When it comes to crafting a message, the go-to manual is Donald Miller’s best-seller, Building a StoryBrand. The premise of the book is simple: “If you confuse, you lose.” Your message must be clear. If not, you lose your audience.

Here are my key takeaways from this book:

Focus Your Message On Your Ideal Client

Focusing your message is critical in today’s challenging economic environment. Donald points out that many companies that have failed, not because they had a bad product but because their message was not clear.

How do you clarify your message? Donald recommends that you stop talking about your company and start talking about your ideal client. “Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own.”

Make Your Ideal Client the Hero

Look at most marketing or sales messaging and you find that the hero is the company. Donald says that the customer should be the hero, not you.

“Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand. This is the secret every phenomenally successful business understands.”

Over the years, I have evaluated thousands of websites and pieces of sales collateral. I can sum most of them up: “Me, me, me, me, me, me… you.” The key to success is to flip this upside down: “You, you, you, you, you, you… us.”

Two Big Messaging Mistakes

The bulk of this book gives an outline of how to make your message about the customer. When it comes to messaging, Donald says that companies make two mistakes. First, realizing the basic need of all humans is survival (tip of the hat to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) ineffective messages “fail to focus on the aspects of the offer that will help people survive and thrive.”

The second mistake Donald highlights is “causing customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand the offer.” We say too much. And when we do, buyers tune us out.

The Power of Story

Telling a story is a good strategy because we are all used to organizing thoughts around a story. As a bonus, stories can make complex concepts seem simple. They also add credibility since you are not just telling someone something, you are communicating how it can help them (or has helped someone else.)

As a New York Times best-selling fiction writer (check out his book Blue Like Jazz) Donald is a master storyteller. In StoryBrand, he outlines the formula for a great story:

“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.”

Be the Guide Not the Hero Of Your Story

In the story, you are not the hero, you are the guide:

“When a brand comes along and positions itself as the hero, customers remain distant. They hear us talking about how great our business is and start wondering if we’re competing with them for scarce resources. Their subconscious thought pattern goes like this: Oh, this is another hero, like me. I wish I had more time to hear their story, but right now I’m busy looking for a guide.”

The book goes step-by-step through the process of creating a clear message by telling your story. In Revenue Growth Engine, we recommend building your business to serve and attract Ideal Clients. Once you understand your Ideal Client and the outcomes they desire, the StoryBrand framework gives you a path to create the message that will help you drive revenue.

Use This Framework To Write Sales and Marketing Content

I continue to be amazed at the power of this framework to create effective sales and marketing messages. It works for presentations, sales collateral, proposals, blogs, web pages, brochures, and case studies.

Build a Culture Around Your Story

Perhaps the best nugget of gold is tucked in the last chapter of the book. Donald turns the focus inward, explaining how a clear message helps companies create a great culture. He says that companies that don’t have a story to support their mission and values experience the “curse of a narrative void.”

When a company has a story, their mission comes to life. “Companies who calibrate their activities around a common story don’t just state their mission; they’re on a mission.”


I highly recommend StoryBrand to every business owner, sales leader, and marketing manager. Learn to tell your story in a way that makes your ideal client a hero and you will create powerful fuel for your Revenue Growth Engine.

This was originally published as a review on Darrell Amy’s Goodreads page.