Building A Storybrand by Donald Miller

Overview (Notes & Thoughts)

Chapter Outline:

1. Why most marketing is a money pit

  1. The key to being seen, heard and understood [simplify and focus on survival instinct or basic desires].
  2. The secret weapon that will grow your business [story - and specifically these 7 ordered elements of an effective story].
  3. The simple SB7 framework [quick overview of the 7 steps].

2. Building your StoryBrand

  1. A character
  2. Has a problem
  3. And meets a guide
  4. Who gives them a plan
  5. And calls them to action
  6. That helps them avoid failure
  7. And ends in success
  8. People want your brand to participate in their transformation

3. Implementing your StoryBrand BrandScript

  1. Building a better website [external].
  2. Using a StoryBrand to transform the company culture [internal].

My Favorite Themes & Ideas:

An effective marketing message is simple and focuses on basic survival desires.

"Pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things."

"The human brain, no matter what region of the world it comes from, is drawn toward clarity and away from confusion. The reality is we aren’t just in a race to get our products to market; we’re also in a race to communicate why our customers need those products in their lives. Even if we have the best product in the marketplace, we’ll lose to an inferior product if our competitor’s offer is communicated more clearly."

"How many sales are we missing out on because our customers can’t figure out what our offer is within five seconds of visiting our website?"

"The overriding function of the brain is to help an individual survive and thrive. Everything the human brain does, all day, involves helping that person, and the people that person cares about, get ahead in life."

"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."

“If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

"How many of our team members can’t explain how we help our customers survive and thrive?"

"The essence of branding is to create simple and relevant messages we can repeat over and over so that we “brand” ourselves into the public consciousness."

What your customers need to hear:

1. What do you offer?

2. How will it make my life better?

3. What do I need to do to buy it?

Story is the ultimate way to convey a message so it gets heard.

"Neuroscientists claim that the average human being spends more than 30% of their time daydreaming... unless they’re reading, listening to, or watching a story unfold. Why? Because when we are engaged in a story, the story does the daydreaming for us."

"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.

"Where there's no story, there's no engagement."

Customers are the self-interested heroes in their own story. We're there to guide them to victory.

"Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own. Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand. This is the secret that every phenomenally successful business understands."

"Marketing has changed. Businesses that invite their customers into a heroic story grow. Businesses that don’t are forgotten."

"People don’t buy the best products; they buy the products they can understand the fastest. Apple has inserted themselves into their customers' story like no other technology company, and as a result, they're not only the largest technology company, they're in the top ten largest companies period."

"When customers finally understand how you can help them live a wonderful story, your company will grow."

"When giving a speech, position yourself as Yoda and your audience as Luke Skywalker. It's a small but powerful shift that honors the journey of the audience and positions us as a leader providing wisdom, products, and services our audience needs in order to thrive."

"It may not be as dramatic or sexy as James Bond going to Q to grab the latest high-tech spy weapons, but the premise is the same: Our customers are in trouble and they need help."

"Brands that position themselves as heroes unknowingly compete with their potential customers."

"Everybody wants to be taken somewhere. If we don’t tell people where we’re taking them, they’ll engage another brand."

"Every human being is on a transformational journey. It's easy to recognize these chapters by their events, or what writer and story scholar James Scott Bell calls “doorways of no return"."

On the failure of Jay-Z's Tidal music service: "The crucial mistake: Jay Z failed to answer the one question lingering in the subconscious of every hero customer: How are you helping me win the day? Tidal existed to help the artists win the day, not customers. And so it failed."

Putting a price on inaction (raising the stakes)

"When a customer is deciding whether to buy something, we should picture them standing on the edge of a rushing creek. It’s true that they want what’s on the other side, but as they stand there, they hear a waterfall downstream. What happens if they fall into the creek? What would life look like if they went over those falls? These are the kinds of questions our customers subconsciously ponder as they hover their little arrow over the “Buy Now” button. What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m a fool for buying this?"

"If a storyteller doesn’t clearly let an audience know what no-good, terrible, awful thing might befall their hero unless she overcomes her challenge, the story will have no stakes, and a story without stakes is boring."

"Brands that don’t warn their customers about what could happen if they don’t buy their products fail to answer the “so what” question every customer is secretly asking."

Creating a transformation to an aspirational identity

"By foreshadowing a potential successful ending to a story, or, as Stew Friedman at the Wharton School puts it, defining a “compelling image of an achievable future”, leaders captivate the imaginations of their audiences. Successful brands, like successful leaders, make it clear what life will look like if somebody engages their products or services."

"Whatever it is you sell, show us people happily engaging with the product."

"For years, brands that sell basic items like dish detergent and glass cleaner have almost comically positioned their products as anti-anxiety medication. As the hero in the commercial uses the product, his or her sense of frustration subsides until, at last, they're able to see their bright shining face glowing back at them in the polished platter, and then off they go into the sunset. What is the brand really offering? Satisfaction for a job well done. A feeling of closure about a clean house. A better, more peaceful life."

"The truth is I got a knife and something more than a knife. In a way, Gerber helped me become a better person. They defined an aspirational identity and invited me to step into it. They made me feel more tough and adventurous, and they even created a moment between two friends. And that’s worth a great deal more than forty dollars." '

"Offering an aspirational identity to our clients adds enormous value to everything else that we offer."

A clear brand story improves the company's vision, team culture, & focus.

"Defining exactly what their customer wanted brought clarity and camaraderie to the staff. Each member of the staff then understood his or her role in the story they were inviting their customers to engage in."

"The larger point here is simple: The day we stop losing sleep over the success of our business and start losing sleep over the success of our customers is the day our business will start growing again."

"Simply turning our focus to the customer and offering them a heroic role in a meaningful story is enough to radically change the way we talk about, and even do, business."

"Playing the guide is more than a marketing strategy; it's a position of the heart. When a brand commits itself to their customers’ journey, to helping resolve their external, internal, and philosophical problems, and then inspires them with an aspirational identity, they do more than sell products—they change lives. And leaders who care more about changing lives than they do about selling products tend to do a good bit of both."

"Participating in your customer’s transformation can give new life and meaning to your business. When your team realizes that they sell more than products, that they guide people toward a stronger belief in themselves, then their work will have greater meaning."

"A Thoughtmosphere is an invisible mixture of beliefs and ideas that drives employee behavior and performance. A Thoughtmosphere improves when a StoryBrand-inspired narrative is created, talking points are devised, and a plan of execution is put in place to reinforce those talking points so every stakeholder understands their important role."

"The number one job of an executive is to remind the stakeholders what the mission is, over and over. And yet, most executives can’t really explain the overall narrative of the organization. Here’s the problem: If an executive can’t explain the story, team members will never know where or why they fit."

"We’ve found time and time again that leaders desire to be seen as heroes when in actuality, everything they think they want from playing the hero only comes by playing the guide. Guides are respected, loved, listened to, understood, and followed loyally."

"When the story of the customer and the story of the company align with the story of the team, we get an alchemy that is not only profitable, it’s healing."

Giving away everything for free

"How Much Value Should I Give Away for Free?" This is one of the most common questions we get asked. My response is be as generous as possible. To my knowledge, it's never cost me to give away valuable, free content. People consume this content on the run and will gladly pay to attend a workshop or hire a facilitator that helps them slow down and learn the information at a custom-created pace.

"Among marketers, it's been said you give away the "why"—as in why a potential customer would need to address or be aware of a certain issue—and sell the "how", which is where you offer a tool or teach customers how to follow through step-by-step. My personal belief is that we should be generous—very generous. At StoryBrand, we certainly give away the "why", but we also give away an awful lot of the "how"."

Unopened emails still remind customers that we exist

"So why did the company grow if people weren’t even reading my letters? What I realized, in hindsight, was that every month our top customers were being reminded that we existed. Every time one of those customers threw a letter away, even without opening it, our logo was flashing across their eyes. Content is important, but the point is, there is great power in simply reminding our customers we exist."

A customer testimonial template

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.