Building a StoryBrand
By Donald Miller
If you don’t know Donald Miller as the CEO of StoryBrand, a marketing consultancy, then you might remember him as the bestselling author of the books Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The ideas and life journey he shares in those two books are what brought him right here to Edmond in 2015 when he spoke and held a Q&A session for students at Oklahoma Christian University. His memoirs and speaking have inspired many people. But that’s not why you are here.
What does a bestselling author of personal memoirs have to do with business? Miller took what he learned about writing and story and has masterfully applied them to marketing. This pivot is what plenty of us in the business world do to be successful. We take skills and experience in one arena and apply it to another. Miller and the team at StoryBrand have not only applied those lessons but share their knowledge and experience with us. That’s why this book should be on your shelf. Businesses of all types have to market in some form or fashion. B2B, B2C, and even the sharing economy all have to connect with customers.
Donald Miller uses the principles of story and proven storytelling techniques to form better marketing messages. This book contains the basic 7 elements of a good story and applies them to business marketing. He walks the reader through aspects of famous stories like Star Wars, The Bourne Identity, and Hunger Games to describe each of these seven elements. In addition to these elements, StoryBrand encourages you to clarify your message. Clarifying reduces the noise associated with unclear marketing. He drives home the fact that simple is better to connect your solution with your customers’ problems.
The story you should create for your marketing is not what most of us think of first. Naturally, most of us want to put ourselves and our business at the heart of the story. Miller hits quickly to tell us that we are not the main character, or hero, of this story. It is natural that we automatically think of ourselves as the hero in our own story. But one of the most impactful aspects of this process is how you can thrive by positioning yourself as the guide (another of the 7 elements) instead of the hero. He quotes Nancy Duarte’s recommendation to “position yourself as Yoda and your audience as Luke Skywalker.” This concept resonates well in my house, my boys love Yoda!
Building A StoryBrand continues on to describe the rest of the seven story elements while customizing it to what they call the “Simple SB7 Framework.” A few of these elements were recognizable from my time in high school literature class but they definitely carry more meaning and connection when applied to my business-focused mind. The character in your brand story must face a problem then meet a guide that gives them a plan. There must be a call to action for the hero, which fits in nicely with traditional marketing plans. This plan and guide help the hero avoid failure and end in success.
After the 7 elements of story, Miller helps complete the branding process with a few more items. Transformation and finding an aspirational identity are covered in a chapter emphasizing our human desire to change into something better, something different. He tells us this deeper process of identifying and communicating a transformation is what sets great brands apart from good ones. The book outlines how well-known examples of brands, such as Dave Ramsey and Gerber knives, take their customers on simple transformational journeys. Customers are much more likely to join us if they can easily grasp the aspirational identity you help guide them to.
One of the biggest benefits of this book is the step-by-step process and digital aides provided. StoryBrand offers an online template to help you walk through everything the book talks about. Mystorybrand.com allows each reader to log in and create the story elements and assets associated with each chapter in the book. The last section of the book helps implement the StoryBrand framework through website advice, company culture, and an “almost free” roadmap.
The five steps of the roadmap are the actions that so often don’t get finished when we read a good book. Miller completes his book in a way that encourages the reader to put the ideas into action with simple steps. Finishing these steps may take some time to complete. Time is often the currency of great transformations in business and Miller reminds us this is not a reason to shy away here. Just getting started and completing one step helps. “The more you execute, the clearer your message will become and the more your company will grow.” (page 174)
It is easy for me to see how Building a StoryBrand became a #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller. Miller is a great author and has put actionable business advice into a compelling read. I have benefitted from many things in this book and I think you will too. The most impactful and easy-to-implement idea is to put customers at the heart of my story by positioning myself as the guide instead of the hero. Pick up Building A StoryBrand to improve your marketing and help your business grow.
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About Phil Klutts
Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.
Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.