“Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller

While reading this book, I wrote down the main concepts from it. They can be useful for you if just finished listening audiobook or want to refresh knowledge.

other books key concepts


Even if we have the best product in the marketplace, we’ll lose to an inferior product if our competitor’s offer is communicated more clearly.

The first mistake brands make is they fail to focus on the aspects of their offer that will help people survive and thrive.

The second mistake brands make is they cause their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their offer.

If we haven’t identified what our customer wants, what problem we are helping them solve, and what life will look like after they engage our products and services we can forget about thriving in the marketplace.

What we think we are saying to our customers and what our customers actually hear are two different things. And customers make buying decisions not based on what we say but on what they hear.

Story is the greatest weapon we have to combat noise, because it organizes information in such a way that people are compelled to listen.

The essence of branding is to create simple, relevant messages we can repeat over and over so that we “brand” ourselves into the public consciousness.

Here is nearly every story you see or hear in a nutshell: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.

There are three question audience must be able to answer to engage in a story. And they should be able to answer these questions within five seconds of looking at our website or marketing material.

  1. What do you offer?
  2. How will it make my life better?
  3. What do I need to buy it?

When customers finally understand how you can help them live a wonderful story, your company will grow.


  1. A Character. The customer is the hero, not your brand.
  2. Has a Problem. Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems.
  3. And Meets a Guide. Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.
  4. Who Gives Them a Plan. Customers trust a guide who has a plan.
  5. And Calls Them to Action. Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to take action.
  6. That Helps Them Avoid Failure. Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending.
  7. And Ends in a Success. Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.

Every human being is already speaking the language of story, so when you begin using the SB7 Framework, you’ll finally be speaking their language.


A Character

When you define something your customer wants, the customer is invited to alter their story in your direction. If they see your brand as trustworthy and reliable guide, they will likely engage.

In story terms, identifying a potential desire for your customer opens what’s something called a story gap. When we don’t open a story gap in our customers’ mind, they have no motivation to engage us, because there is no question that demands resolution.

People will always choose a story that helps them survive and thrive.

Define a desire for your customer, and the story you’re inviting customers into will have a powerful hook.

Has a Problem

Every story is about somebody who is trying to solve a problem, so when we identify our customers’ problems, they recognize us as a brand that understands them.

If we want our customers’ ears to perk up when we talk about our products and services, we should position those products and services as weapons they can use to defeat a villain. And the villain should be dastardly.

Four characteristics that make for a good villain on your StoryBrand BrandScript.

  1. The villain should be a root source.
  2. The villain should be relatable.
  3. The villain should be singular.
  4. The villain should be real.

The three levels of problems heroes (and customers) face are: External Problems, Internal Problems, Philosophical Problems.

In stories, the external problem is often a physical, tangible problem the hero must overcome in order to save the day.

By assuming our customers only want to resolve external problems, we fail to engage the deeper story they’re actually living. The truth is, the external problems we solve are causing frustrations in their lives and, just like in a story, it’s those frustrations that are motivating them to call you.

Framing our products as a resolution to both external and internal problems increases the perceived value (and I would argue, actual value) of those products.

The philosophical problem in a story is about something even larger that the story itself. It’s about the question why. Why does this story matter in the overall epic of humanity?

People want to be involved in a story that is larger than themselves. Brand that give customers a voice in a larger narrative add value to their products by giving their customers a deeper sense of meaning.

If we really want to satisfy our customers, we can offer much more that products or services; we can offer to resolve an external, internal, and philosophical problem whenever they engage our business.

If we really want our business to grow, we should position our products as the resolution to an external, internal, and philosophical problem and frame the “Buy Now” button as the action a customer must take to create closure in their story.

And Meets a Guide

Always position your customer as the hero and your brand as the guide. Always. If you don’t, you will die.

The day we stop losing sleep over the success of our business and start losing sleep over the success of our customers is the day our business will start growing again.

Simply turning our focus to the customer and offering them a heroic role in a meaningful story is enough to radically change the way we talk about, and even do, business.

The two things a brand must communicate to position themselves as the guide are Empathy and Authority.

When we empathize with our customers’ dilemma, we create a bond of trust. People trust those who understand them, and they trust brands that understand them too.

When looking for a guide, a hero trusts somebody who knows what they’re doing. The guide doesn’t have to be perfect, but the guide needs to have serious experience helping other heroes win the day.

There are four easy ways to add just the right amount of authority to our marketing.

  1. Testimonials. Let others do the talking for you. If you have satisfied customers, place a few testimonials on your website. Testimonials give potential customers the gift of going second.
  2. Statistics. How many satisfied customers have you helped? How much money have you helped them save? By what percentage have their businesses grown since they started working with you?
  3. Awards. If you’ve won a few awards for your work, feel free to include small logos of indications of those awards at the bottom of your page.
  4. Logos. If you prove business-to-business product or service, place logos of known businesses you’re worked with in your marketing collateral.

When people meet your brand, it’s as though they are meeting a person. They’re wondering if the two of you will get along, whether you can help them live a better life, whether they want to associate their identity with your brand, and ultimately whether they can trust you.

Once we express empathy and demonstrate authority, we can position our brand as the guide our customers has been looking for. This will make a significant difference in the way they remember us, understand us, and ultimately, engage with our products and services.

If we’ve positioned ourselves as the guide, our customers are already in a relationship with us. But making a purchase isn’t a characteristic of a casual relationship; it’s a characteristic of a commitment.

Who Gives Them a Plan

Plans can take many shapes and forms, but all effective plans do one of two things: they either clarify how somebody can do business with us, or they remove the sense of risk somebody might have if they’re considering investing in our products or services.

A process plan can describe the steps a customer needs to take to buy our products, or the steps the customer needs to take to use our products after they buy it, or a mixture of both.

The whole point of creating a plan is to alleviate customers’ confusion. Having more than four steps may actually add to, rather than reduce confusion. The key is to simplify their journey so they are more likely to do business with you.

An agreement plan is best understood as a list of agreements you make with your customers to help them overcome their fears of doing business with you.

The best way to arrive at an agreement plan is to list all the things your customer might be concerned about as it relates to your product or service and then counter that list with agreements that will alleviate their fears.

And Calls Them to Action

The reason characters have to be challenged to take action is because everybody sitting in the dark theater knows human beings do not make major life decisions unless something challenges them to do so.

Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest, and so do customers. Heroes need to be challenged by outside forces.

If we can change our customer’s story for the better, why shouldn’t we be bold about inviting them to do business with us?

A good transitional call to action can do three powerful things for your brand: Stake a claim to your territory; Create reciprocity; Position yourself as the guide.

Having clear calls to action means customers aren’t confused about the actions they need to take to do business with you.

That Helps Them Avoid Failure

Brands that don’t warn their customers about what could happen if they don’t buy their products fail to answer the “so what” question every customer is secretly asking.

We don’t bring up the negative stakes enough and so the story we’re telling falls flat. Remember, if there are no stakes, there is no story.

A four-step process called a “fear appeal.” First, we must make a reader(or listener) know they are vulnerable to a threat. Second, we should let the reader know that since they’re vulnerable, they should take action to reduce their vulnerability. Third, we should let them know about a specific call to action that protects them from the risk. Fourth, we should challenge people to take this specific action.

Messages containing moderate amounts of fear-rousing content are most effective in producing attitudinal and/or behavior change.

After customers see what you offer and how it can make their lives better, you’ll have included stakes in the narrative and customer engagement will grow. First, though, let’s warn customers about the consequences of not doing business with you.

And Ends in a Success

Successful brands, like successful leaders, make it clear what life will look like if somebody engages their products or services.

In a good story, the resolution must be clearly defined so the audience knows exactly what to hope for.

The three dominant ways storytellers end a story is by allowing the hero to

  1. Win some sort of power or position. (The Need for Status)
  2. Be unified with somebody or something that makes them whole. (The Need for Something External to Create Completeness)
  3. Experience some kind of self-realization that also makes them whole. (The Need to Reach Our Potential)

We need to show repeatedly how our product of service can make somebody’s life better. If we don’t tell people where we’re taking them, they won’t follow. A story has to go somewhere.

Brands that participate in the identity transformation of their customers create passionate brand evangelists.

A few important questions we have to ask ourselves when we’re representing our brand are: Who does our customer want to become? What kind of person do they want to be? What is their aspirational identity?

Once we know who our customers want to be, we will have language to use in e-mail, blog posts, and all manner of marketing material.

A hero needs somebody else to step into the story to tell them they’re different, they’re better. That somebody is the guide. That somebody is you.

Brands that realize their customers are human, filled with emotion, driven to transform, and in need to help truly do more than sell products; they change people.


We need a website that passes the grunt test and converts browsers into buyers.

Your website is likely the first impression a potential customer will receive about your company. It’s almost like a first date. The customer simply needs to know that you have something they want and you can be trusted to deliver whatever that is.

The five things your website should include

  1. An Offer Above the Fold. Take a look at your website and make sure it’s obvious what you can offer a customer.
  2. Obvious Calls to Action. The whole point of your website is to create a place where the direct call to action button makes sense and is enticing.
  3. Images of Success. Images of smiling, happy people who have had a pleasurable experience(closed and open story loop) by engaging your brand should be featured on your website.
  4. A Bite-Sized Breakdown of Your Revenue Streams. When we break down our divisions clearly so people can understand what we offer, customers will be able to choose their own adventure without getting lost.
  5. Very Few Words. The fewer words you use, the more likely it is that people will read them.


Customers aren’t the only ones who get confused when the message is unclear. Employees get confused too, from the division president to the regional manager to the laborer earning minimum wage on the front line.

Companies who calibrate their activities around a common story don’t just state their mission, they operate on mission.

If an executive can’t explain the story, team members will never know where or why they fit.

Brief, narrative ideas shared from inspired team members spread faster than muddled, confusing explanations shared by bored, disengaged employees.

When there’s no story, there’s no engagement.


The five (almost free) things you do to grow your business.

  1. Create a One-liner.
  2. Create a Lead Generator and Collect E-mail Addresses.
  3. Create an Automated E-Mail Drip Campaign.
  4. Collect and Tell Stories of Transformation.
  5. Create a System That Generates Referrals.

A one-liner is a new and improved way to answer the question “What do you do?” It’s more than a slogan or tagline; it’s a single statement that helps people realize why they need your products or services.

To craft a compelling one-liner, we’ll employ a distilled version of the StoryBrand Framework. If you use the following four components, you’ll craft a powerful one-liner:

  1. The Character. People need to be able to say “That’s me!” when they hear your one-liner.
  2. The Problem. Yeah, I do struggle with that. Will your brand be able to help me overcome it?
  3. The Plan. Well, when it’s organized that way, it makes sense.
  4. The Success. This is where you paint a picture of what life could look like after customers use your product or service.

A one-liner is simply a clear, repeatable statement that allows potential customers to find themselves in the story a company is telling.

Our one-liner is like our hit song, and we need to say it over and over and over until even our customers have it memorized and start repeating it to their friends.

E-mail is the most valuable and effective way you can spread the word about your business.

In order to combat noise in today’s marketplace, your lead generator must do two things:

  1. Provide enormous value for your customer.
  2. Establish you as an authority in your field.

Five Types of Lead Generators for All Types of Businesses:

  1. Downloadable Guide.
  2. Online Course of Webinar.
  3. Software Demos of a Free Trial.
  4. Free Samples.
  5. Live Events.

Keep a running list of lead generator possibilities. If one strikes you as abnormally strong, get to work and create a version of your own.

Content is important, but the point is, there is great power in simply reminding our customers we exist.

It’s more important to have a list of qualified, interested subscribers than a large number of people who never intended to buy.

One of the best ways we can illustrate how we help our customers transform is through customer testimonials.

Here are five questions most likely to generate the best response for a customer testimonial:

  1. What was the problem you were having before you discovered our product?
  2. What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve that problem?
  3. What was different about our product?
  4. Take us to the moment when you realized our product was actually working to solve your problem.
  5. Tell us what life looks like now that your problem is solved or being solved.

The more we feature the transformation journey our customers have experienced, the faster our business will grow.

Once you create a system that funnels potential customers into becoming actual customers, the final step is to turn around and invite happy customers to become evangelists for your brand.

Identify your existing, ideal customers. Developing a simple campaign using tools your existing fans can use to spread the word about your brand is key. Not only could you increase your existing business, but these happy customers will become and activated sales force and invite their friends.

Give your customers a reason to spread the word.

Offer a reward. If you really want to prime the pump, offer a reward to existing clients who refer their friends.

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