Buyer Legends

“Poobah, you told me once that bad advertising is about a company, a service, or any product the company sells.”

“Yes, and good advertising is about the customer, and how that company or service or product will transform some part of the customer’s world.”

“So if I’m going to focus on the customer, where do I begin?”

“To build on the Pillars of Amazon, the first thing you need is to craft your Buyer Legends.”

“Are you saying there are legendary buyers?”

“No. Think about the legend on a map, the part that tells you how the map can be interpreted and understood.”

“The legend is the key?”

“Yes. Just like a key opens a door and gives you access to what’s inside, a legend opens the map; it’s the key to interpreting all the symbols and data.”

“And this interpreted map will tell me how to get where I want to go?”

“Sunshine, Buyer Legends are how you write your own success playbook. It’s the first step in building on the Four Pillars of Amazon.”

“I like the sound of that.”

“Your success playbook makes your priorities clear to everyone from the boardroom to the stockroom. Best of all, it’s the motivations of your archetypal customer groups that form the basis of your action plan. This is how you get everyone on the same page.”

The younger man looked up at the ceiling and chuckled, “Everyone on the same page…” A moment later he lowered his eyes and said, “It sounds too good to be true.”

“The important thing to remember is that a Buyer Legend isn’t fiction,” said the old man. “It’s a rock-solid business tool built on the simple fact that anything important to your success should be measurable and held accountable. Buyer Legends are how you design a system that measures everything that matters and ignores everything that doesn’t. And they require nothing more than a pen and paper. Anyone who can hold a pen can write a narrative.”

“Focus. Unity. Measurability. Accountability. That’s a lot to expect from a pen and paper.”

“It’s not about the pen and paper. It’s about orchestrating your efforts and reconciling them to the needs of your customers. The objective is to create profitable customer experiences. You start with Buyer Legends because every business is about the customer. Every business.”

Customer Centricity, the first of the Four Pillars,” mumbled the young man softly as he stared into his computer screen.

Customer Centricity is always the first push on the flywheel,” said the old man, “but your people will come alive and get electric when they see how Buyer Legends create ongoing opportunities for Continuous Optimization in a Culture of Innovation. But none of this will happen if you don’t have the Corporate Agility to execute the ideas generated by the process. The momentum of your flywheel depends on your organization sharing a single, forward-moving narrative. And its details have to be clear across the team.”

“You’re making this sound transformative.”

“Sunshine, the Buyer Legends process transforms a company by helping the team tell stories from your customer’s perspective. It’s how you begin a truly Customer Centric approach to business. The key is to look beyond the data about company performance and see the data that reveals your customer’s reality.”

“Give me an example.”

“An example of data that reveals the reality experienced by the customer?”

The younger man nodded his head.

The old man spoke immediately, “Can you tell me how long it takes to find your store hours?”

The younger man shook his head no.

“Do you know the average time spent in checkout?”

The younger man dropped his eyes.

“Exactly how long does it take your team to return a phone message?”

Looking down at the tabletop, the younger man shook his head again.

“Look at me, Sunshine.”

He looked up.

The old man locked eyes with him and said, “You cannot improve what you do not measure.” Then his eyes began to twinkle as his eyebrows shot upwards with the corners of his mouth. “But you can measure these things. You can gather this data. You can make these improvements.”

The old man’s growing smile made the younger man relax. “I’m all in on Buyer Legends, Poobah. So how do I get started?”

“First you’ve got to identify archetypal groups of typical customers. Then, identify all the shortcomings they might experience with your company – through the eyes of each group of archetypal customers – through a pre-mortem. The goal here is to innovate improved alternate experiences.”

“Are we creating a sales funnel?”

“No. The sales funnel is a flawed metaphor.”


“Funnels work because of an invisible force called gravity. But there is no force compelling your customer to move through your sales funnel.”

“So how do Buyer Legends do it?”

“Buyer Legends employ an invisible force called Persuasive Momentum.”

“Momentum like flywheel momentum?”

“It’s more than that, but yes.”

“What else?”

“Buyer Legends use reverse chronology to construct the outline of every narrative.”

“Start at the end?”

“Yep. The goal is to get your Hero, the customer, to his or her Destination.

“And what, exactly, is the Destination?”

“The final, measurable step, where the customer is converted into a lead or a sale, or completes an order, or a form, or a task.”

“So this works for more than just B2C?” asked the younger man.

“Buyer Legends can be constructed for multichannel B2C, B2B, ecommerce, anything.”

“Cool. So the goal is to get the Hero to the Destination,” the younger man said. “This idea of a reverse chronology reminds me of how Bezos always starts at the end; imagining what it would take to delight a customer. Buyer Legends seem to have codified that process. Frame the story backwards; tell the story forwards. But Bezos is also famous for throwing out a document that has a misplaced comma. He does this because if a detail like a comma is overlooked, what other details might the writer have skipped over? It’s all about caring, and caring deeply.”

“And in a Buyer Legend,” the old man said, “the Hero is the object of all that caring. This is why all stories must be told from the perspective of the Hero. The truth is always about the Hero and his or her motivations, goals and frustrations. It’s not about you and your company. The only story that matters is the story of the Hero! No one but the Hero can show you where and how to improve your customer’s experience.”

“Okay,” said the younger man, “so we use reverse chronology to map an outline of how the Hero gets to the Destination. What else is involved in creating a Buyer Legend?”

“Are you ready to type some notes?” asked the old man.

“Badda-bing!” said the younger man as he placed his fingers on the keys.

The old man said, “Keep in mind that our reverse chronology outline begins with the Hero arriving at the Destination. Now we have to figure out how he got there. This is where it becomes important that you understand the difference between Quantitative data telling you WHAT your customers are doing, and Qualitative data that gives you insight into WHY your customers are doing it.”

“Why is it so important to use reverse chronology to create the outlines of the narratives?” asked the younger man.

“Reverse chronology avoids wishful thinking,” said the old man. “When you’re writing forwards, there are an infinite number of things that could happen. But when you’re investigating backwards, it’s more forensic. There are only a limited number of ways that a particular action might have been chosen.”

“This is why I use a reverse-chronology outline to create the forward-moving narrative of the Hero’s journey to the Destination?”

“Exactly. Just like Airbnb did with Project Snow White. You can do it that way, or even simpler with just a pen and paper.”

“Are there people who can help me with this?” asked the younger man.

“Yes, but they can’t do it without your help and the help of all your key people.”

“So I have a Destination and I have a Hero. What are the other parts of a Buyer Legend that will help me create the reverse chronology outline that will reveal how our Hero arrived at the Destination?”

“You still ready to type?” asked the old man.

“Badda-bang,” said the younger one.

“Here are the other pieces of a Buyer Legend:

Forks in the road – These are decision points in the Hero’s path where a specific need or curiosity can take them off the ideal path in search of answers. Because we are powerless to force the customer down our ideal path, awareness of where the Hero could get “off-track” becomes crucial since it allows us to plan for these forks in the road and construct detours that will lead them back to the desired path.

Measurable step – Any step along the path that can be measured. This usually involves analytics, but it’s any step the Hero can take that leaves behind evidence of that step. Measurable steps give us insight as to where the Hero is in their journey and how their progress can be optimized.

Detours – As I mentioned, these are pathways we construct as solutions to forks in the road. Customers rarely go down a straight and smooth sales path. They leave the path in search of answers to concerns, or alternative solutions, or sometimes it’s just plain curiosity. But every time the Hero leaves the path, the potential exists that they’ll never arrive at the Destination. Think of a Fork in the Road as Bugs Bunny’s proverbial “left turn at Albuquerque.” Detours greet the Hero at every fork and guide them back to the path that leads to their destination.”

“God, I love Bugs Bunny.”

“We all love Bugs Bunny, Sunshine. Keep typing.”

Road signs – These are points in the path that are crucial to the completion of Hero’s journey. Road signs include information that, if not available, would likely prevent the Hero from completing the journey to the Destination.

First Measurable Step – This is where the Hero enters the measurable portion of the journey. This might be when the Hero finds a landing page, a home page or a chat session or makes a phone call or visits a brick and mortar store.

Catalyst – This is what causes your Hero to identify your company, your product or your service as a potential solution. The catalyst can be word-of-mouth, online or off-line advertising, or the result of a PR push. In theory, a catalyst is a measurable step in the customer’s journey along the path, but in reality, the catalyst is often more than just one thing.”

“Okay, Poobah,” said the younger man, “If I go to the trouble to do all this, you’re saying my company will be transformed?”

“Yes, but remember: your people have to be involved. This isn’t something that can happen with a lone person in a closed room.”

“And you’re saying it’s truly transformative?”

“Bing, Bang, Boom,” nodded the old man.

“Boooooom,” whispered the younger one.


“Poobah, you said I should read Sam Walton: Made in America by John Huey and Nuts!: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. Are there any other books I should read?”

“Well, I just finished a book about two guys on a road trip. I never did learn where the two were headed, why they were going, what they planned to do when they got there, what they did for a living, or even what their names were. But I liked it.”

“Would I like it?”

“Hand me your laptop and I’ll order you a copy on Amazon.” Thirty seconds later the old man said, “It’ll be at your house tomorrow. Are you ready to go home now?”

“Let me check on a couple of things.” Two minutes later, the young man spoke softly, “You didn’t do anything crazy did you?”

“Like what?”

Looking into the eyes of the old man, he asked, “Did you buy stock in my company?”

“That would be insider trading, Sunshine. You know I would never do that.”

“Did you tell any of your friends to buy stock?”

“Of course not. The only thing I’ve done since we got together is post a photo of you on Facebook.”

“Just a photo? No explanation?”

“You were staring at your computer, deep in thought. I didn’t even write a caption.”

The younger man slumped back in his chair and breathed a sigh of relief. “Our stock started climbing just after you and I sat down at this table.” He looked again at his computer screen, then back to the old man. “I think I’m out of the doghouse,” he smiled.

“Of course you are.” The old man walked to the door and held it open. “Do you still think you need to make that road trip?”

The younger man collected his things and walked to the door smiling. “Take me home, Poobah.” A few seconds later, their car disappeared from sight.

The girl from the serving window came from behind the counter to wipe down their tabletop. The barista followed close behind her. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a jumbo marshmallow on top of a twenty-dollar bill.” She handed him the marshmallow and he popped it into his mouth.

“The old man again?”

“No, this time it was the younger one.”

“I really think the old one is nuts.”

She smiled and said, “Always has been.”


© 2017, Roy H. Williams -

Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg -

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