Below is a guest post from copywriter and StoryBrand enthusiast Zach Thanasilangkul, Founder and Director of Mission Driven Impact. In it, he explains a few often overlooked ways to validate your BrandScript and craft a persuasive, relatable, and emotionally engaging message.
Take it away, Zach…
Ah, that spark in your heart when you finally nail your StoryBrand BrandScript.
For many of us, completing a BrandScript was the first time we felt like our messaging became clear and concrete. For some, it was the first time we even learned what messaging was in the first place.You filled in the blanks with what your beloved “character” wants and who they aspire to be.
You identified problems external, internal, and philosophical.
You demonstrated your empathy and authority, devised a plan, and called them to action.
But… did you do it right?
Ask yourself: Is your character based on people in real life or a quick marketing persona? Did you fill in the blanks based on customer data, or were they more like educated guesses?
To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with personas or a little bit of guesswork — just so long as you can back them up.
So, how do you know you’re on the right track? How can you determine EXACTLY who your character is, what they want, and what problems stand in their way?
Think about it this way. The StoryBrand framework has seven parts…
- A character…
- …has a problem…
- …and meets a guide…
- …who gives them a plan…
- …and calls them to action…
- …that ends in success…
- …and helps them avoid failure.
Using this framework, your customer is the hero and YOU are the guide.
The danger is this: If you don’t come up with the right answers to the questions above, you can’t effectively position yourself as the guide. You won’t be able to give your audience a plan that truly overcomes their challenges, and you won’t be able to persuade them to take action.
Instead of being the guide your character needs, you’ll be the only one on the path!
To fill in the BrandScript blanks and craft your messaging in a way that gets RESULTS, it’s essential that you go deep to really understand how each part of the sequence relates to your audience.
To do that, you’ve got a few options:
- Keep making educated guesses about what you think your real-life character wants, needs, and feels.
- Hire an expensive agency to spend a long time gathering data and crafting robust buyer personas. (If you’re lucky, they might even tell you what you’re supposed to do with them!)
- Spend HOURS trying to do tech-based analysis yourself, becoming unnecessarily proficient in expensive software while questioning what to do with your results.
- OR, you could find where your characters hang out* and listen to them. What do they want and how do they describe their challenges — in their own words?
*Note: I mean where they “hang out” online… please don’t follow people around in real life for the sake of customer research.
Below I’m going to show you three simple, free, yet often overlooked ways to become absolutely certain about who your audience is and what they really want.
But first I want to say this…
Taking the time to deeply understand your audience is easier said than done. That said, getting things right the first time will make your life drastically easier in the future.
And besides, if you truly believe that your business improves people’s lives, then you have a RESPONSIBILITY to communicate that to the best of your ability.
That’s why determining who exactly our target audience is and validating their hopes, dreams, problems, and fears are something I spend a lot of time doing with my coaching clients.
It gives us clarity and direction while also preventing us from wasting time on marketing that, well, misses the mark. If we’re not producing content, stories, and solutions that people want to engage with, then it’s a waste of time for everyone.
So without further ado, here are three things you can start doing right now to clarify your message by understanding your audience.
1. Do a basic content audit
What it is
A content audit is simply analyzing all the content on your site for a specific purpose. In other words, it’s a reality check for copywriters and content marketers.
While it may sound involved and complex, content audits can really be as quick or in-depth as you want them to be. They’re awesome because you can boost the effectiveness of your existing content, find out what is and isn’t working, and double down on your best stuff.
How to do it
The first step to any audit is to set a goal. If a content audit is an analysis for a specific purpose, then what’s the purpose? What do you want to learn? What are you hoping to improve? Then, determine your key metrics accordingly.
For our purposes, I recommend prioritizing user behavior and engagement metrics like page views and the number of comments your posts receive. These are measures of popularity and will give us a clue to the most popular problems and the solutions people are looking for.
If you want more in-depth metrics, look at each page’s bounce rate and session duration. These indicate whether people who are interested in your topic found what they were looking for — something we call “search intent.”
(If they “bounced” or left after a short time, they probably didn’t find it.)
An even easier option would be to simply look at your most popular posts. A lot of websites have this info sitting right on their sidebar! If yours doesn’t, one popular option to get this data automatically is by using the Jetpack plugin widget on WordPress.
This works because most people think that once they’ve written on a topic, it’s over. But try to come up with different ways to approach the same topics from different angles. When it comes to your character, can you explore the various complexities of their problem and offer nuanced solutions?
A third option is to use analytics tools. Google Analytics is free, powerful, and easy to set up for most sites. If your site runs on Squarespace, analytics are built right into your dashboard. Finally, you can use a tool like SEMrush that’s specifically tailored for all kinds of content audits.
So what do you do with your analytics results? Look for trends.
For example, do you notice that people tend to spend the most time on your posts covering a certain topic? Can you see which content receives the most search traffic? These give you an excellent idea of what people are actually looking for.
You can even analyze your competitors like this! See their best performing content using a free service like Ubersuggest, or dive into industry trends more generally with something like Buzzsumo. Find out what’s working for them — then do it better.
2. Immerse yourself online
What it is
Have you ever tried to learn a language? It’s way easier when you learn by immersion. Being surrounded by people using the language helps you pick it up faster and communicate more meaningfully than only studying flashcards or books.
In marketing, it’s the same thing. Use immersion to find out what language your target audience uses to describe their problem. What are they frustrated with? What answers are they looking for? What solution do they wish was out there to help them overcome their challenges?
How to do it
One of my favorite tricks is so quick, easy, and effective that it almost feels like cheating.
You might already know that Amazon reviews are a gold mine for customer research, but did you know that you can save HOURS of manually combing through them by doing a simple Google search?
All you have to do is go to Google and type this into the search bar, replacing “keyword” below with a keyword related to your customer’s problem:
site:amazon.com inurl:”product-reviews” “tired of” keyword
What you should see is real people publicly talking about how their problems and frustrations make them feel. You don’t have to guess at how your messaging should describe a problem — it’s right there!
Let’s take an example many of us can relate to: back pain. Put the script above into Google and replace “keyword” with “back pain” (without the quotes).
Right away you see people describing medications that no longer work, all-caps venting about how no one understands what they’re going through, the frustration of spending money on a chiropractor who doesn’t get results, and fears about getting the “hunchback look.”
Write these down or record them in a spreadsheet. Then when you sit down to draft a blog post, craft your one-liner, or write the stakes section of your website, you know exactly what’s going to resonate with your audience.
For reference, here’s what I started with when I was doing customer research for my coaching business:
Now, when you go to my site, you’ll see a lot of that same language throughout. The result? People wonder how I’m able to read their minds.
Play around with different keywords related to the problem you help your audience solve. And for each keyword, you can also play around with the phrase that comes before it.
For instance, instead of “tired of,” you might try…
- “sick of”
- “can’t stand”
- “struggling with”
Stop for a moment and brainstorm different keywords and modifier phrases you can use to discover the language your audience is using. Then, write them down so you can go back and apply the tips from this post.
The second immersion method is a bit more traditional, though I promise it will set you ahead of everyone who’s not doing it. In fact, it’s how many successful bloggers and business owners grew their audience to where they are today.
Here you’re going to identify groups, forums, and other online communities your target customers participate in. When I say that you should learn where your audience hangs out online, this is what I mean.
My personal favorite to look for is Facebook groups related to your niche. But plenty of other people use sites like Quora and Reddit for immersion. Remember, you want to be immersed in your audience — so find where they are and go there.
Once you’re there, search around for questions that contain phrases like:
- “How do you”
- “How can I”
- “Any tips”
Better yet, actually, add value and participate in these communities! You can start building trust and authority right where you are.
That leads me to the third and final method for discovering more about who your character is and what they want…
3. Engage with your audience directly
What it is
It might sound obvious, but so many marketers, copywriters, and business owners never take the time to talk to their audience in a meaningful way. I always say that if you want to know something about your target customer, just ask!
You can think about this as another, more active form of the immersion method above. Here you’re spending time actually getting to know your customers on a personal level.
How to do it
Talk to people. Listen. Take notes. It really is that simple.
Here’s a few ideas:
- Email your list and ask them to “hit reply”
- If prospects contact you, ask why they haven’t bought your product or service yet
- If people have used your product or service, ask them questions about their own character transformation (pro tip: use Ryan’s awesome testimonials template)
- DM your followers on social media
- Pick up the phone and call someone
- Take people out for coffee and ask good questions
For me, taking people out for coffee was largely how I validated what people in my niche were looking for and struggling with when I started.
But I also know people who had hundreds to thousands of email subscribers before they talked to any one of them for the first time. The lessons they learned completely re-energized their business. Don’t think it’s ever too late to go back to the fundamentals.
Truthfully, it’s not a coincidence that this is the shortest section of this post. The process is simple. The hard part is simply doing it. But the results you get from these conversations are priceless.
Don’t get caught up in your own head by guessing who your character is and what they want. You’ll just waste time communicating ineffectively.
When you deeply understand your audience, you don’t have to rely on educated guesses to fill in those blanks on your BrandScript.
Instead, you’ll know exactly how to make your message resonate with the right people. You’ll produce great content that people can’t wait to read. You’ll move forward in your business with clarity and confidence.
Best of all, you’ll start to design and deliver solutions that make people say “THANK YOU!” because they solve a burning problem and help them transform into the hero they’ve always wanted to be.
Zach Thanasilangkul is a copywriter, marketing coach, and founder of Mission Driven Impact. He helps mission-driven brands overcome trial-and-error marketing by giving them a blueprint for growing their business and scaling their impact on autopilot. S