Short & Sweet reviews of our favorite books for entrepreneurs. This weeks review:

BUILDING A STORYBRAND: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

Use the 7 Elements of Great Storytelling to Grow Your business

by Donald Miller

5 out of 5 NINJA STARS

Great storytelling is a major competitive advantage but many solopreneurs just don’t know how to do it. This book provides the perfect framework for getting your story right, cutting through the noise, and increasing sales.


Donald Miller started a publishing company at only 21-years-old and published several of his own books, including a book about his experience growing up without a father; this experience was also reflected in his fouding of The Mentoring Project, a non-profit that mentors fatherless young men. Moving into government, Donald served on the Presidential Advisory Council on Fatherhood and Healthy Families and worked as a lobbyist for children’s school issues. As part of his campaigning, he studied how storytellers and movies engage and captivate their audiences without losing or confusing them. Donald is currently the CEO of Storybrand, helping thousands of companies to clarify their message to increase revenues.

Donald’s 3 Key Achievements:

  • Founder of The Mentoring Project which recruits, trains, and matches, mentors for at-risk and fatherless kids.
  • Bestselling author of multiple books.
  • CEO of StoryBrand, a consulting firm that has helped thousands of businesses to increase sales through storytelling.


In Building A Story Brand, Donald Miller explains how to create simple yet captivating messages that your customers can quickly understand and act upon.


  1. “Pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things.”
  2. “In every line of copy we write, we’re either serving the customer’s story or descending into confusion; we’re either making music or making noise.”
  3. “Oprah Winfrey, an undeniably successful guide to millions, once explained the three things every human being wants most are to be seen, heard, and understood. This is the essence of empathy.”
  4. “All great stories are about survival – either physical, emotional, rational, or spiritual.”
  5. “The key is to make your company’s message about something that helps the customer to survive and to do so in such a way that they can understand it without burning too many calories.”


  1. The way people behave is based on their survival instinct yet many business fail in their messaging because they do not speak to this instinct.
  2. In your brand’s story, your customer must be the HERO – not you or your business.  Your business is a GUIDE.
  3.  Clarity is everything. Noise kills businesses.
  4. Storytelling is compelling and cuts through noise because it has always been a part of human survival – we instinctively pay attention to and learn from stories.
  5. Thinking burns calories. If we make our customers burn too many calories, we will lose them.
  6. Your story must have 7 elements:
    1. a character (hero AKA your customer)
    2. who has problem
    3. and meets a helper (guide AKA your company)
    4. who then gives them a plan
    5. and calls them to take an action
    6. which helps them to avoid failure
    7. and ends with success
  7. A “story gap” is the space between a character and what they want.  The process of closing this gap is what engages and captivates humans in movies and stories, and it must be a part of your brand’s story.
  8. Don’t mention all of your services and products – that requires too much thinking for your customers, too much calorie burning. Focus on one single solution.
  9. When framing the customer problem in a story, you need to have a villain. You need to know who or what is the enemy of your customers and how this enemy frustrates them.
  10. Villains cause heroes (customers) three types of problems
    1. EXTERNAL PROBLEMS (practical problems like needing more printer ink)
    2. INTERNAL PROBLEMS (emotional problems like feeling fear or anxiety)
    3. PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS (The “why” question related to why it is important to defeat the villain. It often also includes a “should or shouldn’t” statement. For example, if we decide that the villain is wasted time via a long line at the grocery store,  then we are stating our philosophy that people shouldn’t have to waste so much time just to get their groceries. This could answer the WHY question as to the reason for starting a business related to automatic checkout machines or offering the home delivery of groceries.


At Invoice Ninja, we’ve mentioned a few times in both social media and blog posts that effective communication can be a solopreneur’s greatest competitive advantage in a noisey world. At the end of the day, you can have a great  website and superior products and services, but it is the story you tell about them that is affects sales the most. This book is a must read to getting started on your own brand’s story.

Buy on Amazon