Camper van on the highway with wide valley in background

A Roadtrip Guide to the Customer Journey

A few months ago, I was trying to explain how customer journey worked to a friend who was starting a consulting business.

Since my background is in content marketing for B2B companies, I started out with references to marketing funnels, inbound leads, awareness, and…. snooze. I’d lost her.

“Hold on,” I said. “What’s the last roadside attraction you stopped at?”

She — as you probably did — cocked her head to the side in confusion.

“Bear with me,” I said. “I have an idea.

(Header photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash.)

What Your Consulting Business has in Common with Wall Drug

Like pictures more than words? Check out my SlideShare presentation:

The Road Trip Guide to Customer Journey from Jessie Kwak on SlideShare

Let me ask you a question:

When you’re using content marketing to market your business, what are you really trying to do?

To catch the attention of people who have never heard of you and convince them to take bigger and bigger steps into your world. 

  • They like your guest post, so they check out your website.
  • They learn a ton from your blog, so they subscribe to your newsletter.
  • They get to know you through your newsletter, so they sign up for your free course.
  • They see amazing results from your free course, so they hire you to work with them as a coach.

That delicate, deliberate act of drawing in strangers and treating them to an amazing experience is just what a roadside attraction has to do.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. 

Wall Drug: Sanity-Saver of Parents Everywhere

When I was 12 years old, my parents took my sister and I on an epic road trip around the United States and Venezuela: Six weeks, two pre-teen sisters who couldn’t stop bickering, and one grandmother — all in a van that kept overheating. 

While driving through South Dakota on our way back to Washington State, we passed through miles and miles of gloriously empty landscape. Towns were few and far between, my sister and I were bored, and my parents were tired of listening to us argue with each other in the backseat.

We were desperate for something to break up the monotony of the road.

Wall Drug was very aware of our plight.

Wall drug exterior shot with a rideable jackalope statue out front.

(Photo of the Wall Drug Jackalope by Chris Favero via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0)

The hand-painted Wall Drug signs along the highway start catching your attention while you’re still hundreds of miles out.

They promise burgers, 5c coffee, Black Hills gold, and — of course — free ice water.

Naturally, we pulled in.

Your Customers are Looking for a Break

Just like my family did with Wall Drug, the target audience for your business goes through the same customer journey as any well-advertised roadside attraction.

Take the “Trees of Mystery” attraction in Northern California, for another example.

First, there are billboards for miles around promising to meet you, the driver, in your point of need.

Are you bored?

Hungry?

Tired?

Ready to leave your pre-teen daughters on the side of the road?

Let us help.

Next, there’s the parking lot.

An enormous statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox greet you in the parking lot for the Trees of Mystery on Highway 101, offering an excellent photo opportunity. There’s also a free nature trail where you can stretch your legs and learn about the local flora.

Giant Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox statue outside the Trees of Mystery

(Photo of the Trees of Mystery by Kirt Edblom via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s a small taste of the kitsch and nature-oriented education you’ll get if you walk inside the Trees of Mystery gift shop.

If you decide the vibe from the nature trail is not for you, you can enjoy the free sample and move along.

Or, you could open the door to the gift shop.

Any roadside attraction owner with a lick of business sense puts the ticket booth inside the gift shop. Inside the shop, tourists who are still on the fence can get a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone, then read more about the attraction.

The gift shop offers an opportunity to make a small ask, while giving the driver a more intriguing glimpse of what’s on offer.

Maybe that’s a mini museum, maybe that’s a wall of photos from other tourists enjoying the House of Mystery or SkyTrain or Sea Lion Caves or whatever “The Experience” is.

If you decide it’s not for you, you can spend a couple dollars on trinkets and walk back out the door and get on with your road trip.

Or, you can wander up to the ticket booth and step behind the curtain.

Once you’ve bought the ticket, the roadside attraction owner has successfully converted you from a traveler who knew nothing about the attraction into a paying customer.

You’ve bought into the final product: The Experience.

You’re ready to be wowed by the Giant Trees, the Genuine Mermaids, the Wax Museum.

But Wait, There’s More!

Of course, once the Experience delights you, you become a brand advocate.

You buy a kitschy T-shirt and a bumper sticker. You help grow their business by telling your friends that if they ever find themselves driving through Northern California, it’s worth checking out the Trees of Mystery.

Or, in my case, you find yourself decades later writing about Wall Drug on your blog and still wearing that kitschy T-shirt to bed.

Because in the end, the reason that my parents first pulled into the parking lot at Wall Drug wasn’t just because of the billboards.

It was because for days and days as we drove we’d seen cars (advocates) with pine green bumper stickers that said “Wall Drug of South Dakota” in old-timey white letters. By the time we saw the first billboards, we were already curious.

Applying these Stages to Your Business’ Customer Journey

Just like a roadside attraction has a specific sequence of events that turns a road-weary driver into a paying customer and brand advocate, so does your business.

And just like a roadside attraction uses specific types of content at each stage of the journey, so should you.

Let’s take a look at an example:

A sales coach who teaches teams to build and nurture leads, specifically on LinkedIn. 

Billboard content: free and widely distributed content containing calls to action (CTAs) that lead potential clients back to her website to get free resources

  • Blog (focus: leadership, sales strategy, relationships, networking, selling, productivity)
  • LinkedIn Pulse blog (focus: sales strategy, relationships, networking)
  • YouTube channel (focus: sales strategy, networking)
  • Guest posts on major sites (focus: relationships, networking, nurturing leads)
  • Interviews and expert quotes in relevant articles (focus: sales, building a network)

Parking Lot content: free to access on website

  • Webinar recording (topic: LinkedIn networking secrets)
    • Conversion point: Get the rest of the tips by opting in to my resource library
  • Case studies (topic: how I’ve helped teams just like yours)
    • Conversion point: Call or email to learn how I can help your team

Gift Shop content: requires opt-in

  • Resource library (topic: LinkedIn guides, tips, checklists)
  • Email newsletter – monthly (focus: sales, building a network, leadership)

The Experience: paid-for products and services

  • Team training (topic: LinkedIn networking)
  • Sales coaching (topic: customizable to needs of team, improving day-over-day sales)
  • Keynote speaking (topics: connecting with prospects, sales secrets)

Learn How to Connect Content Marketing and Customer Journey

Want to take a deeper dive into setting up a powerful content marketing funnel that draws in leads?

Ad for Get More Leads book