Book Summary: Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Are you looking for a book summary of Building a StoryBrand By Donald Miller? You have come to the right place.

Last week, I finished reading this book and jotted down some key insights from Donald Miller.

You don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t have time. This summary will provide you with an overview of everything you can learn from this book.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

In this Building a StoryBrand book summary, I’m going to cover the following topics:

What is Building a StoryBrand About?

Using StoryBrand to effectively market your company or product is a practical guide. This book shows how to use a seven-part story-telling framework to craft a clear message that no customer can ignore.

Who is the Author of Building a StoryBrand?

Mr. Miller is the CEO of StoryBrand, a marketing agency, and an author whose books include A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and Blue Like Jazz.

Who is Building a StoryBrand For?

Building a StoryBrand is not for everyone. If you are the following types of people, you may like the book:

  • Marketing people
  • Storytellers
  • Leaders and executives

Building a StoryBrand Book Summary


A good story is something we all enjoy. Human life has always been shaped by stories, from the epic poems of Homer to the binge-worthy web series of today. It is more than likely that stories have, in some way, shaped who you are, regardless of whether you prefer novels or podcasts, blockbusters or flash fiction.

How can you use stories to sell your product, for example?

You’re about to learn that. You’ll learn how to create your very own StoryBrand from these insights, which not only make you stand out from the competition, but also show you how to build a meaningful relationship with your customers – and how to position your product so it will be hard to resist.

Lesson 1: Your marketing message must be clear and relevant to your customers

You might come up with an easy way to increase sales by thinking, “Bingo! New website!”

But if you don’t use language effectively, your new website won’t do the job no matter how fancy and elaborate it is.

What are some ways to harness the power of prose? It’s imperative that you construct a clear message, one that doesn’t leave any room for confusion. Three things should be communicated: Who you are, what you do, and how you do it. That’s what you’re here for. Let customers know why they should choose you.

Customers who can’t decipher what you’re offering will quickly take their business elsewhere if your message is unclear.

A customer looking for a new coat of paint for his house visits your website, and you offer a house-painting business. If your website doesn’t clearly state that you paint houses, you could be the Michelangelo of housepainters, with the sleekest site ever.

You should consider your customers’ survival-related needs when crafting the perfect message. How can your product or service help them thrive?

Let’s turn to psychologist Abraham Maslow to get you started. Human needs are arranged in a hierarchy based on their importance to our survival.

Food and drink come first, followed by safety and shelter. Third on the list is our need for companionship: we need friends as well as people with whom we can reproduce. Finally, we seek to satisfy our deeper needs. These range from psychological to spiritual.

By leveraging these needs, you can refine your message and entice customers. It’s human nature to seek acceptance, to find a partner, to belong to a tribe, and to eat and drink – so use that information to explain how your product helps customers meet those needs and thrive.

For example, if you are a house painter, tell your customers that you help them have their friends over more often – which speaks to their survival-related need to belong to a tribe. Visitors will be reluctant to visit your house if it looks rundown!

Lesson 2: Use the 7-part StoryBrand Framework to make your marketing message stick

Have you ever been so engrossed in reading a book or watching a film that a handful of hours flew by without you realizing?

A good story is like a net. It catches our often fleeting attention and holds it for a long time. We won’t forget a story once we’ve been caught up in it.

The difference between a good story and the hodgepodge of tweets, news feeds, video clips and comments is that a story is information organized in a logical manner. Storytelling makes us feel good, and it makes them memorable as well.

Like a melody, a story has its own rhythm. You probably won’t remember the erratic honking of cars or random chirping of birds five minutes after you hear them. Music follows rules and recognizable patterns, so a melody can stick in the mind after just one listening.

Make your message as catchy as a melody by turning it into a story. StoryBrand’s 7-Part Framework, or SB7 Framework, will facilitate this process.

The SB7 Framework is designed around the seven most common elements of a story. Character, problem, guide, plan, calls to action, failure, and success are these components, or modules.

In the next insights, each module will be outlined in detail, but for now, here is a basic description of how this story structure works:

There is something the character wants, but it’s hard to obtain. That’s the issue. There is a guide that appears when the character is on the verge of giving up. This guide provides a plan and encourages action. After avoiding failure, the character manages to get what he/she initially wanted.

Now you have a basic understanding of the story arc. The story-based message you tell for your brand will follow this arc and become what’s called a StoryBrand BrandScript. You will be able to capture and hold your customers’ attention with this script. Let’s get started with the first module of the SB7 Framework.

Lesson 3: Focus on one desire of your customers, and they will be the heroes of your story

Stories with a hero are the most memorable. Luke Skywalker is the hero of Star Wars. Frodo is the hero of The Lord of the Rings. Jason Bourne is the hero of The Bourne Identity. Your brand story does not revolve around you – it revolves around your customers.

Character is the first module of the SB7 Framework. The customer is always right, just as the customer is always the character. The story you tell should revolve solely around the needs and wants of your customers; that way, when they need something in real life, your story, and thus your product, will be readily available.

An example of how not to do things will drive home how important it is to make the customer your main character. Once, a luxury resort failed to put the customer at the center of their story. 

The website showed photos of the front desk and restaurant, along with a lengthy description of the resort’s “story.” This was a mistake. The message was not clear, and it certainly did not mention how it could meet the needs and wants of customers.

Okay, so the hero of an effective brand story is the customer. But really engaging customers means focusing on their needs – or rather, on one specific need.

It is pointless to list every service you provide. You’ll confuse your customers and make it harder for them to understand how your message meets their needs.

Have you ever wondered what happened to that self-centered resort? Someone finally figured out that customers simply wanted to relax. A huge change resulted. The website was completely redesigned, and the few photos remaining showed towels, a bath and a massage. 

We deleted the text, too, and reduced the resort’s message to one line about what it had to offer: luxury and relaxation.

Lesson 4: Engage your customers by addressing their “villain,” or internal problems

Do you have a knack for solving problems? If there’s something that needs fixing, whether it’s a suboptimal process at work or a stale pattern in a romantic relationship, some of us are at our sharpest. 

If you are one of these people, then the SB7 Framework’s second module will be of interest to you, as it focuses on how you solve customers’ problems.

You can engage your customers by just mentioning their problems. It is important for customers to feel understood, and this can be accomplished by communicating that you are aware of the difficulties they face.

Heroes are frequently accompanied by villains – an evil force that must be defeated by the hero. In other words, when telling your customer’s story, you need to portray their problem as the villain.

Let’s say you sell a time-management app. Your best bet is to portray distractions as the enemy. As a result of accusing all distractions of stealing time – from procrastination to procrastination itself – you turn each of the mini-villains into the problem that you intend to solve.

The customer is the hero, and every hero needs a villain to vanquish.

However, the villain doesn’t necessarily have to come from outside. Sometimes, internal problems are as important as external ones. The problems are internal frustrations, like, for example, not having enough time for yourself.

It is common for companies to sell externally focused products. House painting is an external service that a housepainter provides. You should still market with internal problems in mind even if your product is external.

Don’t forget: a customer won’t pick you over your competition just because his house needs painting. The thing that might make him pick you is your promise to solve an internal problem. 

Hence, vilify his embarrassment at owning the ugliest house on the block and then show him how to vanquish that villain by hiring you!

When external products are coupled with solutions to internal problems, they sell much better.

Lesson 5: Be empathic and authoritative when dealing with your customers

In almost every story, the hero gets into trouble at some point. Luke Skywalker, for example, loses his hand and is forced to contend with the dark side. The One Ring is so heavy that it must be carried by Frodo.

In the midst of despair, a guide appears – someone who imparts wisdom, gives support, and puts the hero back on track.

In Luke’s mind, Yoda is the little green creature who is full of wisdom and Jedi skills. Gandalf, the brusque old wizard, is Frodo’s mentor. A guide can take many forms. 

You can think of it as a football coach who shows a young player the power of self-belief or a teacher whose lessons help her students see things in a different light or even a business leader who guides his team to undreamed-of success.

A brand story describes your company as a guide – a wise and supportive individual who assists your customers in overcoming life’s challenges.

Empathy and authority are essential components of presenting yourself as a guide effectively and convincingly.

The importance of empathy cannot be overstated. In addition to demonstrating your understanding of your customer’s pain, it also establishes trust between you two. Your advice won’t be taken seriously if you don’t have a relationship with your customers.

Equally important is authority. In order to establish authority, you don’t have to be condescending or overbearing. Just show competence constantly.

As an example, let’s look at the marketing company Infusionsoft. It states on its website that it has 125,000 satisfied customers. It also mentions awards the software has received. Infusionsoft establishes its authority and shows its competence using both numbers and testimonials.

After you have outlined the main characters in your brand story, you can now start working on the plot.

Lesson 6: Establish either a process plan or an agreement plan to ensure customer purchases

Let’s say you’ve done an excellent job of establishing yourself as your customers’ guide. Your authoritative judgment has earned their trust. Even if you manage to do this, it’s not a guarantee that they’ll buy your product.

Making a purchase commitment is a risky endeavor, so you must facilitate the process by providing a plan.

Imagine that your customers are standing at the edge of a creek. No bridge exists, and no one wants to get wet. What do you do? It’s just a matter of throwing some rocks into the water and letting your customers hop from one to the next.

Your plan is comprised of these crossroads.

Putting metaphors aside, here are some concrete guidelines for making plans. Either you should make purchasing your product absolutely risk-free, or you should show your customers what they need to do.

It is called a process plan when you show your customers what to do. The guide shows customers how to buy or use your product, which reduces confusion among customers and increases customer retention.

Say you run an online shop that sells garage storage systems. Someone visits your site looking for a garage storage system. He will not know whether your system will fit in his garage or whether he can install it himself if there is no clear process plan.

In order to avoid confusion, be crystal clear about the process.

You might provide customers with the following instructions on your storage-system website:

  1. Measure your space first
  2. Order parts that fit your space’s measurements
  3. Finally, you can install the system yourself in only a few minutes using basic tools

The second method is called an sees roughly 3,000 advertisements each day, so you have to stand out if you want to succeed. of buying your product.

CarMax, a used-car dealer, had to deal with customers who were afraid to haggle with a bull-headed salesman. Therefore, they made two promises: all deals would be free of haggling, and no buyer would leave with a vehicle that didn’t meet their expectations.

Lesson 7: Inspire customers to make a purchase by giving them direct or transitional calls to action

Congratulations! You’re almost done with your story. However, there’s still some work to be done before you can relax and watch the clients pour in.

Your customers must be challenged to take action.

If you want to win over consumers, you have to stand out from the crowd. On average, consumers see about 3,000 advertisements per day. It won’t work to timidly wait for attention; customers will ignore you.

What is an effective prod toward action?

Making a direct call to action is a tried-and-true method. Customers are challenged boldly and clearly to make a purchase through direct calls to action.

You’ve probably seen those buttons that say “Get It Now” or “Register” or “Purchase.” Pretty much every website that sells anything has one, and that’s because they work so well. 

They should be featured on your website, too – ideally, more than one, and in multiple places so that, as customers browse your site, they encounter multiple calls to action.

Transitional calls to action are another method.

The transitional call to action, in contrast to a direct call to action, is designed to maintain a friendly relationship with customers in case they decide not to make a purchase. Your goal is to ensure that next time they face the problem your product solves, they think of you, and not the competition.

You can do this by offering something valuable, but free – for instance, an invitation to view a series of webinars or, if you’re a web designer, a link to download a PDF that explains the basics of web design.

Customers tend to remember such gestures, and they will be more likely to come back to you in the future.

Lesson 8: Make customers aware of what they will lose if they don’t buy

Everyone loves a happy ending, but what keeps us hooked is the possibility that the story may not end happily. We stay glued to the screen or the page precisely because we fear the worst – that everything won’t work out fine for our hero, that our dearly loved character will fail or die.

You should capitalize on this fear of failure in your brand story because a similar fear also affects our purchasing decisions.

A behavioral economist named Daniel Kahneman published a paper in 1979 on what makes people buy. According to the author, in general, people are more dissatisfied after a loss than after a gain. A loss of $1,000 is more dissatisfying than a gain of $1,000.

When it comes to purchasing, the same rule applies: we’ll be more concerned with avoiding loss than pursuing gain. This means that you need to make the disadvantages of not purchasing your product or service crystal clear.

Imagine running an insurance company. It would make sense to run an advertising campaign that showcases potential losses – be it burglaries, fires, or accidents – and illustrates how, by buying your insurance, your clients will be protected.

Imagine you’re a financial advisor. As a financial-service provider, you should demonstrate that you will always meet with clients personally. They’re depending on you to guide them through the labyrinth of investment strategy – and not to hit them with hidden fees.

By implying that most financial advisors are likely to attempt to bamboozle clients, you’ll increase your chances of getting their business.

After learning how to leverage failure, let’s move on to the final module: success.

Lesson 9: Share a vision of how your product will transform your customers’ lives

Tragic endings are what make stories riveting. However, no one wants to end their story tragically. Therefore, once you have warned your customers about the danger of not purchasing your product, you should point out the happy ending your product offers.

Success is a happy ending.

Nike, for example, doesn’t simply sell shoes and athletic gear. It promises a whole way of life filled with inspiration, drive, and glory.

How can you create a vision that your customers will strive for?

Three strategies are available.

First, let’s talk about status. When did you last see a movie where, despite all the odds, the sweet and nerdy guy ended up with the gorgeous and popular girl? This narrative is tantalizing to nerds worldwide, not just because the guy gets the girl, but also because his status soars.

You should therefore do your best to make your brand or product synonymous with status. You can do this relatively easily by selling a premium membership that offers perks unavailable to other members.

The second strategy focuses on completeness. Everybody has seen a movie or read a book in which two star-crossed lovers finally overcome the obstacles to their romance and are able to live happily ever after. 

In spite of being a bit unoriginal, such endings hold out the promise of fulfillment, which is exactly what your product should do.

You should still be able to explain how your product will make your customer’s life more complete, even if you sell dish soap and all you can offer is a clean dish. You must stress that without this particular soap, no one can feel complete!

Self-acceptance and reaching one’s potential are the third strategy.

You can help customers accept themselves for who they are by helping them accept themselves for who they are. An example of this is American Eagle. They advertised with photos of real people, blemishes and all, instead of models and airbrushing. 

In addition to being innovative, the ads paved the way for greater self-acceptance for anyone who saw them.

In the end, if that isn’t a happy ending – or a vision that we should all rally behind – I don’t know what is.

Final Summary

You can make your marketing efforts pay off. Using the StoryBrand 7-Part Framework, you can communicate a clear brand message that addresses the needs of your potential customers. 

This can be achieved by enrolling the key narrative story components – character, problem, guide, plan, calls to action, failure, and success.

Further Reading

If you like the book Building a StoryBrand, you may also like reading the following book summaries:

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