One of the tasks we enjoy around the Visual Creatives office is designing what we loosely call an Experiential Customer Journey. This loose description covers everything from programming for annual employee events and tradeshow booths to Farm to Table dinners. We love walking our clients through the ideation process and showing them how to apply their unique Brand Voice to even the smallest details of their Customer Journey. And after working with our clients on these kinds of events, we’ve learned a thing or two about the planning and thought process that needs to go into an Experiential Customer Journey.
Experiences are part of your storytelling, so use the principles of brand storytelling.
Hero’s Journey – Your client is the hero of this journey. They will experience your call to participate in the event, and they will think about refusing that call. In addition, they will look for companions along the way and easy solutions for the obstacles they encounter. Be prepared with the solutions your client needs at their fingertips.
Example: a Visual Creatives client needed to capture a fairly significant amount of time to engage in one-on-one conversations with their potential clientele at a trade show. In order to achieve this goal and overcome their client’s hesitancy to enter their booth, our client lined their booth with comfortable chairs and gave them a place to escape from the craziness of the convention floor. Simple. While the weary convention-goer sat down and regrouped, our clients had ample time to begin the conversations they needed.
Brand Archetype – Remember that your company has an archetype, a group of expected brand behaviors. These characteristics of your brand need to be consistent whether you are speaking in print, on the web, or creating a holiday party for your customers and vendors.
Example: one of our clients is a Lover Archetype. This gourmet prepared foods manufacturer delights in the senses that accompany their products. For them, a customer experience simply must involve as many smells, sights and textures as possible. When potential clients tour their production facility they are treated to samples, they see the kitchen with the chefs customizing blends, and they smell roasting onions and garlic as they attempt to hold business meetings on-site. When it was time to create a memorable trade show booth, this Lover client replicated their factory experience for the attendees. Two chefs consistently created stunning samples for passers-by to try. They used reclaimed wood on their show booth to showcase the textures they loved, and they used mouth-watering photography to quickly capture attention in a sea of other vendors standing behind their displays of boxed and bottled goods. Our client’s living, breathing archetype drew crowds and engaged every sense. They were true to their brand voice.
Return to the ordinary world, changed – Every good journey sends the hero home at the end of the tale changed. Your experience should do the same. At the end of the event, your client should have new knowledge, a new relationship or a deeper understanding of a topic or an industry. They should be refreshed, or invigorated, or equipped. Whatever the end result you choose, make sure your hero — your client — goes out from your experience changed in some way.
Example: another client created a strong “brand anthem” video to inspire their employees at an annual gathering This company had faced and overcome a significant downturn in their business, and this event was designed to mark the end of the struggle and a rebirth of hope and vigor as the company returned to health. The video our client created was designed to celebrate the bond of the over-comers, and inspire the employees with a sense of teamwork and change.
A few more customer experience principles
- Be emotionally engaging – in your planning process identify the emotion you want to create and use that as a filter for every detail.
- Use all the senses – add smells and tastes into any experience to engage your client’s brains at a deeper level. Spritz scents into the air, offer snacks, play music.
- Be present – all memorable moments hinge on relationships. Be available for conversation and set aside whatever ordinary tasks are on your mind. The “who” of an experience often matters far more than the “what.”
- Slow time down – Remove all sense of hurry or distraction from your experience (unless you are creating a sense of urgency, of course!) Take a tip from Disney World and don’t have many clocks showing!
- Be yourself – If you come up with a theme that is outside your comfort zone, find others to help you pull it off. A shy, quiet person will not be able to dress up as a superhero and pose for pictures. But you will find plenty of willing accomplices who can handle that outgoing role while you engage in quieter conversations on the side.
- Track the emotional moments – Be intentional about creating the first impression, the sense of a gift being given, a feeling of overcoming an obstacle, and a satisfying conclusion of the experience.
Planning an Experiential Customer Journey can be a fun change from the more humdrum marketing and sales tasks you perform every day and can yield a crop of new relationships and clients to grow and nurture. Just remember to apply the principles of Storytelling to make it memorable!
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