One of the things that's pretty unique about this program is that we're both building a small, independent business while helping others build small, independent businesses. Fundamentally, Greg and I don't want to teach or share any activities that we haven't put into use, even if they're new to us.
As we're building the programming for JS, we've been running ourselves through the same exercises we're sharing with others. While there are some exercises we've developed ourselves, the majority of the exercises are remixes of existing, well-known frameworks and tools.
Frameworks are starting points, not finish lines
One example of this is StoryBrand. StoryBrand is a framework developed by Donald Miller aimed at helping businesses clarify their messaging so they can connect with customers more effectively. It came to prominence when Miller published a book of the same name. The premise of the framework is grounded in the power of storytelling and the idea that every good story has clear elements that captivate an audience. Miller believes businesses can leverage these elements to communicate more clearly about their products and services.
Here's a basic breakdown of the framework (here's a pdf of this overview):
- A Character: Every story has a main character. In the StoryBrand framework, the customer is the hero, not the brand. The brand's role is to guide the hero.
- Has a Problem: Every hero faces a challenge or problem. In terms of a business, this relates to the problems the product or service solves for the customer.
- Meets a Guide: This is where the brand comes in. The brand acts as a guide (think Yoda to Luke Skywalker) that has the solution to the hero's (customer's) problem.
- Who Gives Them a Plan: The guide provides a clear and simple plan for the hero to follow. This can be the steps to purchase, how to use the product, or any process that helps the customer move forward.
- Calls Them to Action: Every good story has a call to action that propels the hero forward. For businesses, this is the direct instruction to the customer on what to do next – buy now, sign up, etc.
- That Helps Them Avoid Failure: There are stakes in every story. Highlighting what's at risk if the hero doesn't take action can be a motivating factor.
- And Ends in a Success: Every hero wants a happy ending. For businesses, this can showcase the successful outcomes or benefits the customer will experience by choosing their product or service.
We also want to respect the IP of others, too. So, rather than trying to teach StoryBrand ourselves, we're coaching others to check out the framework and ask them to try it out to see how it works. Why? It's much easier to refine or test an existing thing than it is to refine a concept.
All too often, though, I see smart, capable, and very experienced professionals make critical errors when using a framework. They use the framework and believe the output of that framework is the end goal. They think filling in a Journey Map, a Spreadsheet, a PowerPoint Deck, or a bullet list will give them the answers they seek. But in my experience, most frameworks are head-start exercises, not finish-line exercises. Frameworks give us just enough structure to get closer to critical thinking, testing, and analysis. They help us examine our ideas in new ways, ask different questions, and get better feedback than we would if we just thought aloud with each other in a room.
StoryBrand is a framework like this. It's made to help you intentionally examine if your marketing is on the right track. It's one of the frameworks we share to help you get unstuck so that you feel like you're making progress, thinking critically, testing, and analyzing before you spend a whole lot of time and energy ruminating.
Leverage common structures. Accept loose interpretations.
Last week, Greg and I reached the point where we needed clarity on our messaging for Jump Ship to clarify the offer we're providing and for whom. We need to get more clear on our initial marketing and brand story so that when people ask, we have a succinct, consistent answer that resonates.
These exercises are always challenging, even when a bunch of experts are in a room together. To make this more challenging, Greg and I approach writing in quite different ways.
I tend to wander a lot, write a lot, and talk out loud while I'm writing before I begin refining. Writing is a very slow process for me because most of my writing experience has been of the editorial variety rather than marketing-focused. Greg is SO MUCH BETTER at writing for Marketing, though. He has lots of practice with it from an agency background, and I appreciate how patient he is with me when I'm working through my blockers while trying to write this way.
To get us unstuck and start some forward progress, a structure or framework is the perfect starting point. Greg suggested we leverage the StoryBrand structure as the starting point to help us move forward. While that seemed straightforward enough, what resulted from the exercise was both surprising and eye-opening.
Though we were working from the same structure, I took about an hour to really flesh things out. I wrote a whole bunch, in detail, for each of the seven steps above. I then refined it once by removing the seven steps and prompt questions from my answers, then refined it again to see if I could get closer to the succinct, one-paragraph message. I'm not there yet. :)
Alternatively, Greg came up with a one-paragraph message pretty quickly, but when sharing his thoughts over Loom, he provided some key context that helped me better understand how he came up with his version of the StoryBrand. I enjoyed it so much, that I recorded a Loom for him as well.
Here's what Greg came up with:
Here's my version:
I really enjoyed the process because I could now see different messaging angles for us to test. I tended to shy away from the painful side of working for someone else because it reminded me too much of the pain I've experienced. It was too close. But, when seeing how Greg put it into the StoryBrand structure, I could see how it might be effective as an approach.
Here's where we could use a little help from you
I'm curious how each of our interpretations land for you.
- Was there one version that really caught your attention?
- Was there a version that pushed you away?
- What is it that you think we will offer as a service?
- How do you think Jump Ship! will make your life better?
👇👇👇 Jump in the comments below, and let us know what you think.