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Alex Winter

By Alex Winter

May 22, 2024


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Search Engine Optimization  |   Web Design  |   Marketing Strategy  |   Website Copy

Using StoryBrand To Optimize Your Success [Endless Customers Podcast S.1. Ep. 34]

Alex Winter

By Alex Winter

May 22, 2024

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Something that businesses take for granted, that they need to stop taking for granted right this
minute, is that if you confuse, you lose. People do not buy the products that are communicated the
most cleverly. They buy the products that are communicated the clearest. Donald Miller says this as
part of StoryBrand. If you are not, you will lose every single time, and most likely to one of your top
So this is something you cannot ignore. Your messaging has to be a top priority and clarified as
soon as possible.
Welcome back to Endless Customers. My name is Alex Winter and today we are joined by Mary
Brown, our lead web strategist here at Impact Mary. Welcome back to the show.
Hey, thanks Alex.
Good to be here.
Great to have you here. And today we're talking about something really cool. We're talking about
StoryBrand, which is a great book, great framework. Donald Miller, we're big fans. But I think there's
a lot of people out there that don't know about StoryBrand. So before we get into like the nitty gritty
pieces of how to implement and roll out and
like use StoryBrand to your advantage with your business, can you just like high level tell us what
StoryBrand's all about.
Yeah. So the StoryBrand framework is a marketing strategy tool based on storytelling principles. So
it revolves around the idea that people naturally connect with stories. And it allows you to leverage
to help people emotionally connect to your messaging.
Nice, very nice. And why is that important? Because I feel like a lot of businesses, it's all about P&L.
It's all about making money, sales, bringing in leads, and it's very black and white, and it almost
loses that emotional piece
that really is the story brand piece that people connect with, and that people make buying decisions
on, because we know people make buying decisions based off their emotions.
Absolutely, and the reason that it works is because it's based in certain principles of storytelling, and
it's grounded in, we'll say, three main principles that I like to hearken back to. One of them is that
you are not the hero of the story. Your customer is the hero of the story.
And this totally flips the script, right? You have to make sure that your prospect is centered on the
story. Next is that you have to set the stakes. So a lot of people kind of recoil at this a little bit and
they say, I don't want to get negative,
I don't want to set stakes. But if people don't know what's at stake by not working with you, then
they're not set up for the value proposition. They're really not.
Right, so true.
And the last one is that your company is the guide. So if our prospect is the hero of the story, you
are the guide. And it's all about trust and building trust with that prospect, that potential customer,
that you can guide them to that outcome that they're looking for. And this is where all the emotion
comes into play because you are basing it on that trust, being the guide to their hero, setting the
all that good stuff, and it works.
It definitely works. And I think that's also why we love Storybrand and the whole framework here at
Impact because it pairs very well with They Ask, You Answer in the sense that we're trying to build
trust. And we do that through communication
and we do that through telling a good story and conveying our brand messaging in an authentic and
real way.
Yeah, absolutely. Very cool.
So, you work with a ton of companies, you work with a ton of brands, all different industries, B2B,
B2C, when it comes to building their websites, redesigning their websites, helping them fix things
that are broken with their websites, whatever the case may be, you seem to do it all. How does
StoryBrand play into your approach and how you handle these sorts of situations on your
There are so many reasons why StoryBrand is perfect for websites and why it lends really well to
implementing on a website. So one of them is that websites are all about crafting a specific message
and you can really tailor your audience on different pages. I mean your story on your home page
might be different on a solution page and you're able to tell those unique stories on those pages. So
it works really well. Totally.
Another is structure. So websites are inherently structured, right? You have headings, you have
body copy, you have calls to action. And StoryBrand is really process-driven for how you're moving
people through the buyer's journey, and that structure allows for that process to really be built
beautifully within a website.
Right. That makes sense.
Okay. Another is the visual element. So, believe it or not, storytelling very much has to do with
visuals as well because visuals are so great at evoking emotion. So, think about all the photos, all
the videos that you're going to put on your website. They can really help tell that story and evoke
more emotion in ways that just written words
And they can enhance the written words as well.
Which is why it's important to not just go to iStock and grab a bunch of random photos. Not that
iStock isn't great, but pulling random photos that aren't your people, that aren't your brand, that
aren't your company.
For real.
Doesn't seem like the right move, right?
For real.
We tell people that all the time, and I'm glad you said, you know, not that iStock isn't bad. We always
advocate for a mix, right? You wanna have a mix. You wanna have some stock photography, that's
but you wanna have your people in there too, so they can see that we are human. We feel
emotions. We connect with people. And that helps build that trust as well to see that we are real
people who service real people.
Yeah. And real people also, we've been using this technology for a while now. So the phones and
the internet and all this stuff, especially with AI, people are smarter now and they know when it's not
an authentic photo. People know when it's a stock photo or a stock video or it's maybe a computer
generated type of thing. People are getting a lot more savvy, as Jack Sparrow would say.
They are savvy, and I'm glad you brought up how long we've been used to this type of thing.
Because when you think about storytelling, stories were painted on cave walls. That's how long
storytelling has been part of being a human being and how we connect to other human beings.
So that's why this is a tale of old as time. It's totally timeless. It will never go away, and that's why it
works. But another reason why this is so great on websites is because websites should focus on
benefits. And I say should because I can't tell you
how often I look at a website and they just feature dump, right? It's like, we have this, we have that,
we have this feature, we have that feature. But when you tell a story, you need to talk about the
You need to paint the picture of how it makes life better. That is such a huge part of StoryBrand, and
a website should do that if you're doing it right.
Yeah, it should. And it goes back to what you were saying, where I think a lot of companies, and I've
done this in the past too, I'm a small business owner, where it's all about me. It's like, look at all the
cool things I can do,
look at my degrees, look at all my awards, look at all the stuff and things, but that doesn't tell a story.
You know, it is just a lot about you and not a lot about how you can help people and what your
services provide to help people get what they need because they're looking for what they want.
And that's a fundamental thing.
Yes. And we're absolutely going to talk about that in messaging. The last thing I want to say about
why websites are so perfect for implementing StoryBrand is the call to action. So that's the purpose
of a website is to call someone to action and make them do a thing. And StoryBrand helps you
identify what those actions should be. And it's such a huge part of the website, it's such a huge part
of clarifying your message that it works perfectly.
Yeah, no, that's a really good point. And we call it the one thing, right? When we're talking, they ask
you answer, but it's like really figuring out what that CTA, what that one thing is that you want people
to do. And we've seen in the past, the more things that you have, the more options for people to
click on, the more confusing it potentially can be, the harder it is to convert because people don't
know which way to go. So it's really important to think about those things
and StoryBrand does a great job of doing exactly that. So my next question, right, what happens
when people don't use StoryBrand or they don't implement this correctly and maybe some of the
problems that you've seen through your travels and through your experiences.
I see, I don't all see the good ones. I see a lot of the not so good ones.
And we don't have to call anybody out. We can stay general here.
Yeah, yeah.
But what are some faux pas or things that you've seen where it didn't work or they weren't doing it
correctly and how it might have negatively affected their business?
The biggest issue I see with companies that do not use StoryBrand and do not implement this is
they have a confusing message. So whether they are victim to the curse of knowledge, where they
are just dumping level 10 complex concepts and jargon on top of people's heads and they're sitting
there scratching their head
They don't understand what you're talking about that happens all the time Or they try to be clever
and they try to be funny and they're not coca-cola So you can't get away with being clever You have
to be clear Donald Miller says when you confuse you lose and I think that is the biggest thing that I
see with messaging the number one thing And when people are confused it sends them directly into
the arms of your competitors.
Yeah, totally does.
And trying to be funny sometimes, you may think you're funny, but it might not stick. And you might
not realize how you might be offending people. You might be really turning people off in a way that
they're going to your competition because you tried to be funny and it didn't.
Alex, there's so many times when I will read a message and I will give a writer props and I'll say,
that's really clever. We can't use that. I'm sorry, because that's not the goal. That's not what we're
going for. You can save it for some of your blog content maybe,
but on our website we have to be clear. Clarity is king.
Yeah, totally.
Another issue, and you brought this up earlier, is that companies so often focus entirely on
themselves. So we joke in my department that we call it the three little pigs of web copy because it's
wee, wee, wee, wee, wee, all the way home because you know businesses will say we've been in
business for 25 years and this is how we help people and we're so established
and we have all these credentials no one cares no one cares no one cares all they care about is
how you can help them and sure you're 75 if you're of business makes you qualified to help them
but that's all they care about is how you're going to help them you have to stop talking about
yourself. You have to flip that script. You have to make them the hero of the story. So that is
probably the number two thing
that I see people falling victim to all the time.
The last one that I wanna bring up is lacking that clear next step. So you mentioned this a little bit
earlier with the call to action. And it is amazing to me how many websites I will see where either
there's no call to action on the page.
There's just no call to action, which is mind-blowing. Or they have a call to action that isn't clear, or
it's lukewarm, it's weak. And when people don't have a clear next step, they get very confused about
what they're supposed to do, and most likely, they're just gonna leave.
They're gonna do nothing. So this is so critical to your process, so critical to your website, so
important to your website being your best salesperson that you've got to get that right.
Got to.
Got to get it right. And I've heard from a lot of business owners like the common phrase or thing that
recurs a lot is my website doesn't do anything for us. My website doesn't work. Our website, we
spend all this money on our website and it doesn't convert any leads or really do anything.
And the first question should be like, well, let's take a look at the copy on your site and what's your
call to action and what are some of these key and fundamental things that people are really missing.
It's true. And it's funny how many people seem mystified about the fact that their site doesn't do
anything for them because I think it's, these things are so basic, Alex. They're so fundamental, but I
think people miss them. It's very easy to miss about how clear, because when people try to be
competitive and they try to stand out in the market, that's when they try to get clever or that's when
they do the curse of knowledge thing and they dump all this stuff on you You gotta pull it back. You
got to get back to those basics and you've got to really do the fundamentals right to win
Yeah, I couldn't agree more
We actually had been guide our head of web services here on the show not too long ago And he
was saying the same thing where if he had to choose right you put him you put one of two options
on the table and you have to pick one a Very basic website where the messaging is great and
everything we're talking about right now is locked tight and it's very clear versus a very fancy, shiny,
beautiful website that's designed well but doesn't have any of these story brand elements. He's like,
I take the basic one all day because
at least that one will work and will get you the results you need. And then he said over time you can
iterate and you can add the polish and you can add those things. But a lot of times people go right to
step two and they want to be clever, they want to be competitive, they want to be artsy, and it
doesn't always work
And one of the things, one of the reasons why that happens, and I've said the curse of knowledge a
few times, and that is because when you are a business and you've got, you know everything about
everything, about your business, what you offer, your solutions, how you help people in your head,
and that's the perspective people have when they're redoing their websites or they're writing their
web copy, but your user doesn't have any of that. You need to bring it down from a level 10 to
maybe a level 2.
And if I ever look at a website and I read your hero section and I say, what do you do?
What do you do?
That's a really bad thing.
That's a huge problem. That is a huge problem, but it is so common. It's bananas. Yeah. So that
should be your number one thing right now, open your website, look at your hero with the eyes of
your prospect, and if it is not clear what you offer, how it makes life better, and how people can get
it, you need to update that right now.
Yeah, that's such a great point. I think, too, it's hard to step out of the bubble. So, like, if you're close
to it, if it's your company, it's hard to objectively step out of that bubble and look at it, like you're
saying, where, like, is this header, is my home page really converting or really clear? Do people
know what we do?
So sometimes, what would you say, like if you can't step back or if you feel too close to it, do you
recommend having outside people come in or what do you do in a situation like that where you may
not know but you wanna know the truth even though it may be tough to find out?
Yeah, so back in the olden days, I might have said, you know, ask a friend or ask someone like that.
Now, AI, Alex, I'm gonna go immediately to Gemini or chat GPT and I'm going to put that copy in
Gemini and I'm going to say, what questions would you have after reading this about my business?
Or how would you optimize this to be more clear or something? Ask the
robots. They're very good because they can look at things in black and white without any of that
industry inside stuff about your company. And they can give you that black and white feedback that
you need to say this is not good enough, try writing it this way. So that would be my go-to right now.
That's a great call. AI has been amazing with this stuff lately and it's only getting better. And I don't
want to get down the AI rabbit hole, but with GPT 4.0, I'm really excited
to see what's going to come out.
Another episode.
We'll do another episode.
Yeah, another episode. So we talk about trust and transparency all the time here. I feel like Marcus,
that's like his staple. That's what we represent here at Impact. How does that play into StoryBrand
when you're trying to tell a story
and how that conveys into the website? We hit on this a little earlier, but I wanna lean a little deeper
into how important trust and transparency is. For instance, pricing. A lot of people don't put pricing
on their websites
and they try to keep that very close to the chest. So can we talk a little bit about trust and
Yeah, so I wanna be very clear about this. While StoryBrand is indeed about telling a story, it is not
selective storytelling, and it is not emotional manipulation. I have had people ask about this before,
because it's a fair question.
It's a, oh, I am penning some fiction. I am telling a story that I want to get people to do the certain
outcome based on the things that I'm saying, and I'm setting the stakes and then I'm setting them up
for the value prop and it can feel kind of, you know, like you might be playing with people's emotions
because we say that at the beginning, right?
We're leveraging storytelling principles to elicit an emotional response. That's true, that's science,
but you have to be honest and you have to be transparent. So what this means is you cannot shy
away from the messy parts of the hero's journey. You can't. Be honest about that. And we talk about
this in They Ask, You Answer all the time.
When we talk about problems, when we talk about anything messy regarding the journey, you are
being more authentic. And people see that as you being more authentic. And that builds trust. You
can't hide that stuff. And it also means being realistic about what your solution can do. So you have
to also not over promise people things right when you're telling the story. Be very honest
about what your solution can do. Paint the picture accurately of how it makes life better and people
will be more apt to buy into that and to believe in that. So you mentioned cost. Cost is one of those
things that people again They recoil at a little bit because they say oh if I put cost on my website
People are gonna get freaked out and I need them to talk to my sales people first They have to
know all the reasons why it does cost that way right our sales people are so great
They're gonna be able to convert them right and hopefully your sales people are that great
But the reality is the reality is that if you don't have pricing on your website, they're going to think you
have something to hide. They're going to get frustrated because they might find it somewhere else,
and they might not even give your salesperson the time of day to explain the way you want them to
explain. If you put it right out there, it automatically builds that trust.
It automatically makes you transparent. And that's what storytelling really should be about, is about
an open dialogue, about an honest dialogue where you're inviting questions. You want to invite any
question that anyone has, bring it on, we're going to answer it for you. I mean, that's the framework,
That's the dream.
That's the whole thing.
That's the dream. And that is what is, at the end of the day, going to get you more sales.
Get you more sales and establish you as a trusted voice in whatever space or industry that you're in.
So for business owners out there, for leaders out there that are marketing their sales leaders, how
do they go about implementing this, right? Obviously, read the book, go check out StoryBrand if you
haven't, but once you get acclimated with StoryBrand, what's the best way to go
about starting to implement this and to create a culture around this within your organization?
I'm gonna say it again, you just said it, but I'm going to say again, if you want to get started with
StoryBrand, you must read the book. You must read the book. It is a quick read, it's a great read, it's
engrossing, but it's going to give you all the information you need
to really understand how powerful this framework is and to really help you understand how to clarify
your message. Because I didn't get into, it's a seven-part framework. I didn't even get into the seven
different elements of storytelling that you need to know.
That's going to explain everything and help you understand how to go about filling out that
framework basically. The second thing, you need to decide how much you're going to invest in this
buyer's journey and how deep of a journey you're going to go on. And with any journey, you're going
to need a guide. And I know when I'm saying this, Alex, I know someone's going to be like, all right,
the pitch.
We're getting the pitch for the guide.
Yes, Impact helps people with this. Yes, we run these workshops all the time because it does help
people because the problem I see with people trying to do this on their own, and I have seen people
try to do it on their own, is that there is no structure.
There's no expert guide who's been trained on how to get the most out of this. So what happens is a
few things, either they have 10 standing meetings where they just end up going around in circles
and wasting a ton of time where nothing actually gets done.
They have a lot of conversations. Nothing gets done. Or they have arguments because they can't
agree on the hero or the problem or what that aspirational identity should be, and all they do is
bicker. And there's no mediator there to get them back on track.
Right, and to move the conversation forward in a meaningful way.
Exactly. And some people will even fill out that seven part framework that I was talking about. And
then they'll sit there and say, how do I implement this? What do I do? I mean, you filled out the
sheet, but how do I get my entire company on board with StoryBrand? How do we roll this out? How
do we actually put it on our website? Because it's not a one to one framework to website
There's work that has to be done. But how do we implement it? And then they get stuck there. So
you can go it alone, and you might end up wasting a ton of time, you might end up with a ton of
headaches, you might end up
with some fighting and not talking to your CEO for the next three weeks. Whatever it is, I've seen it
all. So the guide is really what's going to ensure that you end up with a clear message, you
understand how to roll it out to your company,
and you end up with that website that's going to tell that story and clarify your message to the world.
Totally, totally. And accountability is a huge piece too. And that's something that coaches, it doesn't
have to be impact, but in general, coaches keep you accountable and make sure that on a weekly
you're doing the things and you're checking in and if not, you're putting a plan together to make sure
that you can catch up or do what you need to do to stay on track with the goals that you set out from
the get go. So, it's really important.
Yeah, I just talked to a client, I'm not kidding you, just this week, where we were talking about
StoryBrand, and they said, you know, we're gonna give it a shot, we're gonna, they had a meeting
about it, and he came back to me and he said,
Mary, he's like, I don't know what we're doing. And he said, we had the meeting, we went in circles, I
need help, like how, cause I'm not gonna push, I'm not gonna say, you know, we can help you with
that. And they tried it and he really said, I feel like we wasted two hours.
So, headache, not worth it.
Well, and sometimes too, having a guide. Like, this is an analogy, but like, if you're going on a hike,
you're going vacation somewhere, and you're gonna go on a hike in the woods and you've never
been in these woods before, you should probably go with somebody
that knows the woods and knows the trails so you don't get lost or something like that. And it's the
same idea here where it's like you should pair with a coach or with somebody that's done this
before, that's familiar with it, that can do all the things that we just talked about. Keep you
accountable, keep you focused, figure out how to have the right conversations that
you're not wasting time and energy and you're getting very pointed in how to make these changes.
I'm glad you said the right conversations because it really is so crucial to have someone someone to
put the guardrails on because anyone can have a conversation about who's our character. Anyone
can say, who's our villain? What are our problems? And come up with some stuff. But if you don't
have someone who knows, you know, for example, someone says, okay, well,
our problem is, you know, that the industry is really complex. And then you have to say, but what is
the root problem here? What is the root cause? And people often don't think that way. So you need
someone who's been here before. You need someone who's gone through the training,
who's worked with so many different industries to be able to get you to where you have to go
because you might not know that you came up with the wrong answer.
So true.
All right, so we know the importance of having a coach. I also want to ask you since we got you here
and you work with a lot of clients, how does this play into the day-to-day for your team and the web
team building websites for impacts clients? Do you always recommend StoryBrand?
How does that play into how you build and design sites for our clientele?
Yeah, so regardless of what shape your website is in, regardless of your budget, regardless of
anything, starting with StoryBrand is table stakes for doing a new website. And some people might
think, you know, messaging first. Well, we have to talk about design. We have to talk about the page
strategy. We have to talk about things like that.
I want to look at color swatches.
Yeah. But we say you have to work with a coach first to go through the StoryBrand workshop so that
you can clarify your messaging because that is going to be the thing that anchors your home page.
Your whole story is anchored around that. That is the first thing that all of our clients who go through
a website redesign that we expect you to do. And we expect you to read the book.
We expect your whole organization who's going to be in the workshop to read the book and then to
go through that exercise. And every single one comes out of that workshop feeling immensely better
about their story, about their message and saying, My gosh, I don't even know if we knew how
discombobulated and tangled our message was until we went through this, and now it is so much
clearer, so much simpler. And then for me, it's a pretty easy application to the website. There are
some things that we have to do to it to make it fit into that inherent structure
that I talked about. But it flows so beautifully from doing that workshop into our homepage copy, and
then we understand how to tell that story on our service pages, our solution pages, whatever they
are. And it really makes the messaging aspect of a website a lot better.
It makes sense, too, because we do the same thing in the video world, where if you don't have a
script that's locked down, you shouldn't really go shoot. Because inevitably what happens is you
shoot it, and then in the editing room, the client will go, ìOh, can we change this copy and can we
change this?î And that means you have to go back and reshoot, which I feel like for a developer, itís
the same thing. If you donít have that copy and the branding laid out correctly and you develop this
whole page or multiple pages and then the client sees it and theyíre like, ìWe donít like the copy.î
Youíre basically hitting the restart button again and having to go back to square one. So it sounds
like doing this framework and using StoryBrand allows you to hash all these things out ahead of
time. And then once you get it hashed out, it just streamlines
the whole process from building out the site and getting it to where it needs to be.
Absolutely. You can do it later. I will say it makes things harder. So different people have different
budgets. They have different ways they have to go about doing things. And I have had people not
start with a story brand
workshop, and inevitably, we get the website done. The website looks great. The coach will come
back and say, guess what? We're going back to that home page. And the first thing we're going to
do is we're going to update that story because it is so critical, so hugely important to the success of
any conversion path that you have on your website. So we might do it out of order. It could happen,
but it can't be ignored. It has to get done at some point.
Yeah, absolutely. This has been a great conversation. Any final thoughts? Anything else that
business leaders or people that are thinking about StoryBrand are thinking about redesigning their
website that they should know about before we close?
I will just say, again, even though this is a very basic thing, even though this is a very fundamental
thing, it should be a top priority thing that you do. Because I have people come to me all the time
and they'll say, oh, I need more qualified leads. We need more of this, we need more of that.
We're not converting well. When I talked before about root causes, a lot of the time that root cause
can be traced back to your messaging, and it can be traced back to not having clear messaging and
having confusing messaging.
So I usually will tell people to go back to home base, start there, clarify your message first, and then
we can get into conversion rate optimization and things like that. But you can't overlook it.
Well said. Very well said. I couldn't agree more. Mary Brown, everybody, if they have questions or
follow-up questions, if they want to learn how to implement, if they want to talk to you about
coaching or whatever the case may be, how can they get in touch with you?
Yeah. So I can be found in Impact Plus. I love hanging out in Impact Plus and I love when people
send me messages there, so please do. I am there to help. Or you can find me on the website and I
have, you know, my door is open. I do have office hours for things like this.
Excellent. Mary, thanks for being on the show. Yeah, happy to be here. Excellent. And for
everybody out there listening and watching, this is Endless Customers. Appreciate you tuning in and
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About This Episode

"If you confuse, you lose," Donald Miller reminds us in his StoryBrand framework. When it comes to business websites, companies often go clever or vague, leaving visitors scratching their heads and thinking, “Okay, but what do you actually do?” Miller’s principle underscores the importance of clarity and precision — and reminds us of just how quickly you can lose someone’s attention.  

In this episode of Endless Customers, Alex Winter speaks with Mary Brown, IMPACT’s lead web strategist, about how StoryBrand can help businesses refine their messaging to deliver a better website experience.

”People naturally connect with stories,” she explains, and advises businesses to “leverage stories to help people emotionally connect to your messaging." 

Unlike traditional marketing approaches, StoryBrand flips the script, positioning the customer in the center (as  “the hero” in Miller’s language), with a focus on solving that customer’s problem instead of boasting about business accomplishments.This shift helps to build trust and set clear stakes, showing customers what they stand to gain by choosing your product or service.

Connect with Mary

Mary Brown is the lead website strategist at IMPACT, and she has lent her expertise to website projects in dozens of industries. 

Get to know Mary

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Learn more about how IMPACT’s team delivers the website your customers want

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Endless Customers is a podcast produced and distributed by IMPACT, a sales and marketing training organization.

We coach businesses to implement our They Ask, You Answer framework to build trust and fill their pipeline. 

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