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3 of the Worst Ways Small Businesses Waste Money on Marketing

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For years, I threw tons of money at marketing that never really worked.

In one of my previous businesses, we redesigned our website, cranked out brochures, and went to tradeshows — always hoping that whatever we tried next would FINALLY be the “magic” strategy that actually drove registrations.

Spoiler alert: none of it ever worked — even though we had a great product.

We had fallen into the marketing money pit — spending too much money on great-looking marketing materials that just didn’t work.

Does that sound familiar?

If you’re like most small businesses, you can relate. We interact with about 3000 clients every year at StoryBrand. Time after time, we’ve heard clients tell us about their expensive rebranding campaign. We wince and tell them as gently as possible that it was all a waste of money.

I’m so tired of seeing business leaders waste money on marketing. It tends to happen in one of three ways. I want show you what they are PLUS how to avoid them so your precious marketing resources go toward strategies that will actually grow your business.

Redesigning a website without clarifying their message first

We all know how it goes.

You say to yourself, “I need a new website.”

You shop around and finally find someone to help you create it. They design and build out the site, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. This is your baby, and you are the proudest parent ever.

But once it launches, nothing happens. Sales don’t increase. New customers don’t come in the door. You’ve got this beautiful new website, but nobody’s paying attention to it.

The problem? Graphic artists get degrees in design. They master tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. They’re incredibly talented and they know how to make something beautiful.

But very few of them ever study sales copy. They don’t write words that sell things.

People buy your products based on the words they hear and read.

People buy your products based on the words they hear and read. And yes, the design can make those words more noticeable and readable. But ultimately, it’s the words that motivate us to take action.

When you go to a graphic designer or agency to create a website, and they aren’t trained on how to write the correct words that’ll sell that product, you’re losing money. Websites can’t get by on their good looks alone.

Are you relying on design experts to write the words on your website? If so, you’re probably using the wrong words and it’s costing you money.

Before you redesign your website, check out our field guide to every step of the process — and don’t assume that a beautiful site is an effective one.

Sponsoring a trade show booth without a solid one-liner

Are trade shows a part of your marketing strategy?

Exhibiting at a trade show helps you connect face-to-face with qualified potential customers and can dramatically increase your brand’s influence.

If you’re a typical company, you’ve allocated a whopping 31.6% of your overall marketing budget to trade shows.

If you’re a typical company, you’ve allocated a whopping 31.6% of your overall marketing budget to trade shows (according to this research). And you’ve dropped some serious coin on your displays, materials, and travel costs.

And it all looks great. Heck, you’ve even got the on-trend succulents and modern furniture.

But what words are your team members saying when prospects visit your booth? How are they conveying what your company does and the problems you solve?

If you don’t know, you’re wasting all that investment. Because your eye-popping booth may attract attention, but it’s ultimately the words you use inside the booth that will earn you more business.

You need a one-liner: a well-crafted sentence that you can say that gets people to buy your product.

First, this sentence describes the problem your typical customer has. Then it describes how your product or service solves that problem. And finally it describes a resolution, how the customer’s life is better as a result of using the product.

Once you have a one-liner, make sure any employee who staffs your booth knows it cold. When you use that formula to say what you do, those prospective customers will listen and remember it. And you’ll actually get a great return on your trade show investment instead of throwing away your marketing dollars.

Developing an email newsletter that no one reads

If you’re asking customers to sign up for your email newsletter, you’re wasting money.

Here’s why.

Nobody wants to sign up for your email newsletter!

Nobody wants to sign up for your email newsletter!

Honestly, how many newsletters do you sign up for in a given month? In a year? And of the ones you get, which ones do you actually read, much less click on?

Let’s say somebody does sign up for your newsletter. That means, every week or every month, you’ve got to send one.

You’ve got to write or collect the content, track down images, design, format, and test it all, and send it. Or you’ve got to ask one of your employees to spend their precious time doing it — instead of the other important tasks on their list.

In either case, what does all that effort really do to drive business?

It’s time to go beyond the newsletter. There are far better email strategies out there that can:

Generate more email signups than a simple “newsletter” offer ever could
Develop stronger, more trusting relationships with customers
Strengthen your authority as a leader in your industry
Drive sales straight from the emails you send

One of those strategies is simply to offer a free piece of “lead generating” content your subscribers get when they sign up for your emails. Here’s how to grow your email list with a lead generator. Implementing this strategy — plus a series of smart follow-up emails — will probably take the same amount of staff time as a newsletter, but it will deliver a far stronger return on that investment.

Too many companies waste enormous amounts of money on marketing. I don’t want that to happen to you. If you’re doing anything on this list, I want you to stop. I also want you to check out this free video series. In it, I go into a lot more detail about what to do instead so you can avoid the marketing money pit and start creating marketing that actually grows your business.

FREE VIDEOS: How to Avoid the Marketing Money Pit

Stop throwing away your marketing dollars. I grew my business from $350K to 3.6 million in three years — without spending a dollar on marketing. I show you how you can do the same in this free video series.


4 Steps That Will Make You a Successful Entrepreneur

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Do you feel like your job isn’t what you should be doing? Perhaps you have a side hustle that you wish could be your main hustle? Or you have an entrepreneurial itch that just won’t go away?

If so, you’d probably like some help in making your business dreams a reality. Someone who can guide you through the journey from beginning to end.

That’s why I’m happy to have Chase Reeves joining us on the Building a StoryBrand podcast. He’s the founder of Fizzle and their mission is to help you earn a living independently doing something you care about. He’s going to outline four steps to start you down the right path.

First, Chase will guide you in what to choose. You need to find something that lights you up so you have the motivation to get through the entrepreneurial journey.

Then, he’ll show you how to bring your business ideas to life by reverse engineering your goals and setting daily intentions.

Finally, he’ll help you stay on course by remembering why you started this journey in the first place.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll discover there’s wonderful wisdom in them. They will spark your business dreams to life and make your entrepreneurial journey a success.


#1: Find Out What Lights You Up

Before you jump at the next great business opportunity, define what success means to you. Chase says this is a very personal decision.

Usually people equate “success” with wealth and respect. But there are many people, Chase included, who have achieved that without feeling successful. (See entrepreneur Chalene Johnson’s advice on this here – it’s at the 12 minute mark.)

When figuring out which direction you should go, he warns, “Don’t feel pressured to deliver somebody else’s idea of success.”

Choose something you care about. Chase uses religious terms from his pastoral training — it’s important to find your “calling,” or vocation. To do that, you have to look deep inside your heart.

“When your vision flows from what’s inside of you, and you know what you want on a deep down level, everything changes,” he says.

To find clarity about your vision takes time, though. Chase points out that it’s pretty rare for people to wake up in the morning and know what they’re going to do. When he was figuring out his own direction, he initially headed down the wrong path. He thought he wanted to be a stand-up comedian.

Though he loved being in front of people and saying funny things, there were aspects about stand-up comedy he didn’t like — like leaving his family in the evenings or standing in line to get on stage.

If it’s just about money, you’ll end up empty even if your bank account is full.

Instead, he co-founded Fizzle to help people start their own businesses. He challenges audiences through his online courses and makes them laugh with his YouTube videos — and he gets to go home in the evenings to be with his family.

The entrepreneurial journey is going to have trials and tribulations. You’ll need a lot of steam to gain momentum. The key to making it through the difficulties is having your whole heart involved.

“If you can’t feel it now,” Chase says, “You won’t feel it later.”

Make sure the entrepreneurial path you’ve chosen has purpose and meaning to you. Find something that lights you up. If it’s just about money, you’ll end up empty even if your bank account is full.

#2: Set Goals and Reverse Engineer Them

Once you figure out what lights you up, set goals and reverse engineer them to make them happen. At StoryBrand, we teach you to give your customer a plan. Without a plan, customers are more likely to give up and miss their chance at transformation. When you’re motivating yourself, you should give yourself a plan to pave the way to accomplish your goals.

First, picture attaining the goal because there are no results until that happens. In writing, you start with the climactic scene in mind. At StoryBrand, we call it “putting the ball in the end zone.”

Next, Chase says, “Work backwards from the final product.” For example, he makes YouTube videos where he reviews bags. Reverse engineering the process would look something like this:

  • Publish the video and send out a tweet about it.
  • Before that,

  • Edit the video.
  • Before that,

  • Make a custom music track.
  • Before that,

  • Record the video.
  • Before that,

  • Set up the lighting and audio.
  • And before that,

  • Pick a bag

He’s all the way back to the beginning.

Often, lack of motivation is actually a lack of clarity.

Chase has done a favor for his brain. He’s paved a path through a confusing field. He says he uses this process for each of the YouTube videos and for many of the projects he’s involved with at Fizzle.

Often, lack of motivation is actually a lack of clarity. Your heart wants you to do something but your brain doesn’t know how to make it happen. The clearer you get, the more motivated you’ll be.

# 3: Set Daily Intentions

In writing, if you don’t put something on the plot, the story doesn’t move forward. Similarly, you need to keep your business moving forward by setting daily intentions. Rather than just making a big to-do list, though, Chase suggests taking some time in the morning to journal to create a positive mindset.

He says, “The important thing is to find all the ‘shoulds’ out there and change them over to ‘I get to’s …’”

Chase’s journal process looks something like this:

  1. He lists what he’s grateful for.
  2. He reminds himself of his vision.
  3. He contemplates on a few affirmations.
  4. Finally, he writes down his intentions.

This process motivates him in a powerful way.

“When I get my heart and my frequency vibrating with the gratitude and the affirmation stuff,” Chase says, “then I look at all the things that I said I wanted to do, and I see the reverse list of all those things.”

At StoryBrand, we’ve designed a tool to help you be productive each day called the StoryBrand Productivity Schedule. It also has a process for creating a positive mindset and clarifying what you need to do. I fill out this one-page worksheet at the beginning of every working day and it channels my productivity.

Another way to keep your business moving forward is to focus on accomplishing one big thing and doing that thing first. I call it “earning my keep”. If I get in the writing shed by 7 am, even if I write for an hour, I walk out knowing that anything else I accomplish will just be extra because I got the main thing done right away.

Chase agrees. He adds to this idea with some research on the most important, common productivity advice that’s ever been given:

The day before you leave the office, write down the two things you have to do the next day.

Essentially, you’re “passing the baton” to yourself. You’re also framing your thoughts to start problem-solving for the next day while you sleep. Many literary, music and scientific breakthroughs have come from the dreams of their creators.

One of my favorite quotes to help me prepare for writing is:

If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.
— Norman Mailer

Sometimes, you need to accomplish things as a team. With more moving parts, this can be challenging. At Fizzle, they use an online software, Trello, to help their team execute things collaboratively. Chase likes it because it’s graphical; it arranges things in columns that cover ideas they want to do right now, future projects to do within the quarter, and what they’ve already accomplished.

If you’re going to run your own business, you need a daily process to accomplish things that drive your business forward.

Focusing on the goals they’ve reached as a team is an important part of the Fizzle team’s process. They analyze what they learned and decide whether they should do it again. Sometimes, as visionary creative leaders, we act like we’re in a contest to get things done. It’s important to reflect on, even celebrate, what you’ve attained as a team.

If you’re going to run your own business, you need a daily process to accomplish things that drive your business forward. Get your process down and make it a ritual. As the leader, you’ve got to execute or there’s no points won.

Step 4: Retain the Why

When you’re your own boss, it’s easy to get stuck in the visionary stage. It’s tempting to just talk about things or brainstorm new ideas. You can forget why you are in the business and get lost doing tasks that don’t really move you toward your goal.

At StoryBrand workshops, you learn that your goal is to help your customers transform. Chase keeps this goal in mind in a really interesting way. Each week, he researches someone whose life is being changed by Fizzle.

“I want to hear from them, because they’re the experts,” Chase says. “They’re the ones that are living the story.”

Then, he brings this story back to the team as a way of stoking the fire. Hearing stories of transformation drives Chase and his team to focus on helping their customers.

Take time to reflect on why you became an entrepreneur and remind yourself how you are changing people’s lives.

“When I know who my customer is and I know the usefulness of my tool to my customer, I get motivated to do things,” Chase says.

Take time to reflect on why you became an entrepreneur and remind yourself how you are changing people’s lives. Doing this regularly will keep you and your business moving in the direction you intended.

Starting a business isn’t a sprint. It’s a long-haul. To stay motivated, connect to why you’re running this race. Listen to your customers’ stories of transformation and you’ll find the will to keep pushing forward.

Starting a businesses is more than just making money. It’s about self-discovery, self-actualization, even self-transcendence. When you work at something you care about, you’ll not only transform your own life, you’ll transform others too. If you tap into the deep wells of finding what lights you up, reverse engineering your goals, setting daily motivations, and remembering why you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll have the necessary steam to keep your business moving forward. So be encouraged and keep taking these steps. You’ll see your business, yourself, and your customers grow.

FREE VIDEO SERIES: Avoid the Marketing Money Pit!

Are you tired of throwing away money at marketing strategies that don’t work? At StoryBrand, we’ve developed a hassle-free marketing plan that works — and it’s free! Donald Miller walks you through why your marketing isn’t working. Then, he teaches you how to sell products through automated email using a simple, six-step plan that will take any business to the next level. Click here to stop throwing money away and start bringing revenue to your business.


7 Fascinating Quotations That Will Inspire You To Be A Stronger Communicator

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Your business has an enemy. It’s fierce, and if it’s not combated, it will make a mess of your company.

That enemy is noise.

What we often call “communication” or “marketing” in our companies is really just noisy clutter and confusion sprayed all over our websites, emails, and commercials.

And what do customers do when we blast a bunch of noise at them? They tune us out.

To combat noise, we need to be pros at how we communicate. We need to organize our information in a way that compels people to listen and pay attention.

But what does great communication really look like?

Fortunately, great minds have been noodling on this question for centuries. So I’ve compiled some of the best wisdom out there. These quotations can help you pinpoint where you’re creating noise so you can make stronger connections with your customers.

1. Relationships are at the heart of great communication.

The key to high-quality communication is trust, and it’s hard to trust somebody that you don’t know. –Ben Horowitz

Marketing communication, like all interpersonal communication, starts with a heart check. Who’s the person you want to establish or deepen your connection with? Why is it important? What’s at stake? Why does what you want to say matter to them?

It’s so easy to just dash off your next email or your website copy in isolation. But when you do that, you lose sight of who’s actually reading it. And as a result, your copy ends up being overly focused on you and oblivious to your audience’s struggles. If your customers don’t know why your words matter to them, they won’t trust you, and they will tune you out.

But when our words come from a place of empathy and understanding, they break through and capture our customer’s attention. More than that, our words create trust, giving us a foundation on which we can build a relationship with our customer.

2. Check your assumptions.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
–George Bernard Shaw

At StoryBrand, we teach our workshop attendees to avoid what Lee LeFever termed “the curse of knowledge.” This happens when a business leader knows so much about their products and services, that they project that knowledge onto their potential customer. They use expert terminology and make logical leaps because the material is second nature to them. But it all goes right over the head of the prospective customer.

The end result? You’re under the illusion that customers understand what you’re saying, but they don’t. For example, you may think you just explained to customers how your payroll software works — but in reality they got confused by your detailed technical descriptions and charts. Instead, they bought from your competitor whose website simply said: “Our software takes all the mystery out of paying your employees.”

Before you say anything, be aware of the assumptions you’re making about your audience’s level of understanding. Remember the kinds of questions and confusion you had when you first got into your industry. And if you’re ever in doubt, err on the side of simplicity.

3. Start by listening.

To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.
–John Marshall

We’ve all had “that friend” who asks you for coffee and proceeds to dominate the entire hour of conversation talking about himself.

He doesn’t ask about your week. There’s no give and take to the conversation. You feel less like a friend and more like a volunteer therapist.

That’s no way to forge a good relationship, of course. But it’s often what we do with our customers. We go on and on about our products and specials, but we never stop to ask our customers what they’re dealing with.

If your marketing and communication feels one-sided to your customers, you won’t be able to build a relationship.

How can you “listen well” as a marketer? Try these ideas to create a culture of listening to your customers:
• Send surveys, and then actually read and act on the feedback. Post a question on your Facebook page — “What are you struggling with this week?” — and engage with the replies.
• Don’t guess about what features your product needs. Watch your customers use your product and see where they run into problems or limitations.

4. Be clear, not clever.

If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.
–Winston Churchill

Whenever we’re communicating — whether in a speech or writing — we’re putting ourselves out there. And whenever you do that, your insecurities can easily pop up. Am I coming across as smart and competent? Do people like me? Do I look silly?

To compensate for those insecurities, we try to impress our audience by being cute, clever, or poetic. Or worse, we use five-dollar words and crazy sentence structures so people see how “smart” we are.

Unfortunately, all this backfires because, like Churchill points out, all that ends up only confusing people. Clarity rules. When you can clearly articulate your big point, your audience will actually understand what you’re saying and connect with you. And yes, they’ll end up thinking you’re smart and qualified.

Churchill’s quote points out the importance of repetition when you’re trying to make that point, but before that, make sure you can articulate your big idea. Doing so will take ruthless editing and deep thinking to clear away the fog, but I promise, the clarity and beauty will come. Keep refining it.

5. Embrace the difficulty.

I hate writing, I love having written.
–Dorothy Parker

Communicating well isn’t easy. While trying to figure out his company’s message, one client told me that it was like being inside the bottle trying to read the label.

It’s normal to stare at a blank screen. It’s normal if your speech’s first draft is a muddy mess. It’s not only normal, it’s okay.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the process of communication easier. That’s why writers of all shapes and sizes draw on filters, formulas, and tropes. It can give you a way to cut through the fog and find your footing as you try to express a big idea.

That’s why Dorothy Parker’s quotation resonates with practically every writer. The writing itself is hard. But once you’re through it, and you’ve come out the other side with your clear website, your engaging keynote, or your killer email campaign, there’s no feeling quite like it.

6. Tell a story.

The most powerful words in English are ‘Tell me a story,’ words that are intimately related to the complexity of history, the origins of language, the continuity of the species, the taproot of our humanity, our singularity, and art itself.
–Pat Conroy

A good story always works. It captivates the brain like nothing else — the studies prove this. That’s why people around the world spent 39 billion dollars last year going to the movies.

But stories do more than entertain. If you want people to understand and identify with a complicated concept, tell a story about it. This creates a “clicking experience” in a person’s brain, allowing them to suddenly understand what someone else is trying to communicate. As such, if you can tell a good story, you’ll create stronger, faster connection with your audience.

Obviously we’re big fans of story here at StoryBrand, which is why we’ve translated the basic plot framework of a story into a marketing template you can use to craft story-driven messaging that grows your business.

7. Guard your character.

In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.
–Stephen Covey

Words are powerful. And when you’re good at using them, you become powerful. What you do with that power depends on your character.

Our character comes through in our words, for better or for worse, and our words can do a lot of damage. Communication is a tool, and like any tool, if it falls into the wrong hands it can be devastating. It can manipulate people, spread falsehood, and devastate cultures.

As the character Dumbledore tells Harry Potter, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

So if communication of any kind is a part of your job, guard your heart as much as you hone your craft. Make sure your words are doing good work.

No matter what your role at work, you’ll face challenges in communication. It might be at a board meeting, in a big speech, writing website copy, or in a difficult one-on-one. I hope these quotations have deepened your understanding of what it means to communicate well. If you have a favorite quote about communication, leave a comment and share it with me!

Is your website clear or confusing?

These three 5-minute videos will help you eliminate confusion on your website, clarify your message, and grow your business. They’re free — you just need to sign up.

How To Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt

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Many of our favorite movies and TV shows portray jerks at work. From droning Lumbergh in Office Space, clueless Michael in The Office, to sleazy Mr. Hart in 9 to 5, we find these characters so funny because they’re true.

It isn’t funny, however, actually working with these jerks. According to a recent study, 75% of workers deal with bullies in the workplace. This has a huge effect on the economy, your workplace, and your health.

Bullies wreak havoc on the economy. The United States spends about $20 to $30 billion dollars a year in terms of effects of abuse on employees.

And workplace hostilities lead to big problems for your company. If you have jerks on your team, research shows that productivity and creativity goes down. Nasty interactions have a far bigger impact on team members’ moods than positive interactions — 5 times the punch! And people are less likely to go the extra mile and more likely to steal and waste resources.

Working with mean-spirited people also messes with your health. You feel depressed about going to work. Your anxiety increases. You can’t sleep at night. Your spouse is concerned about your high blood pressure. And your doctor warns you may be at a higher risk for a heart attack. Jerks at work are costing you hours of your life.

So, what can you do?

Robert Sutton sets out to answer that question in his new book, The A–hole Survival Guide (his book just says the word). His strategies will provide relief to anyone who feels pushed around by a jerk. You can avoid them, outwit them, disarm them, send them packing, and develop protective psychological armor. Finally, at the end of this post, you can see if you might be adding to the jerk population.

Nobody wants to lose life hours to a bully. Listen to this episode of the Building a StoryBrand podcast. You’ll preserve your sanity and have a plan of action to deal with that jerk at the office.


The Types of Jerks

Before learning strategies for dealing with that jerk at work, it’s important to identify which type of tormentor you’re facing. Different bullies require different approaches.

Here’s a rundown of just a few types:

The Strategic Conniver: These jerks are patient about their dirty work. They make careful plans to set you up and then try to stab you in the back. They purposely find ways to get under your skin. Masters of backhanded compliments and below-the-belt comments, they bother you with a smile and betray you with a kiss.

The Clueless Bulldozer: These bumbling idiots have no control over themselves. They lose their tempers over minor things. Sometimes, there’s evidence they don’t mean to be jerks which opens up the possibility for feedback and reform. But be careful, trying to reason with this type isn’t always going to work.

The Machiavellian Schemer: Watch out for these cunning deceivers. They are very manipulative and enjoy playing dirty. Their brains actually light up when you argue with them. They enjoy it when you become hostile. If you’re nice, they believe you’re a pushover. They are artful, unscrupulous and will take you out to advance their careers.

The Narcissist: It will take some kissing up to deal with these pests. Arguing or criticizing is not useful because they have thin skins. You won’t get far in this workplace unless you’re willing to pay high taxes in insincere praise.

The Petty Tyrant: You actually may find some sympathy for this type — mid-level managers who are treated with disrespect and low stature from their superiors. When not being sneered at from the powers above, they walk around with a heady sense of power and take out their insecurities on their subordinates. These bean counters don’t just enforce the rules; they like to make you suffer.

Once you realize who you’re dealing with, it’s time to develop a plan.

Here are some field-tested, evidence-based strategies from the expert on how to deal with A-holes:

Avoid Them

One of the best ways to avoid a rascal in the office is to increase the distance between you.

“There’s all this evidence that nasty behavior is incredibly contagious,” Robert says.

Positioning yourself within 25 feet of a toxic person means your chances of catching the disease and getting fired more than doubles. One of the best strategies for dealing with a toxic person at work is to treat that person like you would a toxic substance. Stay away.

One of the best strategies for dealing with a toxic person at work is to treat that person like you would a toxic substance. Stay away.

Many people work in open offices now, but every few feet of distance has a huge effect. Ask if you can move your desk to a distant corner. Spend time working in conference rooms or public spaces if need be.

Another creative way to avoid your tormenter is to limit the time you’re with the brute. Depending on what type of leeway you have, lessen the meetings. For people with certain personalities, another option might be to leave early or arrive late. Do whatever you can to reduce exposure to the jerk.

Finally, just walk away. Get out of the relationship and situation. If you’re going to quit, Robert suggests being mindful of the consequences and to take the time to do it with some class. With clients, hopefully, you can just cut it off.

It’s not always a good idea to avoid your problems, but when it comes to toxic people at work, staying away is an excellent option.

Outwit Them

Sometimes bullies require a more strategic plan than just avoiding them. One of them is to make allies and work together.

“The more people you have on your side,” Robert says, “the better off you are.”
Perhaps you can get another supervisor to run interference for you.

Another idea is to set up a warning system. Recruit the boss’ administrative assistant to inform you whether the boss is in a foul mood (and should be handled with care), or feeling upbeat (and in a better mood for interaction).

Your gang can also take turns jumping on the grenade. If someone volunteers as tribute to engage the beast, the rest of you can get some work done.

Another strategy is to gather evidence. Robert gives an example of a group of community college executives. They had a Chancellor who was a textbook narcissist. If he didn’t get his daily dose of flattery, he would lose his temper and start screaming at people. His team decided to kiss up to him to keep things under control while they secretly documented his bad behavior for months. They were able to deliver a compelling case to the Board of Regents and the Board fired him.

Finding allies will not only allow you to find consolation in knowing you’re not alone, but you’ll devise more ingenious plans to get through your day.

Disarm Them

Robert says you should consider the kind of jerk you’re dealing with when deciding which strategy to use. Remember the petty tyrant? Robert cites experiments to show how they’re made. If you put people in situations where they have power, but they’re treated with disrespect and low stature, they tend to take it out on people around them.

You could, of course, try to get them fired.

Often, what petty tyrants really need is love and respect.

Perhaps you can give them feedback and use some power strategies. But often, what petty tyrants really need is love and respect.

“If somebody is constantly treating you badly because they feel disrespected,” he says. “There’s an argument for elevating people who deserve some appreciation.”

By reaching out with kindness and recognition to someone who is acting difficult, you may not only disarm your tyrant. You might find a friend.

Send Them Packing

Although most of us would rather avoid conflict, one of the strategies is to fight back. Robert warns us, however, to use this strategy as a last resort and to carefully weigh the consequences before acting.

Before trying to get this person fired, you may want to try a few strategies first — especially if you’re dealing with a clueless jerk. If there’s evidence the tyrants don’t know they’re acting badly, give some feedback. Reform is possible.

But if the bullies are either strategic or bull-headed, then develop a case to bring them down by following these steps:

  1. Determine how much power you have. If you’re a peon and you’re having problems with the CEO, fighting might not be your best course. But if your jerk is a peer, you’ve got better odds at taking them on.
  2. Gather evidence. Avoid “he-said, she-said.” Keep track of abusive incidents, conversations, and emails. Robert cites the example of Gretchen Carlson carefully recording conversations on her iPhone for years to eventually cause the downfall of Roger Ailes. This takes careful handling, Robert cautions. It’s legal to record people with permission in most states but there’s seven or eight states where you’re committing a crime, including California.
  3. Form a posse. Research reveals that teams are far more successful in bringing down a jerk than fighting the beast alone.

Again, Robert cautions us about using this strategy. After reading his first book about creating civil workplaces, the head of human resources of a Fortune 100 company emailed Robert and told him she spearheaded a no-jerk rule in the office.

She convinced the CEO to fire the three worst jerks in the top management team. But it backfired. The three jerks went to the CEO and convinced him they were more important to the core business than the head of HR and she got fired.

If you’re going to fight, Robert says, “Build a case, do a cold power analysis, and have an exit option.” If heads are going to roll, be careful yours won’t be among them.

Develop Protective Psychological Armor

Sometimes, you might have to endure a bully’s bad behavior because your goals require you to stick it out. Researchers show that reframing disturbing facts in a more positive light can provide relief. This strategy requires your creativity and focus.

  • • Change a crisis to a challenge
  • • Reframe a frustration into a puzzle to be solved
  • • See your intolerable boss as a cranky child
  • • View stress as a game to be won

Have you ever seen the foreign film Life is Beautiful? A father and his little son are sent to a concentration camp. The father purposely misinterprets a German guard’s camp instructions as rules to a game to motivate his son to stay alive.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy calls this “reappraisal” which means you interpret the situation differently. You can’t change the situation, but you can change how you perceive it. You reframe the situation so it doesn’t hurt so much.

Becky Margiotta, one of the early female cadets at West Point, provides one of Robert’s favorite examples. She had to endure the traditional hazing when drill sergeants get close to your face and scream insults at you. Becky decided to focus on how funny and skilled the hazers were. She sought to appreciate their craft, rather than allow the insults to land. Since she knew it was temporary, she could reframe the situation in her mind and get through. The strategy worked very well but for one flaw — she’d start laughing and would get in trouble for it.

Sometimes a little imagination or dose of humor completely changes your perception to make life with a jerk more bearable.

Another protective strategy Robert suggests is to switch time focus. This means saying to yourself, “When I look back on this tonight (or a month from now, a year from now), it’s not going to hurt nearly as much.” This idea of time shifting, or looking back, is a very effective strategy, Robert says.

Detaching emotionally from the person is another option. A colleague of Robert’s demonstrated a perfect example. When he meets with difficult people, he pretends to be a doctor who specializes in exotic forms of ‘jerkism.’ The worse the jerks get, the happier he is because he’s able to examine a more exotic type of ‘jerkism.’ He is lucky to see something so unusual.

Reframing a situation will help you get through the difficult days at work. Sometimes a little imagination or dose of humor completely changes your perception to make life with a jerk more bearable.

Stop Contributing to the World’s Population of Jerks

If you think you don’t need this section, Robert says, “Don’t believe yourself.”

Apparently, we’re pretty blind to our own faults. Robert points to research that most of us don’t have a realistic idea about how we come across to others. If you’re wondering whether you may be the problem in the office, read these signs to find out.

You might be a jerk if you:

  1. Have more power than other people. This is especially true if you were powerless before. Being in charge of others means you may be a jerk and don’t know it.
  2. You’re under time pressure. Robert says studies from Yale suggest that when people are in a rush, they don’t stop to help people who look like they’re dying (even seminary students by the way). If you’re in a hurry a lot, you’re probably being a jerk.
  3. You’re rich. There’s a correlation between riches and jerk-ness. Dacher Keltner did a study with his students at an intersection in Berkeley, California. Students were asked to code cars from one to five, the top being a Mercedes and the bottom being an old beat-up Chevette. People in luxury cars were far less likely to let other cars go than people who were in old beaters. This was even true for pedestrians!
  4. You’re sleep-deprived. If you pride yourself on getting less sleep than your neighbor, you’re far more likely to be un-neighborly. Sleep deprivation causes irritability, anger and lessens your ability to cope with stress.
  5. You don’t have anyone around you who’s willing to tell you you’re a jerk. Robert says that most of us lack self-awareness when it comes to our weaknesses. Research suggests that doing our own soul-searching won’t uncover the blind spots we have about our jerk-ness. One of the keys to dealing with this is having people in our lives who are willing to give us the hard truth. Steve Jobs met each Sunday with Coach Bill Campbell, a CEO who started companies and helped CEOs be good leaders. Another good example is Winston Churchill. His wife, Clementine, wrote him and told to stop treating his staff badly.

“Having somebody we trust to give us negative information and tell us the truth,” Robert says, is the best defense against being a jerk.

Whether you’re dealing with a jerk who makes you feel demeaned, de-energizes you, is rude to you, treats you like dirt, pretends you’re invisible, or a tyrant who flies into rages, you now have some strategies for dealing with them. Sit down and analyze your situation right away so you don’t lose any more life hours from that jerk at work.

Avoid the Marketing Money Pit


Are you and your team doing random acts of marketing with no idea if what you’re doing will affect your bottom line? If so, what you and your team need is a marketing task list. In our free video series, The Marketing Money Pit, we give you 6 things you can create that are simple, easy, inexpensive and get enormous results!

Stop wasting time and money doing random acts of marketing and start bringing revenue to your business.

Executive producer: Tim Schurrer
Additional production and editing: Chad Snavely

How One Small Business Made their New Website a Huge Success

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Have you ever launched a redesign of a website? You’ve worked for what seems like forever. You’ve spent a small fortune. And once it finally goes live, you sit back and wait for a huge uptick in inquiries, sales, and engagement.

That’s the dream, right?

But all too often, those big increases don’t come after you redesign your site. You see a small improvement that quickly levels out, and you’re left feeling discouraged, wondering why all that time and money didn’t actually make a difference. If it’s happened to you, you know: it’s an awful feeling.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Meyer’s Pet Care is a doggy daycare service in the Chicago area owned by Gwen Meyer. Gwen is passionate about caring for animals — not necessarily passionate about marketing. But in order to give dogs the care they deserve, she embraced her inner marketer, went through the StoryBrand Online Marketing Workshop and the StoryBrand Roadmap course, and started to think differently about how to build a great website.

When they launched the redesigned version, they had that “dream” response, with inquiries quadrupling and traffic skyrocketing within a matter of days.

We were all cheering at the office when Gwen sent us this amazing note:

Requests for our doggie daycare program have quadrupled. And within the first three weeks, our site had over 300 clicks from the Chicago suburbs, which prior we had only 12 clients. It is very new but we can’t believe the increase in traffic to our business through the new improved website.

So how did they do it?

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at their new site and why it works so well.

But we’re also going to study what it looked like before, so you can see exactly the kinds of changes that had to happen.

You’ll see three key shifts they made. If you need to redesign — or even just tweak — your site, apply these same shifts. I am confident you’ll be able to experience the same kind of “dream” results Gwen and her team are today.

Key #1: Make the value instantly clear to customers

In every decision we make building our websites, we’re either serving the overall story or we’re confusing our customers. We’re either making music or making noise.

In every decision we make building our websites, we’re either serving the overall story or we’re confusing our customers. We’re either making music or making noise.

Nobody likes noise, right? We tune it out. And before their redesign, Meyer’s had a “noisy” site.

There’s a lot going on, and as a first time visitor, it’s not immediately clear to me how this business is going to make my life better.

It’s a common misstep. We’ve reviewed thousands of websites with copy that had nothing to do with the story of the customer. As a result, customers tune out and move on.

In their redesign, they NAILED it. Every element points toward the customer’s story: I want my dog to receive great care, even when I’m not around to give it to him.

How They Did It:

  • The “one-liner” says exactly what they offer: “A pet retreat you and your dog will love.” Gone is all the stuff about “Welcome to Meyers” and “For three generations…” That’s nice, but ultimately it doesn’t serve the customer as well as simple language that says what they do and why it matters.
  • Images show the “customer story” in action. It’s hard to go wrong with dog pictures, of course. Who doesn’t love those faces? But in the old version, the pictures lacked context. Now, we get visuals of the dogs WITH their owners. Ultimately, the story they’re telling is about your relationship with your dog. The visuals communicate that beautifully.

Key #2: Clarify how customers should take action

In stories, characters don’t take action on their own. They must be challenged. For example, if we’re telling a story about a man who just decides to lose 30 pounds on his own, the audience is going to check out. There needs to be a reason for his action, a catalyst. Maybe he loses a bet and has to run a marathon.

This principle is true for stories, and it’s true in marketing, too. Our customers only take action when their story challenges them to do so.

In the old version of their site, Meyer’s wasn’t defining that clear path of action for their prospective customers. There were no fewer than nineteen similarly-sized buttons to choose from on the old site. Without a clear path laid out for them, people weren’t moving. You’d be surprised how many companies make this same mistake.

When they redesigned the site, Meyer’s made it abundantly clear what next step visitors should take. It took a lot of ruthless editing of site paths that seemed important to them but were ultimately confusing their customers.

How They Did It:

  • The main call to action is unmissable. You can’t avoid that “BOOK NOW” button, can you? It’s presented clearly as the next natural step after that strong, value-packed headline. And it stands out beautifully thanks to the orange color choice. You’ll also notice they’ve included a “transitional” call to action in a more subdued color. This option to “Watch Video” helps to engage customers who aren’t quite ready to book an appointment yet, keeping them from leaving the site altogether.
  • The top navigation menu is well edited. Those nineteen buttons are long gone, and now we’ve got a tidy navigation menu at the top of the page to highlight the most important next steps prospects can take to learn more.

Key #3: Elevate authority and empathy

We’ve have seen thousands of businesses experience a dramatic increase in engagement and revenue by doing one simple thing: positioning themselves not as the hero of the story, but as the guide who helps the customer — the real hero — succeed.

In the prior version of the site, Meyer’s messaging was facing the wrong way, so to speak. The copy focused more on why Meyer’s is great: they’ve been doing this for three generations, they’re the experts, etc.

The new copy makes the customer (and the customer’s dog!) the hero: “helping you and your dog live their best life.”

By positioning themselves as a guide, they can do two things: one, show the customer that they can help her overcome whatever she’s struggling with; and two, they can move the hero in the story along toward taking action. Let’s see how they executed this guide positioning in the redesign.

How They Did It:

They use social proof to establish authority. As you scroll down the home page, you see a video of a satisfied customer, a strong testimonial, and even media outlets who’ve featured their services. All of these “social proof” elements point to people outside the company who can vouch for how well Meyer’s serves dogs and their owners.

They got the right kind of testimonials. Not all testimonials create authority and empathy. Simply quoting a customer who said, “These guys are great!” doesn’t do much to establish trust.

Instead, Meyer’s focused on capturing customer testimonials that communicated how a customer’s life improved because they chose their service. This kind of testimonial actually sells your product or service because it proves how well your brand solves problems.

For example, instead of asking, “Why do you like Meyer’s Pet Care?” she dug deeper, asking questions like: What’s it like for you now when you drop your pet off, knowing how Meyer’s cares for your pet?” and “What was the most important thing you wanted for your pet that you may have not been getting?”

They put these testimonials together in a powerful video that would convince most anybody on the fence that Meyer’s is a safe and nurturing place for their dog:

*30 second clip of their full video.

They use copy that communicates empathy. A good guide expresses an understanding of the pain and frustration of the hero. Real empathy means we resonate with customers in a way that lets them know their concerns are valid and they’re not alone.

Take this copy from farther down the page, for example. In just a few words, they communicate how well they “feel the pain” of wanting your dog to be happy.

Because of these changes, more dogs are getting great care, and more humans feel great knowing they’ve given their dog that great care. And with the boost in revenue, Gwen and her team feel confident knowing they can continue to grow this amazing business.

Don’t go through the expense and time of a site redesign, only to see little to no effect on your bottom line. Use these three key shifts to guide you, like Meyer’s Pet Care did, and I know you’ll be emailing us after your “dream” results become a reality!

Need Help With Your Website Redesign?

You don’t have to go it alone. Just like the Meyer’s team, you can come to us for help. Our StoryBrand Online Workshop will help you clarify your company’s story in a way that resonates with customers and grows your business.


Teams That Do Big Things Take These 7 Steps

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Do you and your team members suffer from DSD — Distracted, Stressed, and Disconnected?

Sure, you believe what your team is doing is important and you believe in the people on your team, but…

  • You’re working over 60 hours a week
  • You’re behind target
  • You’ve lost customers
  • Your resources are dwindling

Worse, you go home exhausted and give your family the only thing you’ve got … leftovers. You’d love to find a way to turn your team around, but how?

On the podcast this week, Donald Miller interviews Craig Ross, one of the authors of Do Big Things: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds, and Make an Epic Impact.

Craig wants teams to get big results without losing their souls. He’ll take you through 7 essential steps teams must execute to do extraordinary things while making DSD a thing of the past.

When your team has heart, you’ll not only get the job done, you’ll become legendary within your company and your family.


Step #1: Commit to the Human Imperative

Craig explains the human imperative as living our values with one another.

There are a lot of buzzwords floating around the office. Words like trust, respect, collaboration, and communication. While these values are necessary to team success, they’re intangible. If you want ideals to become realities that flow naturally between your team members, you must commit to behaviors that will lay the groundwork.

No team is going to do big things until the team members care about each other.

While business imperatives may please your stakeholders, it’s the human imperative that gets the job done.

Craig cautions to carefully choose ways to build trust within the company. Your team will know you’re disingenuous if you’re just checking a box on the to-do list labeled Build Trust or Improve Communication.

“No team is going to do big things until the team members care about each other,” Craig says.

Step #2: Embody Success (and Leverage Failure)

“Houston, we have a problem,” Jim Lovell says to NASA mission control.

This phrase is still quoted by anyone experiencing an unforeseen emergency. The award-winning movie, Apollo 13, inspired viewers because it depicted a team of people working together to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

NASA launches a rocket into space, but there’s an explosion on board. The astronauts have to scrap their plans for exploring the surface of the moon and figure out how to get a malfunctioning spaceship home. Many members on the ground team think it’s impossible. But watch this clip to see how Gene Krantz (played by Ed Harris) embodies success.

On your team, do you have a plan for problems that may arise? Something goes wrong — a customer calls and cancels an order. Or a budgeting miscalculation has your team facing a devastating shortfall. A leader crashes and it feels like the company is going down with it.

“Teams that do big things embody success in these key moments,” Craig says, “because they have a process for thinking and acting in all circumstances.” They’ve already anticipated trouble and identified how they’re going to respond if it shows up.

(Spoiler alert!) In what some consider a miracle, the NASA team prevail and they bring their astronauts home to their families and their country. Your team can meet a trial successfully too by reframing a problem as a chance to show your “finest hour.”

Step #3: Choose to Contribute, Activate, and Connect Across the Business

“The average person makes about 35,000 decisions a day,” Craig says.

It follows (and experts back this up) that equipping your team to make better decisions is paramount. In his research, Craig and his co-authors noticed that highly successful teams are making three very specific decisions more effectively than other teams.

Here are the three decisions you and your team members should focus on:

The contributor decision. Bring your best to the situation. Unfortunately, most people make this decision conditionally and it’s killing your team’s effectiveness. Craig says instead of waiting for someone else to be “all-in”, commit to bring your full self to the team and make efforts to ensure successful outcomes — unconditionally.

The activator decision. Bring out your team member’s best in this interaction. This means you’re willing to say, “I’m going to set you up for success.” Craig says that teams that do big things usually have an I’ve-got-your-back mentality among the team members.

The connector decision. Collectively connect to your network of teams within your enterprise, Craig points out. When you’re exchanging information with a purpose to increase productivity and efficiency, you’ll save time and money and avert risks because other teams have different perspectives on the problem.

If you and your team-members focus on making these three key decisions, you’ll notice a difference in how your team runs. Tasks will take less effort. You’ll avoid time-wasting hassles. And you’ll see progress and results.

Step #4: Exercise Your Barrier-Breaking Authority

This means you should focus on your authority to choose your response, especially in regards to difficult events, Craig says. Rather than complaining or blaming, enable your team to control what they can influence.

Craig gives an example from one of his clients to illustrate his point. Tillamook is a dairy co-op in the Northwest. A few years ago, because of unexpected events, dairy prices shot through the roof and Tillamook took a big hit from the futures market. At the beginning of their fiscal year, they faced a $40 million deficit.

Patrick Criteser, the CEO, could have done what a lot of leaders in his position do. Give up, blame others, or play the victim. Even though leaders are empowered to make decisions, they often surrender their authority to choose how to respond and acquiesce to what appears to be the inevitable end.

Exercising your barrier-breaking authority means you refuse to allow the circumstances to determine your thinking and actions.

But exercising your barrier-breaking authority means you refuse to allow the circumstances to determine your thinking and actions.

“They remain optimistic, even when the data says they shouldn’t because they know what they’re capable of and what’s possible,” Craig says.

Instead of just doing the traditional leadership protocol of cutting costs, resorting to base prices, and driving efficiencies, the Tillamook team asked each other, “What can we do more of? What can we learn?”

At the fiscal year’s end, they just about made up the 40 million and they learned something new about their company — they had what it takes to become a premier brand.

The next time you face a challenging circumstance that wasn’t supposed to happen, focus on your power to choose how to respond. Enable your team to work with the circumstances they can control and influence wherever possible. By doing so, your team may accomplish the impossible.

Step #5: Focus On What Matters

I love this step because team focus has brought some powerful results to our company.

About two years ago, StoryBrand’s key word was focus. Our second key word was no. We decided to kill off everything that wasn’t about our main objective — to help people clarify their message and grow their business. In 12 months, StoryBrand doubled its revenue.

Craig says teams that do big things say no to whatever tempts them away from their goal. But he adds that when he says focus on what matters, he’s talking about the business and the people. The business tends to be the focus. The temptation is to forget who you’re with.

What usually happens is people ignore the human component until it becomes dysfunctional, and then they realize they need to focus on people, he points out.

Your goals should be about building stronger people and partnerships so you can deliver the performance that really matters.

“Your goals should be about building stronger people and partnerships so you can deliver the performance that really matters,” he says.

The teams that are doing big things go a layer deeper. They’re affecting the business and the human component right in the moment. When you keep a healthy balance between focusing on growing your revenue and growing the people who bring in the revenue, you’ve discovered a sweet-spot that will make you money and create a healthy working environment.

Step #6: Energize Around a Shared Reality

Notice that this step does not say a shared vision.


Craig explains with an example. In national politics and social issues, there is a large divide that keeps us from having a meaningful conversation or moving forward as a team. A good example is the Black Lives Matter movement and the cops community.

Even though we have a shared vision — we all long for safety and peace for ourselves and our families, we have different perspectives. Since perspectives drives perception and perception drives reality, it’s really difficult to communicate.

“If we don’t have a shared reality, we’re done,” he says. “We’re doing small things.”
This means you need to understand the information and the problem you’re facing before moving to a solution.

This will take time.

People in the group who are quick to find solutions will feel impatient. Yet, if we don’t take time to really understand, we might create a rift in the team.

In Craig’s words: “In too many arenas and communities, people are experiencing self-inflicted wounds through persistent attacks on one another.”

Take the time to make sure varying perspectives are heard and understood. When people stop being idealistic and start working out a shared reality, big things happen. Your team will have the traction it needs to make progress.

“We must have a shared reality if we’re going to get energized about our future,” Craig says.

Step #7: Mobilize Hearts and Minds Forward

Finally, Step #7 is about rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. It’s about executing the plan.

As teams enter this phase, many team members spend their time at a basic level, asking beginning questions, such as:

  • How are we going to do it?
  • What’s next?
  • What’s the agenda?
  • When do we have to have it done?

If your team wants to do big things and make an epic impact, you’re going to have to elevate your thinking and actions to meet the challenge.

But if you want your team to conquer something more than How do we meet the requirement?, you better do some preparation. Craig is a white-water rafting aficionado and he compares elevating your team goals to rafting through higher classes of rivers.

“Class 3 rapids means you better be buckled up and have your stuff together because the ride is going to be crazy,” he says. “A Class 5 river is like taking on the Grand Canyon.”

If your team wants to do big things and make an epic impact, you’re going to have to elevate your thinking and actions to meet the challenge.

Whether you’re a team that has been together for years, a newly formed team, or every member on the team only knows each other virtually, you can quickly mobilize your team to accomplish big things by following these 7 steps. You and your team members will get massive results without suffering from DSD and you’ll have full hearts for work and home.

5 Things Your Website Should Include

If your website is missing these key elements, you’re most likely losing easy sales or leads. Our free video series shows you how to fix it.

Executive producer: Tim Schurrer
Additional production and editing: Chad Snavely

5 Easy Ideas for Lead Generators That Will Accelerate Your Sales Growth

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If you want to grow your business, you need more sales.

And to do that, you need quality leads — and plenty of them.

Of course, it’s tempting to put together another Facebook ad or buy more space in your local circular. But those strategies run on little more than hope and your hard-earned marketing dollars.

There’s a better (and more cost-effective) way to get leads for your business.

It’s a lead generator, and the idea behind this strategy is simple. You offer a piece of valuable content in exchange for an email address. The simplest format for this content is a downloadable PDF, but videos work, too. Then, with a series of emails, you can build a relationship with your potential customers. They’ll see your authority and your empathy for their struggles, and making that sale will become a lot easier.

If you don’t have a lead generator, you need one. But sitting down to actually create one can feel daunting. Too easily it becomes that task that you just never get around to doing. To make it easier to get started, here are five kinds of lead generating PDFs you can create with less effort and time than you imagine.

The Value List

Ideal for: Pretty much anybody

Every company should have a value list PDF of some kind. You’ve probably seen them yourself. They might be:

8 Common Mistakes First-Time Car Buyers Always Make
10 Tips for Giving the Best Talk of Your Life
5 Negotiation Secrets for Getting Everything You Want Without Being a Jerk

The trick to creating a standout value list? Knowing what’s valuable to your customers. You’ve got to understand their struggles (as it relates to your business) and make sure your content speaks to those struggles in some way. Start by making a list of the common questions you hear from “beginners,” and let it inspire you to develop your list.

Your lead generator should create interest and trust in your products and services, but it shouldn’t replace them.

Then, build out your content so that it serves your audience, but don’t give everything away. Your lead generator should create interest and trust in your products and services, but it shouldn’t replace them. As the artist and author Austin Kleon says, “If you’re worried about giving your secrets away, you can share your dots without connecting them.”

The Magazine Article

Ideal if: you have a lot of existing content

Chances are, your company may already have created some content for an article or a whitepaper. While whitepapers have their place, they won’t attract a wide swath of potential customers.

Instead, turn the white paper into a magazine-style article. Use callouts, images, infographics, and charts to liven up the content and make it scannable. Give it an irresistible title and a well-designed cover, and you’re good to go.

Get creative about leveraging your old content, you’ll have an amazing lead generator without really doing much writing.

You could do the same thing with a series of popular (but related) blog posts. Knit them together around a common theme, and then add sharp, scannable design elements. For example, a gardening center might compile all their posts on edibles gardening and turn it into a PDF on “5 Simple Steps to Building a Family Garden that Will Get Your Kids Excited About Vegetables.”

Get creative about leveraging your old content, you’ll have an amazing lead generator without really doing much writing.

The Interview

Ideal if: you’re short on content

If writing original content isn’t feasible, simply interview one of your company’s experts on a topic that is a struggle for your potential customers.

When you’re preparing your questions and your interviewer, focus on information that will be valuable to your potential customer.

Don’t spend too much time with “small talk” questions getting to know the person you’re interviewing. Simply establish their authority in the subject and then dig right into the questions your audience really wants answers to.

For example, a pet shelter might sit down with their head of adoption and ask: “What are the 7 things every should every family know before adopting a puppy?” If you do marketing for a tax firm, interview a CPA and ask: “Tell me the 5 biggest mistakes people make when they do their own taxes.”

This information will seem like second nature to your expert, but to your potential customer, it’s incredibly valuable. Set your phone to record the conversation, and you’ll have all the insight you need to write a compelling lead generator.

The Checklist

Ideal if: you need to create something quickly

A checklist is a great place to start if you want to try a lead generating content strategy but you don’t have a lot of time or resources.

A checklist is simple. It walks your reader through a list of ideas to consider.

Say you run a health clinic. Your checklist could ask a series of health questions, such as:

“Do you get winded walking up the stairs?”
“Do you feel tired every day around 3 pm?”
“Do you ever have trouble sleeping at night?”

With each question, you can highlight the ways that your clinic can help them solve the problem they’ve identified.

Craft your checklist in such a way that an unchecked box helps you open a door to sales down the road.

If you sell cookware and kitchen supplies, your checklist might be built around the 50 Items Every Well Stocked Pantry Needs. For your potential customer, it’s a valuable way to make sure they have everything they need on hand. And for you, it’s an easy way to make customers aware of what they’re lacking — and how you can help.

In any case, craft your checklist in such a way that an unchecked box helps you open a door to sales down the road — while still being helpful to your lead even if they never buy from you.

The Sampler

Ideal if: your product sells better when it’s experienced

Depending on the kind of products and services you offer, you may be able to give away a sample to your potential customers. This not only provides value. It also gives you a chance to showcase your products.

For example, if you’re selling a annual planner, you could feature a PDF about effective time management along with seven days of worksheets to fill out. This way, your lead receives something of value, but you’ve also created an opportunity to sell them on the annual planner.

As a business leader, you probably know what aspect of your product really draws people in. Is it the feel of the material? Is it the paradigm shifts you teach? Is it how well it works? Make sure your sample communicates that key aspect of your product.

Then, as you make the sale down the road, you can use a promo code or a special landing page to make sure you track how well your sample is converting those leads into customers.

Need Some Inspiration? Check Out These Examples.

These are some sample lead generators I’ve seen that work incredibly well.

5 Mistakes People Make With Their First Million Dollars
A downloadable PDF guide offered by a financial advisor who wanted to find young, newly wealthy clients to help them with their financial planning.

Building Your Dream Home: 10 Things to Get Right Before You Build
A free eBook offered by an architect who wanted to establish herself as a guide to families looking to build a custom home.

Cocktail Club: Learn to Make One New Cocktail Each Month
This was a monthly event put on (surprisingly) by a garden center. They taught attendees how to infuse alcohol with herbs. The objective for the promotion was to create community. Business is booming — or should I say blooming! — all the same.

Becoming a Professional Speaker
A free online course offered by a business coach for those who wanted to become professional speakers. This generated leads for long-term subscriptions to his coaching service.

The ideas go on and on. I hope I’ve inspired you to think about the kind of content that will serve your audience. With a lead generating PDF, you’ll attract the kind of customers who really need and want the service you have to offer. You’ll dramatically grow your email list. And you’ll be able to close sales in a natural, non-sleazy way.

What’s been your experience with lead generating content? Need help with a concept? Leave a comment and let’s learn from each other.

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(For Free)

Sign up for my free video series, 5 Minute Marketing Makeover, and I’ll show you what you can do this week to clarify your message and grow your business.

Energize Your Sales Abilities With These 7 Expert Tips

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Are you in a sales slump? What if I told you the reason for your lagging sales isn’t the fluctuating market? Neither is it your product or company. It’s not even the competition. Top sellers across various industries and companies prove that sales performance isn’t situational.

The key to sales success is you.

This is good news because you can start making money right away with some key adjustments to how you sell. By learning (and applying) the behaviors, attitudes and a few vital skills of the aces in the industry, your revenue stream will skyrocket.

Sales expert Anthony Iannarino joins me this week on the Building a StoryBrand podcast. As the author of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, Anthony reveals the secrets of star salespeople who consistently outperform their peers.

First, Anthony teaches us about the behaviors and attitudes of top-sellers which he calls mindsets. When we understand why big performers consistently win, we’ll be able to evaluate ourselves and lay the foundation for skill development.

Then, Anthony gives practical advice about selling from opening relationships (prospecting) to closing (gaining commitments). He also touches on other powerful tools such as business acumen and (my favorite) storytelling.

If you’re tired of wasting time at the office and are ready to become a true sales pro, listen to this podcast episode and take your sales abilities to the next level.


Mindset #1: Self-Discipline

If you’re skimming through this article, stop. Don’t blow past this section.

This mindset is so fundamental, so indispensable, that if your time is limited, this is where you should focus.

The essential element you need to win big in sales is the ability to manage yourself.

The essential element you need to win big in sales is the ability to manage yourself. Anthony calls it “me management”.

Many of us struggle with self-discipline. But perhaps it’s because we view it as a lofty virtue.

Anthony simplifies self-discipline to routine behaviors. You might have heard how top athletes like these Olympians have a set of rituals they follow. You can rely on rituals to launch you to the top of your sales game and help you finish first.

Some of the rituals of an effective salesperson are:

  1. Prospecting. Block out 60-90 minutes first thing in the morning for initiating relationships. You never want to go a day without checking the box: Created New Opportunities.
  2. Following-up on existing opportunities. In the afternoon, write thank-you cards or send emails to keep up the relationships you’ve started.
  3. Booking face-to-face appointments. Set up times to personally get to know your prospects so you can discover the best solutions to their problems.

“It’s not the one thank-you card that matters. It’s not the one prospecting call. It’s the fact that you’re consistently doing these things that build the competencies and the work,” Anthony says. “It’s the consistency over time that delivers the results.”

In Anthony’s words: People don’t fail because they can’t do something. People fail because they’re unwilling to do what it takes to succeed.

Self-discipline sets apart the best performers in any endeavor, whether you’re a writer or a professional athlete or a salesperson. If you develop the rituals of an effective salesperson and routinely do them, you’ll outperform your toughest competition.

Action step: Block out an hour one morning this week to focus solely on prospecting and then follow up on those connections the next couple of weeks.

Mindset #2: Caring.

If you were trained in sales during the last three decades, you’ll probably need to throw a lot of the things you learned out the window.

Salespeople used to be taught manipulative tricks such as tie-downs, aggressive language and to always be closing.

“Those are the exact things that will make you a terrible salesperson,” Anthony says.

High performers are less interested in telling their story and more interested in finding out how to help their customers.

This old approach was self-oriented. In the world of selling today, the best salespeople are other-oriented, Anthony points out. High performers are less interested in telling their story, pitching their product or showing their slide deck about their business and more interested in finding out how to help their customers.

Rather than be a hard-nosed closer, you need to be a trusted advisor, he says.

Anthony jokes about an overly simple two-part recipe to be a trusted advisor. You need trust and advice.

To earn trust, prospects must believe you’re more concerned about achieving their outcomes than making your commission.

To give valuable advice, you need to educate yourself about who your customer is and the choices available to them. Understand the trade-offs they’ll make if they follow your guidance. (We’ll cover this more in Skill Set #2: Business Acumen).

Anthony again: A successful sales career is built around customers who believe you care about them — who recognize that your top priority is their gain and not your own.

Action Step: On your next call with a client, pay attention to how much you talk about your agenda/product vs. listening for your customer’s problems.

Mindset #3: Resourcefulness

Most of us would agree our present world of work is not the same as our grandparents’.

Our parents and grandparents had jobs where they showed up, put in the effort and got the desired result.

But Anthony points out that the world we live in is constantly changing. We can no longer rely on established protocols to inform us. We must solve problems we’ve never encountered all the time.

This means we need to depend on our creativity to get us through.

The old proverb says: Necessity is the mother of invention.

In sales, this means that by finding innovative answers to your customer’s needs, you’ll stumble on some pretty ingenious ideas. If you’re willing to try something different to get the attention of a challenging prospective client or to search for a new solution to a problem you’ve never seen before, you’ll succeed in an ever-shifting playing field.

The higher-level mindset of resourcefulness is key to making money in today’s working environment.

Action Step: Consider one of your client’s problems. Blend your imagination, experience and knowledge to come up with a unique solution.

Skill Set #1: Prospecting

If you have a business, then you’re a sales organization.

As a sales organization, you need to a) create opportunities and b) capture some of those opportunities.

In other words, you need to prospect.

Anthony describes prospecting as asking and answering a series of questions.

First: Who are the kind of people or the kind of companies that have the kind of problems that I can solve?

Next: How can I find them?

Finally: How do I initiate a conversation with them to discuss how to get a result that they can’t get without me?

The more time you spend prospecting, the better your business does. Conversely, the growth of your business is limited by your efforts to find new clients.

Make prospecting a priority and increase your sales.

Action Step: Spend 10-15 minutes answering the questions from this section… Who are the kind of people or the kind of companies that have the kind of problems that I can solve? How can I find them? How do I initiate a conversation with them to discuss how to get a result that they can’t get without me?

Skill Set #2: Business Acumen

Remember the other half of the two part recipe for a trusted advisor?

The first part is earning trust; the second part is giving valuable advice. To offer valuable advice, one of the things you need is business acumen. Anthony says we shouldn’t just be knowledgeable about our product. Salespeople need to understand the general business landscape and common business terminology.

Anthony shares a personal experience about building his business acumen. When he was first starting out in sales, he called logistics companies and asked them to explain “throughput.” Unsatisfied with learning just a conceptual idea, he sought to gain a deep, realistic grasp of what it was and why it was important. Then, Anthony used that knowledge to better assist his clients in that industry.

He says, “You can’t be a trusted advisor without the vocabulary and knowledge.”

That is a big charge. You must learn more, study more, and ask more questions to stay ahead of your clients.

Action Step: Choose a podcast, book or other publication to build your business acumen.

Skill Set #3: Change Management

For the longest time, closing has meant the final ask — when you ask your customer to sign a contract. At StoryBrand, we say this is like asking the girl to marry you.

Now, closing has morphed into change management. You’re inviting your client to make a series of commitments that will bring about change.

It’s more like dating.

Here’s a typical sequence of commitments to gain from your customer.

Commitment #1: Will you spend some time with me?

Commitment #2: Are you willing to explore whether change is necessary and why it might be so?

Commitment #3: Will you collaborate with me to build something that’s going to work for you or your business so you can get these results?

Commitment #4: How can we build consensus and bring your team together around these ideas?

Change isn’t easy, Anthony reminds us. Whenever you ask people to change, they get nervous as you go down the stretch.

Instead of having a “sign-on-the-dotted-line” mentality, look for ways to begin and build relationships through a series of commitments like collaborating, building consensus, and resolving concerns.

Action Step: Outline a series of commitments you can ask of your clients. Imagine ways you can add value each step of the way.

Skill Set #4: Storytelling

As you probably know, StoryBrand helps you understand and use the language of story to communicate with your customer. Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years and our ideas are derived from these best practices.

So I love that Anthony talks about storytelling as a skill set in sales.

Anthony agrees that storytelling captures our minds and that’s why it’s so important. But he points out that we’ve not always chosen the right stories to fit our clients’ experiences.

Salespeople have usually told simplistic stories in relation to the customer and product. In Anthony’s words: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with the girl, boy marries the girl, and they live happily ever after.

The problem with this story is it’s not very realistic when we’re helping people change, he says. Instead, the story should be more epic.

Anthony again: Your customers begin a journey. They encounter many difficulties and hardships. There’s a giant dragon. It’s too strong to fight. They have to change who they are to overcome it. At the end, they’re a different person than when they began.

Remember, what you’re really selling is a story of transformation.

When you tell a story that makes the journey look easy and omit the real challenges the clients will face, you’ll lose trust.

When you tell a story that makes the journey look easy and omit the real challenges the clients will face, you’ll lose trust.

On the other hand, when you talk about the major obstacles and give them the tools they need to overcome them, you’ll engender trust.

Honest storytelling engages your clients because they can actually see themselves transforming. When they trust you to help them change, you’ve begun a relationship that will help your customers and increase your revenue.

Action Step: Outline the plot points of your customers’ stories. List all the obstacles and difficulties they will face in the process of their transformation.

So are you ready to get out of your sales slump?

Anthony covers a total of 17 attributes in his book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. But I think if you apply even the seven things we talked about here, you’re going to see a huge increase in sales.

As Anthony points out, selling is a process of framing your mindsets and building your skill sets. Take this knowledge to your sales team or your planner and I know you’ll make powerful connections with your customers and grow your revenue. Listen to the full podcast episode to get much more advice from Anthony Iannarino.

Take Your Talents to StoryBrand

We’re on a mission to help more organizations communicate clearly. Would you like to join us? We are hiring skilled, creative, kind people. Check out our current openings and apply!


Executive producer: Tim Schurrer
Additional production and editing: Chad Snavely

Create a Successful Email Quickly with this Simple Q&A

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Email is a wonder of the marketing world.

Why? First, it’s effective, especially compared to other marketing channels. The latest stats (from Campaign Monitor) say it returns $44 for every dollar you invest in it.

Second, it’s cheap or free to get started, which makes it ideal for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

And last, it’s both direct and personal, giving you a chance to connect with practically everybody. I mean, who doesn’t have an email address?

But if you’re like most of us, you face a bit of “resistance” when you sit down to create an email. As a result, you don’t email your audience consistently. Or you create and send something slapdash, which produces less-than-stellar results.

To simplify this, I’ve created a short Q&A you can work through any time you need to send an email. A lot of the hard work of building an email is clarifying your thinking and editing out clutter, and this series of questions will help you do it. I’ve also included a few examples to show you how some made-up businesses might answer each question.

Go through this process when it’s time to send an email, and you’ll have the kind of focus you need to craft an email that really resonates with your readers.

1. What’s the big idea I want my audience to understand?

In any good story, clarity and focus are key. Take the movie The Bourne Identity, for example. Jason wants to figure out his backstory. Through all the twists and turns of the plot, the movie still focuses on that big idea. If Jason wanted to figure out his backstory but also pay off his student loans and become a world-class baker, the story would quickly spiral out of control.

Your customers are scrolling through an average of 121 messages a day. Your email is just one of them, and even a moment of confusion will get your email sent straight to the “deleted” folder.

Good stories have focus, and focus is critical in your emails, too. Your customers are scrolling through an average of 121 messages a day. Your email is just one of them, and even a moment of confusion will get your email sent straight to the “deleted” folder.

If you only answer one question on this list, make it this one. Ask yourself why you’re sending this email. You may list a few reasons at first, but get ruthless and stay focused on one big idea.

When you do, you’ll make your emails clearer, shorter, and more meaningful to your reader.

Online photographer: It’s the last day to register for our photography course

Marketing consultant: We just opened up 15 coaching sessions

Clothing boutique: We just published a new blog post with 5 ideas for styling your new jeans for fall

2. What’s the single most important action my customers can take when they get this email?

Whether it’s in an email or on our website, we want to give customers a very clear path toward solving a problem — whether that’s to buy, register, signup, schedule an appointment, order, or call.

By way of example, the WordStream blog featured a split-test email from Sonicare. They sent two versions to their audience and compared the results. The first version, with a single call to action, radically out-performed the version with multiple calls to action: clicks went up 371% and sales an unreal 1617%.

Of course your mileage may vary, but even if you have multiple calls to action, make sure you’ve created a primary call to action that stands out in the design and corresponds with the big idea you outlined in the first question.

You’ll be amazed how many readers will follow a path, simply because you’ve marked it clearly and asked them to take it.

You’ll be amazed how many readers will follow a path, simply because you’ve marked it clearly and asked them to take it.

Online photographer: Register now

Marketing agency: Schedule my consultation

Clothing boutique: Read the post

3. How do my readers benefit when they take action?

Have you heard the acronym WII-FM?

It’s tossed around frequently enough in the marketing world. It stands for “What’s In It For Me.” Everyone you email is tuned into “WII-FM” — their own radio frequency of whatever matters to them. Like all of us, your email readers are asking (in the back of their minds), “How can this benefit me and make my life better or easier?”

So your email needs to clearly express this. What good things will happen when your reader takes action? What bad things will they avoid? How will their life get better? Depending on what you’re offering, you might also want to spell out the risks of not taking action.

Start with an understanding of your audience for this email. What do they want? What do they struggle with? How can this email solve that problem?

Once you have clarity on this, you can express in it your emails in a way that suits your aims and your brand. It might be a simple headline or a full sales letter. But in either case, you’ll be able to articulate the benefit to your audience so they know “what’s in it for me.”

Online photographer:When they buy our photography course, they’ll learn to capture their family vacations beautifully. They’ll be able to relive their memories and cherish them for years. Without it, they’ll just end up with a bunch of lackluster, grainy shots that don’t really do their trip justice.

Marketing agency: When customers book a consultation, they’ll feel confident because they have a proven plan to make their marketing effective.

Clothing boutique: When customers read our post, they’ll feel empowered and inspired to put together great-looking fall outfits with their new jeans.

4. What kind of image shows those benefits in action?

Neuroscientists at MIT found that, in little as 13 milliseconds (!), our brains can identify an image.

And what you see in that split-second influences what your brain wants to do next. Mary Potter, the study’s lead scientist, elaborated on the findings: “The job of the eyes is not only to get the information into the brain, but to allow the brain to think about it rapidly enough to know what you should look at next.”

A powerful, well-chosen image can persuade customers to keep looking at your email — to stop the scroll on their smartphone and actually read what you have to say.

What does that mean for us as marketers? A powerful, well-chosen image can persuade customers to keep looking at your email — to stop the scroll on their smartphone and actually read what you have to say.

Find images that instantly communicate the benefits that you’ll be spelling out in your copy. You’ll snag the attention of your readers and draw them into the rest of your email.

Online photographer: A couple on their couch looking a photo album of beautiful exotic photos

Marketing agency: Before-and-after screenshots of a redesigned website from an existing client

Clothing boutique: A woman confidently walking down the street rocking one of the looks outlined in the blog

5. Optional: What proof do I have that my customers’ lives will be better when they take action?

You can answer every question on this list perfectly, but ultimately people won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you.

There’s more than one way to build trust with your customers, of course, but one way is to point to someone outside your business who can vouch for you.

In the marketing world, we call it “social proof,” but essentially, you want to show customers that others have experienced the benefits you’re promising them. It’s not necessary to include in every email, but if your email audience is relatively new to your brand, or if you’re trying to make a sale, it will help.

Online photographer: Percentage of satisfied customers from our last survey

Marketing agency: Screenshot of testimonial posted on our Facebook wall from someone who just did a consultation

Clothing boutique: Logos of reputable sources where our fashion content has been featured

If you confuse, you’ll lose.

With as little as five minutes of dedicated thinking about your next email, you’ll be able to put together a clear, compelling message that cuts through the inbox clutter and gets your customers clicking. Skip these steps, and you’ll more than likely confuse your audience and lose sales as a result.

How do you prepare to craft a great email? What did I miss? Leave a comment and let me know.

No time to create emails? We can help.

Don’t let a lack of time keep you from marketing success. Hire one of our certified StoryBrand Guides to write your next email campaign — or any other marketing material you need help with.


7 Traps That Can Tank Your Success (And How to Avoid Them)

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Running a company can sometimes feel like a treacherous journey.

A bad financial decision will cost you a ton of money. If you don’t give enough attention to your relationships, you might lose your family. And a lack of focus sucks away precious time.

It’d be so much simpler if you had a map to guide you through it. Some sort of blueprint to show you where you might fall so you can avoid the hassle of trying to dig your way out.

That’s why I’m thrilled about this Building a StoryBrand podcast with David Covey and Stephan Mardyks, co-authors of Trap Tales: Outsmarting the 7 Hidden Obstacles to Success. In this episode, they highlight the major traps business leaders slip into and show you how to steer clear of them.

Listen now so you can avoid these common pitfalls and save time, money and your relationships.


#1: The Relationship Trap

Is your marriage working well?

Unfortunately, for a lot of business owners, the answer is no.

Your marriage affects everything— your ability to learn, focus, make good financial decisions, overcome mistakes and navigate your career.

As a leader, you need a solid marriage.

That is why I love that Stephan and David start with the relationship trap as the foundation for their book. In their words, marriage is the core relationship of your life and it is in danger when partners act as ‘married singles’ rather than a unified team.

David gives three practical tools to make the paradigm shift from operating as married singles to operating as a married couple.

Tool #1: Figure out your finances. Finances cause the biggest problem in marriages. Together, decide your philosophy about money. You need to choose who manages the money and hammer out details such as when you need to ask permission from each other to spend a certain amount of money.

Tool #2: Decide how you’re going to raise the kids. Determine your child-rearing philosophy and settle how you’re going to discipline. Don’t allow the kids to play mom against dad or visa versa. You need to be a unified team.

Tool #3: Divide up the household duties. So many women work outside the home now and it’s really unfair that women still do about 80% of the household duties. Men need to take a much larger, bigger role in that. If there isn’t balance at home, resentment and frustration will likely build between you and cause a rift in your relationship.

Using these three tools will really help your marriage be unified. You won’t be acting as a married single anymore. And when things are running smoothly at home, you’ll gain traction in your business.

Assess yourself: In regard to your marriage, do you operate as a team or more like two separate individuals?

#2: The Money Trap

If you’ve already fallen into the money trap, then you’ve felt the anxiety that comes from being in debt.
You’re not alone.

David experienced the very same thing. He and his family accumulated over $90,000 in credit card debt.

At first, they tried the traditional approach of getting out of debt — budgeting.

“A lot of financial advisors and teachers and authors will teach you that you need to budget,” he says. “They teach you that you need to be disciplined, restrained, and rely on the willpower of setting up a budget and sticking to it.”

For those who have tried this method, you might have also experienced frustration like David and his wife. They got into a lot of intense discussions and criticized each other’s spending.

The upshot was it didn’t work. They didn’t get out of debt.

The Coveys decided to try a different approach, one that worked. In 18 months, they paid off all their debt and began saving for the future.

David recommends creating a highly visible scoreboard to make the process fun. His family made a “debt paper snake” to show their progress.

Then, he suggests getting your kids involved. When the Covey kids understood the goal, they stopped asking for things and joined in cutting off chunks of debt on the paper snake instead.

Once you’re out of debt, you continue on with another visual — a green tree with four branches for savings, investments, college education, and retirement. All that extra money that you were putting toward debt now starts accumulating here in the form of fruit hanging on the tree.

Getting out of the negative debt cycle is incredibly powerful.

“Are you going to be the person who pays interest most of your life? Or are you going to be the person who collects interest most of your life?”

“Are you going to be the person who pays interest most of your life?” David asks. “Or are you going to be the person who collects interest most of your life?”

Join the ranks of successful people who recognize the power of compound interest and avoid the money trap.

Assess yourself: How can you motivate yourself and your family to get out of debt and prepare for the future?

#3: The Focus Trap

Perhaps the biggest thing that can tank your business is living distractedly.

In today’s world, we have so many things taking up our time, energy and attention. Being perpetually connected to our electronic devices only worsens the problem.

David describes the focus trap as “being mired in the thick of thin things.” In other words, we get caught up in things that don’t matter.

David gives us some practical techniques to help us filter all the unimportant things vying for our attention.

Technique #1: Limit screen time. A lot of social media is a waste of time. While staying connected is important, most of us are spending excessive time keeping up on others’ lives and losing time with the real people we live with. Parents know it’s important to have rules about screen time for their kids, but they need be a good example and limit screen time for themselves too.

Technique #2: Value things that take time. In a world where things happen instantaneously and automatically, we get impatient with anything that takes longer and is more difficult. This is because our focus muscles have gone soft. Find activities that require patience, hard-work and steady attention. David and his family have a game that keeps track of how many books they can read each year.

Technique #3: Detect your mission statement. Some people end up wasting time on social media and other pointless pursuits because they still don’t know what their purpose is. For those of you who feel that’s where you are, David quotes his father, Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
You don’t write your mission statement, you detect it.

“You’ve got to find the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you love doing, and what you can make money at,” David says. “If you can find the intersection of those three things, then you can be very successful.”
David suggests asking your family and friends to identify your strengths. Figure out what you can do to make the biggest contribution. Determine where you can differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. And then go for it.

Spend time reflecting on your mission or purpose.

David again: “We live in a world where there are so many opportunities.You don’t need to settle for anything.”
Instead, you should spend time reflecting on your mission or purpose. When you discover that, you’ll find it’s easier to avoid the focus trap.

Assess yourself: How do you get caught up in the thick of thin things? What is your biggest time waster?

#4: The Change Trap

We all know that change is difficult, uncomfortable, even painful.

So when the time comes for change, we usually put it off. We procrastinate.

Stephan and David tell us that procrastinating change is a killer of growth and transformation.

“We need to learn to change courageously when our conscience dictates it, rather than change when we’re forced to,” David says. “ A lot of times, unfortunately, people don’t change until they hit rock bottom.”

If you wait that long, you won’t have many good options to choose from.

For years, I was a memoirist. Since I started StoryBrand to help people clarify their messages and grow their businesses, people often lament they miss the guy who wrote about his personal journey.

My response is usually:
When you’ve written your eighth memoir, you’re a clinical narcissist.

Eventually, the stuff you’ve always done stops working. I’m so glad I was willing to move into something different.

Perhaps you’ve felt that nudge telling you it’s time to change, but you feel like it’s too late. David offers some hopeful advice — you can change the trajectory of your life at any time.

Listen to your conscience. It will let you know when it’s time to change. And when you hear it, embrace change and move on.

Assess yourself: Are you procrastinating change? If so, what steps can you take to move in a new direction?

#5: The Learning Trap

When you make a mistake, how do you feel?

Embarrassed? Defensive? Frantic?

You should feel human.

From your very first steps as a baby to your very first steps in a new business venture, human beings grow through the trial and error method. Mistakes are the process nature uses for our transformation.

Still, most people find it difficult to rejoice and celebrate a mistake. In today’s world, David says we’re inundated with social media and immersed in people’s filtered lives which appear perfect. We’re persuaded to keep up a near-perfect image too.

See your mistakes as learning opportunities and welcome them as a natural part of your journey.

Avoid this pitfall. It will stop your growth.

The next time you feel tempted to hide or spin your mistake, try a different approach. See your mistakes as learning opportunities and welcome them as a natural part of your journey.

Embracing your mistakes will transform you into the powerful leader you’ve always wanted to be.

Assess yourself: When you make a mistake, do you see it as a learning opportunity?

#6: The Career Trap

If you’re in a career that made sense at one time, but it doesn’t make sense anymore, then you’ve fallen into the trap of “settling.”

You’ve lost your passion and inspiration at work and the reasons why you are there no longer exist.

One of our previous guests, Stephen Mansfield called this “being out of season.” He warned that if you’re not careful, you might be on course for a leadership crash.

David and Stephan outline what you need to avoid the career trap.

There’s four aspects to a successful career:

  1. The first is money. You want to be paid fairly for what you do.
  2. The second is ideas. You want to have your ideas utilized.
  3. The third is passion. You want to enjoy yourself and feel excited about your contributions.
  4. The fourth is purpose. You want to feel like you’re making a difference.

If any one of these four aspects are missing, you’re in danger of slipping into the career trap. Take steps to influence your work environment so all four parts are activated.

If you find that the steps you’ve taken just aren’t working, consider working at a different company or starting a new profession.

You might be thinking that you hate your job, but it’s too late. You’re 42 years old. You’re making $80,000 a year. What else are you going to do?

Stephan gives this advice: It’s never too late.

He doesn’t recommend to just quit. Instead, you should prepare to quit. Shut down the excuses. Recognize the timing will always be inconvenient. Make a plan to find a new position and follow through.

Assess yourself: 1) Are you paid fairly for the work you perform? 2) At work, are your opinions heard and valued? 3) Do you enjoy working with the people at your job? 4) How would you like to be remembered in your career?

#7: The Purpose Trap

Have you ever gone to an estate sale? Perhaps you wandered around and examined a painting, tested a power tool or thumbed through some old books.

It might surprise you that one person can accumulate so much stuff.

Why is that?

David gives us three reasons.

  1. We have an accumulation mentality. We are conditioned to believe that the purpose of life is to accumulate more stuff.
  2. We are in continual pursuit of happiness. We believe that once we acquire the next thing, we’ll be happy.
  3. We get caught up in competitive consumption. We think the more we have, the more successful we must be.

Falling into the purpose trap means we’ve believed the lie that accumulating things will bring meaning to our lives.

We don’t usually discover we’ve been caught in this trap until the end of our lives.

After reading a lot of deathbed literature, Stephan and David discovered that people who are close to death don’t talk about money, awards, or accolades. And they definitely don’t talk about the things they own. Instead, they talk about relationships, service, contributions and memories.

This perspective gives us invaluable insight about what is truly important.

David and Stephan have some action steps to help you keep your higher purpose in mind.

Value experiences over possessions. The Covey family live abroad two to three months a year. Spending time with each other in interesting places creates memories that will last all their lives.

Spend a day each year going through your belongings as if you were moving somewhere far away. When you’ve donated or discarded the things that aren’t adding real value to your life, you are teaching yourself an important lesson about what really matters.

Repair a broken relationship or strengthen a weak relationship with someone you care about. By investing your time and effort in a relationship, you are keeping possessions in a supporting role where they belong.

If we’re not careful, we’ll lose ourselves in the midst of our possessions.

We live in a world of abundance. Acquiring things has become so easy and second-nature. If we’re not careful, we’ll lose ourselves in the midst of our possessions. Don’t wait until the end of your life to discover you’ve been spending it on unimportant stuff. Prize experiences over purchases and your key relationships will thrive.

Assess yourself: What are some of your most treasured memories? What can you do to create more memories like those?

Stephan and David are wanting us to become “trapologists” — people who study the traps we are likely to fall into during our lives. Not only will it help your career, it will help your life.

Learning about these traps means you can build a solid marriage. You won’t be paying interest for the rest of your life. You’ll be focused in your work, ready to learn from your mistakes and make needed changes. You’ll have what it takes to redefine your career if the time comes. And you’ll know your life is about relationships, service and contribution — not about accumulating things.

Growing our businesses is important, but it isn’t really the end game, is it? It’s about improving lives, including our own.

Growing our businesses is important, but it isn’t really the end game, is it? It’s about improving lives, including our own.

So be encouraged, wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey, that you now have a map to guide you through. You know what to look for to stay out of trouble. If you want some more insight, listen to this podcast. David and Stephan cover so much more than I can give you here. I know you’ll find your way to greater and greater levels of growth, both for your company and yourself.

PORTLAND WORKSHOP: Get Marketing Tools that Work

Our Portland workshop is next week! Stop wasting money on marketing tactics that don’t work. Join us in beautiful Portland, Oregon, for the StoryBrand Workshop and learn how to clarify your message so your customers understand you. Our entire team is flying in to bring the best of StoryBrand marketing advice to your business. Work alongside StoryBrand experts and other like-minded business leaders to solve your marketing problems and grow your revenue.


Executive producer: Tim Schurrer
Additional production and editing: Chad Snavely

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