How to compete in an endlessly changing advisory marketplace? We all know that effective branding is both the key and an ongoing challenge. To stand out from the crowd, advisors must find a way to distinguish their brand communications and truly connect with their audience. A book I read recently, Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller, will help you do exactly this.
A #1 Wall Street Journal best-seller, Building a StoryBrand lays out a tried-and-true framework for crafting your brand story in way that’s simple but emotionally powerful. It relies on the universal elements of a great story to create a clear pathway for customers to engage and connect with your brand.
The StoryBrand 7-Part (SB7) Framework
How can you turn the universal elements of a great story into a brand story? In in his SB7 Framework, Miller explains that customers rather than the brand must be the hero of the story. The brand takes the role of a guide, helping to solve the customers’ problems. The brand provides its customers with a plan that calls them into action, so they can avoid failure and achieve a successful resolution. If you use the hero’s journey as a template for crafting your brand story, says Miller, you’ll be able to create powerful, clear messaging that will attract and engage your target audience. Here are the seven steps Miller advises you to follow:
1) Make your audience the hero. You are not the hero of your brand story. Your target audience is. When I ask advisors how they describe their target audience, the answer I frequently hear is “everyone.” Although that might sound wonderful, the reality is that narrowing your marketing scope will help your practice become more efficient and productive.
So, before you can even start your brand story, be sure you can define your target market. Go beyond demographics. You need to understand the decision-making processes of your ideal clients. How often are they swayed by their emotions, and how likely are they to make rational decisions? Gain insights as to what your clients like to do. Do they travel? Own multiple homes? Are they in retirement or getting ready to retire? Are they starting a business? Are they married with two kids and a dog?
Every powerful brand has an instantly recognizable audience. Take Titleist, for instance. When you hear Titleist mentioned, what do you immediately think of? I bet the answer is golf clubs, golf balls, or just golfing in general. Any guesses as to the identity of Titleist’s target audience? You got it! Those who golf.
Once you truly define your target market, you’re ready to define its problems.
2) Define your audience’s problems. Your ability to solve your audience’s problems is the hook to your brand story. Do you know what keeps your clients up at night, what concerns they struggle with?
If you don’t, start brainstorming by asking yourself questions. Do your clients worry about being able to retire comfortably? Do they want to send their kids and grandkids to college without going into debt? Do they have aging parents who require a lot of care? Do they want to be financially independent? Keep going until you’re satisfied your list is complete.
Success comes to brands that vividly depict the problems they solve. Consider Orbit gum and those memorable commercials that promise to cure the hero’s bad breath. Or think about the “Ring Around the Collar” campaign that made Wisk laundry detergent famous for taking out the toughest stains. No stain, no problem!
As we can see in these examples, although the problem is the hook, it’s the solution that really drives the story.
3) Be a guide with a solution. The hero of every good story needs a guide. Take the classic Disney movie Cinderella, in which the evil stepmother forbids Cinderella, the heroine, to go to the royal ball. Just at the right moment, her fairy godmother appears. With a few waves of her magic wand, she creates the perfect dress and carriage that allow Cinderella to attend the ball.
Your role in your brand story is to be like the fairy godmother. Of course, as an advisor you can’t just wave a magic wand. But being a guide with a solution is part of your job description. The empathy and competence you use every day as you advise clients is an essential part of your brand story. Just remember to keep the focus on what having problems solved means to your clients, rather than depicting yourself as a hero.
And how do you solve problems? With a plan, of course.
4) Create a clear plan. The plan you create is your client’s path to success, so clear instructions for following the path are vital. If your clients are confused, you both lose. Miller identifies two types of plans: the process plan and the agreement plan.
The goal of the process plan is to have your clients say, “Oh, I can do that. It’s easy!” It should outline how to do business with your practice in three to five simple steps, such as:
Schedule an appointment.
Allow us to customize your financial plan.
We’ll execute your plan together.
The agreement plan should list the services you will provide to your clients. By being clear and specific, you’ll help eliminate your clients’ worries about the risks of doing business with you.
Once you’ve developed your plans, give them a name. Your process plan might be called “Three easy steps to financial freedom” and your agreement plan could be identified as “My commitment to be available to you, day or night.”
After a plan is created, a strong call to action will help see that it’s executed.
5) Include a clear call to action. In stories, the guide challenges the hero to take action. In your brand communications, an effective call to action will make the next step in your client’s journey obvious.
To identify the appropriate call to action for each marketing vehicle (e.g., website, brochure, or ad), think carefully about what you want your clients to do. Like all of us, they’re inundated with marketing messages promising solutions to their problems, so you can’t afford a lack of clarity here.
There are two types of calls to action:
A direct call to action asks your clients to call today or apply online. As appropriate, a phone number or website URL is provided.
A transitional call to action offers a way to learn more about your practice, such as a free trial or a free, downloadable white paper.
Once you’ve called your clients to action, it’s time to up the stakes in your story.
6) Discuss the potential for failure. In Cinderella, the fairy godmother advises the heroine to follow the plan devised to fulfill her goals. Similarly, your brand story should discuss the importance of following an agreed-upon financial plan to create the potential for the best outcomes. Reassure your prospects and clients that, as their guide, you will do your best to set them on the path to stability and success.
7) End your story with success. As you close the loop of your clients’ journey, be as clear about their potential for ultimate success as you were about their challenges. How will your brand help make their goals and dreams come true? Ultimately, crafting your brand story is all about a happy ending!
This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.