Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 1:55 pm by TRUiC Team

Using the StoryBrand Framework for Your Business

Ch 4.03

In order to sell your business and its products, you must first show the customers why you’re the solution to their problems. In this section of the course, we’ll walk you through the StoryBrand method of writing and business sales communication.

This video is part of the free Small Business Startup Course designed to help walk you through the entire process of business formation from idea to launch. 

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  • The StoryBrand framework was first introduced by Donald Miller in his book, "Building a StoryBrand." To explore his ideas further, we recommend checking it out.

Telling the Right Story With StoryBrand

Stories are universal, so it's no wonder that large media franchises often share a similar hero/villain storyline. But what if your business could do the same? 

Developed by Donald Miller, the StoryBrand framework is an approach that puts your customer at the center of a story – treating them as the hero with a problem – and places your business as the guide to help them through this problem by calling them to action. 

With this method, you can identify your customer’s wants as well as the best ways for your business to help them see you as the solution to their needs.

Using the StoryBrand Framework for Your Business – Transcript

Tell me when you know what story I'm telling you: a boy is separated from his parents and made to live in a small space with his aunt and uncle, where he's dissatisfied with his life and presented with a problem that he's incapable of solving himself. That is, until he meets a wise old sage who gives him a plan to end his troubles and cause him to become a better version of himself. The hero takes the guy's advice, avoiding failure and ending in success. 

Did you say Star Wars? Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings? Of course, you'd be right if you said any of these. And there's a reason that the best-selling movie franchises of all time are essentially telling the same story — it's because audiences love hearing it. But did you know that as a business owner, you can capitalize off this timeless story too? 

Hey everybody, Will Scheren here from Small Business Startup Guide by TRUiC. This video is part of a larger course dedicated to helping small business owners cut through the noise and get to the essentials of starting their business. If that sounds like it would be really useful to you, be sure to like and subscribe. 

In the opening section of the course, we're working through gathering everything that we need in order to be able to plan a business successfully. And in this video, we're going to be discussing standardizing the way that your business discusses its brand and products. If you do this well, it'll help you cut through the noise and get the attention of customers, investors, and lenders and grow your business. 

One of the most widely accepted and popular frameworks for achieving this is the “StoryBrand” framework. StoryBrand is a wildly popular writing framework developed by author Donald Miller, and it's used to help streamline a business's sales communications. You should use the StoryBrand framework any time that you're going to make a piece of content like an ad, landing page, pitch deck, or any other piece of content that makes an ask of someone, like when you're asking your customers to purchase your product. 

StoryBrand views every opportunity to speak with the customer as an opportunity to tell them a story where they're the hero and your product or brand is the guide to help them get what they want. 

Framing your brand and products this way has been proven to increase conversion rates across a wide array of industries. And while it seems like a “touchy-feely” task, once you learn this method, you'll see that it's being applied all over the internet and tons of ads and sales materials. 

The StoryBrand framework essentially boils down to this: a hero has a problem and meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action, helping them avoid failure and success. This framework has been applied to countless books, movies, and TV shows because it's compelling. It speaks to our shared human needs of survival, safety, relationship, and self-actualization. 

Let's start with the hero. Many businesses are confused about who this even is and the story they're trying to tell. To be clear, the customer should always be the hero in your story, not your business. If you're positioning your business as the hero in your marketing, at best, you won't connect. And at worst, you'll position yourself as a competing hero in your customer story.

Every human being, including your customers, views themself as the hero in their own story, even in mundane and non-dramatic ways. So to be compelling, you need to tell your customers a story where they're the hero. 

All good stories revolve around the question: Will the hero get what they want? And until the audience knows what the hero wants, they're likely to tune out. So it's crucial that you clearly understand and articulate what your customers want in relation to your business to be truly compelling. 

This want needs to tap into your customers' sense of survival. While this may seem extreme, if you think about it, even things as simple as saving time or resources, building social networks and gaining status with them, accumulating resources and giving some away, and having a sense of meaning in our lives all tap into our desire to survive. 

You can fit all of these items on some rung on the ladder of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Framing your story around the idea that the hero is searching for something needed to survive ensures that you're telling a story with enough stakes to hold people's attention. 

After setting your customer as the hero and describing what they want in a way that relates to your brand or product, we can move on to the second part of the story, which is the hero has a problem. Every good story needs a villain. While your story's villain doesn't need to be an actual person, it should have some personified characteristics. 

The villain in your brand's story should be a root source, not a feeling. For example, frustration is not a villain, but an outdated process that makes you feel frustrated certainly could be. The villain should be relatable and singular. 

Even if your business sells into multiple different industries or sells multiple product lines. If you try to squeeze too many villains into your story, it will lack clarity. And finally, the villain needs to be real. You're trying to tell a story that your customers will relate to, not fearmonger about nonsense. 

Now, the problem that our character faces should have three levels to it: an external, an internal, and a philosophical. 

External problems are the nuts and bolts, real-world problems that our hero needs to overcome. For example, I need to make my quota this quarter. Internal problems revolve around the question of “Do I have what it takes?” And many companies miss this entirely because they're only talking about external problems. And finally, philosophical problems deal with issues of fairness, justice, and good versus evil.

To see how this works, let's say that we sell a tool that helps salespeople have more intelligent conversations with their prospects. Our villain: hours of prospect research that doesn't give us the information that we need. The hero's external problem: they need to hit their sales quota. The hero's internal problem: they're fearful of failure. And their philosophical problem: it should just not take them hours to find five things that they need to know going into a sales meeting. 

The next step in the formula is where your company comes in the hero meets the guide. To successfully position your business as the guide. You need to understand that characters are looking for two characteristics when accepting a guide: empathy and authority. By empathy, we don't mean pity. We mean a deep understanding of your character's problems and an eagerness to help. And by authority, we really mean competence. You want to show that you've helped others down this path before. 

Now that we're trusted to be the guide, we can move on to the next step: giving our character a plan. This can be broken up into two parts: the process plan and the agreement plan. 

The process plan lays out the steps that a customer would need to take in order to do business with the company. It can be as simple as 1. buy the product, 2. use the product, and 3, enjoy the product's benefits. 

Purchasing the product or service may be a step that seems too obvious to even mention. But you'd be surprised how many businesses make it confusing to even figure out how to become a customer. Spelling this out is crucial, and it alleviates doubts that are inevitably in the back of your customer's mind. 

The agreement plan is essentially a service-level agreement but massively simplified. It needs to tell your customer the three to five things that they can 100% count on if they become your customer. 

Now that we've laid out a plan for our customer to follow, we'll move on to the next stage: calling them to action. Characters can be called to action because audiences know that most people don't just wake up one day and decide to change their lives unless someone or something challenges them to do so. 

We often make the mistake of thinking that customers can read our minds and that, obviously, they know we want them to buy, but they don't. So we need to send an obvious message to them, one that tells them, “Take this step now so that you can begin down the path of getting what you want.” These messages exist in two broad categories: direct calls to action and transitional or soft calls to action. 

Direct calls to action lead directly to sales. They're the “Buy Now” button, “Schedule an Appointment,” or “Call Today.” These calls should be prominently featured on your website and other sales materials. There should be zero confusion of where your customer needs to go when they're ready to take action. 

And if they're not ready to take action, that's okay. You'll want to provide them transitional calls to action. These are often calls to view educational content like blog posts, videos, infographics, or webinars. Often these are in exchange for contact information. The content behind these transitional calls to action gives your business another opportunity to present yourself as a worthy guide in your customer story. So eventually, your customers will feel comfortable responding to your direct calls to action. 

Now that our hero has been called to action, will they fail or succeed? First, we're going to talk to them about the failure we're going to help them avoid: what will the customer lose if they don't buy your product? This is a question that understandably makes a lot of us cringe. It is absolutely true that fear mongering is a bad practice on both a moral and practical level. But many businesses actually suffer from the opposite problem. They're telling a story that just doesn't have any stakes, and a story without stakes is boring and wholly forgettable. 

Think of fear like salt in a recipe not enough, and your story will be bland and forgettable, but too much, and you'll completely ruin it. Think about the internal, external, and philosophical outcomes that you're helping your customer avoid and remind them of those stakes. Just be careful not to overdo it. 

And finally, we need to talk about what life looks like when our character succeeds in getting what they want. There's three types of endings that you can think about when telling the story of your customer's success. 

The first is the hero winning power or position. This taps into our survival instinct to being well-regarded within the tribe. 

The second is some type of union that makes the character whole. This taps into our instinct to be in relationship with others. For example, a reduced workload allowing the hero to spend more time with their family. 

And third, there's the self-actualization or self-acceptance that makes a hero whole. This can be the hero realizing that they really did have what it takes for them to succeed and that they had it all along. 

So there you have it. We've now described the StoryBrand framework so that you can describe your brand to anyone that you'd be making an ask of. You can use this framework when describing your brand or any of your products. 

In the next video in the course, we'll be applying this concept to the imaginary barbershop that we've been creating in an effort to show you how it can be applied in the real world so that you can apply StoryBrand better to your brand. 

This video is part of a step-by-step course that gives business owners all of the essential information to start and operate their business. We've provided a link for you to get access to all of the free and discounted business tools we mentioned in this course below this video. 

Be sure to like and subscribe to get more of this content. We'll see you in the next video, and if you have any questions, let us know.