Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, or the monomyth, has long been held as the benchmark of defining classical myth and stories. In fact, George Lucas based the entirety of the first three Star Wars movies off of it. The basic premise is that every journey follow a similar formula with the same basic steps. In recent years, this mythic journey has been applied to marketing; make your clients just who they want to be: the Hero.
Fair warning, reading about the Hero’s Journey will probably make it so you can never watch Star Wars the same way again, that is if Disney (or George Lucas himself) hasn’t already done that. Here are the basic steps:
1. The Ordinary World
This one is pretty simple because we’re already living in it. Whether it be Frodo celebrating Bilbo’s birthday in the Shire (The Lord of the Rings), Jean-Luc Picard chilling at his family’s vineyard (Picard), or Luke Skywalker looking for some power converters; it’s all the ordinary world.
This is the cold, boring, imagined safety your clients are living in, unaware of the sweet, sweet advantages your services could provide to their business. A mundanity that echoes truth in the phrase, “ignorance is bliss.”
2. The Call to Adventure
In the stories, this is the moment when Neo takes the red pill in the Matrix to join the resistance, when Elle Woods decides to go to Harvard in Legally Blonde, or when Elsa follows the siren’s call in Frozen 2.
For the client, this happens when they first realizes they are missing something, that there is a better way for them, and that they need to do something about it, but there is still some hesitancy. This is where they see your first ad, hear you at a conference, or hear a reference to what you do and what you can fix from a friend. This is the moment the customer is aware of your offering, and the potential it has to create a massive change in their business.
3. Refusal of the Call
A hero is typically reluctant at first; who wants to fight a minotaur or slay a dragon? Those seem like easy ways to die. The mind always jumps to what is negative first, like how much time and effort it might take and the cost of making such changes. It is human nature to reject the risk of something new, for the safety of what is already known.
To quote Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, “Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless—even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire or renown. Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.”
Bilbo said no to traveling to the Kingdom Under the Mountain, Luke said no to helping Ben, Elsa tried to ignore the siren’s call as long as she could. It’s only natural that your client is resistant to moving forward at first. Resistance if part of every adventure, and you should expect nothing different from your future clients.
4. Meeting the Mentor
Now, this is where things get interesting. Who got Bilbo to move forward? Gandalf. Who took Harry Potter to Hogwarts? Hagrid. Neo met the Oracle who gave him just what he needed to choose the right path. Your clients need a guide, just like Daniel in the Karate Kid needed Mr. Miyagi to take them forward. A trusted leader who can show them what they can gain by going on this adventure.
This is why it’s so important everyone at your firm can authentically represent your values, your culture, and not just what you do but how you do it. Your team will be the mentors of your clients, encouraging them to move forward and make a change to achieve their aspirational outcome.
5. Crossing the Threshold
This is when commitment happens; your client is ready to say, “Yes, we’re going to give your services a try.” For our new clients at our software company, Clearview Social, this is the moment when they say, “we are tired of being ordinary, we are tired of constantly living with below average results, we are ready to create behavioral change.” For you, this is when your new clients are committed with buy-in from management and begin using your services. They have crossed the threshold and changed the way they view the world forever.
The other aspect of crossing the threshold is that the Hero themselves changes, not only the way they view the world. When Bilbo stabs the giant spider and named Sting, he is truly changed. He can never go back to who he once was. This is the same with your clients. When they cross the threshold, there’s no turning back. They can’t go back to not using an IPhone, Gmail or Dropbox, to provide a few examples; the product has become such an integral part of their lives they cannot go without it.
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
Your client will face many trials while using your services and it’s your job to be their ally to help them through it. As long as you help them along the way, they’ll be okay and keep going. This is where being accessible and responsive help you continue to be part of their journey, rather than turning you as a service provider into another obstacle. Hopefully, their tests are more along the lines of learning a new user interface as opposed to battling cave trolls or Stormtroopers. Throughout this time, your client is learning how to truly leverage your services and get the most out of them.
7. The Ordeal
This is the final test. The climax of the big story, the big battle when the hero and their new found skill or sword are put to the true test. There have been moments of doubts, and tests, but everything has built up to this moment. Your client can finally achieve a new level of success, or reach accomplishments never previously thought of, and thanks to your help they have become the hero they aspired to be. They go on and slay the dragon without the help of the wise old wizard or kick Johnny Lawrence in the face (as he DESERVES!). While you have trained them through their first bout of tests, they are now becoming independent, able to complete tasks without assistance.
8. Master of Two Worlds
After the journey, the hero/client is able to return home with full control of his home. Bilbo goes There and Back Again, a master of both the Shire and Erebor, the same will it be with your client: fully mastering their corporate world as well as your product. Your “hero’s” that have accomplished great things with your help, now can be transformed into your best mentors (or referrals sources) to share their accomplishments with others and hopefully inspire others to heed to call to adventure and take a chance on a new and better way.