Fooxes Consulting

Building a StoryBrand - Donald Miller

Buch-Review - Hannes Kleist - 26.05.2020

Building a StoryBrand

Everyone wants to feel special and important — be the hero of their own life’s story. You and your shitty product, on the other hand, are not the heroes. You are Obi-Wan (at best) to guide them on their journey to overcome problems, avoid disaster and find a happy end. You are the fire flower that makes Mario to invincible Super Mario.


Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own. Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand.

But our story is soooo awesome… 😢


So what’s your message? Can you say it easily? Is it simple, relevant, and repeatable? Can your entire team repeat your company’s message in such a way that it is compelling?

Nope. Not even myself…

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

Your product should be the fire flower that helps them to awesome stuff.

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

Oh. I have been there. Takes me about 5 minutes to tell a customer what we do.

Now comes the simple script:

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.

That’s it really. This is how 90% of all stories are written. That’s what humans are hardcoded to love and remember.


As a brand it’s important to define something your customer wants, because as soon as we define something our customer wants, we posit a story question in the mind of the customer: Can this brand really help me get what I want?

Financial Advisor: “A Plan for Your Retirement”

  • College Alumni Association: “Leave a Meaningful Legacy”
  • Fine-Dining Restaurant: “A Meal Everybody Will Remember”
  • Real Estate Agent: “The Home You’ve Dreamed About”
  • Bookstore: “A Story to Get Lost In”
  • Breakfast Bars: “A Healthy Start to Your Day”

There are 7 elements to every story

  1. The hero (the client)
  2. has a problem
  3. finds a guide (you)
  4. who has a plan (your product)
  5. kicks them into action (CTA)
  6. to avoid failure
  7. and succeed.

The hero

Now getting into “Story Mode” talking about the hero (the client) and villains (the problem).

The problem

The villain doesn’t have to be a person, but without question it should have personified characteristics. If we’re selling time-management software, for instance, we might vilify the idea of distractions.


  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.

Clients actually face three problems

Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but people buy solutions to internal problems. In almost every story the hero struggles with the same question: Do I have what it takes? This question can make them feel frustrated, incompetent, and confused. What stories teach us is that people’s internal desire to resolve a frustration is a greater motivator than their desire to solve an external problem.

A Star Wars Example

When Luke shoots the photon torpedo through the little hole in the Death Star, he actually resolves the external problem of destroying the Death Star, the internal problem that had him wondering whether he had what it took to be a Jedi, and the philosophical problem of good versus evil, all with the press of a button.

A Tesla Example

Villain: Gas guzzling, inferior technology External: I need a car. Internal: I want to be an early adopter of new technology. Philosophical: My choice of car ought to help save the environment.

A Nespresso Example

Villain: Coffee machines that make bad coffee External: I want better-tasting coffee at home. Internal: I want my home coffee machine to make me feel sophisticated. Philosophical: I shouldn’t have to be a barista to make a gourmet coffee at home.

The guide

People are looking for a guide to help them, not another hero. Those who realize the epic story of life is not about them but actually about the people around them somehow win in the end. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.

You would not believe how few people can pitch like this. I recently talked to the top 50 digital design agencies in Germany looking for a partner. Every single managing director (!) pitched me either

Not a single came even close to a “we help {startups SMIs corporates} build amazing digital products”.

I realized this is also true about your most important people: Your family and team.

Your kids do not want to hear all your life’s stories and how great you are (sorry Dad 😂). They want you to help them achieve distinction themselves.

Your people are not interested in your greatness. You are just a stepping stone on their own way to fame and fortune.

In fact, leaders who think the story of life is all about them may achieve temporary successes but are usually remembered in history’s narrative as a villain.


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

This is where I failed in the past. I never dared to ask people question because I assumed they come to me for answers…

Wrong! If they want answers, they will ask you. Until then: You should ask. And indicate deep understanding by using mirrors and labels.

THIS demonstrates empathy.

So how do we express our authority without bragging about ourselves so much that we step into the role of hero?

How to humblebrag effectively 😂

There are four easy ways…

  1. Testimonials. Three is a great number to start with…
  2. Statistics: How many satisfied customers have you helped? How much money have you helped them save?
  3. Awards: If you’ve won a few awards for your work, feel free to include small logo…
  4. Logos: If you provide a business-to-business product or service, place logos of known businesses you’ve worked with…

The plan

We get frequent questions about how many steps a process plan should have.


For instance, your process plan might be called the “easy installation plan” or the “world’s best night’s sleep plan.” Your agreement plan might be titled the “customer satisfaction agreement” or even “our quality guarantee.”

The call to action

Do not be shy. Clients are not decisive and need to be kicked for their own good.

Of the thousands of clients we’ve worked with, though, we’ve yet to encounter anybody who oversells. Most people think they’re overselling when, in truth, their calls to action fall softer than a whisper. The reality is when we try to sell passively, we communicate a lack of belief in our product.

Be bold!

At StoryBrand we recommend two kinds of calls to action: direct calls to action and transitional calls to action. They work like two phases of a relationship.

  1. Ask the client for a date
  2. Ask the client to marry you

For direct calls to action:

If you want to be known as the leader in a certain territory, stake a claim to that territory before the competition beats you to it. Creating a PDF, a video series, or anything else that positions you as the expert is a great way to establish authority.

On the question, how much you should give away:

Create reciprocity. I’ve never worried about giving away too much free information. In fact, the more generous a brand is, the more reciprocity they create. All relationships are give-and-take, and the more you give to your customers, the more likely they will be to give something back in the future. Give freely.

The disaster

First, we must make a reader (or listener) know they are vulnerable to a threat. For example: “Nearly 30 percent of all homes have evidence of termite infestation.”

This is where it gets a bit sleazy for my own taste. Creating urgency. Jordon Belfort would be proud.

Second, we should let the reader know that since they’re vulnerable, they should take action to reduce their vulnerability. “Since nobody wants termites, you should do something about it to protect your home.” Third, we should let them know about a specific call to action that protects them from the risk. “We offer a complete home treatment that will insure your house is free of termites.” Fourth, we should challenge people to take this specific action. “Call us today and schedule your home treatment.”


Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them. How can a brand offer a sense of ultimate self-realization or self-acceptance? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Inspiration: If an aspect of your brand can offer or be associated with an inspirational feat, open the floodgates. Brands like Red Bull, Harvard Business Review, Under Armour, The Ken Blanchard Company, Michelob Ultra, and even GMC have associated themselves with athletic and intellectual accomplishment and thus a sense of self-actualization.
  2. Acceptance: Helping people accept themselves as they are isn’t just a thoughtful thing to do; it’s good marketing.
  3. Transcendence: Brands that invite customers to participate in a larger movement offer a greater, more impactful life along with their products and services. Your brand is helping people become better versions of themselves, which is a beautiful thing.


What do put on your homepage:

  1. The offer
    • They promise an aspirational identity
    • They promise to solve a problem
    • They state exactly what they do: “We sell clothes. We do hair.”
  2. CTA
  3. Images of Success
  4. A Bite-Sized Breakdown of Your Revenue Streams
  5. Very Few Words

How to create your own liner

If you use the following four components, you’ll craft a powerful one-liner:

  1. The Character
  2. The Problem
  3. The Plan
  4. The Success These examples start with a character. A busy mom. A retiree. People need to be able to say “That’s me!” when they hear your one-liner. Defining a problem triggers the thought in your customer’s mind: Yeah, I do struggle with that. Will your brand be able to help me overcome it? You won’t be able to spell out your entire plan in your one-liner, but you must hint at it.

Generating leads

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 Among marketers, it’s been said you give away the “why” — as in why a potential customer would need to address or be aware of a certain issue — and sell the “how,” which is where you offer a tool or teach customers how to follow through step-by-step.

How many emails do you need?

But if your business is generating less than $ 5 million a year, you should see results with as little as two hundred and fifty qualified e-mail addresses. Don’t worry if the open rates on these e-mails are low. A 20 percent open rate is industry standard, so anything above that is performing well.

What should you write about?

Talk about a problem. 2. Explain a plan to solve the problem. 3. Describe how life can look for the reader once the problem is solved.

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Hannes Kleist
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