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Clarify Your Story, Understand Your Brand

How often have you stumbled upon the website of an unfamiliar company and after a few minutes of searching, you still have no idea what the company does or how they can help you? This is not a situation you want to be in as a consumer or as a business.

Fortunately, a few simple steps can help you avoid falling into this lead-killing trap. This process involves making sure you’re speaking the same language as your prospects, not just linguistically, but also emotionally. As you implement these simple steps and appeal to your prospects’ emotions, you’ll better understand how your brand fits into your customer’s lives.

This framework was originally created by Donald Miller in Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. This seven-part process will give your content direction and help everyone understand your purpose better.

1. A character…

Every story has a character—the hero. The story is about their journey, not about you. Many companies like to toot their own horn and dedicate pages and pages to their story. Having a company story is great; however, your prospective customers care less about how your company started than about how you can help them. You are helping to write the story of your prospective heros. Think of the story of Frodo—not just the story of The Ring or The Fellowship.

2. Has a problem…

Customers have problems. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be working with you. Think of this as the plot of your prospective hero’s story. Depending on your industry, your customers’ problems may be very minor or quite large, but they came to you because they believed you could solve their problem. These problems could be internal like self image, they could be external like corporate communication silos, or they could be philosophical, such as customer service best practices. Whatever the case, be clear about how you plan to solve their problems. The issues they are facing right now are large enough for them to take action; they just need some help. Give them actionable insight upfront.

3. And meets a guide…

We have arrived at your part in this story. You are the wise guide. You have the know-how to get the character where they are going. Your prospects aren’t looking for a hero like Luke Skywalker, they’re looking for a guide like Yoda. If you confuse this relationship you’ll lose their business. Remember that you don’t have to do everything, just guide them in the right direction. In business terms, this is the relationship that clarifies your expertise. Everything hinges on this piece of the framework. Without the expertise, why should your prospective hero listen to you? Don’t fret though. As you clarify your story, your expertise will begin to shine through. Like our example above, Luke didn’t know Yoda was the expert until the relationship had been established.

4. Who gives them a plan…

Your role and plan should be simple to understand. If it’s complicated, you’ll leave your prospective hero confused and frustrated. As the guide, you have expertise in solving problems. You should position yourself this way. From first contact to contract completion, you should be offering your expertise and actionable solutions. Remember that this is their story and they define success. A common quote is that people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole. Give them a plan that both maps to their objective and is easy to follow.

5. And calls them to action…

Up to this point, your prospective hero may or may not be fully invested in your solutions. Maybe they have reservations before they will move forward. These are common occurrences in stories; don’t think they are unique to your situation. These reservations aren’t, however, permanent. The way to eliminate your hero’s reservations is a convincing call-to-action. In The Princess Bride, Buttercup isn’t fully invested until she is called to action by the knowledge that Westley, her beloved, is attempting to rescue her. Your call to action shouldn’t just be facts and figures. Buttercup’s call-to-action was an emotional appeal—yours should be too. The human brain is gives more power to emotion than to facts and figures.

6. That helps them avoid failure…

A call-to-action without a consequence is unpersuasive. Think of Princess Leia’s call for help in Star Wars: A New Hope. Her message was simple and brief. “Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re our only hope.” Imagine if she left out the last part and just asked for help; the plea would have fallen flat and the resistance would have failed. The plea is effective because it illustrates that failure for all would be imminent if he did nothing. What is at stake for your prospects if they fail? Will they lose revenue or be squished by the competition? Ask your current customers what motivates them to use your product or service and incorporate their stories to clarify your message to prospective heros.

7. And ends in success…

Conversely, what do they have to gain? Learning how to articulate this in language and emotion your prospects will understand will persuade them to be the true hero of the story, with you at their right hand as guide. Help them to understand this relationship and you will win their business and so much more.

Braden Cousin
Braden Cousin is the customer marketing manager at Solutionreach and is responsible for customer communication and advocacy. He has spent the last few years honing his marketing expertise by working with various small businesses and nonprofit organizations. When not in the office, he can be found traveling the world or enjoying the great outdoors with his wife.

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