overhead conversation. You will never have complete context to inform your purchase without real human experiences.
5) Design the End Upfront. As marketers, we strive to build programs that make stuff sell. But sometimes, the brand, product, or the service fails to deliver the same promise. Really understand what you're selling, find its best attributes and promote those to the top of the marketing plan. Then you can devise the very best case scenario upfront - One that's consistent with what you say, and what your customer experiences.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Today's customers are fickle and connected, and you'll never have total control over your brand experience - period. But by truly understanding what you're selling, how you're measuring success and seeing your customers as unpredictable humans, you can craft adventurous experiences that keep them talking and coming back for more.