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Applying the Hero’s Journey to Business + Marketing

Far & Wild Design Co. | Hero's Journey
The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is one of our most beloved storytelling methods, and even if you’re not familiar with the name, I guarantee you know it from countless books and films.

The concept of The Hero’s Journey was introduced by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949).

The basic premise is that our hero is called into a journey (which he is often reluctant to take), and is required to step from the known, familiar world into the realm of the unknown. This marks the beginning of the journey or adventure.

The hero is faced with 3 kinds of problems: external (how am I going to find my way to the other side of the mountains?), internal (do I have what it takes to get there?) and universal (good vs. evil, man vs self).

The hero moves through this journey feeling unsure of the new territory, then eventually meets a guide or a series of helpers (enter fairy god mother, wizard, dependable best friend etc.). With the help of the guide the hero continues on until faced with a major challenge (enter the great battle) where his/her courage, strength and character are tested. If the hero chooses to accept this challenge and makes it through to the other side, he/she returns to regular life a changed person, with both internal and external problems solved (enter happy ending).

There are many other nuances and stages in The Hero’s Journey, but that’s the simplified idea.

Applying The Hero’s Journey to Business

The Hero’s Journey shows up most frequently in books and films, but is also used in many other industries. I first learned about using the Hero’s Journey as a way to talk about business from the Content Marketing Institute, and as a way to look at the healing journey from Lewis Mehl-Madrona MD.

In working with clients I often struggled with how to paint a picture of the customer’s journey. Customer personas, profiles and avatars can be helpful, but they tend to focus on demographic traits more than customer problems. (An avatar is essentially a person you imagine that has all the qualities of your ideal customer and describes things like location, income, sex, age, likes, dislikes, etc.) The difficulty is that there are often several if not many different people in the customer mix.

To find the commonalities among these different people, it has been easier for me to pinpoint the common problems they share as opposed to typical classifications used in avatar creation like sex, location, income, etc. In my business I work with doctors, lawyers, artists, industrial welders and other professionals. If I was using an avatar, who would I pick? Instead, I look for common problems. Everyone I work with shares the problems of: how to build a brand, how to showcase products + services, the need for a website and business cards and consultation.

This is what I choose to focus on, and I use The Hero’s Journey to do this.

Who Is The Hero?

If we look at The Hero’s Journey above, what role do you think you play? Many business owners see themselves as the hero, when in fact they are the guide. While it’s true that you may very well be on your own journey as a business owner, you need to start seeing yourself as the guide for your customer. Just like in the healing model where the patient is the hero, in business, the customer is always the hero.

Your hero/customer has a problem (or likely a few of them – internal, external and universal). Because of this problem, they begin searching for a solution in the marketplace and embark on a journey into the unknown.

Your role is to be the guide, who helps the hero/customer solve the problem(s). You will provide knowledge, advice, maybe even secrets, and eventually you’ll help provide the solution to their problem, ultimately resulting in a happy ending. Here in the unknown, there are many potential guides (other businesses). How will you stand out as the right guide so that they want to choose you?

When Frodo went out on his epic journey in Lord Of The Rings, Gandalf was there to help with all of his problems. Not only did he help with the external problem of how to get there safely, but he believed in Frodo when he doubted himself (internal problem) and helped solve the universal problem (good vs evil).

Many businesses speak to ONLY the external problem their customers face. If you can show that you’ll help solve both the internal and external problems you will be miles ahead of your competition.

Focusing on the external problem means that you only talk about things like features, functions, specs, etc. The issue with this is that people make purchasing decisions from a place of emotion, then use facts to back up their decision. It’s much harder to sell something using only facts and features.

Adding Your Business Into the Hero’s Journey

The Hero + Problem(s)

The hero/customer is ________________.

Their external problems are _________________.

Their internal problems are _________________.

Is there a universal problem? _________________.

The Guide

At the start of their journey, what guidance can you provide? Maybe they know very little about their new territory and you need to educate, or explain concepts in a way they understand. Enter the FAQ page on your website, helpful blog posts, Q+A sessions, free eBooks and training videos and so on.

Guidance you’ll provide at the beginning: _________________.

For some products or services, the journey is very short – the customer sees what they want, buy it, happy ending! For others, the journey may be years in length. Someone might sign up to get your newsletter, watch your videos, etc. and 18 months later feel they trust you enough to make a major investment in working with you. This is where testimonials, case studies, and consistently showing that you’re the best guide for the job come into play.

Guidance you’ll provide further along the journey: __________________.

Solving the Problem(s)

When you’re chosen as the guide, you’ll be doing the actual work of solving their problem. For service based industries this is the beginning of a project; for product based businesses this is where the purchase happens.

Your unique offer of how you’ll solve the problem: __________________.

The Happy Ending

A happy ending is when you’ve solved the problem and your customer wants to refer you, keep working with you or become a repeat buyer. This is a good place to add in extra value to the experience of working with you. This is where loyalty begins.

Using The Hero’s Journey, can you map out a plan for your business?

Creating a Custom Plan

Often seeing our lives and businesses through the lens of a story can be extremely helpful. I love how The Hero’s Journey gives us a way to visually map out our customer’s journey, see their problems, and know where we are in relation to everything else.

For help in creating a custom plan and diving more deeply into how you can use The Hero’s Journey to clarify your messaging, create a unique offer and more, get in touch here – emily@farandwild.ca

Emily Haggar, Far & Wild