Step by Step Marketing for Small Businesses
Case Studies: Simplify the Story, Get the Money
7 Marketing Goodies – are you using them?
I am part of a team that was just awarded a contract with a federal entity. For the past year, the client has wrestled with how to define their government role so the money people could understand it. This in turn could show their worth so they could get a piece of the pie.
For a year the client could not simply their story enough, and that’s where my team came in. Lets preface by saying it was not for lack of skills on the client’s part, but it was due to the complexity of the story. What information was important and what was not relevant to the bigger picture.
Our team consisted of 5 people. we listed for almost 3 hours as they described their project. It was definitely complex. Our directive was to meet with 4 different department leaders, listen to their more specific story and in the end put together a complete overarching graphic and story.
After we left the meeting and discussing the project, I presented a napkin sketch of what I thought could be an answer to the problem. The rest of the team were intrigued. We took a chance and send the pencil sketch to the client with several caveats like, “we know this is incomplete and will have a lot more information added, but we wanted to show that we can do the job,” or something like that. The client wrote back and said they loved the idea. They could immediately see their year of struggles take shape.
Since then the graphic has been shown to their boss and that boss’s boss and then to a white house briefing – and the graphic isn’t even complete yet.
Developing a clear story is an art and some people need more help than others.
( I wanted to compile several “goodies” to help our marketing efforts. In doing this, I collected several articles by others to facilitate this goal. All original articles are cited.)
7 Steps To Clarify Your Message And Connect With Your Audience
Can the 2,000-year-old practice of storytelling be the key to bigger profits?
A company’s unique brand can mean the difference between standing out and fading into the background. So what are the simple steps necessary to telling your company story, being memorable and making your sales?
Donald Miller is the CEO of StoryBrand, a company that helps businesses clarify their message so customers engage. Combined, his seven books have spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list. He teaches a marketing workshop down in Nashville, Tennessee. His newest book is Building A StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen.
I recently interviewed Miller for the LEADx Leadership Show, where he discussed the steps to creating a powerful brand and story. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: What’s the big idea of your book Building A StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen?
Donald Miller: What people don’t realize is that there are basically seven story formulas. What that means is, for 2,000 years, really smart people have studied the best practices on captivating a human being’s attention.
Your brain spends about 30% of its time daydreaming unless you’re listening to a story. If you hear a story—if somebody starts a story in a movie, or in a novel—your brain stops daydreaming. There’s no other method that captivates a human brain like that. I wanted to use this powerful tool to captivate people’s attention.
The question I asked at the beginning of StoryBrand, or at least the seed that grew into StoryBrand, was how can I use these formulas to create a marketing filter that will cause people to pay attention to what I’m trying to sell? That ended up being incredibly valuable for my company. We doubled revenue for four consecutive years and then slowly opened it up to other companies. Procter & Gamble was the first company that called us. Berkshire Hathaway, Ford Lincoln, and the White House called under the Obama administration, so we knew we were off to the races.
Stories have been around for years, there are all sorts of interpretations on them. It’s like studying chords. You still have to write the song, and a lot of that is intuition. There are some almost mathematical formulas business leaders can use to get customers to pay attention to them. If they do that, they’ll beat the competition. If they don’t do that, the competition will beat them.
People don’t buy the best products and services. They buy the ones they can understand the fastest.
Kruse: You summarize the story process as “SB Seven.” Walk us through them.
Miller: The SB Seven framework amounts to the seven things that happen in almost every single story. Those seven things are: you have a character with a problem that meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action that either ends in success or failure. Those are the seven things that always happen in stories, and so each of those has a bit of a business paradigm shift to it. The character, we have to define exactly what that character wants.
How that translates to our business is you have to define something that your customer wants. You have to talk about that over and over in the same language, making it really crystal clear what it is your company offers. Most companies are too vague and offer 23 things that a customer wants.
Every customer is coming to you because you solve a problem. We want to define that problem really clearly. Then we want to position ourselves as the guide in their life. The biggest StoryBrand paradigm shift is “Never play the hero in the story. Always play the guide.”
There are two reasons that you don’t want to play the hero. One is the hero is a weak character. They are ill-equipped. They are unwilling to take action. They’re not sure they can get the job done. They’re getting their butt kicked or the story’s no good, so you don’t want to position yourself as a hero.
There is another character in the story, though, that is extremely strong, and that character is the guide. This is the Yoda, the Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Lionel in The King’s Speech. The guide has already conquered the demons in their past and is here only to help the hero win the day. The guide enters into the customer’s story, which is exactly what you want to do.
The next thing you want to do is demonstrate competency. That you have what it takes to help the hero win the day, so you want to express empathy and demonstrate competency. If you do that, you’ll position yourself as the guide in the story. They’re looking for somebody who understands their pain and can get them out of it.
Then we want to give the customer a plan. You want to give them three steps to take in order to resolve their problem. People are looking for step-by-step plans. You see it in movies where Luke Skywalker has to, 1) Fly his X-wing fighter up to the Death Star, 2) Go down into the trenches of the Death Star, 3), Shoot the laser or the photon torpedo through the hole in the Death Star and blow it up. There’s a plan.
Kruse: When you say three, you mean exactly three, right?
Miller: I mean three. When you break it down into the three steps, the customer looks at that and says, “Well, this is easy. This is not much of a mystery on how this works, and I can take these baby steps. I’m not even at risk until we get to the part where I execute.” You do a lot more business that way.
Then you want to call your customer to action. We interact with 3,000 businesses every year, I’m amazed at the percentage of them that don’t call their customers to action. They don’t ask for the sale. There’s no “Buy Now” button on the top right of their website. It’s costing some of them millions of dollars. Your customer can’t read your mind. You need to tell them exactly what you want them to buy and exactly what problem it will solve in their life.
Then, finally, the sixth and seventh points are success and failure. You have to tell them what their life will look like if they do buy from you, the happy vision, the resolved problems, and you have to tell them what life will look like if they don’t buy from you. Those are the stakes in the story.
I would argue that those seven messaging categories are the only categories that you should be using, period. If you’re talking about anything else in your messaging, you’re likely losing sales.