Most companies struggle to talk about what they offer in a clear way.
Donald Miller’s StoryBrand framework helps businesses simplify their messaging by taking a story-driven approach to communication that places the customer at the centre.
Nothing causes people to stop and listen like a great story. Stories can be used to teach, inspire, clarify and mobilise. In a world of information overload, stories can cut through the noise and influence people.
But according to Miller, the most crucial thing in telling your story is what your customers hear - not what you’re trying to say.
The StoryBrand framework teaches brands to stop playing the hero in the story, and instead, invite customers into a story.
What is the StoryBrand framework?
The StoryBrand framework is a marketing messaging tool that helps organisations clarify their message by using a 7-part process that leverages the power of story.
It helps brands to eliminate confusion in their messaging so that they connect with customers and drive sales.
The story goes like this:
A character with a problem meets a guide who understands them. The guide gives them a plan and calls them to an action that helps them avoid failure, and ends in success.
If it doesn’t, try watching Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter again. It’s the same storyline…
Here it is:
In the StoryBrand framework, the customer is the hero, not your brand or product.
A common mistake many companies make is focusing their messaging on themselves and not the customer. But it’s not about you; it’s about them.
You need to identify and be clear about who your hero is. Define what it is they want to achieve and focus on fulfilling this pivotal customer need. Will the hero triumph? The suspense will draw people into your story.
With a problem
Stories aren’t really about the hero. They’re about the problem the hero is facing.
Lord of the Rings isn’t just about Frodo, it’s about his struggle with the opposing forces of the Ring’s corrupting influence, and the burden fate has placed on him as the Ring-bearer.
Miller believes brands need to clarify the problem the hero (your customer) is facing. People buy from you because you solve their problem. So when you identify a frustration, a pain point - and solve it - you put yourself deep inside your customer’s narrative.
“Every story is about somebody trying to solve a problem, so when we identify our customers’ problems, they recognize us as a brand that understands them,” says Miller.
Meets a guide who understands them
Customers aren’t looking for another hero. They’re looking for a guide.
A helpful guide knows the problem the hero is facing. They offer advice and wisdom to support the hero through it.
So be the Dumbledore to Harry Potter, the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker, and the Haymitch to Katniss as she tries to survive the Hunger Games - and guide your customers through their problem.
Who gives them a plan
You’ve positioned yourself as an authority, but your customer still needs convincing to buy from you. They need to be sure that your product or service will solve their problem.
You can’t solve the problem for them, but you can give them a plan that will help them to win the day. And customers trust a guide who has a plan.
Miller says, “The key to the success of any plan is to alleviate confusion for our customers. 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. More people will cross the field.”
And calls them to action
A hero won’t act on their own. They need to be challenged to take action.
This means you need plenty of calls to action on your website. Add a “Buy now” button in the top right corner of your website and challenge your customers to sign up for a free trial. A clear call to action eliminates confusion about what your hero should do next.
If you don’t call your customers into action, they won’t recognise you as their guide.
That helps them avoid failure
All heroes want to avoid a tragic ending.
Spell out what failure could look like if a customer doesn’t invest in your product or service. Knowing what could happen if they don’t take action motivates your customer to act on the plan you’ve offered them.
But as Miller warns, too much fear will turn customers away, so it’s important to strike the right balance.
And ends in success
Now is time to bring your story to a close. Tell your hero how your product or service can change their lives. Don’t assume they already know it.
This is where your case studies and testimonials come in. Show people how your product or service has positively impacted previous customers - show them how your solution will end in success.
How the BrandStory framework can help your business
“People don’t buy the best products; they buy the products they can understand the fastest,” says Miller.
The BrandStory framework helps you to clarify your message so that you engage customers and grow your business.
If there’s anything you should take away from Miller’s BrandStory framework, it’s this:
- You’re not the hero of the story; you’re the guide.
- Define the problem you solve for your customers.
- Give them a plan and call them into action.
- Your customers must know what’s at stake,
- And how your product or solution will end in success.