When an advance copy of Donald Miller’s “Building A Story Brand,” arrived in the mail, my initial thought was, “Do we really need an another book that extolls the power of storytelling in sales and marketing?” The subtitle, “Clarify Your message So Customers Will Listen,” and even more cover text, “Use the 7 elements of great storytelling to grow your business,” seemed to hint at so-called insights we’ve been fed repeatedly.

A cursory Amazon search turns up a bevy of these books published in recent years. There’s “Story Selling,” “Sell With a Story,” “Story-Based Selling: Create, Connect and Close,” “The Science of Story Selling” and “Sell More With Stories.” And that’s not even the full first page of results.

Miller is the CEO of StoryBrand, which offers live workshops and online courses about connecting with customers. I’m won’t pretend I read his entire book, but the first three sentences pulled me a lot deeper into it than I expected to go.

“This is not a book about telling your company’s story. A book like that would be a waste of time. Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own,” Miller writes in the introduction. And the first sentence of the first chapter is equally bold: “Most companies waste enormous amounts of money on marketing.”

OK. He’s got my attention.

Price the Guide’s Role

In “Building A Story Brand,” Miller outlines his Storybrand 7-Part Framework (aka the SB7 Framework), a system he says allows companies to create compelling messages that filter out the noise that destroys so many marketing campaigns.

The third of Miller’s seven principles states, “To enter into our customer’s story, we should play the role of guide.” The fatal mistake some brands make is positioning themselves as the hero in a story instead of the guide, he says. That’s a recipe for failure. Savvy marketers understand the story is not about the guide. It must be focused on the hero (the customer).

Too many companies – too many sales reps and marketing heads – want to come to the rescue of prospects and customers who are struggling with a problem. In movies and stories, the guide, not the hero, is the one with the most authority – the one who has “been there and done that” and conquered the hero’s challenge in their own backstory. Frodo has Gandalf, Katniss has Haymitch and Luke Skywalker has Yoda.

To be recognized as the guide, Miller says your brand must communicate empathy and authority. “When we empathize with our customers’ dilemmas, we create a bond of trust. People trust those who understand them, and they trust brands that understand them too,” Miller states. Empathy starts with statements as simple as, “We understand how it feels,” or “Nobody should have to experience…”

Another word for authority, he says, is competence. How does a company establish authority without stepping into the role of hero? Miller offers four easy ways to add the right amount of authority to marketing messages:

  1. Testimonials – Let satisfied customers do the talking for you.
  2. Statistics – Share numbers like how many satisfied customers you have helped or how much money you helped them save. This scratches the itch of left-brained prospects who love numbers, statistics and facts.
  3. Awards – Don’t go crazy crowing about recognition you’ve received, but certainly include logos, badges or other indications of your awards on your marketing materials.
  4. Logos – Customers want to know you have helped others who have been in their shoes. Place logos of known businesses you have worked with in your marketing collateral.

Donald Miller’s book, “Building A StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen,” is scheduled to be published in October by Nelson Books.

About the Author: Paul Nolan is editor of Sales and Marketing Magazine.

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