How to market your business

Have you ever wondered how to market a business? As I was reading, Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller, he outlines exactly how to market your business effectively. He covers all the basic aspects of marketing, from designing your website to email campaigns.

This book links closely to Donald Miller’s other book, Building a Story Brand, which focuses on clarifying your business’s message through a story (you can read my post about it here). Using the story branding that you developed, this book guides you through the marketing basics to move your business forward.

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Main impacts

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Focus on your customer
  3. Ask for what you want

Keep it simple

One of common threads throughout this book is to keep your marketing simple. Simple meaning direct and to the point, without any added frills. You want to keep all your communication clear and concise, so that you don’t confuse your customer. A confused customer is a disinterested one.

Part of why you want to keep it simple, is because you need to ensure repeated interactions with the customer. You need to be constantly interacting with your customer and having them be exposed to your company. Often times people need to see or interact with you 10 times or more before they buy anything. You need to build trust and a relationship with the customer and the best way to do that is through repeated actions.

In line with keeping it simple, you need to always be thinking of the value you provide to your customers. Every interaction you have with them should provide them with value, that’s how you make it worth their time. If you’re consistently providing value, either through useful information or sample products, then they will want to keep coming back for more. Samples are a great way to show what you have to offer and why they should want more. Samples basically give them a taste before they buy a full product or service from you. There’s a reason why so many companies give free samples, think of the food samples at grocery stores.

Finally, remember to focus on the people who are actually interested in your product. You don’t need to appeal to everyone, and it’s usually better if you don’t. The best way to keep it simple is to focus your efforts on those who want to hear from you, as they will be the most likely to buy one of your products/services. They’re also the ones who already enjoy the value you’re sharing in your free content. It’s a win-win relationship, they like what you’re offering and you want to offer them more.

Focus on your customer

Marketing is really just a way of communicating with your customer and getting your story brand across to them. Everything you do for marketing should focus on the customer.

Using the story brand concept, the customer is the “hero” of the story and you are the “guide.” As a “hero” they have a problem and as their “guide” you can show them how to fix their problem and improve their life. You can read about the story brand concept in my post here.

All your messaging should be focused on the customer. They don’t want to hear about you or how you built your business. They only want to know how you can help them. You need to make your story clear, showing the role they play and how your product or service can make their life better. Most critically, they need to understand why this is important to them and why they should pay attention to you.

While crafting your marketing content, make sure to frame the story around the customer. Ask questions like:

  • What problem do they have?
  • How can you help them?
  • What will their life look like if they do or do not engage with you?
  • How is life better with your product or worse without?

The more you focus on answering questions that they want to know, the more effective your marketing will be.

Ask for what you want

In line with keeping it simple, make sure you ask for what you want from your customer. You need to make your call to action clear and obvious. If you want them to sign up for a newsletter, ask them. If you want them to buy a product, ask them. If you want them to interact with your post by liking, sharing, or commenting, ask them.

Customers want to know what to do next, or how to get more information if they’re interested. If they like the content you’re producing, they’ll also want to know how to support you, so give them options. Not everyone will be able to buy your products/services, but there’s usually ways people can support your business without contributing financially (like sharing and liking your content).

Those that like your content and have some money to spend on your content, will also want to know how to do business with you. For those that are interested, make it obvious how to buy your products or services, just don’t be annoying. You don’t want them searching for how to buy your products/services or where to get more info. The more difficult it is to buy something, the less likely they will end up buying it. So if they’re interested, make it easy for them.

There’s a huge difference between having a clear “Buy now” button (easy to buy) versus endless pop-ups and pestering emails (annoying). The best way to think of your marketing approach is to consider, how would it make you feel? Do you like when companies do this, that or the other thing? If you wouldn’t like it, don’t do it.

Final thoughts

I thought this book tied in nicely with his other book, Building a Story Brand (see my post on it here). This book really built on the concept of the story brand by providing clear actions on how to use the branding through implementing basic marketing concepts.

There are lots of hands-on activities discussed throughout the book, from building your website, setting up a marketing campaign, and creating lead generators. All the activities had concrete advice on why these activities are essential and how to actually implement the strategies within the book. There are also clear steps on how to do each activity and what will make it effective and successful.

If you’re looking for a clear, simple approach to marketing, either because you’re new to marketing or looking to refresh your approach, I found this book quite useful and easily to understand.

I would start with his other book, Building a Story Brand, to focus on crafting your business’s story, which can be the foundation for your marketing efforts. Then using your newly crafted story, you can then develop your marketing approach with this book.


How to use stories to brand a business

Have you ever wondered about the best way to market your business? As I was reading Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller, he explains that branding your business as a story helps to clarify your message and make it much more effective. The book has lots of useful, concrete activities if you’re working on branding (or re-branding) your company, and keep reading this post for some overarching, key points from the book.

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Main impacts

  1. Stories are how we make sense of the world
  2. Stick to the structure
  3. Your customer is the hero

Stories are how we make sense of the world

We use stories to make sense of what’s happening around us. It’s a way of making music out of all the noise around us, and provides clarity.

Stories are an easy way for us to make sense of what we see and hear. We naturally put stories together even based on small details that we see – thinking naturally in terms of cause and effect.

Stories are also very easy for us to understand. We easily apply stories to ourselves and see ourselves within them. We tend to understand information better when it’s told as a story. Think of times when you learned about history as a story with clear cause and effect versus as a series of dates and names of people/places. It’s much easier to remember and understand the story version.

Since stories can powerfully and easily communicate information, they can also be used to improve marketing. If you can use stories to describe what you do and what you’re selling, you’re likely to be much more effective when marketing your business. The goal is to connect with a customer easily and clearly, and there’s no better way than through a story that centers them.

Stick to the structure

Stories can be applied to anything. They can convey any kind of information, it’s simply a matter of framing it in a way that follows a basic structure. Pretty much all stories follow a very similar structure, seen in the image below.

Basic story structure (Credit: Donald Miller @ Storybrand)

Generally, a character or hero has a problem and meets a guide, who gives them a plan and calls them to action. Then the stories either ends in their success or helping them avoid failure.

Once you understand the structure, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. You’ll see the structure in all the movies and even in advertising. Take a moment to think through some of your favourite movies, can you apply the structure to them?

Here’s an example from The Hunger Games. Katniss is the main character or hero, and has a problem. In the image it shows the various types of problems she’s facing (external, internal and philosophical), but they all stem from the external problem of having to survive the hunger games. Then she meets Haymitch, who is her guide, and has a plan to get her more sponsors by having people support her. She gets called to action by actually competing and doing her best in the game. Katniss avoids failure (dying in the games) and ends the movie by successfully winning the game. See the diagram below for a visualization matching the story structure.

Story structure shown through The Hunger Games (Credit: Donald Miller @ Storybrand)

This basic structure applies to all things story related. All you need to do is stick to the basic structure and your story will make sense. The more you see it in the content around you, the more possibilities you’ll see to tailor stories within the structure.

This story structure can also help you tell your company’s information. If you frame it as a story, it’s incredibly easy to remember and understand for both your employees and customers. A story can also be very effective and persuasive, especially if you are able to frame your product or service as the plan to overcome your customer’s problem.

Your customer is the hero

As outlined above, your story needs a main character or a hero. When branding your business as a story, the customer is the hero and you’re the guide.

Generally, the hero/main character has lots of good qualities, but doesn’t usually understand how to overcome their problem, which is why they need a guide. The guide is both how they learn to overcome the problem and are called to action (meaning they actually do something to overcome the problem).

The key to a successful business story is that you frame the customer as the hero, and most importantly, you show how you can fix their problem. Remember they are the hero with a problem and you are the guide who has a plan to help them.

Part of framing yourself as the guide, is proving that you have the authority and expertise to help solve the problem. You need to show that you understand the problem and can actually help them. You also need to show them a plan, outlining how to solve the problem. People are more likely to engage with you if they understand what’s going to happen next.

Just remember, your customer is the one with the problem, and your business is what’s going to help them fix it. Make sure your story (and all your content) is focused on them – not you. They don’t need your life story, they just need to know how you can help them.

Final thoughts

A fascinating way to think about branding your business. Framing everything as a story is such a good way to position the things you’re doing. It’s easier for people to understand and for both customers and employees to easily remember your business and describe it to others.

I personally haven’t studied that much about marketing, so I’m not sure if this is a common way to discuss marketing, but I found it very useful.

There’s also so many activities and concrete actions that you can use to apply these concepts directly to your business. If you found this at all interesting, it might be worthwhile to try out some of the activities for your own business.

I was also able to borrow this from my library on Libby (a mobile app), which can be a great way to get a taste of the book before buying it.