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How product managers can move their customers to action using the StoryBrand Framework
Today we are talking about how to clearly communicate the value of a product to customers. Specifically, we will learn about a 7-part framework for marketing communications.
Joining us is Dr. J.J. Peterson, whose PhD is specifically about the validity and effectiveness of this framework, which has been used by tens of thousands of organizations. He is also the Chief of Teaching and Facilitation at StoryBrand, a Nashville-based company that helps organizations across the globe clarify their messages so their organizations will grow.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:51] On the StoryBrand website, you say “Even if you have the best product in the marketplace, you will lose to a competitor’s inferior product if they communicate more clearly.” How does the StoryBrand Framework help with this and why does it work so well?
It makes me really angry when people put time and energy into creating great products that never get to people.
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Our brains are designed to keep us alive by looking for information that helps us survive and thrive and conserving thinking calories. If you’re communicating anything that doesn’t contribute to survival and thriving, or if it’s confusing or overwhelming, people’s bodies are designed to tune you out. Most of us daydream about 30% of our day, as a survival mechanism, but when we watch a movie or read a book, it does the daydreaming for us and helps us make sense of the story and of life. Stories help us focus on important information and give us a formulaic way of thinking. The people selling inferior products are able to do it because they communicate in such a way that customers know how the product will help them survive and thrive and can immediately make a decision.
[10:44] Take us through the StoryBrand Framework.
Every good story has seven elements or plot points. These rules go back to Aristotle and Plato, who argued that if you want to move society to action, the best way to do it is through story. Studies have shown that the better the story (meaning the better it follows the rules), the more likely someone will see themselves in the story—that’s called narrative transportation. When an audience experiences narrative transportation, they are more likely to be moved to action.
Here are the seven elements:
- Character want—we need to clearly know early in the story what the hero wants
- Problem—something gets in the way of what the character wants
- Guide—someone with empathy and authority who helps the hero solve the problem
- Plan—the guide gives the hero a clear, simple path to win
- Call to action—a moment when the hero must be in or out; often there’s a timer that limits how much time they have to act
- Failure—we know how this story can end in tragedy
- Success—we know what success would look like
We summarize this as: A Character has a Problem and meets a Guide who gives them a Plan and calls them to Action that helps them avoid Failure and ends in Success.
[17:48] How do we apply these story elements to marketing?
Position your customer as the hero of the story and your product or business as the guide. If you make your product the hero, and the customer is also positioning themselves as the hero, you’re in competing stories. This communication framework works for marketing and internal communication, like motivating people around a new project. Even if you don’t do marketing, you’re always communicating with people and trying to move them to action. Understanding that everybody you talk to views themselves as a hero in their own story will radically change the way you communicate to them, allow you to approach things differently, and get better results.
[21:47] Take us through an example of using the StoryBrand Framework.
Suppose we’re creating a podcast microphone.
- Character want: Identify what your customer wants—Our customers want a microphone that will give them high quality recordings.
- Problem: Most high quality microphones are not portable and don’t easily plug in to laptops. If you just list your features, you won’t win in the market. If you state what problem you solve, you will win. Identify how the problem makes people feel—People feel frustrated and ripped off because they can’t get what they want out of their microphone.
- Guide: As a podcaster I have been frustrated by the microphones I’ve been given, so I created a microphone that will work anywhere and makes you sound great.
- Plan: State the plan for your customer to win: (1) We made the microphone small and compact so it can go in your carry-on easily. (2) We give you an adapter so it can plug into any computer. (3) We give you a lifetime guarantee so you’ll never have to buy another microphone.
- Call to action: Buy now before tomorrow night so you can get the lifetime guarantee for free.
- Failure: You can stop being frustrated by the low-quality recording equipment other people are offering you…
- Success: …and instead you can have a microphone that makes you sound good and you can take anywhere.
You can put all of this into an explanatory paragraph on a website, an intro of a speech to investors, or a sales pitch:
“I know you’re an investor who is looking for a high-quality mic you can take anywhere with you. The problem is so many mics these days don’t deliver on that promise—they’re clunky and hard to plug into your computer, which I’m sure is incredibly frustrating and makes you feel like you’re getting ripped off when you buy equipment that doesn’t work the way you want. You really deserve a microphone that you can use the best way possible. I get it. I’ve done a ton of podcasts, and it makes me so angry when I’ve done a great podcast and it sounds so bad, it makes me sound cheap—which is why I became part of this product launch to create a microphone and get it out to the public. People all over the world are using it right now to make themselves sound better. Here’s how this microphone is different: We made it small so you can take it anywhere very easily, including in a carry-on. We give you an adapter so you can plug it into any computer. And you have a lifetime guarantee so you’re never going to have to buy another microphone again. Right now we have a special going on, so if you buy now, that lifetime guarantee costs you nothing, but it’s only for another 24 hours. Once you get this microphone, you’re going to stop being frustrated by sounding cheap and not great on podcasts, and instead you’re going to be able to take that microphone wherever you want, save time and money by not having to go into a podcast studio, and sound fantastic. Do you want that microphone?”
[27:59] How can we apply the StoryBrand Framework to internal communication?
If I’m a team manager, my team is the hero. I could communicate to them like this:
- Character want: We want to dominate the market.
- Problem: The market is saturated, and it’s really hard to differentiate. I know we have a better product, but this makes us feel frustrated.
- Guide: I totally get it. I’ve been on product launches where we knew were going to win but it just fell flat. But guess what? I found this marketing framework that will help us win in this.
- Plan: Here’s how we do it: First, we have to understand how story really works. Second, we need to identify the elements of our story that help position our customer as the hero and us as a guide. Third, we need to take that language and put it everywhere.
- Call to action: We’re going to have a private workshop with this company called StoryBrand.
- Failure: We’re going to stop being frustrated with losing to people worse than us in the marketplace.
- Success: Instead, we’re going to dominate with the best product because we know we have what it takes.
[31:11] How can product managers get started with the StoryBrand Framework?
First, start thinking about what problem you solve for your customer. That’s the most important communication piece. When you stop talking about your customers’ problem, your customers lose interest, because they don’t think the story is about them. Constantly talk about the problem you solve.
Action Guide: Put the information J.J. shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Listen to J.J.’s Marketing Made Simple podcast
- Check out Donald Miller’s book Building a StoryBrand
- Check out J.J.’s and Donald Miller’s book Marketing Made Simple
- Create a Brand Script
“No great story has ever been written by someone who plays the victim.” – Don Miller
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.