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Building a Story Brand: Clarify your message so your customers will listen

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Building a story brand for your startup will help your customers understand your startup's message in a clear voice. Find out how to build a storybrand

Building a story brand for your startup will help your customers understand your startup’s message in a clear voice. By creating a storybrand, you can:

  • Get through the Noise and reach your clients
  • Get the attention of your customers
  • Scale your startup 

The basic structure Miller suggests is as follows:

Client → Problem → You → Unique Plan → Success

Building a Story Brand Infographics  Client → Problem → You → Unique Plan → Success

If you look closely, you’ll see that this structure is already used in a lot of movies, books, and TV shows because it speaks so powerfully to our basic human needs:

  • survival
  • Safety
  • Relationships
  • Self-actualization

Building a Story Brand: Make your client the hero of the story, not your business.

A lot of businesses have no idea who the hero is.

Promoting your business as the main character in the story will, at best, not connect and, at worst, make your business look like a competing hero to your customer. Everyone, including your customers, sees themselves as the heroes of their own stories. To get them to buy from you, you must tell them a story in which they are the hero.

To clarify, the hero is not your business but rather your customer. 

All good stories revolve around one question: Will the hero get what he wants? 

People never care about a story until they know what the hero wants. This fact is why it is a must for a business to know what its customers want and deliver the solution to them. 

Your goal is to turn your startup into a brilliant story that focuses on what the hero [the client] needs.

💡 Personal insight: People are more likely to care about what you are offering them if it has something to do with their sense of survival. Not their physical survival, of course, but their basic human needs, such as the need to save time and money, build social networks and gain status, collect and share resources, and find meaning in life.

Make sure to keep your customers invested in your story by addressing their survival needs through your product or service.

Now we move on to our second point.

Engage your customers by addressing their problems.

Man trying to solve Rubic Cube

The hero has a problem that he wants to solve.

Every story needs a villain. While your villain does not need to be an actual person, they should have personified qualities.

As a result, the villain should be

  • The root source as an example: Frustration is not the villain, but a time-consuming process that makes us feel frustrated could be.
  • The villain should be easy to spot, even if your business sells to different industries or has many product lines. If you try to include too many villains, your story will be confusing and will never make sense.
  • This villain needs to be relatable. Try to tell a story that customers can relate to, not scare them with nonsense.

The problem that the villain is causing and your customer is facing should have three layers:

01 External:

External problems are nuts and bolts; they are pretty obvious. 

Our character must overcome actual problems in the real world. 

For example, I need to get a new car. 

02 Internal:

Internal problems are the real reason your clients are solving their external problems. 

For example, I feel tired of taking public transportation.

💡 Personal Insight: Internal problems are the most vital layer; they are why people buy. Customers buy because of internal problems, not external ones. Never make the mistake that most startups make by focusing on clients’ external issues and ignoring internal ones.

03 Philosophical:

Philosophical problems involve questions about justice, fairness, and good versus evil.

Philosophical questions add more value to your product or service. What’s your vision? 

For instance, in the previous example, it would be something like this: Everyone deserves to get from one place to another faster and with less hassle.

Your turn to join the story as the guide

Compass

Next, the hero meets a guide who will give him the tool to face the villain and win—this is where your company comes in. 

Positioning your business as a reliable guide requires empathy and authority—you must show both.

Empathy: 

Empathy doesn’t mean pity. Instead, empathy means a deep understanding of your character’s problem and a desire to help.

Authority

By “authority,” we mean “competence.” You want to show that you have helped other characters go down this path before. 

💡 Personal Insight: Show authority by showing credibility. For example, you can make a company portfolio, get testimonials from other clients, and so on. You show empathy by deeply understanding the problem and then using words that reflect your understanding.

Now that they trust us as their guide, we can move on to the next step.

Give your client the tools he needs to beat the villain.

Without the right tools, the hero won’t be able to fight the villain.

You are the guide, and it’s your job to ensure the hero has everything he needs to reach his goal. You tell your clients exactly what they need to do to get closer to their goals.

There are two types of plans: the process plan and the agreement plan.

The process plan 

The process plan shows our customers the exact steps they need to take to work with us. It can be as easy as:

  1. Schedule a meeting
  2. Let’s get a plan together
  3. Let’s execute

💡 Personal Insight: The process plan may seem common sense, but you’d be surprised how many businesses make it hard for customers to do business with them. Giving this information is essential because it clears up any questions the customer might have.

The agreement plan: 

Unlike process plans, agreement plans are optional. Think of an agreed-upon plan as what you guarantee to your clients. An agreement plan should tell your customers, “Here are three to five things you can always count on as our customer.”

Now that the hero has the plan to follow, we’ll move on to the next step.

Call your customers to take action.

We think our customers can read our minds and already know they want to buy from us, but they can’t. 

They can’t, so you must send them a clear call to action that motivates them to take the first step toward achieving their goal.

There are two types of calls to action:

Direct calls to action 

Direct calls lead directly to sales. They are buttons that say, “buy now,” “schedule an appointment,” or “call today.” 

This call to action should be easy to find on your website and other materials.

If your customers aren’t ready to take action yet, give them steps they can take that require less commitment. That’s when the transitional calls come in.

Transitional calls 

At some point, your customers will be ready to answer a direct call to action. That’s why you should give them a transitional call that requires less commitment but keeps you in touch.

Transitional calls are a free value you give your client in exchange for their contact information. Transitional calls can be educational content like PDFs, video graphics, webinars, or anything else that adds value. 

So now it’s time for the hero to act. They’ll either succeed or fail. First, we’ll talk about the failure we want them to avoid.

Help Your Clients to Avoid Failure

Consider what your customers will lose if they don’t buy your product. Mention it to them. Many businesses have trouble telling a story with enough stakes, and a story with no stakes is forgettable.

💡 Personal insight: Think of fear as the salt in a recipe. If you don’t have enough, your story will be boring and hard to remember. If you have too much, you will ruin it.

Your clients achieve their dreams.

Solved Rubic Cube

Last, we need to talk about what life will be like for our characters if they get what they want through our products or services. 

When telling a story about a customer who gets what they want, try to make the promise of success related to these three basic needs:

  • Win position or power. 
    It taps into our sense of survival by gaining status.
  • Unity makes the hero whole.
    It relates to our instinct to be in a relationship with others; for instance, a reduced workload allows the hero to spend more time with their family.
  • Self-Realization and Self-Acceptance 
    It can be the hero’s realization that they had what made them successful all by themselves.

Extras

Building a story brand is a great way to get your customers to listen to what you have to say.
Take 30 minutes to think about how this article applies to your startup. You can use this template if you need a little help getting started:

Building a story brand template

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Bahaa Aydi

I'm Bahaa, a Licensed architect specialized in Interior design & Archviz • Sharing my design days with you to help you design better space • Founder of Leaf Studios & My Design Days •

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