Book review: Building a Story Brand

Book cover for Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

I’d been vaguely aware that the ability to tell a good story was important to building your business. People like to be entertained. People can relate to stories.

What I didn’t understand was how to tell a good story. In the past, when I’ve tried to tell a story about my business, it fell flat. It was a meandering tale that I had a hard time condensing into a narrative that would capture someone’s attention. Basically, my stories lacked structure.

It turns out there is a formula that good books and movies use to tell a story. I had no clear concept of this formula until a close friend suggested I read Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. In his book, Miller walks you through the formula that writers use to capture and keep their audience’s attention. As he does so, he shows you how you can apply it to create a strong brand message and grow your business.

So how do you tell a good story, why does the ability to tell a good story matter, and how does it help you grow your business?

Miller explains the elements of a good story through his 7-step StoryBrand framework. By using the following seven steps, we can build a strong story that engages and captivates the user.

  1. A good story starts with a hero that wants something. In the case of our business, it is our customer who is our hero.
  2. Every story needs a villain, and an evil, dastardly one at that. The product or service we offer has to help our hero, the customer, defeat the villain.
  3. Our hero is looking for a guide that encourages and equips them to win the day. I think you see where this is going, our company needs to be positioned as that guide.
  4. The guide gives our hero a plan to help them. A process plan explains how a customer can engage with our brand. It takes the confusion out of our customer’s journey and guides them in the next steps.
  5. Our hero needs to be challenged to take action. In the case of business, it’s providing our customers with a clear to call-to-action so they engage with us.
  6. Our hero wants to avoid a tragic ending. In our case, we need to explain what the consequences are when they don’t engage with us and follow our plan.
  7. The story needs to have an ending – a happy ending where we show how our brand will transform our hero’s life.

Telling a good story is important because it puts the user, our hero, at the center of our brand. Too often, our marketing messages are centered around our company. If you look through most companies marketing materials, it’s a lot of what we are passionate about, what our vision is, who we are, how long we’ve been in business. They are all company-centric statements that a customer really doesn’t care about. The customer wants to understand how engaging with us can change their life for the better. Our story needs to clearly communicate how we help the customer or solve a problem for them.

When we have a strong brand story that our customers can relate to, it takes the guesswork out of the purchase process. Customers are more like to make a buying decision. As Miller points out, if we don’t communicate clearly, we shrink. I like even better when he says, “if you confuse, you lose.” Creating a clear, compelling story captivates and engages our customers. Ultimately, it leads to business success. Just take a look around you, it’s the formula that all successful brands use.

One of the best parts about the book are the supplementary materials that Miller provides. There is a site setup at where you can create a free account and work through each step of the StoryBrand framework. It’s a great resource, and one I used while reading the book. I used it to help me clarify the marketing message for a product I’m currently working on. Now, instead of having a muddled vision of what the product’s purpose is, I have a clear, succinct story that shows how the product helps my customers succeed and achieve their desired goals.

Needless to say, I’ve categorized Building a Story Brand into my Must Reads. I would highly recommend it to anyone operating a business, especially if you are struggling with your messaging. Just remember, it’s an interactive book. Make sure you create an account at the website and work through the framework as you read the book.

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