Building a StoryBrand – Let Your Customers be the Heroes

25 September 2018


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building a storybrand

Building a StoryBrand helps you to clarify your message so your customers will listen.

I held off on buying Building a StoryBrand when it came out. However, the concept of the book caught my eye as soon as saw its cover and description as I’m building a brand of my own and want to connect with my customers as much as I possibly can. I then bought it back in March of 2018 but didn’t end up reading it until my good friend from Ben’s Business Book Club challenged some of his members to read this book in less than two weeks so we all could do a video discussion. I then got to it and while reading I found out about many things I wasn’t doing right.

Before reading this book I thought I was doing many things right with the organization of my website and the content I’ve been producing. But after reading I became aware of my lack of focus on the customer and the purpose I want to help them achieve in their own lives.


The message of this book is clear. Building a StoryBrand helps you clarify your message no matter where you are on your path to success. There is a clear seven-step framework called SB7 which you can fill out for free at mystorybrand.com. I highly recommend filling this out after or during the time you read the book. Below I’ll briefly explain what the seven steps are to building a successful StoryBrand.


Building a StoryBrand in a Nutshell

A (1)CHARACTER who wants something encounters a (2)PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a (3)GUIDE steps into their lives gives them a (4)PLAN and (5)CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them to avoid (6)FAILURE and ends in a (7)SUCCESS.


The paragraph above is the general structure of how almost any story turns out, in a book, movie or real life. Of course, there are variances to these seven steps since not every situation starts or ends the same way. Here’s another way to put it into terms for businesses.


You, as the business, are the GUIDE in your customer’s (CHARACTER) story. Your customer is the hero, not your business. What you are seeking to do is to solve the PROBLEM your customer is experiencing with a PLAN you have devised which will CALL THEM TO ACTION. Your plan will help your customer to avoid the FAILURE they do not want to experience. Instead, your customer will experience SUCCESS.


By thinking of your products and services like a story where your customer is the hero you position your business for long-term success.


Related Post: Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo


1. A Character: Building a StoryBrand Principle One: The Customer is the Hero, Not Your Brand

building a storybrand hero

Every human experience problems. You sometimes solve the problem on your own and other times you need help. As a business, it’s important to define something your customer wants so that they can solve their problem. Rather than positioning your business as the focus of the story position the customer as the main focus.


It’s extremely important to narrow your focus clearly on what your customer wants as well. Rather than mixing your services with tons of examples and unrelated products focus on the one specific one which will help your customer out. Building a StoryBrand is not saying you can’t sell more than one product. It’s saying that for each different product there needs to be a different focus on the customer’s story.


Tap Into Your Customer’s Survival Instinct

You all have the desire to stay safe, healthy, happy, and strong. This instinct for survival has been with us since the beginning and if you can tap into aspects of your customer’s lives such as economic and social resources to eat, drink, reproduce, and fend off foes then you can surely influence them to buy your product because it fulfills our basic need of survival.


Related Post: Pre-Suasion – 8 Tips on How to Get Your Way


Here are seven examples of desires which fit under our survival instinct.

  1. Conserving financial resources
  2. Conserving Time
  3. Building social networks
  4. Gaining status
  5. Accumulating resources
  6. The innate desire to be generous
  7. The desire for meaning (Watch my YouTube Video of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl)


The goal for your branding should be clear to every customer so they know exactly where they are going with your product in hand.


2. Has a Problem: Building a StoryBrand Principle Two: Companies Tend to Sell Solutions to External Problems, but Customers Buy Solutions to Internal Problems.

building a storybrand problem

The problem in your customer’s story should be the hook of your brand. If you don’t identify and make it clear what problems you’re trying to solve then your business will most likely fall flat. Look at it this way too, the more you talk about your customers’ problems the more interest they will have in your products.


Every Story Needs a Villain

The villain in your customers’ story most likely is not a person but a thing. Having a villain in your marketing content, blog posts, videos, websites and so on will attract your customers’ attention. A good example you’ve probably seen many times is when personified germ villains attack and make a mess of your kitchen counters and plates. The cleaning product then comes along and wipes out all the germs which makes the customer extremely happy.


The villain of your customer’s story should have these characteristics.

  1. The villain should be a root source. For example, germs or taxes.
  2. The villain should be relatable.
  3. There should be only ONE villain.
  4. The villain should be a real threat.


The Three Levels of Conflict You Need to Include While Building a StoryBrand

The following three conflicts are ones that a customer wishes to solve when buying a product. Therefore these conflicts should all be solved just by using one product. Let’s hope that product can be yours.


  1. External Problems: The external problem is often a physical, tangible problem the hero must overcome in order to save the day.
  2. Internal Problems: The internal problem creates a backstory of frustration in the hero’s life. Sometimes it makes the hero question their own ability to accomplish what they want. If you can figure out what is frustrating your customers and cut it out at its root then you will be loved by your customers for helping them solve their frustrations.
  3. Philosophical Problems: The philosophical problem is about something even larger than the customer’s problem itself. It’s about the question why. Why does this story, problem, and product even matter to the rest of humanity? This is a question you need to have an answer for.


If we really want our business to grow, we should position our products as the resolution to the external, internal, and philosophical problems and frame the “Buy Now” button as the action a customer must take to create closure in their story.


3. And Meets a Guide: Building a StoryBrand Principle Three: Customers Aren’t Looking for Another Hero; They’re Looking for a Guide.

building a storybrand guide

Guides vary from authors, teachers, businesses, mentors, and leaders. The guides are the ones that give the heroes the weapons to defeat their problems and win the day. But the brand that positions itself as the hero is bound to lose the day.


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.

Watch my Building a StoryBrand Discussion with a few business owners. It’s well worth a full watch.

The Two Factors Which Will Make You the Perfect Guide

Empathy. With empathy, the guide must express an understanding of the pain and frustration of their hero. Oprah Winfrey once said that all human beings want in life is to be seen, heard, and understood. The only way to show that you care is by actually telling your customers that you do and taking actual actions to show that you do.


Authority. Demonstrate authority but don’t be a know-it-all. Show your customers that you know a great deal about your specialty through blogging, newsletters, videos as well as these four other areas you can put up on your website and social media.


  1. Testimonials. These should be completely honest. There is a framework for the types of questions you can ask your customer during a truthful testimonial which will bring out the best in your customer’s message. Building a StoryBrand also suggests not to put up more than 5 testimonials on your website. So pick the best.
  2. Statistics. Show how many satisfied customers you’ve had in the past or how much you’ve helped them to save. You could also mention how many users you have if you run an app.
  3.  Awards. If you’ve won some awards feel free to include them on your website.
  4. Logos. If you’ve worked with other businesses include logos of those businesses.


4. Who Gives Them a Plan: Building a StoryBrand Principle Four: Customers Trust a Guide Who Has a Plan

building a storybrand plan

When a customer sets out to buy your product they are putting trust and belief in the fact that your product will solve their problem. As a guide, you need to help your customer by setting out the guidelines as plain and clear as possible. Imagine your guidelines like big stones in a creek which help the customer to step safely across.


Here are some clear examples from Building a StoryBrand which you might be able to use. Each example comes in threes:

  1. Measure your space.
  2. Order the items that fit.
  3. Install it in minutes using basic tools.


  1. Schedule an appointment.
  2. Allow us to create a customized plan.
  3. Let’s execute the plan together.


  1. Download the software.
  2. Integrate your database into our system.
  3. Revolutionize your customer interaction.


  1. Test-drive a car.
  2. Purchase the car
  3. Enjoy free maintenance for life.


An extra tip here. No matter what plan you decide on giving to your customer make sure your plan has a name like “easy installation plan” or “world’s best night’s sleep plan”.


5. And Calls Them to Action: Building a StoryBrand Principle Five: Customers do Not Take Action Unless They Are Challenged to Take Action.

building a storybrand action

Direct Calls to Action

It’s a must to have a call to action in nearly everything you do including blog posts and newsletters. Think about how many advertisements and other marketing messages people see and hear every day. It reaches into the thousands. If you’re not standing out and especially if you’re not giving a call to action your customer will most likely just skip to the next website or video. People need that extra little push to follow through with buying something. And the process to buy that something should be completely clear and visible.


A great yet extremely simple and effective call to action is to put a “buy now” button (or something similar) in the upper right-hand corner of your website, above the fold, in the center and a few more times below that. So when your potential customer visits your website they will potentially see at least two or three call to action buttons.


Transitional Calls to Action

These are powerful tools which can be used to attract more attention to your services. Taking, for example, providing a short three page or less PDF or video series when people subscribe to your website. This positions you as an authority, a guide, as well as triggers reciprocity. Free information in the form of a PDF can never be given out enough.


6. That Helps Them Avoid Failure: Building a StoryBrand Principle Six: Every Human Being is Trying to Avoid a Tragic Ending.

building a storybrand failure

If a storyteller doesn’t clearly let an audience know what nogood, 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.


This goes to say that you must let your customer know what will happen if they do not follow through with buying your product. It’s like answering the customer’s ‘so what’ question. People are motivated by loss. People hate losing $100 more than they love winning $100. Loss or failure, therefore, can be a huge motivator, but should never be used in too much excess. If too many warnings are given it will just turn the customer off.


Here’s how you can structure your ‘fear appeal’ in your marketing:

First, you must make a reader or a listener know they are vulnerable to a threat.

Second, you should let the reader or listener know that since they’re vulnerable, they should take action to reduce their vulnerability.

Third, you should let them know about a specific call to action that protects them from the risk.

Fourth, you should challenge people to take this specific action.


7. And Ends in a Success: Building a StoryBrand Principle Seven: Never Assume People Understand How Your Brand Can ChangeTheir Lives. Tell Them.

building a storybrand success

Where is your brand taking people?

This is something you need to know and tell your customers about. Even if you think it’s clear to you it may not be clear to your customer. Without a vision, people will perish, and so will you. So think about what life is like before your customer succeeds and then what it’s like afterward, then forward that message to your customer. Comparisons are a great tool.


Ultimately, the best way to end your customer’s story is to be their list of resolutions. Help them to understand what their life would look like externally if their problems were resolved, then think about how that resolution will make them feel. Consider why the resolution to their problem has made the world a more just place to live in.


Here are three ways storyteller’s end a story:

  1. Win some sort of power or position.
  2. Be unified with somebody or something that makes them whole.
  3. Experience some kind of self-realization that also makes them whole.


That’s Only the First Half of Building a StoryBrand

building a storybrand

In this review, I laid out the very basics for you and summarized each chapter and principle of the book. The second half gets you to do the work and implement each principle into your own website and other marketing materials. That’s the thing I love about Building a StoryBrand. Each part of it is actionable!


Thanks for reading! If you liked this review there are several others on my blog so have a look around. Stay up to date with my latest blog posts by subscribing below.


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