The Book Summary of Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

In “Building a StoryBrand,” Donald Miller provides a methodology for creating effective marketing messaging by integrating your brand into a story structure. This structure positions the customer as the protagonist and illustrates how your brand facilitates their journey toward a positive outcome.

Miller introduces a formulaic approach to story structure, allowing you to input your company details and create a storyline. This narrative, documenting how your brand assists customers in achieving their goals, serves as the foundation for all marketing collateral. The goal is to produce marketing content that is cohesive, concise, and resonates clearly with customers.

The guide addresses two common marketing errors made by brands and demonstrates how storytelling can rectify these issues. Additionally, Miller outlines seven components of his story structure, providing a comprehensive framework for implementing your storyline across various marketing channels. This approach aims to enhance the effectiveness of marketing materials by engaging customers through a compelling and relatable narrative.

The Two Errors That Cause Marketing Material to Fail, and How to Correct Them

In “Building a StoryBrand,” Donald Miller identifies two common errors in marketing that hinder effectiveness due to a lack of understanding of how the human brain processes information.

Error #1: Lack of Articulation on Helping People Stay Alive or Prosper

  • Brands fail when they cannot articulate how they assist customers in either survival or prosperity.
  • Human brains are wired to prioritize survival needs, such as shelter, food, and community, and then move on to prospering by building self-esteem and self-actualization.
  • Marketing must prove that a brand can address these fundamental needs for it to capture customers’ attention.

Error #2: Forcing Customers to Waste Calories Parsing Information

  • Brands often include excessive, confusing, or unhelpful information in their marketing.
  • Customers tune out when faced with irrelevant information, as it forces them to expend mental energy.
  • The solution is to present information in a concise and relevant manner.

Correction: Create a Story

  • To correct these errors, Miller recommends presenting brand information in a story format.
  • Storytelling focuses the message on how the brand helps customers stay alive and prosper.
  • Unnecessary information is eliminated, making the message more engaging and memorable.

Creating a Story Using a Marketing Outline:

  • Miller introduces the StoryBrand 7-Part Framework, a marketing outline based on common storytelling structures.
  • This framework results in a “BrandScript” or storyline, detailing how the brand helps customers in their journey.
  • The storyline becomes the foundation for creating cohesive and clear marketing materials.

Three Benefits of Using the Marketing Outline:

  1. Ease of Use: Simply plug in company details to create a storyline.
  2. Cohesiveness: The marketing outline provides a single, consistent message, reducing customer confusion.
  3. Repeatability: Once created, the message can be communicated across various marketing platforms and to employees.

While Miller emphasizes the advantages of ease, cohesiveness, and repeatability, it’s noted that this approach may lack flexibility. A flexible marketing strategy could provide a competitive edge by adapting to different markets and audiences, although it may sacrifice some cohesiveness. Ultimately, companies must weigh the benefits of cohesiveness against the advantages of flexibility in their marketing approach.

The marketing outline comprises seven key elements, each contributing to a compelling narrative:

Part 1: The Customer-Protagonist Wants Something Begin by identifying what the customer wants, creating a gap that arouses their desire. The want should be connected to survival or prosperity. For example, wants like saving money, time, building community, acquiring status, being generous, and finding meaning fulfill these needs.

Part 2:The Client-Protagonist Runs Into Issue Draw attention to a barrier preventing the wish from being fulfilled. Miller proposes three categories of issues: philosophical (universal inquiries), internal (emotional states), and external (concrete). In order to make the issue more relevant, personify it as a villain.

Part 3: The Brand-Mentor Steps In to Help Position your brand as a mentor that understands and supports the customer. Earn trust through compassion (showing understanding of their problem) and competence (demonstrating a track record, often with testimonials).

Part 4:A plan is presented by the brand-mentor to the customer-protagonist. Provide a detailed strategy for resolving the issue that was found. Present two different kinds of plans: promise plans (commitments on how you’ll do business, lowering risk) and instructional plans (clear processes for purchase and usage).

Part 5: The Brand-Mentor Calls the Customer-Protagonist to Action Clearly and repeatedly instruct the customer to take action. Implement two types of calls to action: calls to buy (directing toward a purchase) and calls to engage (providing helpful information to establish trust).

Part 6: The Negative Stakes of Not Taking Action Highlight the negative consequences of not choosing your product or service. Create a moderate amount of anxiety to motivate action without repelling customers.

Part 7: The Happy Ending of Following the Plan Show the specific, simple, positive outcome or “happy ending” of purchasing your product. Be specific and focus on the experience rather than the attributes of the positive outcome.

The Transformation: How Do You Help Your Customer Change for the Better? Identify your customer’s aspirational identity—how they want to see themselves. Position your brand as an enabler of their transformation. Once they’ve achieved their desired transformation, acknowledge and reward them.

Understanding and incorporating these elements into your marketing strategy can help create a compelling and engaging narrative for your audience.

Once you’ve crafted a compelling marketing storyline, implement it across various channels using the following strategies suggested by Donald Miller:

  1. Overhaul Your Website:
    • Streamline your website to include only essential information that conveys your solution and builds trust.
    • Align every element on your website with your storyline, eliminating anything irrelevant.
  1. Write a Brand Logline:
    • Create a short, memorable phrase that encapsulates your company’s purpose using elements from your storyline.
    • Include the customer-protagonist, the problem, the plan, and the happy ending.
  1. Start an Automated Email Campaign:
    • Set up a four-email automated campaign triggered when an email address is added to your list.
    • The first three emails should be calls to engage, and the fourth should include a call to buy.
    • Focus on making your brand name visible in customers’ minds to increase recall when they need a product or service.
  1. Showcase Testimonials of Transformation:
    • Request and share customer testimonials that highlight how your product transformed their lives.
    • Ask targeted questions to prompt customers to describe their transformative experiences.
    • Ensure testimonials are authentic and comply with legal standards.
  1. Build a Rewarding Referral System:
    • Implement a referral system that encourages satisfied customers to recommend your product to others.
    • Send automated emails to customers with resources they can share, offering rewards for successful referrals.
    • Ask for referrals early in the customer relationship to leverage the excitement and satisfaction.

Implementing these strategies will help integrate your storyline into your marketing materials effectively, making your brand more memorable and appealing to potential customers.