Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen


Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand. This is the secret every phenomenally successful business understands.

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  1. The more simple and predictable the communication, the easier it is for the brain to digest. So what’s your message? Can you say it easily? Is it simple, relevant, and repeatable? Can your entire team repeat your company’s message in such a way that it is compelling? Have new hires been given talking points they can use to describe what the company offers and why every potential customer should buy it?
  2. Mistakes
    1. The first mistake brands make is they fail to focus on the aspects of their offer that will help people survive and thrive. All great stories are about survival—either physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual. A story about anything else won’t work to captivate an audience. Nobody’s interested.
    2. The second mistake brands make is they cause their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their offer.
    3. The key is to make your company’s message about something that helps the customer survive and to do so in such a way that they can understand it without burning too many calories.
    4. People don’t buy the best products; they buy the products they can understand the fastest.
    5. A critical mistake many organizations make in defining something their customers want is they don’t pare down that desire to a single focus. At the highest level, the most important challenge for business leaders is to define something simple and relevant to their customer’s wants and to become known for delivering on that promise. – Conserving time, Building social networks, offering increased productivity, increased revenue, or decreased waste, and the desire for meaning.
  3. The Story
    1. Here is nearly every story you see or hear in a nutshell: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.
    2. A customer should be able to answer these questions within five seconds of looking at our website or marketing material: 
      1. What do you offer?
      2. How will it make my life better?
      3. What do I need to do to buy it?
  4. The 7 Principles
    1. The customer is the hero, not your brand
      1. Who does our customer want to become? What kind of person do they want to be? What is their aspirational identity?
      2. The best way to identify an aspirational identity that our customers may be attracted to is to consider how they want their friends to talk about them. Think about it. When others talk about you, what do you want them to say? How we answer that question reveals who it is we’d like to be.
    2. Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems (and philosophical ones)
      1. Human beings are looking for resolutions to their external, internal, and philosophical problems, and they can achieve this through, among other things, status, self-realization, self-acceptance, and transcendence. If our products can help people achieve these things, we should make this a core aspect of our brand promise.
    3. Customers aren’t looking for another hero, they’re looking for a guide
      1. The two things a brand must communicate to position themselves as the guide are Empathy and authority
        1. Testimonials, statistics, awards, logos
    4. Customers trust a guide who has a plan
      1. Plans can take many shapes and forms, but all effective plans do one of two things: they either clarify how somebody can do business with us, or they remove the sense of risk somebody might have if they’re considering investing in our products or services. Remember the mantra “If you confuse, you lose”? Not having a plan is a guaranteed way to confuse your customers.
      2. A process plan can describe the steps a customer needs to take to buy our product, or the steps the customer needs to take to use our product after they buy it, or a mixture of both.
    5. Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to take action
      1. What steps do they need to take to do business with you? Spell out those steps, and it’ll be as though you’ve paved a sidewalk through a field.
    6. Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending
      1. Stories live and die on a single question: What’s at stake? If nothing can be gained or lost, nobody cares.
      2. Brands that help customers avoid some kind of negativity in life (and let their customers know what that negativity is) engage customers for the same reason good stories captivate an audience: they define what’s at stake.
    7. Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them!
  5. The 5 things your website should include
    1. An offer above the fold – we’ll make you a pro in the kitchen. Join now!
      1. The idea here is that customers need to know what’s in it for them right when they read the text. The text should be bold and the statement should be short. It should be easy to read and not buried under buttons and clutter. I recently went to the website for Squarespace and it simply said, “We Help You Make Beautiful Websites.” Perfect.
      2. Aspirational identiy, promise to solve a problem, state exactly what you do
    2. Obvious Calls to Action
      1. There are two main places we want to place a direct call to action. The first is at the top right of our website and the second is in the center of the screen, above the fold.
    3. Images of Success
      1. We believe images of smiling, happy people who have had a pleasurable experience (closed an open story loop) by engaging your brand should be featured on your website.
    4. A Bite-Sized Breakdown of Your Revenue Streams
    5. Very Few Words
  6. 5 (almost free) things you can do to grow your business
    1. Create a one-liner
      1. 1.  The Character        2.  The Problem        3.  The Plan        4.  The Success
      2. The Character: Moms         •  The Problem: Busy schedules         •  The Plan: Short, meaningful workouts         •  The Success: Health and renewed energy         •  “We provide busy moms with a short, meaningful workout they can use to stay healthy and have renewed energy.”
    2. Create a Lead Generator and Collect E-mail Addresses. You need a lead generator. You need a PDF, e-course, video series, webinar, live event, or just about anything else that will allow you to collect e-mail addresses.
      1. In order to combat noise in today’s marketplace, your lead generator must do two things:        1.  Provide enormous value for your customer        2.  Establish you as an authority in your field
      2. Downloadable Guide, Online Course or Webinar, Software Demos or a Free Trial, Free Samples, Live Events
      3. If you’re going to create a downloadable PDF, keep it to about three pages of content. Stuff as much value as you can into those three pages so your prospects will see you as the “go-to” guide.
      4. Make sure you feature your lead generator liberally on your website. I recommend creating a pop-up feature on your site that, after ten seconds or so of the browser arriving, offers your resource to the user. Though people complain about pop-ups, the stats are clear: they readily outperform nearly every other type of Internet advertising.
    3. Create an Automated E-Mail Drip Campaign.
      1. While there are many kinds of automated e-mail campaigns, the one we recommend starting with is the nurturing campaign. A nurturing campaign is a simple, regular e-mail that offers your subscribers valuable information as it relates to your products or services. Not unlike our lead generator, we want these e-mails to continue positioning us as the guide and to create a bond of trust and reciprocity with potential customers. There will come a time to ask for a sale, but this isn’t the primary goal of a nurturing campaign. A typical nurturing campaign may have an e-mail going out once each week, and the order might look like this: E-mail #1: Nurturing e-mail E-mail #2: Nurturing e-mail E-mail #3: Nurturing e-mail E-mail #4: Sales e-mail with a call to action
      2. The Nurturing E-mail A good way to craft each nurturing e-mail is to use an effective formula that offers simple, helpful advice to a customer. I’ve been using this formula for years and customers love it.        1.  Talk about a problem.        2.  Explain a plan to solve the problem.        3.  Describe how life can look for the reader once the problem is solved.
    4. Collect and Tell Stories of Transformation. Almost every story is about the transformation of the hero, and when we tell stories about how we’ve helped our customers transform, potential customers immediately understand what your brand can offer them.
      1. Here are five questions most likely to generate the best response for a customer testimonial:        1.  What was the problem you were having before you discovered our product?        2.  What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve that problem?        3.  What was different about our product?        4.  Take us to the moment when you realized our product was actually working to solve your problem.        5.  Tell us what life looks like now that your problem is solved or being solved.
    5. Create a System That Generates Referrals. Once you create a system that funnels potential customers into becoming actual customers, your work is not quite done. The final step is to turn around and invite happy customers to become evangelists for your brand. This will only happen if we create a system that invites and incentivizes them to spread the word.
      1. Identify your existing, ideal customers and give them a reason to spread the word (offer a reward, 100% refund for 3 new referrals within a quarter, invite-a-friend coupons)

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