The Framework that Makes You Money - Marketing Made Simple Podcast

Does your company have a clear message? 

Do your customers know what problem you solve? 

Do your clients know what makes you different from other solution providers in your industry?

If not, an unclear story could be costing you business.

On the first Marketing Made Simple Podcast, Donald Miller is featured as the first guest, where he guides you through the StoryBrand Framework, which has helped thousands of businesses clarify their message to turn browsers into customers.

Key Takeaways

  • 01 Why is Story so important in marketing? The big reason is it captures people's attention. (04:10)
  • 02 The key 7 parts of every effective marketing messaging (05:38)
  • 03 The StoryBrand framework applied to the movie King's Speech (06:48)
  • 04 The story is not about your or your business, it's about inviting your customer into a story by telling them a story about the life that they're living. (09:00)
  • 05 StoryBrand is made up of two frameworks. One is a messaging framework. The second is a marketing framework (09:52)

Show Transcribe

  • JJ Peterson (00:05):

Why is story so important to use in creating clear marketing and messaging?

  • Donald Miller (00:10):

The big reason is it captures people's attention. So 30% of the time a human being is daydreaming. There are things that trigger us though to start paying attention. And the great thing about story is that it knows what those triggers are and it can break you up from a daydream and it is the most powerful tool known to man to do that.

  • JJ Peterson (00:40):

Welcome to the Marketing Made Simple Podcast, where we believe that marketing should be easy and it should work. I am your host, Dr. JJ Peterson, and I am joined by my co-host, April Sunshine Hawkins. April.

I know that may sound a little cheesy, but there is nothing more fulfilling in my life than giving people help with their marketing because you and I both work with thousands of companies every year ... training them and helping them create clear message that engages their customers and grows their business. In this episode, we are actually going to go through the entire StoryBrand framework, which is a tool that people can use to clarify their message.

So, I am in charge of StoryBrand and you are in charge of our certified marketing program where we actually certify guides, certified marketing guides, the best marketers in the world, but just to start off, April, how excited are you about this?

  • April Sunshine (01:43):

I am beyond excited. Beyond, because this framework, the StoryBrand framework has every element that you need to pull somebody into your story and create marketing that actually works.

  • JJ Peterson (01:58):

Yep. You and I both did marketing and messaging on our own before we ever came to work for StoryBrand and struggled. Just quite frankly, and we were good. Let's just be, we were good. But every time you sit down to write an email or create a website, you have to stare at a blank page and go, "What do I write?" And StoryBrand gave us the tools to actually create marketing and messaging that was easy and it works. And that's why we say the Marketing Made Simple Podcast is powered by StoryBrand, right? That's what that means. Every week, when you listen to the Marketing Made Simple Podcast, you will get the tools you need to make creating marketing easy and it will work.

But for the very first episode, we just wanted to start with saying, what is story? How does story work and what is the StoryBrand framework? And so we decided to invite on Donald Miller, the creator of the StoryBrand framework. He spent years studying story as a memoirist. He wrote multiple books that ended up on the New York Times Bestseller List, and began to see how there was a common thread through all stories, that there is a framework for how stories are written and how they are built. And he began to see that you could use that in your messaging and marketing to invite people into a beautiful story. So here is our very special friend, our very special interview, and our very special boss, Donald Miller.

  • Donald Miller (03:42):

StoryBrand became Business Made Simple and then spun off Marketing Made Simple, a little more confusing.

  • JJ Peterson (03:47):

Yes. A little more confusing, but we are here today and you came up with the framework that this entire podcast is based on. Why is story so important to use in creating clear marketing and messaging?

  • Donald Miller (04:01):

The big reason is it captures people's attention. So 30% of the time, a human being is daydreaming, but the brain only does that when it doesn't sense anything that it needs in order to survive. It will say, "Okay, there's no data, nothing that I'm looking at is necessary for me to understand in order to increase my chances of survival, therefore I'm going to unplug." There are things that trigger us, though, to start paying attention.

And the great thing about story is that it knows what those triggers are and it can break you up from a daydream, break you out of a daydream, and cause you to pay attention. And it is the most powerful tool known to man to do that. So, the evolution that I took was, how do we use this tool on behalf of brands so that they can engage more customers and get them to pay attention? That was the bridge that hadn't been crossed.

  • JJ Peterson (04:55):

When I did my dissertation, my dissertation was on story and using story in marketing. And I remember presenting some of my research to my professors, to my lead professors, my committee that looks at all of my research. And as I was presenting it, I presented some of the history of story and the research that had been done about story in marketing. All the research showed that if you use story and marketing, you get better results. But they looked at what we created and all of a sudden they said, "But nobody has ever said how, and that's what you created." And that's really the power of this. So, explain what those seven things are. What are the seven parts of a great marketing message?

  • Donald Miller (05:38):

First is it's a character that wants something, who encounters a problem, and they can't get what they want because they have to overcome something, and that problem is frustrating them deeply. And then a guide steps into their life who helps them overcome this problem. And then the guide gives them a plan of action that they can take to resolve the problem, calls them, challenges them to take action, and that act either ends in a tragedy because it doesn't work, or a comedy, which doesn't mean humor, it actually means it's a happy ending. So those are the seven elements.

Character has a problem, meets a guide, gives them a plan, calls them to action, and that ends in success or failure.

  • JJ Peterson (06:25):

Give us an example of a movie, maybe a lot of people would know, that breaks down in those seven elements.

  • Donald Miller (06:31):

Yeah. If you think of The King's Speech is one that I really love, a beautiful film, won an Academy Award. The king, King George has a terrible stutter. He has to be able to communicate clearly because the throne has been passed to him.

  • JJ Peterson (06:45):

That's what he wants. He has to communicate clearly.

  • Donald Miller (06:48):

That's what he wants, he wants to communicate clearly. He actually doesn't want to be king and he doesn't want to communicate clearly. He has to. He has no choice, which is an even better story, right? A hero against their will having to do something is even better. He encounters a problem. The physical problem is that he stutters. The internal problem is that he feels that the wrong person has been chosen to be king. He literally believes he cannot live up to his father's legacy. The philosophical problem is the Nazis are taking over Europe, they're threatening England and the country more than ever needs a unifying message to be spoken clearly.

StoryBrand Example

And so evil is at the bay and a guide, a speech coach dramatist named Lionel steps into George's life and gives him a plan. It's a series in the film where he does all these exercises to overcome his stutter, trains him, and then calls on him to give a unifying speech that has not come from the guide itself, but it comes from just the fact that he's going to have to do this. This can either end in tragedy in which they turn on the radio and he stutters and gives the British people and the Allies zero confidence that they have a leader who can get them through this, or he gives a successful speech and he emboldens the British people and the Allies to fight on the beaches. These are formulas that satisfy human beings and they've been satisfying human beings for centuries.

  • April Sunshine (08:19):

So we love this coming out in movies, of course, but we also train marketers in how to use this framework. And we have thousands of people from all over who really want to figure out how to use their message. And so, how does this framework actually translate into marketing instead of messaging?

  • Donald Miller (08:40):

So one of the things I love about marketing and sales seen through this lens is, you're actually talking about a marketing and sales framework that is incredibly literary, not sleazy, not manipulative, deeply rooted in the DNA of human beings. It's an extremely powerful tool.

  • JJ Peterson (09:00):

So really in the way that we teach people how to create marketing is to position their customer as the hero. You mentioned that. So when you're writing a story, the story is not about your business, it is about inviting a customer into a story by telling them a story about the life that they're living.

  • Donald Miller (09:18):

Yeah. Yeah. Essentially, you interpret their story for them.

  • JJ Peterson (09:23):

Yeah. And so you apply the seven elements you talked about that are in all good movies, all good stories to your marketing. So, there are seven things you need to say in that story, you need to say what the character wants, what problem they're experiencing, position yourself as the guide, give them a plan, call them to action, and then show how their life can result in tragedy or comedy, failure or success. So tell us a little bit about that.

  • Donald Miller (09:52):

Nailed it. There's really two frameworks that we teach. One is building a story brand, which is how to clarify your message. The other one is, JJ, you and I wrote a book called Marketing Made Simple. So it's clarify your message and then put that message into this sales funnel and your business will grow. So, there's really two frameworks. One is a message framework. One is a marketing framework. And we've seen 10,000+ companies do this and it's worked over and over and over again because finally they're able to connect with customers.

  • JJ Peterson (10:20):

And over the next eight weeks on this podcast, we're actually going to go deeper into each of those elements. So we're going to walk through, and we're going to show everybody how to write messaging that will invite customers into a story. So, if you listen to this podcast, you are going to discover all eight elements.

  • Donald Miller (10:38):

We've heard this over and over. I remember a Georgetown professor came to a workshop and he said, "This is not only better than anything we have on messaging and marketing. This is better than our entire MBA program." And what he means is, it's going to teach you to make money. I think what you guys are going to teach is better than an MBA, certainly better than... With the exception of Vanderbilt University, where JJ teaches story brand, you're going to get a better education than you ever got in college.

  • April Sunshine (10:59):

Thank you for building a framework that works for everyone. It works for small business owners. It works for non-profits. It works for B2B. It works for giant corporations like Geico and USAA. People have been to our live marketing workshop and it's just changed everything for them and their business.

  • Donald Miller (11:26):

The marketing agencies that went from, "I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom," to, "Now I make more doing part-time than my husband." And then it works for agencies that have become StoryBrand certified marketers, and then they now have a seven figure agency because marketing is just so much easier and it's not sleazy. It's actually really meaningful and you're helping people connect.

So yeah, I'm grateful for everybody who's bought in and said, "Hey, let's put this on our shoulders and take story into the business community," because everybody's talking about story, but nobody knows how to do it.

  • JJ Peterson (11:57):

Love it. Well, thank you so much for being here. And I'm so excited about these next eight weeks where we are going to break down every piece of the StoryBrand framework and show you how to write messaging, create marketing that is clear and invites your customers into a story so you can connect with them better and grow your business.

I love hearing him talk about that.

I just, every time he starts talking about how story works and then getting into some examples of how it works for businesses, I just get excited.

  • April Sunshine (12:37):

It's transformation and really, that speaks to the very first part of the StoryBrand framework that we talk about.

  • JJ Peterson (12:46):

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we talked about the overall approach to story and how story works and the seven parts that everybody needs. And over the next eight episodes, and I did say eight even though we call it the seven part framework, the eight episodes, we're going to dive much more deeply into each of those parts. But to just talk about it a little bit, how companies can start creating clearer messaging is they really need to pay attention to seven talking points based on the seven parts of the framework. And why we say eight episodes are coming up is because there's really this eighth one that is really more about the overarching transformation your customer experiences when they engage with your product or service. It's called character transformation or identity transformation. That's really what sets up the seven parts of the framework.

So, when we talk about identity transformation, what we mean by that is that your customer is experiencing a problem, and so the beginning of their story, they are tired or they are overwhelmed or they are confused. And after they use your product or service, they have transformed into where they are rested, they are in control, they are in charge, they are the best sales person in the world, right? So they've experienced this transformation. They were somebody before they bought your product, they were tired, overwhelmed, and they buy your product, then they become something new after. And that's called identity transformation. That's the first part of the framework that we're going to cover next week. And it really guides the overarching story that you're inviting customers into.

Then from there, Don mentioned the very first part of a good story, the first step in the framework is identifying what a character wants. So you need to be able to, in your messaging and marketing, clearly identify what it is that your customer is looking for. Then that really sets up, so your customer wants something, step one in the StoryBrand framework, but there is a problem that gets in the way of them getting that. And this is the most important part of the story.

first step of a great story
  • April Sunshine (14:53):

Oh my goodness. I am obsessed with the problem. Let me tell you, this is my favorite part of the framework. And it's the one that a lot of people, they trip over it or they forget to include it all together. And so it's really, really key to say, actually out loud, "This is the problem that our customers are experiencing." Because they might not even know they have the problem, or they're like, "Oh, I am experiencing that problem, but they're experiencing so many problems in their life at any given time that it's really difficult to get them to focus on one.

And so your marketing and your messaging has to actually spell it out for them so that they're actually going to pay attention to that specific problem. And then as Don talked about, there are also internal problems that are speaking to how your customers are feeling about the external problem that you've defined. And then there's a philosophical problem, a reason something is just plain wrong. And so really being able to identify what the problems are will help your customers want to take action to get rid of them.

  • JJ Peterson (16:11):

You can't stop talking about your customer's problem. If you stop talking about your customer's problem, they stop listening to you, because they have no idea why they need you.

So you need to identify what problem you solve and put it in all your marketing. And then after you've established what your customer wants and the problems that they're experiencing, now you get to talk about yourself and that's where you position yourself as the guide. This is my favorite thing about the StoryBrand framework is positioning yourself as the guide to your customer. You are helping your customer, who is the hero of your story. You are helping them win the day. And so you position yourself as the guide with empathy and authority.

And all that means is you say, "I understand the problems you're experiencing and I've helped other people overcome this problem." That's empathy, I get it. Authority, I've already won the day for somebody else. So, you've got what your customer wants, you've identified what problems you overcome, you've positioned yourself as the guide, and now it's time to give them a plan.

  • April Sunshine (17:17):

Oh man, the plan is so key here. And what people really need to know is your plan has to be pretty simple ... because usually there are a lot of steps in whatever it is that your business is doing, especially if you have a complicated business or you're a technology company or an engineering firm, you're going to be walking your customers through a very long process potentially. And the plan is not the time for education.

It is a time to go, "Here is how we're going to solve your problem. This is the way. This is how you can do it. I've been down this path before, as the guide, I've actually walked this road, let me show you how it's done. First, you do this, then you do this, and then you're going to experience the successful result." And if you can do that and really paint a picture and a path for people, they're like, "Oh, that sounds easy. That helps me conserve those calories that I need in my life to do all the other things I need."

  • JJ Peterson (18:22):

And why that plan is so important is because you are just about to call them to action. For the first time in the story, you're about to ask them for money, right?

And before you ask them for money, they need to see the clear path forward. You need to remove the fog on how they do business with you, and then comes that call to action. And this is a huge piece that most people miss is, on their website, they do not call their customers to action enough. They do not give them a clear and compelling call to action. Buy now, shop now, schedule a call. They don't have it. And that needs to be everywhere because the reality is, people do not act on their own if they don't have to, right?

They have to be called to action. And so you need to have clear calls to action on your website. You need to have them in your emails. You don't want to just say, "If you have more questions, give me a call." No. Clear and compelling call to action. In movies, there's always a bomb that's going to go off in a minute.

And that's a clear call to action. The hero has to do something. Well that buy now button, it's forcing the customer to either accept or reject your offer. And then the last two pieces, you need to cast a vision for what life is like if they buy your product or service ...that's success, or don't buy your product or service, that's failure.

  • April Sunshine (19:43):

That's right. And this also ties back to the problem, right? If that problem is going to keep existing in their life, well paint the picture of what that looks like. That's failure. That really helps people go, "Oh man, if I am experiencing this, then this is what my life is going to look like. And you have to spell it out again. You've got to spell it out for people. Help make it easy for them to understand it, but don't go too far with failure. That's our main key here is, hey, you do not actually want to add too much salt into the recipe because people will just turn off. They won't engage with too much failure.

So, what you want to do is just go overboard on what success will look like. If they actually get what they want and they are able to solve their problem that they're experiencing and those internal problems that they've been feeling, well what does their life look like then? And so just paint those pictures, give us examples, show them the way in your imagery and in your words and in all of your marketing pieces and they will want to experience that for themselves.

  • JJ Peterson (20:59):

Yep. Answer the question, what does life look like if they buy your product? What success will they experience? And what would their life look like if they don't? Failure. Really, all you have to do is answer those questions, identify those steps in your customer's journey, write those things down, and keep it short, keep it clear, keep it compelling, and then put it everywhere in your marketing. And only put that in your marketing. Don't add a whole bunch of other stuff, only use language that comes from those talking points.

When we talk about building a story brand, a brand that is based in story, inviting your customers into a story, that's what we're talking about, is identifying those talking points that tells your customer story and then put it everywhere in your marketing, which is why at the end of every episode, we are going to give you an actionable step that you can take to improve your marketing messaging as soon as the podcast is done.

So, this week's actionable step is, go to

At, you will find what we call a brand script. And this is a tool we use to write down the language that will be used in your marketing messaging. There are sections there for each part of the StoryBrand framework, so you can actually write down the words you're going to use. Then use that brand script each week as we go more in depth into each section of the StoryBrand framework, and you can refine and make it better, so that by the end of this, you will have all your marketing messaging down on one piece of paper.

So, go to today and begin creating your brand script and follow along so you will have all your marketing messaging on one piece of paper. So, go to right now so you can start building your brand script.

So April, this has been our very first Marketing Made Simple Podcast. Oh, thank you for coming on this journey with me and thank you to all the listeners for joining us today. I am so looking forward to not just the next eight weeks, but the next few years that we're going to spend together building businesses that are going to have easy and clear marketing that works. So, subscribe to Marketing Made Simple wherever you listen to podcasts and rate and review, letting us know how these tips are transforming your business. We can't wait for you to join us next week.

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