Book Review: Building a StoryBrand

I'm seriously tired of business books.  More frameworks.  More process.  More what I "should" do.  More what the best companies are doing and I'm not.  I still read them though because maybe, just maybe, there is gem in there that will trigger me to look at the world in a slightly different way.  That's what happened a few weeks ago when I read Donald Miller's, Building a StoryBrand.  For the first time, it helped abstract marketing strategy from a typical framework and into a narrative that I could get.  Let me explain how it works and why I think it will help you non-marketing buffs out there.

Building a StoryBrand is about taking the fundamental concepts of what makes a great, gripping, interesting story and mapping it to the brand that you are building.  It impacts not only how you talk about your business but how you might operate your business.  When you realize that the story is less about you, but rather the customer that you serve, it changes your lens (and your messaging) in a powerful way.  There are seven foundational story elements to consider for your business.  Let's tackle them:

1.  There is a Character:  That character is the hero of the story and it's not you.  The character is your customer.  Heroes always want to achieve something but they are usually stopped from doing that.  There is a story gap that gets created between where they are and where they want to get to.  But what is it that they really want at the core?  If you can articulate what they really want then they will start to see you as someone they can trust (a Guide - see below).  

2.  Who Has a Problem:  That problem is the villain.  The villain is keeping them from achieving their goal.  That villain must be overcome.  The hero typically faces a few villains in a story.  The first is the external villain (the problem that is tangible -- "I need to stop that ticking bomb").  The second is internal (the problem inside of us -- "I am embarrassed that I let the last bomb blow up.").  The third is the philosophical problem (the problem of the world -- "The world should not have to deal with crazy people that are setting off bombs.").  Customers are typically sold the external problem but they buy to solve the internal one.   They are inspired by the philosophical one.

3.  They Meet a Guide:  YES, THAT'S YOU!!  Every hero has a guide (Hello Yoda).  The guide is essential and they must convey two critical characteristics:  empathy and authority.  You must be able to show that you understand their problem well and that you have the chops to steer them through the forest successfully.  Think about how you will show empathy and authority (think testimonials, awards, etc.).

4.  The Guide Gives Them a Plan:   Every great guide has a plan that helps allay the fears/uncertainty of the hero.  The plan conveys confidence and trust.  Heroes want a guide that has conviction, not one that looks for affirmation.  Have you ever had a river rafting guide that didn't know the path down the river?  I doubt it.  The more solid the stones you put in the river to create a path, the more confident the hero will be that you can help them overcome the problem.

5.  And Calls the Hero to Action:  You must move the hero to act.  There is no ambiguity.  Make the ask because you believe in the plan that you have put in place.  Often times, poor guides will set up the plan and expect the hero to know what to do.  No!  Tell them what they need to do.  If it is a direct call to action then ask them to buy.  If it's a transitional call to action then ask them to do step before buying to continue building trust (e.g. watch my video, read my ebook, give away some information).

6.  To Help the Hero Avoid Failure:  If the hero does not use you as a guide or follow the plan, they will fail.  A hero needs to know the stakes of failure.  That's what makes a story gripping.  If they fail, the story sucks.  They must overcome.  It is the job of the guide to let the hero know the stakes.

7.  And Ultimately End in Success:  Great guides make it clear what life will look like after success.  How will the hero feel? What will they have?  How will their status change? When a hero wins, they typically achieve a new position, they are reunited with someone or something, or they experience some sort of self realization that makes them whole (reduced anxiety, more time, etc.).  Success is about reaching the potential for the hero.  It should be inspirational.    

Every great story has these seven foundational elements.  How you talk about your business should have these as well.  I found myself reflecting on past businesses where I "may" have thought I was the hero vs. the guide.  Using this brand story architecture helped me think different about role.  I hope it helps you.  Read the book!

Russell Benaroya