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Using the Power of Story in Marketing

Everybody loves a good story. When we think about how much time and money we spend at the movies or curled up with a book we can’t put down, we realise just how much stories are an integral part of our lives. That’s not to mention the stories we tell our friends around a glass of something about “that one time” on vacation. Great stories can do so much for us. They can enlighten and encourage us and keep us entertained. But they’re not just great for use in our personal lives. The power of story in marketing is undeniable. Award-winning author and marketing expert Donald Miller has made clear that businesses can, and should, use the same elements that make up great stories to market their products and services in order to grow their business.

In Building A StoryBrand, Miller illuminates how businesses can cut through the noise of their competition and the fog of unclear messaging by creating a BrandScript. This is effectively a short story that describes the journey your business takes your customers on. This framework is made up of 7 essential elements:

●           A Character who has

●           A Problem he needs to solve, but meets

●           A Guide who gives them

●           A Plan, then

●           Calls them to action that ends in

●           Success or

●           Failure.

Positioning the business as the Guide, as opposed to the Hero (which is the usual practice in marketing) is the main paradigm shift in this framework. All too often businesses will centre themselves as the hero of the story, which ultimately removes the attention from where it should be – that being with your customer. When a business shows themselves to be the Guide they are effectively saying “I have the answers to your problems”.

What does this mean? It means increased business and increased sales, which is always the aim of the game.

So how do each of these elements work?

1) The Character

Every great story starts with a character, and they usually have a problem they need to solve. The character is also the Hero of the story, they’re the one we’re rooting for throughout the 90 minutes’ of popcorn guzzling. So, who is your brand’s character? Who is the real hero of your business story?

Remember, it is never you. It’s your customer. The reasons for this are not just because everybody likes to feel like the centre of attention, it’s because by doing this you’re able to position yourself as the guide. The one who can help them achieve the solution to their problem. Your story, your brand message must hinge on the hero and what they want if you are to appear relevant to the people you want to engage. So, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your hero (customer)?
  • What is it that they want to achieve?

When you have the answer to these questions you can speak directly to them in your brand messaging. You’re able to tell them what’s in it for them by working with you. They don’t care about your business story, they want to know you can help them solve their problem.

2) The Problem

All heroes in our favourite films have a problem they need to solve. If they didn’t, well, it would be a rather boring 90 minutes. Your customer is no different. They too have obstacles they need to overcome in order to find the success they are after.

So, what exactly are the problems your customer is facing? This is important. You need to really get to the bottom of what this is in order to be able to market yourself as the solution.

The StoryBrand framework breaks the problem down into three separate elements that include the tangible need they have, how not having that ‘thing’ makes them feel, and why it’s unfair or wrong for your customer to have this problem in the first place.

3) The Guide

In most movies, the hero meets a guide – someone who helps them find the solution to the problem. In James Bond it’s Q, in Star Wars it’s Yoda, in your customer’s story, it’s you.

It’s important to focus on exactly how you solve your customer’s problems while simultaneously demonstrating two elements:

  • Empathy – showing that you understand the hero’s problem
  • Authority – demonstrating you have the experience necessary to solve this problem

4) The Plan

What is your plan? The guide always has a plan of action for the hero to help them achieve the success they’re chasing. This needs to be clear and concise. You need to make it easy for your customer to say yes.

StoryBrand advises that you use a simple 3-step plan.

This still stands even if you have 20 other smaller steps to doing business with you. Your customer doesn’t need to know all 20. Listing every step they’d need to take will not only confuse them, but it could put them off entirely. The aim is to make doing business with you look as easy as possible.

Here’s an example from our own website:

5) Call to Action

It’s time for your customer to do business with you. You’ve got them this far. Now is not the time to be vague or shy, it’s the time to confidently call them to action (CTA).

Make sure your CTA is clearly visible, don’t crowd it with other things on your website. Make it the one stand-out thing people just cannot miss.

Many businesses feel uncomfortable about looking too forceful with this, but if you don’t appear confident in exactly why they should do business with you, how can you expect them to be?

There are two types of CTAs you should use:

Direct CTA – buy from us now

  • Buy now
  • Schedule a Call
  • Start Your Project

Indirect CTA – your customer isn’t ready to buy yet, so you should provide them with an opportunity to access resources from you that will make their life better until they are ready to buy from you (we’ve written more about why giving free expertise away is good for business here).

6) Success

In your favourite movie, you know exactly what success looks like for the hero, and you need to make this clear to your customer too. Show them how good their life can look after doing business with you.

Show them their character transformation, how they will go from where they are currently, to the success they crave. This can also include an aspirational identity. Show them how they will go from x to z by buying your product or service.

7) Failure

When we talk about stakes, we talk about what life might look like if they don’t take a step forward and buy from you. This is a critical step in your story. Think about it. If the movies we watched didn’t have any stakes in them, we’d lose interest pretty quickly. It’s the same for your customer. If there’s nothing at stake, there’s no reason to do business with you. So be sure to tell them what they stand to lose if they don’t click on that ‘Schedule a Call’ button.

Obviously, they’ll fail to solve their problems but what does that ultimately lead to? It’s important not to catastrophise here, while equally being firm in your assertions that by not doing business with you, they stand to lose out. Is it lack of growth, wasting money, high stress and perhaps wasting precious time?

And there you have the 7 steps! By creating and arranging these seven elements, your business is able to clearly communicate what it is that you do, how it makes your customers’ lives better, and how to purchase your products or services.

Once you’ve created your BrandScript, all of your marketing will come from one or more of these seven elements. As a result, everything you communicate will share a common set of ideas and themes, which helps keep your message clear. On top of that, because you’ll be using the same elements over and over again, they will ultimately become associated with your business. In many ways, marketing is an exercise in memorisation, so as the BrandScript elements become related within your customers’ minds, your products and services will also start to be associated with the solution to their problem.

For more insight into the StoryBrand Framework and putting together a BrandScript for your company, you can read Building A StoryBrand by Donald Miller. This is available on Audible, Amazon, and bookstores. There’s also a free tool to help you create your own BrandScript at https://www.mystorybrand.com. And of course, we’re always here to help!

If you’d like a more in-depth look at the StoryBrand framework tickets are now available for the StoryBrand live-stream event with Donald Miller and his team. Sign up for your space now.