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The 7 Pillars of Weaving a Powerful Brand Story: A Guide for Captivating Customers

Have you ever noticed how drawn you get to a captivating story? Stories have the power to transport us, make us feel, and leave a lasting impression. That’s exactly why storytelling is a secret weapon for building a strong brand. But how do you translate those campfire tales into something that connects with your customers?

Storytelling helps people connect and better understand what it is that you do as a company, what you stand for, and how you can help them. A secondary side “secret” is that storytelling turns on the “emotional” side of our brain where the decision making process is held. As people become more deeply engaged in your story, it will become easier for them to purchase your service or product.

Let’s take a deeper look at the concept of storytelling and how you can integrate it into your marketing.

Pillar #1: The Hero with a Name Tag (It’s Your Customer!)

Every good story has a main character, the hero of the story. In your brand story, you are not the hero… your customer is! Your customer is faced with challenges and problems that you can solve. And, as in any good movie, the hero never provides the solution to the problem. If you’ve done your homework, you know who your customer is, what is important to them, and what their goals are.

Imagine your ideal customer and the problems they face. How can you be their guide? It’s important to know your customer!

Next, when you talk about what you do or sell, package it as something that your customer will want. At their core, your customer, the hero of your story, is asking “can this business help me?” When you do this, you’re defining the path that will be taken and providing direction for the story you’re drawing your hero into. Stop and take some time to get clear on packaging what you do or sell in a way that describes it as something your customer is looking for.

Your product or service needs to meet a fundamental need (saving time or money, gaining status, building community, creating a life of meaning and purpose) for your customer. Are you communicating it that way to them?

Pillar #2 Beyond What You Sell: Unveil the “Why”

If you’ve been following our tips for awhile, you know that we’re a huge fan of Simon Sinek’s Start with WHY Ted Talk, book and concept. Those principles have been around for a long, very long time. He’s just done an awesome job of defining them, so why reinvent the wheel! So, what does this have to do with telling your brand story? Everything!

Most companies shout about what they sell: “We sell shoes!” But forget the “what” for a second. What problem do those shoes solve? Customers care about the “why.” Think Apple. They don’t sell computers, they sell a user-friendly experience.

So, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to step away from WHAT you sell and focus on WHY… the problem you are solving for your customers.

Like the layers of an onion, there are 3 different aspects to the problems your customer is needing to solve.

1st, They need something – a new pair of shoes.

2nd, They have emotions about the need – let’s say they hate shoe shopping, or shopping period.

3rd, They have a reason why it is important to them – they care about having the things they wear be naturally sustainable and not synthetic.

Companies that simply sell shoes won’t meet the internal or philosophical needs, they’ll simply sell a pair of shoes.

If you can meet all 3 needs, you’ve just hit a home run… out of the ballpark.

“When these three levels of problems are resolved in one shot, the audience experiences a sense of pleasure and relief, causing them to love the story.” Building a StoryBrand (p. 69).

Pillar #3 The Trustworthy Guide by Your Side

Imagine getting lost in the woods. A stranger appears, offering help. Great, right? But then they confess they have no map. Not so comforting! That’s why you need to establish yourself as a trustworthy guide in your brand story. Show empathy for your customer’s struggles and position yourself as the expert with the knowledge to lead them to success.

Because your customers picture themselves as the hero, if another hero comes on the scene, they feel threatened. But, if a guide shows up who can effectively show them the way out, they’re all in!

It’s the guide who gives the hero the knowledge on how they can win. They show them the steps to take to successfully navigate the challenge they are in. And almost more importantly, they not only paint a picture of success, they keep it in front of the hero so they won’t get discouraged and take their eye off the ball.

So, how do you as the guide let your hero know that you can help them? There’s two ways.

Empathy

You must express an understanding of the pain and frustration that your hero (customer) is experiencing. When we empathize with our customers’ dilemmas, we create a sense of belonging and therefore trust because they believe we understand them.

Authority

As a company, authority translates to competence. A hero looks for that knowledge and confidence in their guide and finds it easy to trust somebody who knows what they’re doing. Having them understand that you have experience successfully helping heroes win will get your customers to trust you even more.

You can show your authority and empathy by sharing previous successful ‘guidance missions’. When you do this, you convince your customers that you do know what you are doing as a business.

The four main ways to do this are through:

  • testimonials (reviews)
  • statistics
  • awards for great work done
  • logos of customers you have already worked with

As they explore your website, your customers are subconsciously looking for proof that you can be of actual assistance and solve their problems. Are you placing yourself as a competent guide?

Pillar #4 The Plan: A Roadmap to Success

You’re lost on a back woods road, darkness is falling along with the rain. A car pulls up, a stranger gets out and asks if they can help. Sure… “I’m lost, can you help?” They answer “of course, I’ve lived here all my life.” Their next sentence blows the bit of confidence that was growing out of the water; “Do you have a map I could look at?”… and 5 minutes later… “Well, there’s 3 options that I think will work, do you want to follow me as we figure it out?” I hope at that point you take your map back and say no! They didn’t have a plan… you’re not safe if you follow them!

Back to business… how does this apply? It’s the next logical step in the process. You’ve already started the story in a way that makes your customer think you can solve the problem, you’ve crossed their path and positioned yourself as the guide.

The next step is to provide a plan they follow. Two key elements to a successful plan include:

The steps to success

Nobody wants to wander aimlessly. Your brand story needs a clear plan, and a roadmap that guides your customer from their current state to their desired outcome.

This is where you outline the steps they take from where they are at “right now” to having their problem fully solved.

Don’t overthink this. There’s nothing wrong with a simple “3 step” process if that is what works for you. And, don’t feel bad if you have a “10 step” process either! The goal is that you need to be able to easily share this process with your customer, and that they see themselves “winning” in the end.

How does a potential customer become your customer? Take a moment and write down these steps, you can finesse them later.

Addressing possible hesitations

Ask yourself, what hesitations might someone have about doing business with you? What risks might they feel they are taking that you already know you have covered? How can you immediately allay any thoughts they may have about, “what happens if…”? Not sure where to start… think back on the types of questions asked, objections raised, or reasons given from past potential customers who chose not to purchase from you.

Donald Miller has a great example in his book Building a StoryBrand:
When a customer is deciding whether to buy something, we should picture them standing on the edge of a rushing creek. It’s true they want what’s on the other side, but as they stand there, they hear a waterfall downstream. What happens if they fall into the creek? What would life look like if they went over those falls?… In order to ease our customers’ concerns, we need to place large stones in that creek. When we identify the stones our customers can step on to get across the creek, we remove much of the risk and increase their comfort level about doing business with us. It’s as though we’re saying, “First, step here. See, it’s easy. Then step here, then here, and then you’ll be on the other side, and your problem will be resolved.” (p. 86)

Create your “rocks” in the creek so that people won’t hesitate to cross and become your customer!

Pillar #5 The Call to Action: Don’t Leave Them Hanging!

When is the last time you bought a car, shopped for any kind of insurance, or went into a shoe store to buy shoes and the salesman went through all the details and simply said “what do you think”, “have a great day”? “Never” should be the right answer.

In the same way, your hero has now been introduced to you, you’ve gained their confidence and given them a plan that will take them from the challenges they are facing to success. Don’t leave them hanging! Give them the Call to Action. Stick the “Buy Now” button several places on the page, or if you want people to make an appointment, “Schedule Now” needs to be several places on the page.

But, what about those who aren’t quite ready to take the final step? They’ve heard your plan, but for whatever reason, they’re not ready to move forward. Do you leave them hanging? Absolutely not!

What can you offer that is free, but that has value or perceived value to your hero? A free download in exchange for an email address is a perfect place to start. First, the free download will truly provide value to them. Second, as you continue to nurture the relationship through follow up emails, your hero will reach the point where they are ready to take action.

Pillar #6 A Gentle Nudge: Avoiding the Fear of Missing Out

Nobody likes to miss out or fail, right? In your story, subtly introduce the potential consequences of not taking action. This doesn’t have to be scary, but a gentle reminder of the benefits they’ll miss or lose by staying stuck.

Let your customers know what they stand to lose if they don’t buy or use your products. You don’t need to explain it in graphic detail, but introducing the fear or risk factor to your customers works like salt in a recipe; it makes them aware of how vulnerable they are.

Introducing what failure looks like takes a lot of tact, and like salt in a salt shaker, can easily end up being too much. One way that we can do this is to walk people through an exercise on clarifying their need. It helps them identify what is being lost or left on the table, which in turn helps them clearly understand why they need to move forward with the plan we’ve laid out.

Pillar #7 The Sweet Reward: The Thrill of Success

If we had to pick a favorite pillar, this one would be it. Success – the exhilaration and joy of nailing a goal, that “Yessss!!” feeling.

Droplets of success should be squeezed out along the entire story. Early on, hinting at success, and as your hero moves through your story, they should have a fantastic picture of success painted for them with the plan. That makes the Call to Action so much easier, especially once you’ve removed any hesitations.

So, what should success look like? Look back to the beginning of your story. Who is your hero? What are their dreams and goals? Success needs to speak to those dreams and goals.

Transformation

Human beings are deeply motivated to change for the better, to transform into somebody more acceptable. When you play a major role in transforming the lives of your customers, you inspire them to be willing and passionate brand evangelists.

Think of the journey your customer now takes with you. As the hero, they were burdened with a challenging problem that was keeping them from reaching their goals. You appeared as the guide – to help them, clearly laying out a plan and telling them to take action. You’ve painted success for them, and as they have moved forward, success has become reality.

What does that transformation look like? Take a few minutes to write it down… and remember it, it’s a good place to start when someone asks “So, what do you do?”!

Once you understand that your customers are human and are filled with emotion with a need to transform into a better version of themselves, you will do more than sell products. You will change people and make their lives better.

Ask yourself, what do you want your customers’ lives to be like? What can you change about their lives? As a guide, position yourself to help your hero win and thrive.


Your Online Partner… for Success

Do you have a brand story that you’re using in your marketing? How has it changed your business? We’d love to know your story, just send us an email. If you don’t have one and would like to get on the right track, book a free session with Christy  to get questions answered and your story started.

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