StoryBrand: 7 Ways One Conference Completely Changed My Marketing Mindset

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Here’s the uncomfortable truth about marketing: It often feels like a guessing game.

If you’re lucky, you’re a good writer who understands basic marketing principles and how to speak to the customer. But it usually comes down to someone’s opinion. And that’s not ideal when your livelihood is at stake.

Sure, there are dozens (hundreds or thousands more likely) of “guaranteed” marketing methods out there, but they’re all basically repackaged versions of the same ideas you’d find in any marketing textbook. 

I felt that way until I read, “Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller. I went into it thinking, “Ok, how has this guy repackaged the same old stuff?” but quickly realized it was something new that made a whole lot more sense than anything else I’ve come across. And it connected to my love of fictional stories, which really made it click for me.

It was engaging, relatable and started to shift my perspective. So, I was incredibly excited when we discovered that StoryBrand offers live workshops to learn more.

It was an eye-opening experience that I couldn’t sum up in one blog, but here are a few important takeaways I’d love to share. 

Your customer is the hero of the story

This is a biggie because the whole framework is predicated on this idea. 

Many business websites position themselves as the star of the show. Most of the content is focused on telling visitors why the company is so awesome. While there’s certainly a time and place for establishing your authority, it shouldn’t be the main cornerstone of your marketing message. 

Put yourself in the position of your customer. What problems are they trying to solve by buying your product or service? If you were having those problems, what would you want to hear? 

It probably wouldn’t be how the company was started by the CEO’s grandfather. What you want to know immediately and clearly is how they’re going to solve your problems so that your story can proceed and end happily ever after. Everything else is just noise. 

Your website is like a first date.

This was the first big idea that jumped out of the book for me. Many business websites are like an overly eager person on a first date. In an effort to woo, they blurt out their whole life story before the appetizer has even arrived. Yikes, right? You’d definitely text your friend to give you a fake emergency call on that date.

Instead, your website should be a carefully curated version of your company’s life story. It should be just enough to pique a potential customer’s interest and have them take the next step in your sales process.  

The clearest message wins

One of my favorite things that the author, Donald Miller, shared during one of his talks at the workshop was this: “People don’t buy the best things. They buy the things they can understand the fastest.” [Insert head explosion emoji]

We are all busy, overwhelmed people who don’t want to work too hard to find solutions to our problems. If there’s an “easy” button, we’ll press it. So, make it easy for your customers by being shockingly clear about what you offer and how to get it.  

Commas are not your friend

Wow. This one got me in the gut. It was said multiple times during the two days of the workshop, and it hurt a little every time. Why? Because I’m a writer who’s fond of long, complex sentences packed with ideas.

I had to do a little soul searching and remember that marketing writing is not fiction writing. Marketing writing is done to get someone to do something. It doesn’t need to be fancy or eloquent - it needs to be clear and punchy. So, cut the long sentences that make people think too hard.

Companies sell solutions to external problems but people buy solutions to internal problems

When marketing your business, it’s easy to forget about the actual human on the other side of the screen. Clearly, they’re interested in addressing the obvious problem your product or service solves, but many companies fail to address the feelings behind the problem.

Let’s say we’re talking about an interior designer. The obvious, external problem they come to you to solve is a home that’s not stylish. But what feelings does that elicit? Maybe they’re embarrassed to have people over, don’t feel proud of their home or feel unsettled because it’s not a reflection of who they are.

Solving those internal problems is often more important, so businesses shouldn’t ignore them. In fact, they should be calling them out and reassuring customers that they understand and are the best ones to help. 

Many internal marketing teams have the curse of knowledge

This is something I’ve said to clients many times, but I never said it this well. The “curse of knowledge” is what prevents people from explaining or marketing their business in a simple way that can easily be understood by those outside the industry. 

Being so close to your work for so long can make you forget what it feels like to be a layman. Terms or words that you take for granted may sound like a foreign language to a new customer. 

The ironic fact is that you may be too good at what you do to market what you do. If that’s the case for you, you should consider looking outside your organization for marketing help 

We shouldn’t fear being “salesy” 

No one wants to come across as a slimy snake oil salesman. But in the effort to avoid that, a lot of companies have gone too far the other way. Don’t believe me?

Have you ever been to a website where you can’t actually find the “buy” button or info on how to take the next steps? That’s a website of someone who is afraid to sell. 

Being bold about what you sell and how to get it isn’t manipulative. It’s honest and helpful. Miller said something along the lines of, “If you truly believe that what you offer has the power to help someone, and you don’t make it clear how to get it, you’re doing your customer a disservice.” 

Shifting the Spotlight

Sharing your brand’s story is really about focusing on your customer’s story. If your approach to marketing has placed the focus on you, then making this change could have a huge impact on your company’s success. 

Intrigued? I’d recommend starting by reading the book. Next, apply the framework to your main marketing tool: your website. If you need help to do that, consider hiring a web design and marketing company that speaks the same language and can help you to shift the spotlight to the person who matters most, your customer.

Anna Garvey Digital Strategist Chicago

About the Author

Anna Garvey

Anna is Content Strategist at EDUCO. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn or