Originally devised by CEO Donald Miller, StoryBrand is a seven-step storytelling framework designed to help businesses effectively communicate with their customers and grow their businesses. Despite the name though, the StoryBrand method isn’t about telling your company’s story. As Miller says in Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, customers “don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own.” This is something that many brand stories fail to understand: while you do need to you do need to convey your company’s story, your marketing should instead focus on empowering your customers, inviting them to be the “hero” of a story.
The basic framework for building a StoryBrand goes like this:
A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.
This structure can be found in plenty of popular stories, and Miller argues that it should serve as the basis for your brand’s story as well. He breaks this structure down into seven parts:
- A CHARACTER
Almost every story begins with a character that people can connect with, and in the case of your StoryBrand, that should be your customers. The mistake that many businesses make is that, rather than placing their customers at the center of their story, they instead center it around themselves. Instead of going on about how long you have been in business or how much you donate to charities, focus on who your target audience and make them the “hero” of your story. That means considering what they want in relation to your brand. Which leads to…
- HAS A PROBLEM
No matter what industry they are in, most businesses are ultimately about problem solving, as they typically provide a product or service that fulfills their customers needs. After all, a customer doesn’t have much of a reason to pay for a company’s services if they don’t address some type of customer need. Despite how fundamental this concept is to a company’s purpose, many businesses fail to clearly define the problem that their brand solves. No matter how one promotes their business, a customer should always walk away knowing how a brand’s products or services can solve their problems.
- AND MEETS A GUIDE
If the customer is the hero of your brand story, then that makes you their guide. Donald Miller claims that there are two questions that prospective customers subconsciously ask themselves: “Does this brand understand me?” and “Does this brand know what they are doing?” As such, your role as the customer’s guide should be to position yourself and your business as understanding of their needs and capable of meeting then. Rather than focus on your accomplishments and goals, show customers that you have the skills and understanding to help them achieve their goals.
- WHO GIVES THEM A PLAN
Having defined how they can address a customer’s problems, it might seem like the next logical step would be for a brand to ask the customer to buy their products. Before following through on the sale though, a good brand should give their customers a plan to follow, a set of steps that bridges the gap between where they are now and where they need to go. The plan should be kept simple though, with no more than three or four steps leading customers to the end point.
- AND CALLS THEM TO ACTION
Even if you have done a good job showing potential customers that you understand their problems and have a solution for them, you shouldn’t automatically expect that they’ll follow through on their own. Instead, your brand story needs to include a call to action (CTA), a statement that gives customers a logical next step in doing business with you. Often this is something simple, like asking them to buy your product or to contact you for additional information. However, despite how obvious it is, many business owners fail to include a CTA in their marketing, potentially losing prospects and money.
- THAT HELPS THEM AVOID FAILURE
In order to convince customers to do business with you and follow through on your call to action, you should not just communicate the positive benefits of doing business with you, but the negative consequences of NOT doing business with you as well. Almost every good story has something that compels its protagonist to take action in order avoid some potential disaster or failure, so it isn’t enough to just show how your product or service benefits your customers: you need to also emphasize what’s at stake if they don’t accept your help.
- AND ENDS IN A SUCCESS
Of course, you shouldn’t end on a note of doom and gloom: after explaining the negative impact of not doing business, a good brand should offer customers a “happily ever after” ending, a vision of how much better their lives will be after buying their product or service. Customers know where they are right now, but in order to secure the sale, you need to show them where they can end up.
It’s worth remembering that the StoryBrand framework isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all of your marketing woes. Even with a strong framework in place, cultivating an effective brand story is not easy, and perfecting your messaging takes time and effort. Additionally, a strong brand story still needs the right marketing and sales initiatives in order to reach customers. Yet while it’s far from a cure-all, having a clear message is always a competitive advantage, and the StoryBrand framework ensures that you always know how your story should begin and end.