Author Archive

How to Crush that Upcoming Presentation

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If you have an important, high-stakes presentation that needs to move people en masse in a given direction, Nancy Duarte is the person you’d call.

She’s the expert. She’s written, visualized, and helped people deliver some of the world’s greatest talks. Her Guide to Persuasive Presentations is the best-selling Harvard Business Review guide ever. And if you haven’t seen Nancy’s TED talk — where she lays Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech over Steve Jobs’ Apple iPhone release and shows you how they’re essentially the same talk — then I don’t know where you’ve been in the last six years.

Last week, J.J. and I walked you through the StoryBrand 7-Part Framework when we were launching my new book. One of the most pivotal elements of the framework is to recognize you’re not the hero of your brand’s story — your customer is. Nancy gets the credit for that too.

So I can’t tell you enough how honored I am to have Nancy as our guest on this week’s episode of Building a StoryBrand podcast. Nancy gives us the tools we need to make our presentation resonate. She’s going to show us how to carefully examine and craft seven different sections of our presentation before stepping up on stage.

As business leaders, you’re giving presentations whether it’s opening up a team meeting, rebranding after a company merger, or breaking the news about layoffs. When you follow Nancy’s advice, you’ll win the crowd over, wow them with your big idea, and crush that presentation.

This is just a quick summary of Nancy’s wisdom. You’ll want to listen to the entire episode sometime this week to get the full impact of all she has to share.



When you’re preparing to present, your mind starts racing about your performance — what you’re going to say, which information you should gather, and how you’re going to deliver to your audience.

But Nancy says, “Stop.”

Before you start figuring out the content of your presentation, figure out what your audience is thinking and feeling first.

Before you start figuring out the content of your presentation, figure out what your audience is thinking and feeling first. Realize what they are experiencing. Recognize what your presentation is going to ask them to do.

Think about the uncomfortable parts of your presentation.

Are you going to ask them …

  • • To work longer?
  • • Take a pay cut?
  • • Reframe layoffs?
  • • Recognize they’ve been doing it all wrong?

Nancy says you need to ask yourself, “How are they going to process this, and how do I comfort or encourage them in the process?”

When you take some time to understand the uncomfortable things you’re asking of your audience, you’ll tap into the empathy you need to really connect with your audience.


If you think now is the time to start outlining the topic of your presentation, you’re wrong.

As business leaders, you’re good at structure because you’re organized. You can be counted on to give three points about everything. But sometimes those three points aren’t really going to make a powerful impact. Before diving into structuring the content, Nancy challenges you to start with the big idea.

You’re leading your audience on a journey.

To do that, understand you’re leading your audience on a journey. Ask yourself questions like:

Where am I moving this audience from? Where am I moving them to? What is their transformation going to be? How do I arrange all the information to support that transformation?

By fully focusing on the big idea of transformation, you’ll develop a message that will resonate with your audience.


Now is the time to focus on structure.

“A story has a three-act structure with a likeable character who encounters roadblocks and is changed by them,” Nancy says.

You should apply this story framework to your presentation, placing your audience as the likeable hero who will undergo this transformation.

  1. Craft the beginning. Establish what is the status quo and paint a picture of what could be. The larger the gap between these two situations the better.
  2. Develop the middle. Build tension between what is and what could be by addressing the roadblocks and helping your audience overcome them. During the middle of the speech, powerful orators lead their audience through a series of tension and release.
  3. Establish a powerful ending. Describe the new bliss of your audience with their problems solved or a utopian world without these problems. Dave Ramsey is a master at this. At the end of his Financial Peace University class, he leads his audience to imagine what being debt-free feels like.

By leading your audience through this three-part structure, you’ll guide them through their transformation in a powerful way.


Now that you’ve understood what it feels like to be in your audience and you’ve developed a message that caters to them, choose the right vehicle for your message.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean slides,” Nancy points out. “It could mean a prop. It could mean the physicality of what you’re doing.”

One of the things you shouldn’t do is show up at a media conference with a flip chart and marker. I did that once and I bombed the presentation. Another bad idea would be to play band music at a layoff announcement. I haven’t done that but I’m sure it would bomb too.

All aspects of your presentation should support your message.

The point is all aspects of your presentation should support your message. Some things to consider are lighting, music and the environment.

Nancy gives an example of a man who helped people with addictions. As he shared his own story of addiction, the lighting moved through the 24 hour light cycle of the day. By the time he was at the darkest time in his soul, the whole room was black. It was very powerful.

Reach your audience in nuanced ways by thinking beyond the content of your slides.


Nancy and her team came up with the term “glance media” to describe effective slides in a presentation. Your audience should be able to glance at your slide, process it for three seconds, and then focus back on your verbal stream.

Your audience should be able to glance at your slide, process it for three seconds, and then focus back on your verbal stream.

If your slides are really intense and dense, you’ll lose your audience on the journey.

Also, choose the right type of slide. Should you reveal a bullet, conceptual, or data slide? Don’t forget about other possibilities like images and videos.

Or opt for black. If you’re giving a point and you want the audience to focus on what you’re saying, move to the next slide and cover it.

Visuals should convey meaning. If you consider carefully how to do that, you’ll communicate your message powerfully.


After content and slides, delivery is the third part to really killing your presentation.

Nancy outlines a few important qualities you need for an unforgettable delivery:

  1. Be Empathetic. Deliver your presentation authentically. To do that, you need to feel for your audience and communicate a sense of purpose and passion for your message.
  2. Be Dynamic. Consider your voice. Should you lower it? Or raise it? What about your body language? Perhaps you should walk a few steps forward and lean toward your audience to emphasize a point. Or step back and wait in silence.
  3. Be Comfortable. It’s important to be comfortable with yourself and with your content. Rehearse your material well.

Anticipate technology glitches because they often happen.

When you pay attention to the details of your delivery, you make a powerful impression on your audience that will last long after the final slide is shown.


I think I really nailed a presentation if I get a standing ovation. You might feel great if you get 400 tweets during your talk. Nancy considers it a win if the Twitterverse goes dead silent during her talk and explodes after.

“That means they forgot they ever were holding a medium in their hand,” she says.

Whatever your measure of a success, it’s important to know what it is and gauge whether you achieved it after a talk.

It’s also important to recognize that killing a presentation isn’t enough. You want people interacting with your message after you mic drop and walk off the stage.

It’s also important to recognize that killing a presentation isn’t enough. You want people interacting with your message after you mic drop and walk off the stage.

To do that you need to build relationships and spread your ideas through social media. Or connect more deeply with the people in the room by directing them to your website where you have other ways of interacting.

Nancy says you should help your audience grab your big idea and run with it on their own. If you do that, your message will keep growing after the last slide has been played.


By carefully preparing and analyzing these seven areas of your presentation, you can become someone who gives amazing talks. When you succeed, you’ll move your audience with your big idea and help them transform.


Don’t cut your profit short.

You’ve gathered a lot of valuable information by reading, but there’s so much more! Buy the little book that makes marketing easy. If you act now, you’ll get two amazing bonuses:

The Secret to How Customers Think (Audio Lecture, $49 Value)

Why Customers Really Buy (Video Lesson, $99 Value)

Getting the bonus content is really easy!

Simply (a) purchase the book from any retailer and (b) forward your receipt to


The Framework That Makes Marketing Easy

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This week my new book Building a StoryBrand is out! If you’ve been wanting to clarify your message pick it up today at Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

That said, if you don’t want to order it because reading hurts your brain (several scientific studies have proven this to be true), there’s a distant, distant second option I recommend. And that’s to listen to this week’s podcast and read this blog. This week, J.J. and I shamelessly plug the book by going through it point by point. It’s like the audiobook but with a laugh track!

Consider this blog the show notes for the episode, and for that matter, the book.

The main reason I wrote the book is because I WANTED TO MAKE MARKETING EASY and I believe it accomplishes that task.

In fact, the subtitle I proposed for the book was “The Last Book About Marketing You Will Ever Need.” The publisher told me it lacked humility. I said it’s hard to be humble when you’ve written a book this good. They didn’t say anything after that.

Anyway, here’s a summary of several of the principal points in the book. The best points, though, you’ll have to buy the book to get. I’m no dummy. Anyway, I hope you read these ideas, apply them and make loads of money. And I hope they make you want to buy the book to make even more.


Story is the most powerful tool in the world to captivate the human brain. When you learn to use story in your brand’s communication, your customers will finally pay attention to what you’re saying. You can learn to use story to clarify your message. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Each story starts with a…

#1: A Character

Every story begins with a character who wants something. In movies, screenwriters identify the hero at the start of the movie and, within minutes, the audience knows what they want.

For example, if 12 minutes into The Bourne Identity the audience still doesn’t know exactly what Jason Bourne wants, they’re going to walk out.

Most companies aren’t clear in explaining what they offer. When you define something your customer wants, you invite them into a very specific story. And that’s what they’re looking for; they’re looking for you to invite them into a story.

While I explain this thoroughly in my book, the short version is that you must summarize what you offer in just a few words. If you throw out multiple solutions to multiple problems, you’ll be ignored. The human brain just isn’t made to process that many storylines.

You have to be known for something, preferably one thing.

Ask: What do my customers want as it relates to my brand? Is my brand known for one thing it offers?

#2: Has a Problem

Do you remember the old Rolodex files that sat on people’s desks? The ones that held business cards?

People have a Rolodex file in their brains. And when they hear about your business, they don’t file your business alphabetically — they file your business under the problem you solve.

If you haven’t clearly defined the problem you solve, they’re going to throw your business card away.

The only reason people are calling you, going to your website, or walking into your retail store is because they have a problem and they need you to solve that problem.

When you define that problem for your customers and offer to resolve it, they’re interested.

Ask: Have you clearly defined the problem your brand solves?

#3: And Meets a Guide

This is a big paradigm shift.

Customers aren’t looking for a hero. They’re looking for a guide.

If you understand this important principle, you’ll change how you talk about your business.

Potential clients don’t need another hero. They need a guide.

In chapter 6 of the book, I describe in detail how to position yourself as a guide. But, the first step is understanding your role in your customer’s story:

  • • You’re not Luke Skywalker. You’re Yoda.
  • • You’re not Katniss. You’re Haymitch.
  • • You’re not James Bond. You’re Q.

So, when your customers come to you, don’t talk about what you’re trying to do. Lay out your products and services as weapons that will help them save the world, get the girl, or win the day.

That’s the message they respond to.

Ask: Are you positioning yourself as the guide?

#4: Who Gives Them a Plan

Let’s recap:

  1. You’ve identified what your customer wants, which invites them into a story.
  2. You’ve identified a problem that makes them feel something which hooks them into the story.
  3. You’ve positioned yourself as a guide so now there’s some hope they can solve their problem.

You’ve done well. This is farther than most companies get with their customers, but it’s too soon to ask them for the sale.

If you ask for the sale now, your customer can only see a yawning chasm between where they are and where they need to go. Pulling out their wallet is scary. If they spend money, they might lose money. If it doesn’t work, they may be embarrassed.

How do you overcome this? You need to give your customers a plan. Just three or four steps that explain how easy it is to work with you.

For example, a financial advisor might say,

I think you can probably retire earlier than you thought. I have a really easy process that helps you to make that decision.

  1. We meet for an informal meeting.
  2. We assess your goals.
  3. You get a customized strategy to retire early. If you choose, I can help you execute that strategy for the rest of your life.

When you give your customers a plan, you’re helping them overcome the barriers to their success. Because this element is so important, there’s much more information about it. In chapter 7 of the book, I outline two different plans that you can choose from. And remember, since you’re the guide, you’re going to have to outline a plan so your hero can win the day.

Ask: Do you have a simple plan that makes it easy for your customers to do business with you?

#5: And Calls Them to Action

Finally, the time has come to ask for the sale. Here’s something to remember:

Customers don’t take action unless they are challenged to take action.

As the guide in your customer’s story, you must challenge them to buy something from you and this challenge must be very, very clear.

If there’s not a Buy Now button in the top right corner of your website, you’re losing sales. Do not crowd that section of your website with 25 other choices like About, Contact, and FAQs. Your direct call to action (the Buy Now button) should be a different color and it should be the obvious button to press.

In chapter 8 of my book, I give you clear instructions on how to arrange the call to action on your website and I also talk about another call to action that helps your customer stay in relationship with you even if they’re aren’t ready to buy right away.

We have to give our customers something to accept or reject.

Ask: Do you have a clear call to action?

#6: That Helps Them Avoid Failure

This is a classic piece of storytelling. Heroes are compelled into action because something is at stake.

  • • Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games to save her sister, Prim.
  • • A retired CIA officer must use all his past connections and skills to rescue his daughter from an abductor in Taken.
  • • Michael is thrust into his father’s world of the mafia when his father is shot in The Godfather.

None of these characters wanted to engage in the action of the story. They were compelled to in order to avoid a tragic ending (failure).

In the book, I describe how every customer is trying to avoid a tragic ending, too. What that means for your brand is you must clearly communicate the negative consequences of what will happen to your customers if they do not buy your products or services.

Ask: Have you communicated what’s at stake to your customers? What are the negative consequences of not doing business with you?

#7: And Ends in a Success

You need to show customers how your products can positively affect their lives.

Both your website images and your sales copy should help your customers envision life with their problems solved. Show them what their life can be like without a toothache, with more money in the stock market, with their lawn looking amazing, or loving the way those clothes feel or fit.

People naturally steer toward a happy ending.

An excellent example is Competing with Travelocity, Priceline and Hotwire, they set themselves apart from their competitors by focusing on one thing: displaying success over and over.

You’re going to like your trip, your hotel room, the food, the plush carpet, the weird yoga class, your whatever. You’re going to love your vacation.

People started booking there because they wanted to have that incredible experience.

If you’re not telling people what their life will look like when they do business with you, they’re not going to do business with you.

Ask: How can you help your customer envision success after doing business with you?

You’ve just received a tiny taste of the StoryBrand 7-Part Framework and how you can apply the elements of story to your business. If you’re not using these elements in your marketing, you’re contributing noise to the marketplace rather than giving people a narrative they can step into.

A clear message is your competitive advantage. If you fumble over your words and ideas, and you don’t know exactly how to communicate what you do, you’ll confuse your customers and people won’t buy your products. But by using the 7 elements of story, you’ll be communicating a clear message that customers will hear and respond to.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you are going to love my new book. I thoroughly explain each of the 7 parts of the StoryBrand Framework and give you tangible next steps so you can experience growth in your business. Buy the book today on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iBooks.


Don’t cut your profit short.

You’ve gathered a lot of valuable information by reading, but there’s so much more! Buy the little book that makes marketing easy. If you act now, you’ll get two amazing bonuses:

  1. The Secret to How Customers Think (Audio Lecture, $49 Value)
  2. Why Customers Really Buy (Video Lesson, $99 Value)

Getting the bonus content is really easy!
Simply (a) purchase the book from any retailer and (b) forward your receipt to


Avoid These 3 Common B2B Website Mistakes: A Before & After Case Study

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Being a B2B marketer isn’t easy.

Because we sell our products and services to other businesses instead of directly to consumers, sometimes our marketing material can come across as distant and downright boring.

It’s easy to forget that, although we’re marketing our products and services to other businesses, we’re still selling to human beings.

It’s easy to forget that, although we’re marketing our products and services to other businesses, we’re still selling to human beings.

Plus, a lot of the marketing advice out there really only speaks to B2C brands. Sure, there’s some carryover, but the strategies that reach consumers won’t always work the same way when you’re speaking to other businesses. If you’re a B2B marketer, you have to take the extra step to consider how that advice applies to your world.

So today I want to walk you through a before-and-after website makeover of Boomer Consulting, a B2B company based in Manhattan, Kansas, that consults with accounting firms. They signed up for one of our StoryBrand Workshops. With what they learned there, they confidently executed a smart, sophisticated redesign.

As we study both the before and after versions, you’ll see the common mistakes we see in B2B websites — and exactly how Boomer overcame those mistakes and created a stunning website.

Your B2B marketing material doesn’t have to be uninspiring. Take a page out of the playbook at Boomer Consulting and I know you’ll be on your way to growing your business.

Having too many stakeholders creates website clutter

B2B website redesigns often have a lot of stakeholders from all over the company involved. Each of them seems to have a “pet” element they want to see represented in the final product.

If you indulge each voice, you end up with a disjointed mess. Each stakeholder may be satisfied individually, but the end result will confuse your prospects and customers, and they’ll move on.

You can see a lot of this kind of clutter in the old version of Boomer’s site.

I count a whopping ten elements crowding the top navigation bar. Plus, including a calendar on the home page may have been important to whoever runs the calendar, but it doesn’t do much to convert visitors into customers.

In the redesign, the disjointed elements — including the calendar — are all gone. The navigation is trim and tidy. And most importantly, the site functions as a cohesive whole.

All the various clutter isn’t competing for our attention anymore. We’re free to focus on one single idea. It’s the most important message they have: we help your accounting firm grow.

This new site is wonderful because it satisfies the needs not of many internal stakeholders but of one person: the prospective customer.

This new site is wonderful because it satisfies the needs not of many internal stakeholders but of one person: the prospective customer.

For B2B marketers, beware the “death by committee” that can happen when you work on marketing collateral, especially your website. It’s great to involve key stakeholders in the design process. But make sure they understand that the prospective customer is ultimately the primary person you’re designing for.

Start by questioning the assumptions behind every element on your site. For example — why do we have this “Community Events” tab over here? Is it relevant to our prospects right now? You should be able to justify and defend every element by how it serves the person visiting your site.

Dry, overcomplicated language bores and confuses prospects

Our brains have a thankless task. Every day, they are constantly sorting through the bombardment of information around us and discarding anything irrelevant.

Why? Because ultimately, our brains are trying to keep us alive. All that processing takes energy, in the form of calories burned. And your brain wants to conserve those calories.

Remember, we were hunters and gatherers once. We didn’t always know where our next meal was coming from. Our brains haven’t really been re-wired just because the grocery store is down the street now. To our brains, calories are life-giving and precious — and it wants to conserve them.

So what does all that mean for your website?

When our brains run into difficulty processing information, we ignore the source of that information in an effort to conserve calories.

Yet most B2B websites are jam-packed full of five-dollar words, long sentences, and complicated jargon. It takes a lot of will — and yes, calories — to process it.

Check out the super-long sentence on the original version:

That’s not marketing for customers. It’s a mission statement for the board.

For some reason, B2B marketers justify this kind of language by claiming it’s industry terminology that everybody’s used to.

But the reality is, the brain is operating in the same way whether you’re marketing to a person who’s a consumer or to a decision-maker on behalf of a business. It’s trying to conserve calories, and it’ll tune out the moment it has to burn too many of them to process the information we’re sharing.

I love the language shifts in Boomer’s redesign.

First, the “mission statement” speak is gone. In a third of the characters of the original copy, they expressed the same basic idea — just more clearly and simply.

BEFORE: 197 characters
Boomer Consulting, Inc. guides accounting firms to increased performance and profitability by providing unique consulting services, peer-led communities, and industry-leading intellectual capital.

AFTER: 62 characters
We Guide CPA Firms to Sustainable Success and Future Readiness

Second, the language is more focused on the prospective customer. Instead of drily explaining the company to them, Boomer now strives to make a connection with them.

You see it beautifully when you compare this old copy:

Our powerful solutions target five areas critical to a firm’s success

To the new version:

Start excelling in the five areas critical to your firm’s success.

Ultimately, you’re not selling to businesses. You’re selling to people.

B2B marketing is no excuse to use jargon and complicated sentences. Be clear and direct in your communication. Don’t use 197 characters when 62 will do!

Ultimately, you’re not selling to businesses. You’re selling to people. The people you’re speaking to have brains that are trying to conserve calories, and the five-dollar words are costly. So speak to them directly if you want them to engage with your message.

The path to action is poorly defined

Let’s say you’ve created a cohesive, uncluttered site that resonates with your prospects. They’re ready to take action. Good job! Now what?

A lot of B2B sites will just slap a basic “contact us” form or button on the site and hope their prospects click it. At best, that click opens up an involved form to fill out. At worst, users have to literally write an email from scratch.

You’ll see this on the old version of Boomer Consulting’s site — a bland “contact us” button languishing at the bottom of the page.

The problem with this? First, it’s easy to miss. Second, it doesn’t really explain what happens once you click it.

When you ask people to go from browsing your site to actually reaching out, you’re asking them to take a big step. It’s risky and a bit unknown, which is what causes a lot of people never to inquire at all.

To combat this, give your customers a plan that shows what happens when they reach out.

I love the way Boomer breaks it down in the new version of the site.

By giving people a plan to follow, they’ve alleviated the confusion or sense of risk that’s keeping their prospects from taking action.

Ask yourself: what steps do people need to take to do business with you? What does it look like to experience your business’ product or service, and how can you break that down into easy-to-follow steps?

Spell out those steps, like Boomer does here, and it’ll be as though you’ve paved a sidewalk through an overgrown field. And guess what? A lot more people will cross the field.

Don’t fall into the common B2B traps that end up costing your company valuable business. Avoid these mistakes and you can create a compelling B2B website that truly connects with your prospects and grows your company.

10 Things Powerful People Can Do to Not Screw Up Their Lives

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Being successful isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

I mean, look at the headlines. We can all name a few celebrities who crumbled under the pressure of fame and fortune.

While well-known artists may deal with the problems of success on an amplified level, most successful leaders have similar struggles and are in danger of the same downfalls.

That’s why I’m so excited about this week’s Building a StoryBrand podcast. I sit down with Al Andrews, the founder and executive director of Porter’s Call, a service that counsels and supports recording artists. Al has a client list with names you’d certainly recognize so he’s very familiar with the problems fortune brings. As he shares his wisdom about how he helps his clients stay healthy and grounded, you’ll find help as a leader too.

After reading this blog post or listening to this podcast, you’ll learn 10 paradigm shifts you need to make as a leader on the road to success.


#1: Create Your Own Central Park

In 1853, the New York State Legislature set aside more than 750 acres of land to create America’s first major landscaped public park. Today, we know it as Central Park.

Why did they do it?

The designers had enough foresight to understand the magnitude of the growth of New York City and prepared for it. They recognized that a city of that size would need an immense park to contribute to the public health of its people.

Imagine New York City without Central Park.

Al says, “I find that many leaders are living life like a New Yorker without Central Park.” They’re living without the space set aside for rest, recreation and restoration.

To remedy that, Al suggests building a Central Park in your life — carve out space that will contribute to your overall health and the health of your most important relationships.

You may just be gearing up for success. As more good things come your way, you’ll discover you have less time in your day.

If you’re as wise as the city designers and legislature in 1853, you’ll build it bigger than you need right now. In other words, you’ll prepare for growth.

Or you might be feeling like you don’t have any space in your life. Your life is already full. So, how do you build a Central Park when you already don’t have enough time as it is?

Notice some things that you’ve agreed to in the past and say no. Or pick a few things you do out of obligation and stop.

Al says, “You need to tear some things down.”

Notice some things that you’ve agreed to in the past and say no. Or pick a few things you do out of obligation and stop.

Al says if you’re too worried about hurting people’s feelings, you might need some help in setting healthy boundaries. Most of the time, you’re imagining the worst, but in reality, people’s feeling aren’t that hurt — they respect your limits.

Your Central Park can be a tangible thing like going to the movies or taking the dog out for long walks. At our house, we have a card night every week.

Al says, “Just know that you have to be intentional to create it, or that space will fill up with ‘necessary’ things.”

Don’t let “necessary” things invade your Central Park.

#2: Bridge the Distance

One of the warning signs of a leadership crash is perpetuating an artificial image (see #7 here).

Leaders are surrounded by people who only know their glossy image, not the real person behind it. These people see the amazing, organized person. The great speaker. The actress or singer on stage.

Al says you need to help people have a real perspective on who you really are. To do that, bridge the distance by letting people in on your thought life. Whether it’s in your public persona or your private life, you should let down your guard sometimes and reveal you have insecurities and feelings.

Otherwise, you’ll get exhausted trying to keep up the untarnished image.

#3: Read Poetry

You’re probably not going to find many leadership books that include this item.

As a writer, I’ve always loved poetry — I even wrote some. As a business leader, however, I was surprised to find that poetry was extremely beneficial to my company. So much so that I asked Al and his wife to come and do a poetry course for our team.


For someone who is dealing with the pressures of success, poetry delivers some specific perks:

  • There’s an economy of words. The words in poetry are carefully chosen to produce the most efficient and powerful effect and communicate a clear point. Leaders can learn a lesson from poetry by applying this principle to their lives. By removing everything unnecessary, you can live a life of radical clarity and deliver a powerful message with your legacy.
  • It’s aimed toward the heart. Al says that leaders usually have the areas of organization and motivation covered. They’re competent and capable at work. But what about their personal lives? Successful people have more trouble tapping into their inner lives and emotions. “The heart is where we need to go,” Al points out.
  • It causes you to think, even meditate, on deeper matters. As a leader, you can get caught up in the minutiae of your business. By expanding your mind to include greater philosophical ideas, you can keep your business in its proper place — it’s a big part of your work life but it’s not the only thing that matters.
  • It slows your life down. As leaders, you can get so focused on the future and paving the path, that you forget to live and enjoy the present moments.
  • It helps you see things in a new way. You can get in a rut about how to do things. Poetry is surprising. It’s meant to knock you off balance and it causes you to view simple things from unexpected angles. This can open the doors to creative solutions in your work life.

Poetry pulls you from the hard-core, steely world of success and into the warmer places of your life that keep you balanced and whole.

#4: Sometimes Decline the Perks

“Powerful people get perks,” Al says. He adds that there’s nothing wrong with that, but warns it can lead to entitlement.

As a leader, you can get to a place where you expect extra. You anticipate the best seat. You assume the world will arrange itself to your liking.

If you’re not careful, you can slip from the attitude that brought success:

How can I serve you?

to the attitude of the proud:

Do you know who I am?

As a way of staying humble, Al says, “I think sometimes, just for your own health, it’s good not to take the perks that are offered.”

#5: Share Your Platform

I’ve discovered that, almost always, when I’ve shared my platform, the generosity comes back to me. A new opportunity or connection opens up that wouldn’t have otherwise.

Whether you’re an artist, speaker or a leader, Al suggests inviting other people to share your audience or the lead once in awhile.


“It’s a way of giving back,” Al says. “It’s a way to promote generosity, and it’s a way to deal with your possessiveness.”

#6: Know Your Story (Or Your Story Will Live You)

We all know people who are angry all the time.

Al explains they can’t help it. Unresolved issues are controlling their behavior.

“If they don’t know their story,” he explains, “if they don’t know their own narrative, their own history, then their story will live them.”

Al hasn’t always sat in the counseling seat. He’s done some of the same work he expects of his clients. One of the discoveries Al made while going through counseling were that repressed incidents and conditions from his childhood were affecting the way he was doing life as an adult.

Analyze your behavior objectively. Are you reacting to ‘triggers’ that seem to only bother you? Do all your relationships have common problems?

Relating his life to a novel with chapters for each year, he explains, “When I understood what happened in those missing chapters, my life began to change, and I began to make some new decisions.”

Analyze your behavior objectively. Are you reacting to ‘triggers’ that seem to only bother you? Do all your relationships have common problems?

If so, get some counseling. It will free you up to be your best self. At the very least, build some self-awareness. As many of you know, we talk about the Enneagram and how learning about your personality will help you respond better to situations.

If you ignore your story, your story may take you to places you never wanted to go.

#7: Be Sent Out and Welcomed Home

Most leaders end up traveling a lot. It seems to come with the package of success.

When a friend takes the time to send you off and welcome you home, these interactions act as a way of keeping you connected with a larger family.

If you’re spending a good deal of time away from home, Al recommends that someone other than your wife or team, a buddy, knows you’re leaving.

Logistically, it is nice to know someone will be there for your spouse or family if they need anything.

But psychologically, it places you within a community. When a friend takes the time to send you off and welcome you home, these interactions act as a way of keeping you connected with a larger family.

They are saying, “Hey, you have a place. You have people.” And that’s a really good thing to keep in mind when you’re alone.

#8: Get Help

Most leaders have an inversely proportional relationship with leadership and support.

The more you lead, the more you don’t ask for help.

The people who surround you perceive you as someone who must have it together. They assume everything’s going fine.

But for your own health, you need to seek support — whether it’s from a friend or therapist. You must accept and embrace the idea of relying on someone other than yourself.

“We all know people who have crashed,” Al points out. “It happens every day. And almost every one of those people didn’t reach out for help when they needed it.”

Perhaps you’re on the precipice of a crash. This describes you. And you’re thinking about telling someone about it.

Immediately, thoughts will rise up and fight against it:

There’s just too much at stake right now.

I’ll figure it out and get through this on my own.

With a little more time, I’ll right this ship.

I don’t want to lose respect with this person.

Al has something to say to you:

“You’re wrong.”

Almost always, when you finally decide to rely on someone, that person steps up and helps you shoulder the load.

These are the famous last words of leaders before a downfall. Al says losing someone’s respect after sharing a problem is rare. Almost always, when you finally decide to rely on someone, that person steps up and helps you shoulder the load.

As leaders, you have your eye on the goal. You’re designed to win. But you need to realize you’re not designed to get there by yourself. You need someone to help you along.

#9: Walk Behind

“Leaders are often pushed or escorted to the front of the line, metaphorically or physically,” Al says, “and sometimes it’s just okay to let other people walk in front and you walk behind.


First, it gives you a better perspective, he says. When you take a new place in the line, you can see what others see. Your eyes are opened to the experiences of your team.

It also promotes humility. When you release the leadership role, you get to feel what it is like to be in a support position.

Lastly, it allows you some room to breathe. Let someone else bear the burden for a while. It will give your team members insight about the difficulties of leadership. They may even gain a new appreciation for all that you do when you’re there.

#10: Gracious on the Way Up, Gracious on the Way Down

Al invited a successful, seasoned artist to share some insights with a group of aspiring, young artists.

Her mantra was: Gracious on the way up. Gracious on the way down.

What she meant was to be polite and kind to everyone you come in contact with. If you’re in a coliseum, be gracious to the person checking hats and coats. If you’re at a party, spend some time chatting with the person with the tray of hors d’oeuvres.


One reason is because they are just as interesting as you are. There’s something wrong with you if you think otherwise, she warns.

If you’re genuine all the time, you’ll feel confident wherever you land on the ladder of success.

Another reason is if you’re gracious all the time, grace will follow you wherever you go. And you’re going to need it someday.

“There’s going to be a time when you go down,” she pointed out, “because that’s life.”

In the everyday world, small kindnesses happen between people all the time. It’s only as you rise in power that your world becomes hierarchical. If you’re genuine all the time, you’ll feel confident wherever you land on the ladder of success.

Now that you’ve learned these paradigm shifts, you can lead with confidence because you’ve created space for restoration, let people know the real you, and you have some poetry in your pocket.

You can also lead with humility because you’re going to decline some of the perks, share your platform, be willing to walk behind and remember to be gracious wherever you go.

And you’ll avoid a crash because you’ve got someone to send you off and welcome you home, you’ve taken the time to know your story and you’re willing to get help.

At StoryBrand, we don’t want to just grow your business, we want to help you grow as a person and a leader. You impact many lives and if you’re not healthy, it will affect the people you influence. Take time to care for yourself as a leader. If you do, you’ll find that your success will make you rich in more ways than just money.


Do you struggle with mustering up the motivation to market your business?

That’s because marketing is confusing. Worse, after you spend your hard-earned money and valuable time on marketing strategies, you discover that all your efforts didn’t really work.

This leaves you feeling disappointed and defeated.

But that’s all going to end here with a little book called Building a StoryBrand. Finally, you’ll discover the reason why most marketing is a money pit. And you’ll learn how to build your brand. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t have to shout to be heard. Instead, you need to get clear and speak in a language your customer understands — by using story. When you start communicating to your customers in a way that captures their attention, you’ll start building relationships and your business.

If you pre-order today, you’ll also get an audio lecture and a video lesson (a $148 value) by author Donald Miller to inspire you. Pre-order and get these two huge bonuses — free!

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How to Guide Your Tribe: 4 Takeaways from Dave Ramsey’s Success

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One of the first things you learn when you come to a StoryBrand Workshop is that you are not the hero of your company’s story. Your customer is the hero.

That means your role is one of the guide, the “Yoda” who steps in to help the hero, Luke Skywalker, win the day.

But being a Guide to your customers is more than a marketing strategy. It’s a position of the heart.

But being a Guide to your customers is more than a marketing strategy. It’s a position of the heart.

When your brand commits to your customers’ problems and inspires them to overcome those problems, you do more than sell products. You transform lives.

Personal finance expert (and my good friend) Dave Ramsey exemplifies this better than practically anyone. He hosts one of the largest radio shows in the country, with more than 13 million daily listeners. People call in, and he offers financial advice to conquer debt and build wealth.

That radio show turns 25 years old this month, and the team at Ramsey Solutions has released a short but powerful documentary that tells the story of how it came to be.

When I watched it, I was blown away. It’s one of the most inspiring ways you’ll spend half an hour today, and I highly encourage you to watch it.

Why? Although it’s the story of Dave’s radio show, it is so much more than that. It’s a powerful glimpse into what has made Dave such an amazing “Guide” to his listeners for 25 years.

I’m going to unpack four big takeaways for us, so we can all step more fully into the role of Guide and help our customers truly transform.

He makes his listeners the hero

From the opening seconds of the video, you see that this isn’t your typical “origin story.”

It doesn’t start out saying, “25 years ago, we went on air with nothing but a microphone and a dream…”

Instead, you hear the voices of listeners.

That’s how a legendary Guide like Dave tells his story: by telling the stories of those he serves.

Why? Because his listeners are ultimately the hero of the story, not him.

Though Dave’s face is prominent on book covers and billboards, he never positions himself as the hero in his communication. Instead, he is practically obsessed with his listeners’ journeys, counseling, coaching, and emboldening them to take action.

That’s how a legendary Guide like Dave tells his story: by telling the stories of those he serves.

His staff get this, too. “Everybody knows [the show] now,” says Lara Johnson, one of its associate producers. “But it still comes down to the listener. It comes down to them actually doing the day-to-day work, making those good decisions, and then reaching their goals and getting there. They did it. All we did was put it out there.”

Like Dave, position your brand not as the star of the show but as the guiding support your customer needs to conquer their problems and live a better life.

He understands his customers’ problems holistically

On his show, Dave deals with listener problems about credit card debt, Roth IRAs, and sticking to a budget.

But when you really listen to the callers, you see there’s so much more beneath the surface than financial questions. People are feeling overwhelmed and powerless. They’re struggling in their marriages. They’re afraid they’ve failed deeply.

You’re hearing two completely different kinds of problems, and great Guides understand and speak to both of them.

In the StoryBrand framework, we make this distinction by describing the “external problems” customers have (those surface issues — the debt, the budget, the mortgage) versus the “internal problems” (the deeper, more personal fears or frustrations they experience). If you’d like to understand this concept more fully, check out this post.

From the beginning, Dave has been focused on both the external and internal problems of his listeners.

In the documentary, you’ll hear Dave’s former CMO, Bill Hampton, recognize this fact: “It’s the Dave Ramsey Show. It’s about life, love, and relationships — and how they happen to revolve around money.”

A Guide who only focuses on external problems will never have the greatest impact — because the transformation we want for our customers only happens when they resolve those internal problems.

These external and internal problems are woven throughout the documentary as we meet a few of Dave’s listeners: a young couple, a man who was stuck in credit card debt, a widow trying to forge a strong financial future for her kids, an older couple whose marriage had been on the rocks.

All of them succeeded financially — getting debt free, paying off their houses, saving for retirement. In other words, they solved those external problems.

But when you hear them tell their stories, that’s not what they focus on. What you hear from them — and what chokes you up — is how they’ve resolved the internal problems of fear, failure, and powerlessness:

“Having that freedom in our life and marriage is huge.”

“Nobody owns me anymore, except God. It puts you in a whole new level of living.”

“I feel relief. I feel powerful. I did it!”

A Guide who only focuses on external problems will never have the greatest impact — because the transformation we want for our customers only happens when they resolve those internal problems.

He empathizes with their pain

Around the 20-minute-mark in the film, we hear audio of a woman in tears who’s called in for Dave’s help.

WOMAN: “I lost my job and I fell behind on everything.”
DAVE: “Pretty freaking scary, isn’t it?”
WOMAN: “Oh my gosh, you have no idea.”
DAVE: “Yeah, I do. I’ve been there.”

And he has. Early on in his life, he lost everything to debt. As a result, his empathy for his callers is real. If you’ve listened to the show, you’ll hear Dave speak regularly about his own experiences and past failures.

His empathy powers his business. “Our driving force,” Dave says in the film, “is the person on the other end [of the line] — that single mom, that young couple struggling with their marriage, the old couple who’s worried about retirement, this person who’s losing their home, this person who’s about to do something stupid that’s going to cost them the next decade of their life to recover. I’ve been that guy. I don’t want that to happen to you.”

A hero needs somebody else to step into the story and confront those internal fears by telling them they’re different, they’re better, they can do it. That somebody is the Guide, and that’s exactly what Dave does.

His empathy doesn’t just come from his own experience, though. It’s also because he has stayed connected to his listeners over the last 25 years. He talks to them every week.

As business leaders, it’s easy to distance yourself from the day-to-day interactions with your customers, especially as your business grows. But to truly be an empathetic Guide, you’ve got to stay connected to their struggles. It keeps you going and strengthens your motivation.

He features their transformation

Ultimately, though, if Dave only did the three things we’ve discussed, he wouldn’t be nearly as successful as he his — nor would he have changed millions of lives.

Dave has set himself apart because of one major factor: he helps his listeners truly transform.

After executing his plan, listeners are invited on his show to perform what he calls a “Debt Free Scream.” You’ll see it near the end of the documentary. While Dave and his team cheer them on, his listeners stand and yell into the microphone, “I’m debt freeeeeeeee!”

“There’s something visceral that’s happening — something emotional, spiritual that’s happening in these people’s lives,” Dave explains about the debt-free scream. “They’re at a point in their journey, in their story, where they need to celebrate … the fact that they won. And this show has always been about them winning.”

Dave has set himself apart because of one major factor: he helps his listeners truly transform.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that Dave is even speaking in narrative terms here. Once a listener has completed their heroic journey, Dave lets them know they’ve changed. They’re different now.

What Dave has done naturally with the debt-free scream is actually a common scene you’ll find at the end of many stories. It’s a scene in which the Guide comes back to affirm the transformation of the hero.

In Star Wars, after Luke destroys the Death Star, Obi-Wan affirms that he is, indeed, a Jedi. At the end of The King’s Speech, Lionel Logue tells King George that he will be a great ruler.

Scenes like this — and indeed, the debt-free scream — show us how far our hero has come. We see the contrast of where they were — $394,000 in debt — and now, free from it all after a journey of hard work and sacrifice, with Dave’s guidance at every step of the way.

There are hundreds of thousands of financial advisors out there. Many of them offer advice that’s as good as Dave’s. Heck, some of their advice is probably better.

But Dave enjoys a wider popularity. Why?

I’m convinced it’s his mastery of his customer’s heroic journey — and his role as their Guide in it — that has played a huge role in the longevity and success of his radio program.

How can you be a better Guide to your customers and create these kinds of powerful transformations for them? Leave a comment and let me know which of these points resonated most with you.

Your Guide to Being a Better Guide

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8 Magic Phrases That Will Make You Money

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If you’ve ever tried to write sales copy for your product, then you’ve probably felt the intimidation of THE BLANK PAGE.

Worse, when you’ve finally beat the blank page blues, your copy doesn’t deliver the results you wanted. Your words fail to persuade your customers.

That’s why I’m thrilled to sit down with Ray Edwards on the Building a StoryBrand podcast. As the author of How to Write Copy That Sells, Ray’s going to reveal some magic phrases that will help you quickly fill up that blank page and make you money.

Ray is not only a highly successful copywriter. He’s also incredibly talented and experienced in teaching people about copywriting. Because he gives the most practical advice on the planet when it comes to writing copy, we give away his book to every client who comes to a StoryBrand Live Workshop.

After reading this blog post or listening to this podcast, you’ll have a few magic phrases to jumpstart your copy. You’ll no longer be intimidated by the blank page and you’ll find your sales copy is finally doing its job — reaching the people who need your product and making you money.


#1: The If-Then Statement

“If you’ve tried all kinds of diets and exercise programs, bought all the gadgets from TV and none of them worked, then I’ve got something I think you’re going to be really interested in,” Ray quotes.

Sound familiar?

That’s because the If-Then statement is a powerful phrase that communicates directly to your customer. When the words that follow the “if” describe what your customer is experiencing or feeling, it acts as a hook to pull your client into a story loop.

When you follow the “then” with a description of what your product or service offers, you’ve set the hook and your prospects will keep reading to see if you can really deliver the answer to their problem.

Ray usually follows the if-then statement with a “here’s why …” because the next question your customer is usually going to ask is “Why am I interested?” By following this pattern, you’re naturally continuing a conversation that is engaging to your client.

#2: If You Don’t Do Anything … It Gets Worse

Newton’s second law of inertia states:

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.

A StoryBrand corollary goes something like this:

Your customer will remain at rest unless you alert them to the negative consequences of doing nothing.

Ray says people tend to live in a state of denial. They believe that if they continue doing what they’ve always done, somehow a different outcome might happen.

“What I like to do is point out that it’s a flawed strategy,” Ray says.

You need to wake people up with your sales copy.

In the StoryBrand Framework, we talk about letting your customer know what’s at stake. Without stakes, there’s no story and your customer’s interest declines. Because people resist change, it takes an outside force (you) to get people to do something new or different.

The problem will get worse and Ray argues it’s your job to spell out how that’s going to look. You need to wake people up with your sales copy. Shake them from their inertia. Let them know that their situation will worsen if they don’t do anything different.

#3: What Most People Do…

In any business, service or product that you sell, there’s things that most people try to do to solve the problem that don’t work, Ray says.

A good way to highlight this is to use the magic words “What most people do …” and then list how those solutions fail, he points out.

This is a natural, conversational way to set yourself apart from your competition.

You may feel you’re stating the obvious, but you’re actually writing good copy. Remember, people are bombarded with thousands of messages a day.

Your customers are scanning through tons of information to find solutions for their problems. When you clearly write what is probably already going through their heads, your copy will resonate. And your prospect will keep reading.

#4: Imagine…

Imagine that your bottom line increased.

Imagine your amount of work decreasing.

Imagine you’re able to hire the staff you need without having to worry about whether you can make payroll every month.

To be able to command people to make a picture in their head and they obey it, is an amazing power we have.

Ray points out, “You imagined all those things because I told you to.” To be able to command people to make a picture in their head and they obey it, is an amazing power we have.

Why is this power so valuable?

“Because the goal of all advertising and marketing and selling is to get people to do one thing: to picture the successful outcome that your product will bring them,” Ray says.

By using this magic word, you’re helping people envision a successful ending to the narrative you’re inviting them into.

#5: If The Only Thing You Got Is…

The way to use this magic phrase is to figure out three or four valuable things your product delivers and then list them. It’s easier to illustrate the concept by example than explanation.

If the only thing you got from the StoryBrand Workshop was to double the effectiveness of your advertisement, it’d be worth it.

If the only thing you got from the book Building a StoryBrand was the ability to clarify your message so that you could tell people what you do in a way that doesn’t confuse them, it’d be worth it.

If the only thing you got from the StoryBrand Workshop was to make your business more profitable this year than it was last year, it’d be worth it.

Ray usually uses this magic phrase three or four times in the copy. He calls it “stacking the value.”

You finish this sequence off by stating that not only does your product do each of the things previously mentioned, it also does more.

“Now, you’ve just multiplied the value enormously,” Ray points out.

He says that great copy should convey the impression that whatever they’re buying is worth at least 10 times more than what we’re charging for it.

“I want to make the exchange easy to make,” Ray says. So should you.

#6: Don’t Let This Happen To You

It’s easier to sell headache pills than vitamins.

One of Ray’s mentors taught him this to illustrate that if you’re going to sell prevention, you’ve got to make them feel the pain right now.

In the StoryBrand Framework, you learn that as you guide your customer through their story, you should make them aware of the negative consequences of not doing business with you. We call it the failure category.

“I really think it’s important for people to realize that there are some basic emotions that we try to avoid when we’re engaging in any endeavor,” Ray says. “We don’t want to be embarrassed. We don’t want to be humiliated. We don’t want to be ashamed. We don’t want to be less than.”

When you’re talking to your customers, he adds that it’s fair to point out that you don’t want them to feel these emotions either. And if they keep going down the path they’re on, then it’s going to happen.

Enter the magic phrase: Don’t let this happen to you.

“People are already afraid it will,” Ray points out. “They’re just trying to deny it.”

I read a study that said when you’re trying to convince somebody to do something now that doesn’t benefit them now (it benefits them in the future), the brain processes their future self as another human being. For example, when your doctor tells you your blood pressure is a little high and you need to cut the salt, your subconscious tricks you into thinking that person who will have a heart attack is someone else.

It’s really hard to motivate someone to make changes today for a better tomorrow. By using this magic phrase, you’re waking people up to their future. You’re helping them recognize that their future self and present self are one and the same.

A caveat, however, and I explain this more in my book. Another study says that if you go too negative, people go into denial. They check out.

Ray agrees. To avoid crossing this line, he says it’s important to know your customers. By having real conversations with them, and taking the time to understand them, you’ll see when they’re starting to check out and you’ll know when to back off.

#7: What If… ?

This is a way of getting people to picture negative consequences without pushing too hard, Ray explains.

When you ask your customer what will happen if they don’t solve their problem, they fill in the blank in a personal way. They answer that question in their minds with relevant, on-the-nose feedback.

It’s another way of getting your clients to imagine the failure category, but the nice thing about it is it’s less direct, Ray points out. He’ll actually tell his customers to set the sales letter down, go to a journal and write out what will happen if they don’t take care of the problem.

“Let them work on it,” Ray says. “They’ll come up with their own reasons that’ll be much worse than anything you could come up with.”

#8: You’re Standing at the Crossroads

I think this one sounds cheesy.

Ray counters, “I know it sounds cheesy, but it works like crazy.”

I have to remind myself that Ray has consistently gotten great response for his copy. He knows what he’s doing.

Perhaps one of the reasons the “crossroads” analogy works so well is that it is an image people can picture in their minds. Ray takes the analogy further by describing the two different roads they can take. The road to the left is the way you’ve been doing things — it’s rough, rocky, and full of pitfalls. The way to the right is smooth, paved and leads to a sunny valley. Of course, he gets into the specifics of the product when he’s painting these pictures.

By the time he gets to the end of the sales letter and his customer is standing at the crossroads, Ray is making a much larger case.

“Now, you’re not asking them to buy or not buy a product,” he says. “You’re asking them, What kind of person are you? Are you the kind of person who solves this problem or are you the kind of person who doesn’t?”

It’s important to spell out what’s at stake.

If you object to using the word “crossroads”, you can substitute anything you like that makes it clear to your customer that it’s decision time. At the end of a sales letter, you’ve got to bring your prospect to a place where they choose.

At StoryBrand, we say you need to give them something to accept or reject. It’s important to spell out what’s at stake. Let them know what failure and success looks like. I actually find that putting the decision out there, getting it on the table, is really freeing. What you’re recognizing is that people will reject what you offer, and that’s okay! If you don’t give your customers a chance to make a decision, you’re taking away an opportunity for them to solve their problem.

Now that you’ve learned the magic phrases to jumpstart your sales copy, you’ll no longer be stumped by that blank page and you can begin making money with the words you write.

If you’re interested in learning more, Ray and I also have a course called The StoryBrand Marketing Roadmap, which takes you deeper into the ins and outs of writing copy that sells. Not only do we teach you the process of writing great sales copy, we walk you step-by-step through how to create a sales funnel. The how-to of writing sales copy is just a small part of all that you learn in this course.

Our purpose at StoryBrand is to help you succeed in your business. We want to make that happen for you. I hope by learning how to write persuasively, you’ll reach your customers and help them make a decision to change their lives for the better.


Did you know you can get all the secrets to the StoryBrand Framework in one little book?

For less than $20, Building a StoryBrand will revolutionize the way you do marketing. Not only will it help you fix your website, you’ll learn how to talk about your business so your customers will listen.
You’ll also discover the real reason why people buy. And you’ll simplify your brand message so everyone on your team can talk about it in a way that captures prospects’ attention. After learning the StoryBrand Framework, your business will boom and you’ll have a competitive advantage in your field.

If you pre-order today, you’ll also get an audio lecture and a video lesson (a $148 value) by author Donald Miller to inspire you and build your motivation. Pre-order and get these two huge bonuses — free!

*To get your bonuses, purchase the book from any retailer and forward your receipt to


Why Your Brand Should Pick a Fight (and How to Do It)

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What would Batman be without the Joker?

Harry Potter without Voldemort?

Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill without Bill to kill?

In stories, a dastardly villain is a critical character. They’re the force that ultimately catalyzes our hero to take action and overcome the problem.

And as the audience, we love a great villain. They deepen our love for the hero. They amplify the stakes of the story. They draw us in and keep us watching because we want to see our hero take the bad guy down.

Your brand story needs a villain, too.

In other words, you need to pick a fight!

What’s the “villain” your products and services fight against? When you clearly define this enemy for your customers, you invite them to join you in that fight. You position your products and services as tools that equip them to defeat that villain.

Examples of Brands that Have a Clearly Defined Villain

Of course, unlike the movies, the villain in your story usually won’t be an actual person. But you can vilify practically anything: a concept, an inconvenience, or an injustice in the world.

For example, at StoryBrand, our villain is noise. It’s the clutter and confusion in your marketing that keeps your business from growing.

In our marketing, we unpack the devastation noise can cause. We highlight how pervasive it is. We talk about what it takes to defeat it. Ultimately, we want our customers to win the day by using our framework, overcoming noise, and finding clarity in their messaging.

Allstate’s “Mayhem” Campaign

One of my favorite villains in advertising is the Allstate Mayhem guy, played by actor Dean Winters.

He personifies all the forces of mayhem in the world that your insurance should protect you against: bad drivers, that creaky tree by your house, and even dryer lint.

In these commercials, he acts out each force, cackling as he causes car accidents and wrecks homes. It captures our imaginations and reminds us (in a funny, non-threatening way) of how easily accidents can happen.

And the closing copy ties it all together and shows you how to defeat the villain: “Mayhem is everywhere, so get an Allstate agent.”


Like Allstate, Mucinex personifies their villain. Their villain is the common cold, and they bring it to life with a talking mucus blob. (Can I just pause and say how gross it is to even type that out?)

As you pinpoint your villain, make sure your customers will recognize and identify with the havoc it wreaks.

They do a great job of making the villain relatable. We’ve all been in a situation where a bad cold has taken us away from an important event, like a kid’s birthday party. As you pinpoint your villain, make sure your customers will recognize and identify with the havoc it wreaks.

This commercial is a rallying cry to fight the villain, and they actually show the villain being defeated. The bottle of medicine literally squashes the mucus blob as the copy rallies us to join the fight: “Start the Relief. Ditch the Misery. Let’s End This.”


Outdoor gear company REI turned holiday consumerism into a villain with a campaign called “Opt Outside.”

It seems like every year, the holiday season gets more commercialized. Themes of thankfulness and goodwill get increasingly lost in all the Black Friday deals and holiday shopping hustle.

So on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, REI closed their retail stores and encouraged people to head outside for an adventure instead of hitting the post-Thanksgiving sales.

In an article for AdWeek about the success of the campaign, the team who developed the idea strategically timed it to coincide with Black Friday. For the campaign to succeed, it needed the “villain” of consumerism in the Black Friday narrative to position itself against.

By naming a villain, REI found that millions of people wanted to be a part of rallying against it.

And what surprised them most was how the public responded. Customers took up the fight themselves, claiming their adventures with the #OptOutside hashtag. They made REI’s mission their own. By naming a villain, REI found that millions of people wanted to be a part of rallying against it.

Today the hashtag is thriving long after the campaign, with over 5.3 million posts on Instagram alone. And the goodwill and brand affinity customers feel for REI now makes them all the more likely to do business there the other 364 days of the year.

Southwest Airlines “Transfarency”

Southwest Airlines’ entire pricing model is built around the villain of competitors’ fees.

While other low-cost airlines nickel-and-dime you for seat choices, checked bags, and even water, Southwest doesn’t. In fact, they even built out a campaign around it and made up a punny word for their no-hidden-fees pricing strategy: “transfarency.”

They go after this villain in their marketing all the time. Check out this clear and compelling one-two punch against competitors’ fees:

Like Southwest does here, make your villain specific. For example, clients will often start by saying that “frustration” is a villain. It’s not. Frustration is what a villain makes us feel. Yes, we feel frustration when we get nickel and dimed by an airline. But this campaign doesn’t vilify frustration. It goes straight to the root source: competitors’ fees.

Is there a villain in your customer’s story? Is there a force your brand rallies against? Don’t be afraid to define and discuss that villain. You’ll find your customers are more than ready to join you on your fight against it — and they’ll do business with you as a result.

“The Best Six Months of My Life”.

Chris B. became a StoryBrand Guide six months ago and has found so much more than just a marketing career that he loves. He found strength he didn’t know he had. Listen to the podcast to hear his full story. And if you think you need a big change, too, try our Guide Program.


How to Launch a Side Hustle That Will Make You a Profit in a Month

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Ever thought about starting a business of your own?

Not everyone is ready to risk a secure job to launch a new enterprise. Some people really like their day job. And for many, a regular paycheck is a blessing.

That’s why I’m honored to have Chris Guillebeau joining us on the Building a StoryBrand podcast. He’s the author of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days and he’s going to show us how to quickly and easily create an additional stream of income without giving up the security of a full-time job.

Starting a side hustle can reward you in many ways. Not only will you earn extra money, you can add variety to your life, create a fun outlet or connect with a new community. And all this without risking a life-changing decision to leave your day-job.

Whatever your reason for starting a side hustle, listen to this podcast to learn the simple process it takes to make it happen. Chris blazes a clear path to help you earn extra income fast.


What is a Side Hustle?

A side hustle is different than a part-time job. It usually means pursuing a hobby, doing something fulfilling, or challenging yourself, rather than driving for Uber or waiting tables at night for extra cash.

Though we might pursue our passion simply because it’s enjoyable, Chris points out that it’d be even better if your hobby actually made money. For example, Chris told me a story about a managerial accountant in Dubai who makes $1,000 a month producing poetry slams.

“It’s a totally different creativity process. He’s not going to quit his job as a managerial accountant because he likes it,” Chris says. “But he likes poetry, and he’s found a way to teach the specific workshop format that he does.”

The reasons for why you’re starting a side-hustle might be different, but the goal is the same: earn extra money on your own terms. You want to start something new without the pressure of trying to bank your whole living on it.

Week 1: Build an Arsenal of Ideas

You might be thinking, I don’t have a good entrepreneurial idea yet. I don’t even know if I would recognize one if I saw it.

Don’t worry. Chris addresses this problem in the first week by teaching you all about ideas, where they come from and how to spot them when they show up.

The goal of the first week is to be observant. As you go about your week, notice problems people are struggling with that you might be able to solve.

Don’t limit where your mind wanders. Draw ideas from:

  • • Culture
  • • Your personal life
  • • Your background
  • • The different skills you have

Chris says the question you should be asking is, “Is there anything I can create that might be valuable to someone?”

While you are gathering ideas, the secondary goal is to pay attention to where ideas come from — which happens to be everywhere. For some inspiring proof, check out how these entrepreneurs came up with their great ideas.

Chris recommends choosing about three to six good ideas that could potentially work. They don’t have to be in the same vein — one could be a service, one might be a product, and another may be to start a blog or a consulting service.

Week 2: Select Your Best Idea

What is the process for choosing the right idea for your side hustle? Fortunately, Chris’ plan provides a full week to make your selection. But should you pick the one that’s going to make the most money? Or one that ignites your passion?

The answer isn’t straightforward.

“It’s a pretty intuitive process,” Chris says.

He suggests ranking your ideas according to a few different criteria. For instance, one way to measure would be how much the idea motivates you. Since you’ll expend your energy and effort outside of your workday on your side hustle, it’s pretty important to be excited about it. Another way to gauge your ideas is by profit potential or how feasible it is.

What you want to avoid is feeling so pressured and overwhelmed that you don’t make a decision.

As you rank them, hopefully, a key theme will emerge. But if one doesn’t, don’t fret. What you want to avoid is feeling so pressured and overwhelmed that you don’t make a decision.

“I think it’s important to remind people that when you make this decision, you’re not making a decision for the rest of your life,” Chris says.
If you do this whole exercise and you still have three ideas that are ranked exactly the same, then pick one randomly.

“The worse thing that could happen is you get tired of it and you go back to one of the others,” Chris points out. That’s the beauty of a side hustle. It’s forgiving.

Week 3: Prepare for Liftoff

After 21 days, it’s time to launch.

“When you prepare for liftoff,” Chris says, “you’re going to do everything needed to get that project out to the world.”

This can be overwhelming because there are so many different resources online, Chris says. It’s important to really simplify what you need so you can succeed.

One of the best ways to clear your path to lift-off is to define your offer — identify your deliverables.

“People don’t buy ideas,” he says. “They buy a product. They buy a service.”

After you define your offer, you can work backward to figure out what you need to do. Remember Chase Reeve’s advice on how to reverse engineer your goals.

Week 4: Launch Your Idea to the Right People

In the final week, it’s time to launch your idea, but Chris adds a caveat — to the right people.

Who are the right people?

The answer is your ideal customer. The nice thing about a side hustle is you don’t have to mess with complicated business strategies like a target market or customer research.

The nice thing about a side hustle is you don’t have to mess with complicated business strategies like a target market or customer research.

Instead, Chris says you can ask, “Who’s that one person out there with the pain point or problem I’m trying to solve? What are their goals? What are their aspirations?” At StoryBrand, we teach you how to identify the problem your customer is having. By understanding your customer’s problem, you can speak to them in a way that’s meaningful to them.

“I’m trying to encourage people to get this process going pretty quickly,” Chris says, so it’s important to keep it simple.

When you think of how to speak clearly to just one customer, it will speed things along and clarify your marketing strategy. For more advice on how to launch a product, listen to Jeff Walker share the Secrets of a Successful Product Launch to make your side hustle a big hit.

Week 5: Regroup and Refine

I think it’s important to remind anyone who is getting ready to start a business that, first, it’s a blast.
Second, it’s okay to fail.

Chris points out, “You’re just not going to get it right the first time.”

Starting something up is always a messy process. Unfortunately, a lot of people will try something and, if it doesn’t work, they stop. Instead, keep moving forward.

Chris agrees. That’s why he’s already built in a time for regrouping and refining your product. This time of review is invaluable. Many times, we’ve launched something at StoryBrand and weren’t happy with the results. So, we sat down and refined it and our initial revenue would double, triple, and quadruple.

Instead of placing huge expectations on your side hustle— either of it being a huge success or a colossal failure— recognize that your initial liftoff will probably land in the middle of those two extremes.

Instead of placing huge expectations on your side hustle— either of it being a huge success or a colossal failure— recognize that your initial liftoff will probably land in the middle of those two extremes. Your idea will work, but not quite like what you expected.

The beauty of the side hustle is that even if you don’t see that big success, you have the freedom to scrap the idea altogether and go back to that initial list. You have the freedom to start the process all over again.

If you’re looking for a challenge and wanting to earn some extra cash, starting a side hustle just might fit the bill. It can be extremely rewarding and meet your needs in ways your day-job can’t— without the risk.

Whatever your reason for starting a sideline, don’t get bogged down with expectations or details. Follow this simple process and see what happens. At the end of this month, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and about that special idea that just might be the key to earning more money in a fun and interesting way.

Tired of falling for marketing schemes that don’t work? Get all the results you’ve been searching for in one little book, Building a StoryBrand. Donald Miller teaches you how to clarify your message so your customers understand you. You’ll learn how to talk about your business in a way that captures your audience and you’ll get to the bottom of why your website (and other marketing collateral) isn’t working.

If you pre-order now, you’ll also get two huge bonuses — (a $148 value) for free!

*To get your bonuses, purchase the book from any retailer in any format and forward your receipt to


How to Network at a Conference Without Being Annoying

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Fall is here, and that means three things: scarves, pumpkin-spiced everything, and going to conferences.

If you’re like most business leaders, you’ve already got plans to attend at least one conference in your industry in the next few months. You love the inspiration, the new trends, the practical advice, and all that swag.

But in my experience, the most valuable thing I get at conferences isn’t any of that. It’s the relationships. Some of our most enduring and fruitful partnerships started with a random “hello” at a conference mixer.

Of course, we’ve all had to endure Super Annoying Business Card Guy who sleazes his way around the mixer promoting himself and making bad jokes. You don’t want to be that dude.

So here are five strategies to help you improve your networking in a way that’s natural and authentic — and maximize the relational potential at any conference you attend this fall.

Nail your one-liner

Small talk at conferences almost always begins with the question, “So, what do you do?”

Make sure you’ve got a dialed-in answer by developing a one-liner.

We’ve talked before on the blog about the power of a well crafted one-liner, but in case you missed it, the idea is simple.

A one-liner conveys what you do in a compelling way that gets people interested in how you can help them.

You start by defining a problem your customers have. Then, you show how your product solves that problem. Finally, you explain how life gets better as a result.

Here’s an example:

Guy at mixer: So, what do you do?

You: You know how hard it is to make a healthy dinner every weeknight with all the stuff your kids have going on? Well, our company delivers homemade frozen dinners that are actually affordable, so parents can relax and enjoy time with their families at night.

Why does this structure work so well?

It’s essentially a mini-story. There’s a problem to be overcome, a plan to overcome it, and a happy ending. This story-driven sentence instantly captures people’s attention, because our brains are hardwired to tune in to stories.

And at a conference setting, that’s a massive advantage. You could have just said, “I own a meal delivery service,” but then you’d bore your new friend.

With a one-liner, this guy becomes a potential new customer the moment he identifies with the problem you stated: “Yeah, dinner is always crazy for us, especially during soccer season.”

Developing a one-liner is one of the best things you can do to prepare for a conference — and for your business in general.

Ask questions

Before we go much further, I should say that none of these tips will help you if you don’t approach networking with a genuine desire to connect with people.

None of these tips will help you if you don’t approach networking with a genuine desire to connect with people.

We can smell a phony a mile away, and pure self-promotion will always backfire on you. As John Maxwell said, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

So make sure you’re stepping into every mixer and cocktail hour with a relational posture.

One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to ask questions. Like in any relationship, asking questions builds rapport by showing our genuine interest in another person.

Go beyond the typical “How are you?” or “Where are you from? questions. They’re conversational dead ends.

Instead, ask questions that solicit stories. You’ll get more interesting answers and have a memorable conversation. For example, you might ask:

Ask questions that solicit stories. You’ll get more interesting answers and have a memorable conversation.

  • • What was the most interesting thing you learned in that last session?
  • • What’s the most exciting thing happening at your company right now?
  • • How did you end up in your line of work?
  • • What are you looking forward to this week?
  • • What surprises people most about where you’re from?

Above all, listen to the answers people give. When someone else is talking, we’re often preoccupied with how we’re going to respond or how to steer the conversation. By being present, you’ll end up forming a more genuine connection.

Give something away

As humans, we have a natural tendency to give something back whenever we receive a gift.

Psychologists call this the Principle of Reciprocity, and it’s a basic aspect of human relationships.

They theorize it happens because we don’t want to feel indebted to another person. So by returning a favor of some kind, we’ve “balanced the scales” in the relationship.

It also quickly creates a mutual trust between people, which is why it’s a helpful tactic to use when you’re at a conference.

Think of a small gift you can easily offer people you meet and connect with. It could be as simple as gum or mints. Or it might be related to your business — a free sample or free trial. It could even be a compliment, so long as it’s genuine.

Whatever you offer, do it without the expectation that the other person will offer something in return. That spirit of generosity is key to making sure your offer comes across as genuine helpfulness instead of salesmanship.

Take care of yourself

Effective networking requires you to show a genuine care for others. And that is hard to do if you don’t take care of yourself.

Effective networking requires you to show a genuine care for others. And that is hard to do if you don’t take care of yourself.

After travel, sleep disruptions, and long hours, conference life can catch up to you quickly.

Plus, if you’re naturally introverted, you’ll find yourself depleted simply from the constant interaction with others.

Make sure you prioritize self-care. Drink lots of water. Pack healthy snacks. Pay the extra bucks to get your own hotel room instead of sharing with a colleague. Pick and choose your late-night festivities so you don’t miss out on too much sleep.

And if you need to recharge, do it, even if it means skipping a session or two. What you gain in energy will more than make up for whatever you missed out on in the content.

Follow up intentionally afterward

You’ll likely have over a hundred interactions over the course of your conference. But a few conversations will stand out, either because of the business potential or simply the personal chemistry.

Those are the relationships to focus on after the conference is over. It’s easier than ever to follow people on social media and build relationships there. Follow your new friends and interact with their posts, especially in the weeks afterward.

But don’t forget about email. It’s personal and direct, and you’ll have the space to express yourself. Send a thank-you note after the conference, perhaps with a link to an article you referenced in a conversation. Or send a free copy of your lead generating PDF (if you have one), and personalize the email with a quick note about why it will help them.

Business is ultimately all about relationships, and conferences are no exception. The content will be great. You’ll have a lot of fun. But none of it matters more than the people you meet. They have the greatest and most enduring potential to grow your business — and I hope these tips help you tap into those possibilities.

Come to a StoryBrand Workshop This Fall!

Sit with other business leaders like you as we work together to clarify your message. You’ll walk away with a plan to create marketing that actually works.


The 3 Most Important Hires You Need to Make to Grow Your Business

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If you had a chance to sit down with a world-renowned businessman, what would you ask?

As an entrepreneur, you’d likely want him to go back to the point where you are and find out what crucial decisions he made to help his business go big.

Blake Mycoskie, Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, is one of the top young businessmen in the world and perhaps the most visionary entrepreneur in forming social-minded businesses and consumers.

On the podcast this week, I sit down with Blake to talk about his entrepreneurial journey. Blake shares a fascinating story of how he became a fashion mogul by giving shoes away through his One for One model, and he gives some powerful advice regarding you as an entrepreneur.

During the interview, I hone in on the three critical hires he made to scale up his business during the embryonic stage of TOMS.


#1: A Detail-Oriented Operations Manager

If your business is growing, you’ve probably wished there was more of you to go around. Success has its difficulties and there comes a time when you should no longer be alone as an entrepreneur.

If your business is growing, you’ve probably wished there was more of you to go around.

“I think that, at first, you just need a body to help you,” Blake says.

The first critical hire Blake made was someone to help him run all the operations for TOMS. This person played a major role in propelling the business forward. Beware, though, of cloning yourself or finding a “mini-me”. Blake found someone he could work well with, but also had strengths in areas where he needed the most help — like having a background in operations and being detail-oriented. Together, they formed a balanced team and worked out many of the logistics needed to help TOMS run smoothly.

Most entrepreneurs are visionaries like Blake who need support in operations. If you feel this description fits you, this list is a good start in what type of person you should be looking for.

The person you hire should:

  • • Have a Clear Understanding of the Company’s Vision
  • When you’re starting something new, it takes a lot of momentum to bring your ideas to fruition. Make sure the person you hire is bought in and fully participating in the overall vision. If they are, they will make decisions that are in harmony with the culture and mission of the company. For ideas on how to communicate your vision to this new hire and the rest of your staff, listen to this interview with Ken Blanchard.

  • • Have a Deep Knowledge of Your Customer
  • At TOMS, customers are doing more than just buying shoes. They are also helping a child in need get a pair of shoes. They are making the world a better place. This is meeting a philosophical need in their customer. At StoryBrand workshops, we teach you to speak to your customer’s needs at multiple levels. In your business, hire someone who understands your customer and knows how to address their needs.

  • • Deal Effectively With Your Staff
  • Whoever you hire will be responsible for your company’s most critical asset — your people. They should have excellent communication skills and create a positive learning environment. Not only should they have a clear understanding of the company’s vision, they should be able to communicate it to your staff in a way that rallies everyone around your company’s goals. Your organization won’t grow unless your people are motivated.

  • • Contribute to Your Organization’s Financial Performance
  • Remember, Blake hired someone who was detail-oriented. The person you hire should know the nerdy side of your business — like how to prepare sales projections and expense budgets, and analyze profit and loss statements and balance sheets. You need someone to take care of the details that drain you from what you should be doing — leading.

Be thoughtful about the person you hire. Assess your own abilities and make sure your operations manager will work well with your style and bring balance to who you are — the visionary leader. Your decision will simplify your days and contribute directly to your organization’s success.

2: A Talented Salesperson

After you’ve found someone to help run your business, the next thing you should do is search for someone to help grow your business.

“That’s sales,” Blake explains.

Even if you’re good at sales, believing you’re the one who should be doing the selling is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader.

The second really important hire Blake made was a fantastic salesperson. Though Blake felt he was doing well at selling the vision of TOMS, when it came to selling the product, he needed to hand the position off to a legitimate salesperson. Even if you’re good at sales, believing you’re the one who should be doing the selling is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader.

A few weeks ago, we learned from Anthony Iannarino what it takes to be great at sales. According to him, the salesperson you hire should have these qualities:

  • • Be Self-Disciplined
  • Sales is about having the self-discipline to follow a set of rituals day-in-and-day-out. Routines such as prospecting, following up on opportunities, and booking face-to-face appointments will deliver results. Make sure your hire has already established rituals that provide a proven, successful history in sales.

  • • Be Caring
  • The best salespeople are others-oriented. They’re interested in finding out how to help their customers. They seek to gain trust from their prospective clients and build lasting relationships.

  • • Be Resourceful
  • Great salespeople find innovative answers to your customer’s needs. They also discover ingenious ways to gain the attention of prospective clients.

  • • Have Business Acumen
  • As TOMS began to grow, Blake realized that he not only lacked the passion for sales, he lacked the skillset. He needed someone with more industry knowledge to make the business grow. He sought to find a salesperson who had experience in selling footwear and who knew how to handle big sales accounts. Find a salesperson who has industry knowledge and can take your product to the most important clients in your field.

Your sales hire will become the engine of your business. If you bring a fantastic salesperson to your team, your business will grow in leaps and bounds.

# 3: A Gifted Head of Production

What happens if your salesperson secured some big accounts but you don’t have enough product to meet the demand? Not only would it be a bit embarrassing, it might cause you to lose some business (and trust).

Blake says the third person you should hire is someone who makes sure that you deliver what you sell. At TOMS, it’s the head of production who fills that position.

A head of production will need to have many skills. Some of them include:

  • • Understanding the processes to transform raw materials into a product, whether you’re producing a good or a service.
  • • Controlling all the resources to produce a company’s goods and services.
  • • Communicating with marketing about capabilities and limitations so salespeople aren’t making promises they can’t deliver.
  • • Coordinating your processes so that the entire chain operates seamlessly.

This position runs the core function of your company. Without it, there are no products to sell. If you want to save time, avoid hassles, and reduce cost and effort, hire someone who understands the process of production and communicates well with your various teams.

Scaling up your business isn’t easy. Growth is always accompanied by growing pains. But if you take the time to make these three important hires, you’ll simplify your business processes, you’ll reduce your stress level, and your business will grow.

Blake Mycoskie is such an inspirational business leader. I learned so much from this interview. When you listen to how he’s built his business, you’ll feel motivated to grow your own company and perhaps find unique ways to help others too.

FREE VIDEO SERIES: 5 Minute Marketing Makeover

One of the best ways to scale up your business is to clarify your message so your customers can hear you. We at StoryBrand know how busy you are, so we’ve developed a few free marketing videos that will only take 5 minutes of your time. Donald Miller first explains why customers aren’t buying. Then, he teaches you 5 ways to sharpen your sales message. Finally, he walks you through a website that works so you understand how to better your own website. Click here to stop losing money because your message isn’t clear. Discover why your website isn’t creating sales. Tune in for 3 vital lessons that will help you stand out from the competition and grow your business.

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