StoryBrand Framework – What Is Your Position In Your Customer’s Story?

Who is the hero in your business story? Spoiler: it’s the customer! So, where do you stand in the midst of all that?

Now that the hero has a problem they need to overcome, it might not be possible for them to solve that problem by themselves. This is where you and your product or service come in to accompany the customers on their quest to solve that problem and put it behind them.

Positioning ourselves as a guide in the relationship with the customer is crucial and can make the difference between a client buying from you or going to a competitor.

Demonstrate empathy and authority with your customers

The StoryBrand framework breaks down the guide’s position into two traits: the first one is empathy. When empathising with the customer, they feel understood, and they trust you to accompany them. The second one is authority, giving factual evidence to the customer about how you can help them to the highest level.

In episode 5 of the Marketing Made Simple podcast, J.J. Peterson and April guide you through the “Guide” section of your StoryBrand Framework:

  • How to find the balance between authority and empathy to make sure the customers trust you to help them.
  • Why having a niche of people to guide is the best way for you to advance in your business.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (01:50):

We’re taking this to Broadway. Not a big deal. Because the reality is, okay, let’s get back to the point. The reality is a lot of people think that their marketing needs to position themselves as the hero in the story. Right?

They need to try to make themselves the hero. They think they have to prop themselves up, prop their product up, and talk about how great they are and how amazing they are, especially in comparison to other people. So they’re often trying to put other brands and businesses down while propping themselves up, but that’s actually wrong. That actually will turn customers off. When you make yourself the hero of your marketing, you actually turn customers away. And that is what we’re going to be talking about today.

Every week during this series, we are talking about the different pieces of the Storybrand framework, which breaks down the elements of story, and then teaches you how to use those elements of story to create clear messaging. So we started off by talking about how to identify your characters or your customer’s aspirational identity. Then we talked about defining what character or your customer wants. Then we talked about solving your customer’s problems. And today we’re going to be talking about how you position yourself as the guide in your customer story. So your job is to help your customer overcome their problems. And this is really, really, really important because every one of us wakes up every day as the hero in our own story. We are all trying to overcome problems. We are trying to accomplish things during the day.

So if your customer is the hero of their story and you, as a brand position yourself as the hero of your story, you are actually in competing stories. You are in different stories and you have to win for your customer to lose. Right?

When you position it that way, because you need to make money and they need to lose money. And they also see themselves as an adversary to you. So they need to get the better deal so that you don’t make as much money from them. You’re in competing stories. But when you position yourself as the guide in your customer’s story, then you’re inviting them into a story that you get to help them win.

April Sunshine (04:09):

That’s right. So playing the guide, it’s this huge paradigm shift for people. And when they get it that light bulb goes off and they move into the guide position providing empathy towards their customer’s problems and how they’re feeling about those problems. And then also providing authority, not just talking all about themselves and saying, we’ve done this and that or whatever – it’s in relationship to solving the customer’s problem.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (04:40):

Yes. So this is why we say that when you position yourself as a guide, you need to use empathy and authority. The only reason the guide exists in a story is to serve the hero. That’s it. Your job is to serve the hero. Luke Skywalker, he wants to become a Jedi, so Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, their entire role in the story is to serve Luke’s success. That’s it. That’s it. Again, if he wanted to fall in love, he’s not going to find an old desert guy who’d never been married before to guide him in this journey. He would go find somebody who’s been in love and who has found the love of their life and helps him that way.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (05:19):

So that’s why this is really important when you are positioning yourself as a guide in your customer’s journey, is that you have to speak about empathy to their problem, and you have to speak about authority that you have helped other people just like them win the day. Let me give you an example now in a real-life scenario. So we talked about movies, real life. Let’s say I go to a gym and I want to lose 20 pounds. And I walk in and I say to that trainer who’s there, “Hey, I want to lose 20 pounds.” And the trainer turns around and goes, “Me too.”

Not a good trainer. Now that’s heavy, heavy empathy. Right? They’re experiencing the same problem I am. They know what it feels like to be like me, but I’m not going to choose them as my guide. I don’t want to go on this wild journey with them. I want somebody who’s gone ahead. Right?

So let’s also say I walk into that same gym and I go up to a trainer and I say, “Hey, I’m looking to lose 20 pounds.” And that trainer lifts up their shirt and shows me their six pack and go, “Well stop being lazy you fatty.”

They’re ripped. They know what they’re doing, but they have zero empathy. So let’s now say I go into a gym and I say, “I want to lose 20 pounds.” And a trainer comes up to me and says, “Hey, I get it. I used to be overweight too. I love eating ice cream at night, but I have found a way to help people lose weight by working out, eating sensibly, and you can still have some snacks along the way.” That’s my guide. Right?

They expressed empathy and authority. So in your marketing, after you have identified what your customer wants, and after you have identified the problems that are getting in the way of what they want, you have to position yourself as a guide to help them overcome those with empathy and authority.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (07:46):

I know. I love it. What I really wanted to talk to you today about is the idea of helping a company position themselves as a guide in their customer story. How do you just practically position yourself as a guide? And I know that this was one of the things when you came to StoryBrand being the guide is something that really, really resonated with you.

Rob Hughes (08:10):

Yeah. Amen. Amen. See, I love StoryBrand because the framework is so simple any small business can take it and run with it and see measurable results and outcomes. And I got an MBA, J.J. I learned traditional marketing one-on-one features and benefits. But what I found was when we’re working with service-based businesses and small businesses, so much of that is built on relationship. And when relationship is the core, people do business with people that they know, like, and trust. You can only build so much of that with just features and benefits list. You really got to empathise and understand the target audience. And they got to feel that empathy. Very different than sympathy, empathy says, I know what it’s like to be in your shoes. The authority piece is, I have the way out of that. I know how to fix it. I know how to solve that problem. And so that’s why I love the guide portion, the guide kind of component, of the SB7 framework.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (09:11):

Yeah. I love it. It’s really what attracted me to it as well. And I know you’ve run into a number of different companies that really probably when you first started working with them, positioned themselves as the hero, and you had to come in and help them see that they were really the guide and how to become the guide for their customer. So do you have an example of a company that you’ve worked with that you helped make that shift?

Rob Hughes (09:35):

Well, certainly. It’s counterintuitive. First of all, I just want to empathise with our listeners today. If you look at your website in your marketing and you see that you’re talking all about yourself first, it’s okay. A lot of people start there, but hopefully by the end of this episode, you realise the story really isn’t even about you. It’s about the client. The prospect that’s trying to do business with you. So case in point, we had a small business owner in the United States that reached out to us as a StoryBrand certified agency, a guide to help them rebrand their marketing message. Historically, they had a website. They had a business. They were running a business as a bookkeeper, and they were doing all of the things. Many of you listening, you might even resonate. You build a website yourself. You spend thousands of dollars in social ads yourself. You do email campaigning and you wonder why isn’t it working?

So they reached out to us to help that as their guide. And the first thing we did is we sat down through a discovery process and we said, “Okay, who are you really trying to help? Who’s your audience? Who’s that avatar?” And what we realised is they were a lot more niche focused than just bookkeeping services for anybody and everybody that moved. In fact, we helped them niche down to such specific. They deal with cash only medical practices, natural health doctors. Talk about super hyper specific audience that they’re trying to work with. And we’ve had a couple of years now that we’ve been able to work with this company, but implementing the SB7 framework and the StoryBrand method for all ends of their digital marketing funnel. Most recently I could point to a success. We had some campaigns that were running. They actually asked us to toggle them off because they couldn’t keep up with the new inbound leads that were coming in from a website.

Now, again, a website that historically had been just an expensive digital billboard had turned into a 24/7 lead generating engine that’s creating opportunities for them to do their life’s best work. And so that’s what’s so fulfilling as a StoryBrand certified agency is helping companies unleash their full potential just by pivoting their message.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (11:39):

So many people think that they’re guides for everybody. They want to throw out a broad, broad message. And for some companies that works, but for many of us, we actually have to niche down. And when you niche down and say, “Actually, this is who I help the best. This is who I can serve the best. This is who can get the most out of my services.” And we speak to that audience specifically, then we really can position ourselves as the guide and get more business in that way. And it feels counterintuitive because you’re like, “Well, I can do bookkeeping for everybody,” but when you go after everybody then you actually can’t have the empathy and authority for every single type of customer out there. And when you niche down, now you can be more specific in your language.

Rob Hughes (12:30):

And I would say for those of you who are listening that are self-implementing StoryBrand or reading the Building A StoryBrand book or Marketing Made Simple, and you’re trying to do this on your own. How do you come up with empathy? One trick that we’ve used is to look back on the BrandScript, back to that internal problem, the internal challenge that the client is facing and find ways to speak to that. Almost like saying, “I understand how you feel to have this issue.” Now kind of pro tip that we use that might be helpful to your listeners, J.J., is the emotions wheel. Google this, emotions wheel.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (13:06):

Emotions wheel, okay.

Rob Hughes (13:07):

It creates depth and variety of language so that you’re not saying the same thing over and over again. If the client said they feel frustrated, don’t just say, “You’re frustrated.” You might say, oh, I’m a little bit disheartened or a little bit discouraged. So we use that when we’re writing copy for websites, lead generators, email sequences to create a little bit of variety and depth ultimately to that same internal problem. That’s what they’re looking for is for you to understand how they feel having their problem. That really is the empathy that you want to communicate. And of course the authority is the process or the authoritative process and credential to help them out of that problem.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (13:43):

I love that. So with this bookkeeper specifically, do you remember the language that you used to express empathy and show authority with them?

Rob Hughes (13:54):

Yeah. So with the bookkeeper, historically, like I said, their message was primarily focused on traditional bookkeeping services. We pivoted their message entirely and talked about how difficult it is to graduate medical school an eight year or more degree and all of the debt that comes from that, and yet not have a single idea about how to run a medical practice, a cash only medical practice. And now their bookkeeping services is a conduit to give him gateway to bring in business strategies to help these doctors build a thriving cash only medical practice. So the idea of empathizing with what the actual client and his sake is faced with of how do I run a business in a profitable way, and his bookkeeping services, our position is the guide to help them do just that.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (14:40):

It’s not, again, that you need to help them just do bookkeeping. It’s that you’re helping them overcome the frustration of coming out of medical school with a ton of debt and not knowing how to run a business.

Rob Hughes (14:53):

That’s it and embarrassment too. After eight years of certification and training, you should know better. And so they kind of die on the vine of isolation. So plugging into his services, he can help them overcome that.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (15:05):

I love that. Those are such great tips for our listeners. Everybody out there listening, Rob said a number of things in here. I love the emotion wheel. You got to get on that. But beyond that, the idea of, if you can look at your audience and potentially one of the mistakes you’re making is you’re trying to be the guide to way too many people. So look at potentially niching down your language. Don’t be afraid of that. That actually can get you more business. I think those are some fantastic tips that everybody can use right away.

From the Junto Institute

Rob Hughes (15:35):

Absolutely. And I think marketing, this absolutely applies. Also in a sales call, listen to that client as they call in. Mr. and Mrs. Client, well, what sort of challenges? What do you want over the next few years? What sort of challenges stand in the way? Gosh, how does that feel? That must just be frustrating. Well, we help our clients overcome frustration by XYZ.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (15:56):

Yes. Yes.

Rob Hughes (15:56):

That’s the empathy. It’s as if you’ve sat with a counsellor and brought all of your problems to them. When they look you in the eye and say, what I hear you saying, J.J. or Rob, is this. And they repeat back to you the problem packaged in a nice neat bow. You say, my gosh, you understand me. You see me. I feel heard and understood. What does that do to the trust? What does that do to relationship? It propels it. And ultimately, as we started, trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, especially in business. So if you want to build trust, if you want to be seen and connected, empathy is the gateway to that.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (17:59):

And I want you to go to the guide section on the Brandscript. It’s kind of in the upper left side and you’ll see that there are two spaces to write down language for empathy and authority. And here’s how you create empathy and authority in your marketing and messaging. First with your empathy. What you want to do is you want to make a statement that says something like, we understand what it’s like to blank. We understand what it feels like, or as marketers ourselves, identify that you are like them. You can say, as somebody who is building a business ourselves we understand how difficult it can be. And you just want to create a sentence that expresses empathy towards your customer. The easiest way to do this is look back at the problem that you created last week in the internal problem and the external problem. Just use that language to create your empathetic statement.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (19:03):

Then in your authority section, all you want to do is write down a few things that show that you have the ability to help people win the day, because you’ve done it before. So this can be a testimony from one of your clients. This can be statistics. This can be awards that you’ve won. This can be a number of different things that just show, hey, we’ve done this before. We know what we’re doing. You don’t need a lot. You basically just need one or two things that people can check off in their mind that you know what you’re doing and you can be their guide. And these two things have to work together. So you have to have an empathetic statement and you have to have some authority. This part of the StoryBrand framework really is a game changer for everybody who decides to use it.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (19:51):

When you position yourself as the guide in your customer’s story, you help them win. I said earlier when we were talking about this, the whole reason Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi exist in the story is to serve Luke Skywalker. If you have ever felt like, “I’m not a good marketer. And I don’t really feel like pushing my product and my service.” And it feels weird to be a little salesy. This is a way of starting to rethink how you talk about your business. Positioning yourself as the guide allows you to serve your customer. And when they win, you win.

Dr. J.J. Peterson (20:31):

That’s all for this week’s episode of Marketing Made Simple. Thanks so much for taking time to be with us today and believing like us that your marketing should be easy and it should work. Please subscribe to Marketing Made Simple wherever you listen to podcasts, and don’t forget to rate and review letting us know how these tips are transforming your business. Can’t wait to see you next week.

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