Hi, I'm the CEO of ContentFly, Naeem. I hate "marketing-speak" and frequently rant on the endless platitudes we waste time on in the industry. Here's one of them.

After a morning working from home with seemingly endless phone calls and emails, Alaina didn’t know when she’d find the time to buy the week’s groceries before dinnertime. Besides the hassle of driving and parking to the nearest grocery store, she didn’t want to step away from her demanding work for too long.

Imagine you're an on-demand grocery delivery service, and that Alaina is your consumer. What are Alaina’s pain points? How does your product solve Alaina’s problem? What features would better help solve this problem?

Why would Alaina choose your product to solve this problem, versus a competitor’s?

This thought-exercise is an example of a customer journey. Although a simple story, Alaina -- the persona -- is a representative of a target market of young professional women. The representative is specific enough to build a story around, but broad enough to be shared experience among a segment of the larger audience.

That's a nice way of saying "takes up a lot of room in a slide deck to make management happy, but doesn't really do anything else"

Defining your target audience is a lazy method of making business decisions. You're essentially coming up with a caricature and thinking about what they like and structuring your entire company around them -- the offerings and related features, the pricing structure, the marketing methods, etc.

Defining audiences & personas are useless when it comes to actually knowing your audience.

Giant shocking statement alert: to know your audience, you need to meet them.

gasp

Indeed, persona marketing is a brilliant form of laziness invented by someone who would rather sit behind a whiteboard arguing over hypothetical people and their needs rather than doing the most important thing you need to do in a business: talk.

This could be in the form of interviews, focus groups, surveys, and other market research techniques. With that research in place, you can then develop stories centered around personas who represent segments of your larger audience. These personas actually make sense because they're real people.

While some experiences are wholly unique to an individual, the goal of mapping the customer journey is to better understand how your audience approaches and experiences your business in a generalized sense. A "persona" should just be your actual customers and how they relate to one another.

When you step away from the bullshit of personas and start thinking in terms of real customers, you'll quickly find shared experiences by members of your audience, or a melding of separate experiences in some form. Instead of fabricating these stories entirely by pretending to fill the shoes of consumers, you'll be actually learning from them directly.

From the knowledge you glean by developing these stories and personas, it becomes easier to understand and target your marketing. But, you need to revisit these customer journeys on a regular basis. Your audience will transform over time, whether independently from your business, as a result of new changes to your product or service, or by actions from your competitors.

For example, say that on-demand grocery delivery expands dramatically and that Alaina’s story becomes the minority, while a different customer type becomes more significant. If you're not regularly talking to your customers, this is a sentiment you're never going to pick up. A behavioral shift in the audience like this needs to be reflected in customer journey mapping.

Just as audiences are dynamic, customer journeys are, too.

Now consider your consumer. What are their pain points? What problem does your product or service solve for them? What experiences relate to your product or service, and how might this change over time? Why would they choose your business over another business?

You can sit behind a whiteboard for an hour making up stupid names, or you can go talk to your damn customers.