5 Powerful Lessons From 'Building A StoryBrand' By Donald Miller

October 30, 2023

Your current marketing strategy probably doesn’t work. You and your team may be brilliant, but your investment doesn’t seem to show any returns. You follow the best practices, yet nothing seems to resonate with people.Why is that?We live in a noisy world, and companies that win know how to create clarity that cuts through that noise.Donald Miller created a framework that helps thousands of businesses discover clarity in their brand message. I first discovered his work with StoryBrand a few years ago, and since then I’ve become one of their Certified Copywriters and Certified Guides.Don has a new book launching next week called Building A StoryBrand. I’ve read it twice now, and it’s the playbook every business needs to create clarity and reach more customers.Here are five of my biggest takeaways that will help your business now:

  1. The problem is wrong.
We all know how mind-numbing it is to spend precious dollars on a new marketing effort that gets no results. When we see the reports, we wonder what went wrong, or worse, whether our product is really as good as we thought it was.What if the problem wasn’t the product? What if it was the way we talked about the product? pg. 3

This is essentially Don’s thesis for the book. The reasons companies struggle is because they don’t communicate clearly to their customers. They overwhelm with information and ambiguity, and it costs them potential sales.For most companies, the real culprit is the way the products or services are positioned in the mind of the buyer. In other words, companies need a way to better communicate the value of their products to their customers.

  1. Do the hard work to keep things simple.
Alfred Hitchcock defined a good story as “life with the dull parts taken out.” Good branding is the same. Our companies are complex, for sure, but a good messaging filter will remove all the stuff that bores our customers and bear down on the aspects of our brand that will help them survive and thrive. pg. 26

Simplicity is much more difficult than complexity. When it comes to marketing and communications, many feel that more is better. While that can be true, it often leaves a potential customer confused or overwhelmed.Think about State Farm, Allstate, and Geico. Each one has a simple, catchy tagline that somehow makes you think about car insurance. But these are billion dollar companies with hundreds of products. They distilled their message into something that gets people in the door; then they slowly show customers other solutions.

  1. You’re going after a villain.
If we want our customers’ ears to perk up when we talk about our products and services, we should position those products and services as weapons they can use to defeat a villain. And that villain should be dastardly. pg. 59

Don recently wrote a great blog post on this very idea. When thinking about the problems of your customer, there is a villain at work causing them. Take out the villain, and the problems go away.It’s easy to make a mistake and assume the villain for your customer is your competitor. The real problem, you think, is the seemingly inferior product produced by your competition. But that’s not what your customer is facing.I saw a recent example of this on Twitter from Apple and Samsung. Apple is a master at showing how their products enter the story of their customers. Their ads show people using their products in their daily life. So it’s no surprise that Tim Cook, Apple CEO, retweeted someone’s iPhone 8 Plus photo and shared his excitement for how people will use the phone once they get it.

But Samsung? They view Apple as the villain, and that’s the marketing approach they take. Within a few hours of seeing Tim Cook’s tweet, Samsung ran an ad on Twitter that shared people’s posts about why they’re leaving Apple, and they engaged in conversation about it.

Remember: Your villain isn’t the competition.

  1. What are the next steps?
In nearly every movie you can think of, the guide gives the hero a plan. The plan is the bridge the hero must cross in order to arrive at the climactic scene. Rocky has to train using nontraditional methods, Tommy Boy has to embark on a national sales trip, and Juliet must drink the potion the apothecary gives her in order to trick her family into thinking she’s died and to be free to marry Romeo. pg. 89

IKEA makes a great product, but assembling their furniture can take three hours and possible counseling sessions. The trade-off for price is the long list of steps required to put things together.Customers buy IKEA furniture because they know what’s involved, but they probably won’t buy your product if you have 43 steps to get started. When we do the hard work of simplifying the process for people to get involved, we make it easier for people to buy our products and services. Customers don’t need to know every single step involved in the process.

  1. Cast a compelling vision of a better future.
Where is your brand taking people? Are you taking them to financial security? To the day when they’ll move into their dream home? To a fun weekend with friends? Without knowing it, every potential customer we meet is asking us where we can take them. pg. 119

Vision is a powerful way to compel people to action. John F. Kennedy didn’t tell people he wanted to build a better space program filled with the nation’s best scientists and engineers. He said, “I want to put a man on the moon.” He created a compelling version of a better tomorrow.People buy P90X not because they want a DVD set, meal plan, and progress chart. They buy it because they want the results of the “after” pictures. Show people how their problems are solved by doing business with you. Let them know life is better because of what you do.These are just five of my takeaways from Don’s new book. Your business will be massively impacted by the framework laid out in these pages.

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