023 – How to Create a Brand Story that Connects with Customers

In this week’s episode of the podcast, my brother Daniel and I talk about some of our best takeaways from Donald Miller’s excellent book Building a StoryBrand.

It’s an excellent book on marketing that we highly recommend brand executives read.

The Big Idea

The big idea of the book is that every great story (movie, novel, etc.) follows a similar plot line. If you write a story around your customers and your brand that follows this same time-tested plot line, your story will engage customers and make them want to buy your product or service.

Miller calls this plot line the SB7 framework, and he explains it like this:

  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 a Success

Our Biggest Takeaway

Our biggest takeaway? Your customer is the hero of the story, not you. You are the guide. You’re Yoda, not Luke Skywalker.

Every Story Plot Must Have…

Conflict! The hero must have an ambition, and then they must encounter obstacles to the achieving of their ambition.

The stakes must be high. If it doesn’t matter whether the hero fails or succeeds, then you have a dull story.

The hero’s conflict is the center of the story. In your marketing, focus on the pain of the customer (the problem they want to solve) and strip away everything else that isn’t important.

Next-Level Effectiveness…the Realm of Marketing Ninjas

One of our favorite parts of Miller’s book is his discussion of three types of needs customers have: external, internal, and philosophical.

You obviously need to show customers how your product solves a physical need, such as, “I want good coffee to drink in the morning to get me going.”

Your marketing will grow in its effectiveness if you can also connect your problem to solving an internal need, such as, “Drinking this coffee makes me feel warm and comfortable inside and invigorated for a new day.”

But you really hit next-level effectiveness if you can connect your product to the meeting of a philosophical need the customer has.

One way to connect with philosophical needs of customers is to make a “should” or “ought to” statement with which customers deeply resonate. Here are a couple of examples:

“I ought to be able to have a good cup of coffee each morning without paying $4 and spending 10 minutes in a drive-through.”

“I shouldn’t have to worry that drinking my coffee each morning is destroying the world.” (think environmental or fair trade concerns)

2 Keys for Guides

Guides must have two essential traits:

  1. Empathy – they must demonstrate that they understand the plight of the hero and that they care.
  2. Authority – they must demonstrate that they are qualified to help the hero solve his/her problem. Brands can demonstrate authority with a couple of well-placed testimonials or certifications…but in doing this, you shouldn’t slip into being the hero of the story.

2 Types of Plans

Miller shares two types of plans that guides can share with their heroes (customers). Here are our brief comments on the plans:

  1. A Process Plan – These are the specific steps a customer should take in order to do business with you (read: in order to solve their problem), and they should be accompanied by clear, direct calls to action. “Enter your email address. Click the big green button. Add to cart. Click Buy Now.”
  2. An Agreement Plan – An agreement plan is what you use at the point of sale to alleviate customers’ fears about doing business with you. This can include things like a warranty or a money-back guarantee.

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