Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

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Published: 10/10/2017
Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides readers with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services.

Building A StoryBrand By. Donald Miller

Key Insights

Stories are all around us.

They are featured in movies, podcasts, comic books, web series, the list goes on and on.

And chances are, stories have helped to shape you into the person you are today.

So, how can you take the power of a story and use it to brand your product?

“Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.”- Donald Miller

In Donald Miller’s, “Building A StoryBrand”, you will learn how to harness the power of the story and create a unique StoryBrand for your product.

Your newly developed StoryBrand will help you create an irresistible brand and get a leg up on the competition by connecting on a deeper level with your customers.

Key Points

  • A Clear Marketing Message

A fancy new website won’t make sales increase all on its own. You need a straight-forward and clear marketing message to accompany it.

“Pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things.”- Donald Miller

There cannot be any confusion or the customer will deem the product or brand too complicated. It should be very easy-to-understand for everyone.

The marketing message should tell the consumer three things:


  1. Who You Are
  2. What You Do
  3. Why The Customer Should Choose You Over Your Competitors


If a customer is confused by your message, they will not stick around to try to figure it out. They will go to another competitor that has a simpler message.

To help you develop your message, you should always think of the customer first. How does your service help them?

To make it easier on yourself, think of Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which includes, food and drink, safety and shelter, companionship, and greater needs such as spirituality and self-love.

Use this hierarchy to target how your product helps the consumer.

  • StoryBrand 7-Part Framework

A good story holds your attention. It can make an hour or two fly by without you even noticing it.

The difference between a story versus video clips, or social media posts, is that it is organized information in a specific structure. There is a beginning, middle, and end. This makes it more memorable and easier for people to retell.

“In every line of copy we write, we’re either serving the customer’s story or descending into confusion; we’re either making music or making noise.”- Donald Miller

A story is like a song. It is easier to remember a song than simple noises such as doors slamming and cars honking. A song can get stuck in your head, just like a story.

To create a catchy story, use the 7-Part StoryBrand Framework which includes 7 aspects of a story: character, problem, guide, plan, calls to action, failure, and success.

Before we break it down more, the rough outline of this module is that the character wants something that is hard to attain. When they are about to give up on what they want, a guide appears. This guide instructs the character what to do. This will allow the character to succeed rather than fail.

With this StoryBrand module, you will develop your StoryBrand Script which will help you to engage your customers.

  • Your Customers Are The Heroes In Your StoryBrand Script

All memorable stories have a hero in them. Think stories such as “Robin Hood”, “Star Wars”, and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Think of your customer as this hero or the main character. And, think of this character in the terms of “the customer is always right.” The story should be based on the character’s wants and needs.

When your story bases around the customer’s needs and wants, it will make your brand recognizable when the person wants this in real life. For example, if you own a candy company that creates salty-sweet treats and you base your story around that incentive, customers will go to you when they are craving something salty and sweet.

Oftentimes, websites for hotels and resorts or businesses will feature their “story” on the site. And, that’s not a bad thing. But, it is important to also tell how the company can help the customer. Without adding this, the story is pointless and undesirable to the customer, who you are actively trying to attract.

Furthermore, though you want to tell about the services you offer, just listing them off on the site’s story page will not entice the customer. The message needs to be clear but well-crafted about what the company has to offer its consumers. Oftentimes, simpler is better.

  • Focus On The Internal Problem

The second frame of the module focuses on solving the customer’s problem. For example, their problem could be their need for a towel that stays soft even after multiple washes. Or, it could be to find a hot sauce with solid flavor and medium heat. It could even be to find a dog groomer that travels to your home rather than having to take your dog to the business.

Customers like to feel understood. So, by stating their problem they will feel as if you understand their struggle and what you’re looking for. This creates trust between the customer and the business.

Stories with heroes also have villains. But, the villain, in this case, is not another character. The villain is the problem they need to solve.

These villains don’t necessarily need to be external such as a broken heel on your favorite shoes. They can be internal such as not having enough time for self-care.

Even if your problem is external such as needing a boost in the morning, it’s smart to market it as internal, as well. For example, you can solve the internal problem of not feeling your best when you wake up in the morning. Your product, caffeinated coffee, would be the solution, as it would help the customer wake up quickly and go about their day.

In general external products sell better when paired with an internal problem being solved.

  • Be Empathetic and Authorative

Oftentimes in stories, the hero gets into trouble. And, that’s because all of our heroes are also humans. But, when they are in trouble, a guide comes to help them out. And, that brings us to the next module.

This is the part of the module where you and your product are solving the character’s problem by sending them on the right path.

To be a successful guide you must do two things: be empathetic and be authoritative.

Being empathetic will help you to reel in the customer. They will appreciate being understood and their trust will be gained through your empathy for their problem.

“People trust those who understand them, and they trust brands that understand them too.”- Donald Miller

Authority is no less important. By being authoritative, they will trust that you know what you’re talking about and will trust your advice on the problem.

A good way to show authority is with stats. A lot of websites will display stats on their websites showing how many satisfied customers they have or how many people use their service. They may even display awards or certifications.

  • Tell Them The Plan

Making a purchase is risky for a customer, so it’s best to lay out a plan to them before they take the leap.

There are two ways to go about this. Either you can tell your customers exactly what to do and what to expect. Or, you can make the purchase totally risk-free, such as a free trial or a money-back guarantee.

The first method is called the process plan. It goes into detail about the product, how to use it, and what to expect. This will eliminate false hopes and confusion.

The second method is called an agreement plan. This agreement is meant to totally eliminate the risk of buying an item.

  • Calls To Action

Now, you must make your hero take action.

The average person sees over 3,000 advertisements a day via billboards, TV, radio, and on social media. So, getting someone’s attention can be challenging. That is why it’s important to have a great StoryBrand to stand out from the crowd.


A direct call to action loudly and straight-forwardly pushes the customer to make a purchase. An example of this are the quick-click buttons on websites that say “Sign Up For The Newsletter”, “Purchase”, or “Register.”

Then there is a transitional call to action. This method creates a relationship with the customer so that even if they don’t make the purchase this time, they will think of you in the future when you have a product that can solve their problem.

A transitional call to action is often done by offering something free such as a free gift card, coupon, or a webinar.

  • Remind Them What They Will Lose

It is important to remind people that they could fail if they don’t solve their problems. This is what makes movies and books so riveting. There is always a fear of it not working out for the main character, so you have to keep watching until the very end.

“Simply put, we must show people the cost of not doing business with us.”- Donald Miller

Humans are more interested in avoiding the loss of something than the thought of gaining something. That’s why you should let them know the disadvantages of not buying your product.

A good example of this is if you sell insurance. Since insurance is meant to protect the customer’s things such as their house or their car, showing them the loss of these things will push them to purchase your product.

  • Show Them The Success

After you have shown your customers what they could lose, it’s time to show them what they can gain with purchasing your product.

Nike is a great example of showing them success. Their whole brand is not based just on quality sneakers, it’s a lifestyle devoted to emanating glory, drive, and wins.

There are three strategies to showing your customer success:


  1. Status. When businesses offer membership perks or rewards for being loyal customers, their consumers will feel successful while embracing the perks.
  2. Completeness. Your product should hold a promise of fulfillment for your customers.


  1. Self-Acceptance & Potential. Your product should help the customer feel included and accepted. For example, stores that no longer airbrush their models help people to feel as if the clothes the store sells are made for them.

The Main Take-Away

Use the 7-Part Framework to build a StoryBrand to help create a clear message to your consumers. This module includes the narrative storytelling components of character, problem, guide, plan, calls to action, failure, and success.


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