Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller [Book Outline & Summary]

What are key components for building a brand story?

According to Donald Miller’s Building A StoryBrand, a successful brand story follows these 7 essential principles:

  1. The customer is the hero, not your brand.
  2. Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems.
  3. Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.
  4. Customers trust a guide who has a plan.
  5. Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to take action.
  6. Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending.
  7. Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.

“Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own.” This simple yet profound concept lies at the core of Donald Miller’s transformative book, Building a Story Brand. Miller argues that the success of your company’s brand messaging hinges upon how well you can craft it around your customers’ needs and desires. Failure to do this risks stalling your business growth.

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

In Building a Story Brand, Miller does an excellent job at presenting his central ideas without unnecessary fluff. From cover to cover, the book stands as a handy reference, a tool that you’ll likely find yourself reaching for time and time again as you develop your brand story and marketing materials.

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What Is Building a Story Brand About?

Building a Story Brand is a manual on how to bring clarity to your brand message using what Miller coins as the “StoryBrand Framework”. This allows you to stop squandering resources on ineffective marketing tactics, paving the way to engage with your ideal customers more effectively, increase sales, and grow your company with unprecedented efficiency.

Who will Benefit from Reading Building a Story Brand?

Building a Story Brand offers a valuable toolkit for anyone seeking to communicate with their ideal customers in a clear, compelling manner. Its practical wisdom will resonate with a broad audience, from budding entrepreneurs and small business owners to freelancers and seasoned marketing professionals. The applicability of Miller’s insights extends beyond industry boundaries, making it an invaluable resource for anyone trying to sell anything, even an idea, to someone else.

Who is Donald Miller?

Donald Miller author of Building a Story Brand
Donald Miller, author of Building a Story Brand

Donald Miller is a prolific author and the CEO of the marketing company StoryBrand. He has shared his marketing acumen with over 3,000 business leaders, helping them sharpen their brand messaging and bolster growth. Miller’s insightful business books, including Building a Story Brand and Marketing Made Simple, have spent more than a year collectively on the New York Times Bestsellers list, attesting to their value and popularity.

Key Ideas from the Book

Building a Story Brand is divided into three sections, each of which delves into an essential stage of the StoryBrand Framework. Let’s unpack the core concepts explored in each section.

Section 1: Why Most Marketing is a Money Pit

Miller emphasizes that visibility, comprehension, and relatability are the cornerstones of successful marketing. Lack of clarity, he asserts, is the bane of many marketing efforts. In the first chapter, Miller claims, “Most companies waste enormous amounts of money on marketing.” He makes the case that no matter how aesthetically appealing your websites and marketing materials are, they will fall flat if they confuse or bore your potential customers with your brand messaging.

Miller argues that even the most superior products may lose market share to their inferior counterparts if those competitors can communicate their offerings more succinctly. The key is to convey your message in a simple, relevant, and repeatable way, empowering your entire team to propagate your company’s message compellingly. In doing so, your customers will better comprehend the value you are offering them.

Section 2: Building Your StoryBrand

Miller argues that employing a story framework familiar to most of us from literature class, The Hero’s Journey, can unlock unprecedented customer engagement and business growth. The Hero’s Journey framework permeates most, if not all, of our beloved literature, films, and dramas. Miller repackages this time-tested narrative structure into his own StoryBrand 7 (SB7) Framework.

In Section 2 of Building a Story Brand, Miller guides you in utilizing each story element in the Hero’s Journey/SB7 to make your brand more inviting to customers. This section is the heart of the book and introduces readers to a set of indispensable principles:

Roman numeral I

StoryBrand Principle One:

The customer is the hero, not your brand.

Positioning your customer as the hero and your brand as the guide helps you become a trusted resource to help your customers overcome their challenges. This is essential to creating customer engagement.

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StoryBrand Principle Two:

Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems.

Your customers are seeking solutions to problems and want help. You deepen their interest in your product when you talk about the problems your customers are facing.

According to Miller, there are three levels of problems customers encounter:

1. External
2. Internal
3. Philosophical

Your customers are most motivated to overcome their Internal frustrations. So those are the ones you need to talk about most. However, the external frustrations can’t be ignored, since they have a direct bearing on the customer’s ability to solve their problem. Finally, the Philosophical frustrations focus on the why of their motivation to solve a particular problem, as well as your own reasons for helping them do so with your product or service.

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StoryBrand Principle Three:

Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.

Your customers aren’t looking for someone that shares the same problems. They’re looking for a guide to show them how to solve their problems.

“If heroes could solve their own problems, they’d never get into trouble in the first place,” according to Miller. “That’s why storytellers created a character to help the hero win.”

And your brand can be the guide to help your customers overcome their challenges.

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StoryBrand Principle Four:

Customers trust a guide who has a plan.

A guide’s role in a story is to give the hero a plan, a bit of information, or a few steps so they can solve their problem or start down the path to resolution. People want to be pointed in the right direction. Providing potential customers with a plan helps you build trust and offers them a clear path forward. This ultimately increases the chances they will make a purchase when they’re ready.

Roman numeral V

StoryBrand Principle Five:

Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to take action.

People take action when they are challenged to do so. This gives them a reason to act. Failing to create a clear Call to Action (CTA) for your customers is a roadblock to customers engaging with your brand. A CTA gives customers a clear path to follow for overcoming their challenges and solving their problems. It helps customers understand what you want them to do.

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StoryBrand Principle Six:

Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending.

You need to show customers what happens if they don’t do business with your brand. Otherwise, they may not be motivated to buy. “Stories live and die on a single question: What’s at stake?” according to Miller. “If nothing can be gained or lost, nobody cares.”

Roman numeral VII

StoryBrand Principle Seven:

Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.

Your customers want their story to end in success. So, show them how much better their lives will be if they engage your products or services.

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Section 3: Implementing Your StoryBrand BrandScript

Applying the SB7 framework and process to your brand messaging gives you what Miller calls a StoryBrand BrandScript.

As Miller says, “Once you’re done, you’ll no longer feel confused about how to talk about your products and services, and you’ll have messages that powerfully engage potential customers.”

Once you have created your unique StoryBrand BrandScript, Miller walks you through how to employ it across all facets of your marketing. He offers guidance on building a customer-centric website, cultivating a company culture that embodies your new messaging, and much more.

At the conclusion of the book, Miller furnishes a comprehensive StoryBrand Marketing Roadmap. This gives you a blueprint for leveraging your new messaging to maximize the impact of your brand marketing.

Harness the Power of Storytelling for Your Brand

You can find out more about the book and read other reviews or purchase your own copy on Amazon, or listen to the audiobook on Audible.

Did you enjoy this book review? Make sure to check out the full list of 44 Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs, Startups & Small Business.

And don’t forget to browse our collections of business podcasts and online forums for entrepreneurs for more small business resources.

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A special high five to Margot Howard for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs who are passionate about business success strategies. Thank you Margot! ❤️

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