Book Review: Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

Karen Williams
Jun 18, 2018 · 25 min read

Hook Customers with Your StoryBrand

Building A Story Brand

A Step-by-Step StoryBrand Guide By Donald Miller, 240 pgs, ©2017[/caption]

Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand is one of those books that’s so efficiently packed with useful information you’ll want to reference it again and again. The marketing messaging and implementation techniques presented in Miller’s StoryBrand 7 framework are genius. I bought the Kindle book because it was super cheap and I wanted instantaneous access, but you can also get the hard copy book which is great for easy reference. As a nice bonus, in whatever form you buy the book, you’ll get access to software that guides you through the whole messaging creation and implementation process.

THE BOOK SHORT: Think of your Customer as the protagonist in your brand’s story. In every great story, a Hero encounters a problem to be solved, a challenge to be won. You’ll engage more customers when you position your Brand as the Guide to help them, the Hero, find the tools and confidence to succeed.

No worries if your desk is already overflowing with book recommendations and you need to get a quick sneak preview. This summary, although quite long, will give you the key points, minus some of the finer supporting points and examples.


Read on to discover the key elements of Building a StoryBrand and how you can use them to transform your marketing messaging and build or reshape your brand to be a customer magnet, where they are a hero evolved into greatness and you/your brand are their beloved guide.

Miller separates the book into three sections as noted in the headings below. Part One sets the stage as to why most marketing falls on deaf ears in this day of too much marketing noise bombarding your prospective customers with underwhelming messages that don’t resonate and simply get tuned out.

In Part Two, the author lays out his StoryBrand BrandScript framework, describing in detail each of the seven elements of a winning customer story and how they weave together. Finally, Part Three walks you through the implementation process for building your own StoryBrand BrandScript and incorporating it into all of your marketing assets from your website to lead nurturing email campaigns to brochures and keynote presentations so that your message is clear and consistent attracts and retains customers like a super magnet.

PART 1: Why Most Marketing is a Money Pit and a Failure

In Section I of the book, Donald Miller sets the stage for deep diving into his StoryBrand 7 Framework. He begins by discussing what’s wrong with most marketing approaches that are not heard by our desired customers above the noise of all the other messages they’re being bombarded with daily. Quite frankly, they’re a waste of money.

Often, the problem is not with the product or service offered, but rather with the way in which it is communicated. When you confuse you lose! Think about most websites. Graphic artists and designers build most websites, and the content writing is often an afterthought. So they may look pretty, but they’re bad at communicating a clear, compelling message that makes customers listen. As Miller says, “The fact is, pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things.”

There are two key mistakes most businesses make when talking about their brands:

  1. Fail to focus on aspects of their offer that help people survive and thrive.
  2. Make customers tax their brains too hard trying to understand their offers.
Photo courtesy of rawpixel on Unsplash

In his book, Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller is on a mission to help you clarify your message, develop quality websites, incredible keynotes, emails that get opened and sales letters people respond to. He does this because he knows that business, through the solutions they serve their customers, can change the world for the better. However, he knows that quality products and services on their own are not enough. As entrepreneurs, we’re not just in a race to get our products to market; we’re also in a race to communicate why our customers need our products in their lives. The clarity of our offer is what separates the winners from the losers in business.

The reason most marketing collateral is a waste of money and doesn’t work is that the marketing is too complicated. Our brains don’t process the information. The more simple and predictable the communication format, the easier it is to digest. Story is so effective as a communication framework because it is a sense-making mechanism. It makes music out of the noise.

All stories have essentially the same flow…and we’ve been hearing them since we were babies and our moms our dads read us storybooks. Hence, this communication conveyed in a story format puts everything in order for us so our brains don’t have to work to understand what’s going on. Now, don’t you want to develop that sort of enjoyable communication experience that delights and engages your customers?

PART 2: Building Your StoryBrand

In Section II, Mr. Miller defines and explains in detail his StoryBrand 7 Framework (SB7)

In a nutshell, here’s the flow of nearly every story, in the words of Donald Miller:

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.

Nearly every fiction book you read and every movie you see contains these predictable seven elements. The further we veer from these elements of story in our marketing efforts, the harder we make it for audiences to engage with our brand. There are three questions visitors to your website our readers of your brochures, etc. must be able to answer within the first few minutes of reading in order to be motivated to engage with your brand:

  1. What do you offer?
  2. How will it make my life better (WIIFM = What’s In It For Me)?
  3. What do I need to do to buy it?

Remove all the extraneous facts and focus in on only those aspects of your brand key to helping your customers survive and thrive. Conciseness is king! If it doesn’t precisely serve the plot — solving your customers’ problems and making their lives better — then cut it.

Finally, without further adieu, let me introduce you to Donald Miller’s magical StoryBrand Framework for marketing that sticks through the use of storytelling:

  • 1. A Character

STORYBRAND PRINCIPLE 1: The customer is the hero, not your brand.

Firstly, you must define something your customer wants. If you truly understand your target customer, once you define their wants…especially if done so in their words…you will have successfully planted a story question in their minds. This invites them into the story because their brains now want to resolve the plot to find out if you can really help them get what they want.

In story terms, this process of identifying something your audience wants is referred to as a “story gap”. The idea is to insert a gap between your customer and what they want. You hold your customers’ attention with this well-placed story gap because they wonder if and how you will close it. This magnetic force drives much of human behavior. It’s the basis of desire.

To successfully engage your customer and get the story going, it’s critical that you adequately define their ambition, the source of the story gap. Be sure to pare down the customer’s ambition to a single focus so that your solution is clear and specific and you become known for helping people to achieve it. Choose a desire or ambition that is relevant to how they survive and thrive. In other words, your solution helps people feel safer, healthier, happier or stronger. This could mean saving them money, giving them status, etc. If you want customers to listen, you need to tell them with clarity where it is you want to take them, i.e. to help them create a social media following that develops them into an influencer in their niche.

If you are a startup business that’s not yet crystal clear on exactly who your customer avatar is and exactly what they want, then I recommend you also read our book summary on Ask by Ryan Levesque. His book is just as fabulously instructive as this one in its step-by-step format for implementing his Ask Method (with accompanying software tools that he provides access to for free when you buy the book) to survey your prospective audience and clarify what they want. This informs your decisions about what products/ services to develop and sell based on what they’ve told you they want.

  • 2. Has a Problem

STORYBRAND PRINCIPLE 2: Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems; customers buy solutions to internal problems.

The more you talk about the problems your customers’ experience, the more they feel as if you know them and the more interest they will have in your brand. So, instead of just selling them on how you will grow their Instagram following, speak to how that will elevate their authority within their niche and how that will translate into more leads and increased revenue that will help their business thrive.

Every engaging story needs a villain to create some sort of conflict to be overcome. It’s as simple as vilifying your customers’ challenges. If you can personify the problems your customers face, you’ll capture their imagination and give their frustrations a focal point. This motivates them to seek a tool (your product) to help them defeat the villain

The three levels of problems you, as the guide, help your customers, the heroes, solve are:

  • External — a physical, tangible problem
  • Internal — a backstory of frustration the external problem generates
  • Philosophical — a story bigger than just the customer that adds meaning

If you can resolve all three levels of problems in your customers’ story, you create the climactic scene that allows for relief and closure to the story.

  • 3. And Meets a Guide

STORYBRAND PRINCIPLE 3: Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.

In the stories of our lives and our customers, certain events occur that mark the beginnings and endings of various chapters of our lives. If we look carefully, we notice that throughout this journey, we often see someone who steps into our path to help guide us through these challenges. That’s the role you want your brand to play for your customers, a trusted and beloved guide that offers them wisdom, tools, and encouragement to help them overcome villains and achieve their hearts’ desire.

You, the guide, not your customer, the hero, are the one with the most authority to solve their problem. However, you must also have the empathy and humility to see the story is not about the guide, but the hero. Never forget that. Focus your messaging always on your customer’s success, not your own. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you customer wins is when you truly win. When you express both empathy for your customer’s plight and authority in knowing the way through it, you create a bond of trust with your customer that moves them to take action and achieve success.

Photo courtesy of Jacek Dylag on Unsplash
  • 4. Who Gives Them a Plan

STORYBRAND PRINCIPLE 4: Customers trust a guide who has a plan.

Pretty common sense here, but even when you establish yourself as having legitimate authority, customers generally don’t feel comfortable making a commitment to buy unless you clearly lay out a plan for them. You want to create a series of steps to help guide them down the path to the ultimate solution. This helps decrease the feeling of risk and increase their comfort level in doing business with you. This plan forms the bridge that helps transport your customer to that climactic scene when all his problems are resolved and he’s achieved his hero goal.

In essence, once you’ve captured your potential customer’s attention and established yourself as a trustworthy, empathetic and knowledgeable guide, you don’t want to leave your hero hanging and wondering what to do next. If you don’t give them a clear plan of next steps for how to place an order and immediately engage with you, they’ll wallow in confusion and fall into inaction. Even if the steps seem obvious to you, your customer will want to hear them. It builds their confidence in moving forward and affirming their decision to buy.

  • 5. And Calls Them to Action

STORYBRAND PRINCIPLE 5: Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to do so.

Even after you’ve gotten this far, you’ve got to cross one more hurdle with your customer. You must clearly and boldly ask them to place the order. If you’ve ever noticed in stories, heroes are often plagued with some self-doubt and avoid taking action on their own accord. They have to be challenged to take action. Your calls to action must be clear and repeated often to move customers to action. For example, the same call to action should be repeated above the fold and front and center on your website, and again and again as people scroll down the page.

Photo courtesy of rawpixel on Unsplash

You’ll want to use two types of calls to action throughout your marketing materials:

  • Direct — calls a customer to place an order
  • Transitional — “on-ramps” a customer toward an eventual buy

Miller describes the difference between these as a transitional call to action being like asking your customer on a date, while the direct call to action is asking them to marry you.

Direct calls to action are obvious, but transitional calls to action come in all shapes and sizes. Here are a few you may want to consider:

  • Free information (i.e. Lead Magnet)
  • Testimonials
  • Samples
  • Free trial
  • 6. That Helps Them Avoid Failure

STORYBRAND PRINCIPLE 6: Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending

These are the high stakes that make stories and our lives interesting. And you may know just in observing your own nature that human beings tend to avoid pain (or failure) before they seek pleasure (raging success). Thus, the first goal that motivates us is always avoiding a tragic ending.

At every step along the path of the plan you’ve provided to your customer, you want to remind them that following your plan will help them to overt disaster. These reminders we give to our customers throughout our marketing that lay out the negative stakes of failing to act provide the sense of urgency typically needed to propel them forward. No need to be an overbearing fear-monger, but do remind them of the tragedies that could befall them if they don’t take action. Also, emphasize that you have a clear plan to help them avoid such pain.

  • 7. And Ends in a Success

STORYBRAND PRINCIPLE 7: Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. You must tell them!

Foreshadow a potential successful ending to your customer’s story. As Stew Friedman at the Wharton School puts it, define a “compelling image of an achievable future.” The resolution must be specific and clearly defined so your customer knows exactly what to hope for. Think about what your customer’s life will look like if their external problem is solved, how that resolution will make them feel, and why that ending makes the world a better place to be. Everybody loves a happy ending ☺

There are three dominant ways good storytellers bring about a happy ending, by satisfying three central psychological desires of all humans. They enable their heroes to achieve one of the following:

  1. Win some sort of power or position/status.
  2. Be unified with somebody or something that makes them whole.
  3. Experience some self-realization or transcendence that makes them whole.

In Miller’s Building a StoryBrand, he goes into further detail about how you can position your brand to satisfy these basic human desires.

PART 3: Implementing StoryBrand BrandScript

In this final section of the book, the author instructs his readers how to implement their StoryBrand Framework now that they’ve completed their BrandScript with his guidance in Section Two. The power of storytelling, articulated through the StoryBrand BrandScript, can help you build a better website, which is generally the bedrock of your customer engagement dialogue. When interwoven through all your marketing messaging, it lends cohesiveness and clarity to your message and makes the benefits of engaging with you clear to your customers. The SB7 framework can also just as effectively be turned inward within your organization to transform your employee experience and company culture.

Once you’ve created your new StoryBrand BrandScript, the first thing you need to do to implement it and put it to work for you engaging new customers and growing your business is to incorporate it into your website. Donald Miller spends an entire chapter focused on this first, most crucial step because it’s uh…crucial! The effort will bring you twofold benefits: it will refine your website for a more impactful visitor experience, and it will help you (and your team) get super clear on the key talking points of your new and improved message.

Once you’ve elevated the effectiveness of your website for better customer capture, the next step in knocking your business growth out of the park is to implement the StoryBrand Marketing Roadmap. Whether your company is a startup or corporate behemoth, implementing these five powerful marketing and messaging efforts will go a long way to getting you there. Besides that, they’ll save you money in marketing dollars because each of these five tasks is nearly free to do.

  1. Create a One-liner.
  2. Create a Leader Generator and Collect Email Addresses.
  3. Create an Automated Email Drip Campaign.
  4. Collect and Tell Stories of Transformation.
  5. Create a System That Generates Referrals.

Marketing Roadmap: Task 1 — Create a One-liner

Before you can convey your message clearly in your marketing, you must be able to articulate it in one concise, powerful statement to your husband, your teenager (tough crowd with short attention, for sure), or someone at a cocktail party. I call it the “cocktail test”. Your one-liner is essentially a new and improved way to answer the question, “What do you do?” It’s not just the tagline or slogan you marry to your logo. It’s more than that. It’s a single statement that helps people realize why they need your products or services.

Screenplay writers use the same concept to sell their movie concept to studio executives. They call it a “logline”, a simple one-sentence description of a movie that contains elements of both imagination and intrigue. In a “logline”, the writer summarizes a movie to a viewer in a way that enables them to imagine the story, yet with enough intrigue that the viewer is enticed to watch the film to complete the story only half-imagined in their head. You want your one-liner to intrigue qualified buyers and invite them to do business with you. When you get it right, your one-liner essentially goes viral as once engaged, customers go on to use it to share with others and evangelize your brand for you.

So by now, you’re probably asking, well how the heck do I come up with a powerful one-liner. It’s simple…use a distilled version of the StoryBrand Framework you’ve crafted. The following formula works every time.

The Character + The Problem + The Plan + The Success = Compelling One-liner

Don’t get hung up on thinking your one-liner has to be one sentence. Think of it more as a statement that communicates the four ideas noted in the formula above, using the fewest words possible while still achieving unmistakable clarity.

If you’ve already done the work of creating your BrandScript (which you should do as you’re reading Section II of Building a StoryBrand), then this effort is simply a condensed version of that. For example, if you’re selling vacation rentals to retired couples, your one-liner might be: “We save retirees the cost of a second home in Florida, yet deliver the warm beaches and luxury accommodations they love.” Retirees from the Northeast US or Canada will be able to hear that statement and immediately relate thinking “That’s me!”

As entrepreneurs, we’re often so immersed in the day-to-day of our business that we get internally focused tunnel vision and forget how to speak to normal people (a.k.a. our customers). So when asked the simple and inviting question “What do you do?” we create complexities, layers and unnecessary backstories in our response that only serve to confuse and bore our prospective customers…or cocktail party mates…before they’ve even taken their first sip.

To be clear, the whole point of those coffee and cocktail networking opportunities is not to get the glazed over look of bewilderment in which you hope people are thinking “Wow! That sounds complicated. He must be genius.” What you want is that look of recognition, like “Yea, that’s me! Can you tell me more about how you do that?” or “That’s a great service. I know a few folks looking for that and I’d like to get your business card so I can connect you.” Bullseye! Now that’s the score you want.

So before you go off to that next networking event, nail down your one-liner party favor. Write it out, recite it in front of the mirror, share it with family, friends and a few customers, refine it, memorize it and you’ll crush it at the next gig. So many entrepreneurs get this wrong that I guarantee when you get it right, you’ll be like a magnet that draws the crowd (like the old commercial “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen…” — hopefully, some of you reading are old enough to remember that).

To prove the point that most entrepreneurs fail to create a compelling one-liner — and you can separate yourself from the pack by doing so well — I’ll leave you with one last example, StoryBrand’s one-liner: “Most business leaders don’t know how to talk about their company, so we created a framework that helps them simplify their message, create great marketing material, connect with customers, and grow their business.” Boom! Now it’s your turn… Remember, a one-liner is a simple, clear, repeatable statement that allows potential customers to see themselves in the story a company is telling. Once you’ve nailed it, memorize it, repeat it everywhere you go, make everyone in your company do the same, include it on your website and social media bios along with every piece of marketing collateral you produce. Heck, even print it on your business cards and include it in your email signatures.

Although you may get bored with the repetition of seeing, hearing, saying your one-liner over and over and over again, it’s what your customers need. Think of them as raving fans and yourself as a rock star…they want to hear your greatest hits, not the inane, unknown songs. Serve your audience and they will serve you by eventually memorizing (through your repetition) and repeating your one-liner to their friends. And then you’ll have a whole army of brand evangelists working for you that cost you absolutely nothing but your time and is way more valuable than any SEO or Facebook Advertising. Score!

Marketing Roadmap: Task 2 — Create a Lead Generator to Build an Email List

If you think of what one of the most sacred, guarded possessions you have in your life is because of its importance and criticality to how you run your life, you might likely say your smartphone…and one of the things on your smartphone that acts as a gateway to nearly every other component of your life: Your email account. This is also true for your customers.

This is why if you can get a direct line to customers through that channel, with their willing permission to contact them in this personal way (especially if you’re a business with < $5 million in sales and a not so big marketing budget), it’s invaluable to your success. Despite how many Facebook fans, Twitter and Instagram followers you have, none of your social platforms will convert offers as well as your email list. In most customers’ minds, email is simply a closer, more trusted relationship so your likelihood of converting sales with email is much higher.

Astute learners that you are, you’re perhaps saying to yourself, “Duh, I know how powerful building an email list is, but I don’t know how to do it because nobody signs up for my newsletter.” Well, don’t worry, it’s not you…no customer really wants to sign up for any company’s newsletter because it’s not perceived to have much value. Frankly, it’s old school. That’s why Donald Miller walks you through creating what’s referred to as a Lead Magnet, an irresistible lead generator that offers real value to customers through the content it provides. It’s kind of like a karma thing, you get what you give…so give generously and it will come back to you, in this case in the form of a growing and engaged email list of potential customers that you can market your products or services to.

To create an effective lead magnet, it must provide real value to your customer while also establishing you as an authority in your field. For Miller, when he first started up his StoryBrand marketing company, his lead magnet was a downloadable PDF called “5 Things Your Website Should Include.” More than 40,000 people downloaded it! This then became the basis of the lead generation funnel for Miller’s StoryBrand Marketing Workshops. Following that initial success, he created a more sophisticated lead magnet, a free video series called “The 5-Minute Marketing Makeover” (, which catapulted his business success to an even higher level.

Now, the StoryBrand team creates lead generators for each revenue stream the company offers. This enables them to segment customers by interests and offers unique products to solve their various problems. So, you can see, lead magnets can come in myriad forms. Experience shows the following five to be most successful:

  1. Downloadable Guide
  2. Online Course or Webinar
  3. Software Demos or a Free Trial
  4. Free Samples
  5. Live Events

Don’t overthink it or get stuck in analysis paralysis. As Nike says, “Just do it!” The best and easiest place to start is where Miller did when he launched his StoryBrand marketing company. Create a downloadable guide in PDF format. Just write the content in Microsoft Word and, if you’re not a graphics wizard, search “Lead Magnet” on UpWork and you’ll find plenty of digital marketing professionals equipped to make your guide look pretty and professional and it won’t break the bank.

That’s what we did here at to create our first lead magnet, “5 Steps to Designing Your Life of Freedom”. If you’re not a writer, you can outsource that part as well via UpWork or other sources. Just have the writer interview you about your company’s area of expertise, and they can write the draft content you then send on to a graphic designer for layout.

Be sure to feature your lead magnet liberally on your website with a clear “call to action” button. If you’re just starting out with no list or following of any kind, you may want to use Facebook Ads to push people to a landing page on your website where you offer your lead magnet. Miller also recommends creating a pop-up feature on your site that, after a minimum of ten seconds of the browser arriving, offers your freebie resource to the user in exchange for their email address. I have to say, I complain about pop-up boxes, but I do mostly click on them if the resource provided (and what I’ve learned of the provider) seems to be quality stuff based upon what my perusing of their other materials indicates. Definitely, make sure you give it a buffer of at least ten seconds though before allowing it to pop up.

If you want to see an example, click here to see’s pop-up offer once the link opens in a new window. If you haven’t already done so, and you’re interested in exploring how to break away from the corporate rat race and create your own life of freedom, you may want to provide your email and download our lead magnet. Once you’ve done so, please let us know in the comments below if you found our downloadable guide to be helpful in getting you started toward your path of freedom planning.

How many emails do you need to get started marketing to them with a lead nurture campaign follow-up to the valuable free content you provided in your lead magnet? Well, it depends on the type of business you’re in, but generally, if your company is less than $5 million per year in annual sales, you’ll be able to see real bottom line results with a list of as little as 250 qualified email addresses. Like gardening, cultivating a good veggie yield takes time, but it’s well worth the effort and is like a perennial plant where it just keeps giving by coming back year after year.

Remember in any lead magnet you create to give generously, providing valuable content that tells prospective customers why you do what you do, what exactly it is you do, and a bit of how you do it. Part of the point of your lead magnet is not just to build an email list, but also to establish trust, authority and authenticity you’re your target audience. So don’t look at it as giving away the farm for free. Even when you give away real actionable content, I assure you that most people want you to walk them down the path anyway.

We’re social creatures and learning is a social process. So when you set up your offerings to take them by the hand and walk them through the content at a deeper level to help integrate the actions into their lives or business, while holding them accountable for the results, you’ll be more likely to ensure their success. It’s also how you’ll expand the positive impact you have on the world.

Marketing Roadmap: Task 3 — Build an Automated Email Campaign

Now that you’ve accumulated some emails with your valuable lead magnet content, good placement and promotion of it, you want to leverage that list to start positioning yourself to generate sales. The best way to do this is to create an automated email campaign. Some call it a “funnel” or “auto-responder series”.

Either way, the concept is to develop a prewritten sequence of email messages that trigger once a person is added to your email list. Whatever term you like, the point is this — implementing it leverages your time because you can be taking steps to generate revenue while you sleep. And that, my friends, is the beginning of real freedom. You can be selling anything, anywhere, anytime to anyone while you are exploring in…Thailand, Estonia or Malta (or anywhere).

For automated email campaigns, the industry standard is about a 20% open rate. That may sound ineffective, but don’t despair. Even when a person sees and deletes the email without interacting with it or perhaps even opening it, the goal has still been accomplished…you are subliminally branding yourself in their universe simply by consistently showing up in their inbox. If someone unsubscribes from your list, it’s a good thing. Why? Think of it as good attrition, like the “problem” employee that leaves on their own accord, you’re unloaded dead weight from your email list. They probably wouldn’t have bought from you anyway and their elimination from your list means you aren’t paying your email subscriber for leads not likely to convert.

There is a spectrum of automated email technology tools available from basic and inexpensive to super complicated and high priced, often requiring a specialized consultant to get it up and running. Here are a few of the more popular ones:

  1. A.Weber
  2. Get Response
  3. Click Funnels
  4. HubSpot
  5. Infusionsoft

After accumulating a list of emails from your lead generator, the best funnel to build is a lead nurture series. In essence, now that you’ve gotten your target’s attention and provided them something of value, a few days after they’ve downloaded the lead magnet, you want to initiate your nurturing campaign. This automated series of emails offer subscribers valuable content as it relates to your products or services. These emails should continue with the SB7 Framework style, positioning you as the guide and creating a bond of trust and reciprocity with potential customer heroes.

A successful model for nurturing campaigns entails weekly emails as follows:

Email #1: Nurture Email

Email #2: Nurture Email

Email #3: Nurture Email

Email #4: Sales Email with a Call to Action (CTA) to make their lives easier

You can repeat this pattern month after month. Do yourself a favor and queue up a couple of months worth of material at a time so you don’t feel like a weekly slave to content creation…because that wouldn’t be much freedom, now would it?

Marketing Roadmap: Task 4 — Collect and Tell Customer Success Stories

Nothing draws a person in more than a story of transformation. Why are we drawn to it? Transformation is a core desire for every human being. We all want to be a better version of ourselves. And one of the best ways to demonstrate how we can help our customers transform is through sharing customer testimonials.

The tricky part is getting customers to present their testimonial in a way that tells their story of transformation in a clear and compelling way. The best way to achieve this is rather than simply asking our customers to write a testimonial, we lead them down the path by providing them a form to answer with specific questions that, when strung together, create a natural flow illustrating a story of transformation.

Use these five leading questions to generate powerful customer testimonials:

  1. What was the problem you were having before you discovered our product?
  2. What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve that problem?
  3. What was different about our product?
  4. Take us to the moment when you realized our product was actually working to solve your problem.
  5. Tell us what life looks like now that your problem is solved or being solved.

Marketing Roadmap: Task 5 — Create a Referral Incentive System

Here’s a step-by-step path for creating an effective referral system:

  1. Identify your existing, ideal customers and target them directly.
  2. Give your customers a reason to spread the word. For example, create a PDF or brief video of how you can help others like them that’s easily shareable.
  3. Offer a reward, like a discount on a product or service, a special gift, or an affiliate program that pays them a commission when referrals sign up.

You can make life easier for yourself and really put your referral system on overdrive if you opt to automate the work by using your email marketing system we mentioned earlier in Task Three of the Marketing Roadmap.


Hands down, Building a StoryBrand gets 5+ stars! I’ve read a ton of marketing books, having spent most of my career focused on marketing, sales, and business development. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever read a more practical, step-by-step guide to implementing clear, concise, emotionally engaging marketing that has the ability to capture and hold your customer’s attention in a noisy world. Most of the advice is timeless, based on the psychology of how human beings perceive and relate to our offerings through story, so you’ll use it forever. That makes it well worth the few months to a year it may take you to fully implement all aspects of the Framework into your marketing roadmap. And the good news is that you’ll see successes all along the way, from the very first step. So, rally ‘round the campfire (or your keyboard) and begin to tell your story…or, more accurately, your customer’s story. Remember, your customer’s role is that of hero. You are the best supporting actor, the beloved and trusted guide.

Other Books by Donald Miller

Here are a couple of other great books he’s authored: Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story.

You may also check other book reviews from our Freedom Book Club.

Thank you for reading and please share your comments below!

Read more reviews about Building A StoryBrand on Amazon.

Buy Building A StoryBrand on Amazon:

Karen Williams

Written by

Corporate Rat Race Escapist, American Expat, Wanderer&Wonderer, Real Estate Investor, Writer & Online Business Entrepreneur

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