StoryBrand Website: 3 Big Mistakes (And How to Do It Right!)

I’ve helped dozens of people and organizations StoryBrand their message and StoryBrand their website. And I’ve seen where it goes wrong over and over and over.

In this article I’m going to show you the three ways that most people make mistakes when implementing StoryBrand and what you can do to implement it correctly.

Mistake #1: More than one thing in each BrandScript section

The first mistake people make when it comes to creating a BrandScript for their brand or StoryBranding their website is that they put too many things into each section of the BrandScript. Let me give you an example of what I mean by that.

The Character section is all about discovering what it is that your customer wants. You want to clearly define their desire. Asking what your customers want, it’s hard. And bringing it down to one thing is hard. What people generally do is a long run-on sentence or a paragraph. Something like this from a client of mine that does that project management.:

“Our customers want a simple hassle-free, well-organized project experience that delivers a quality product on time and on budget.”

While everything that was said there could be true, it’s too many things.

It’s like if we went to see Black Panther and T’Challa wants to be a great king. But he also wants to get the girl. And he also wants to try this new jet prototype. And he is wondering if he could go to the moon in his Black Panther suit. Suddenly what happens is the audience checks out because the story is diluted.

As we move through each piece of the BrandScript, everything comes back to this desire. The problem is getting in the way of the customer’s desire. The solution helps them achieve it. The success is what life looks like when they do.

And if we have more than one thing the Character wants, we have more than one story. Audiences don’t want to follow that in a movie. Your customers don’t want to follow that on your website.

This can happen in any section on your BrandScript. Minus a couple. I’ll tell you what those two are in a second. But we want to go through each of these sections and ask, “Is this one thing?”


What to do instead: Reduce each section to one clear thing

Going back to the example, I gave: “A simple, hassle-free, well-organized, project experience…” Let’s pause there and identify what’s going on here. Simple and hassle-free. Those sound pretty similar to me. But well organized is different.

As a project management company, these guys know that being well-organized is what allows the project to be simple and hassle free. So I can see why they would connect them on their BrandScript. But their customers don’t know that. And so it does not need to go here. Your customer’s desire needs to connect with where your customers are right now.

On this BrandScript, we moved “well-organized” to the solution. Let’s look at the rest of this. Now we have ”A simple, hassle-free project experience that delivers a quality product on time and on budget.” That’s even more stuff.

Do they want a simple product experience or do they want a quality product or do they want that product on time and on budget?

Each desire the character has makes your customers ask, “Am I going to get that? Am I going to get this simple project experience? Am I going to get the product that’s on time and on budget?”

We want to simplify that. We don’t have to remove them from your BrandScript. On this BrandScript, we moved the quality product to the solution. “On time and on budget,” we moved that to the agreement plan.

So there’s other places on your BrandScript that you can move these things to if they’re necessary. You don’t need to communicate everything all at once.

The two that I mentioned that don’t need to have just one thing in them are the Failure and the Success. The reason is because we’re describing what life looks like. We’re not just clarifying what is the character’s desire.

For the first five parts of the BrandScript, we’re going to be really simple, really clear. Pick one thing. One thing the customer wants. One main problem. And on and on.

With failure and success, we can have we can have lists and paragraphs and things like that there.

What happens when you clearly identify what your customers want? Now they’re in. They understand the story that your brand is telling and they understand how it applies to them. Which means they’re going to buy more.


Mistake #2: Write the way you write

The second problem that I see all the time and this, especially on websites, is that people write the way they write. Let me explain what that means.

When we are reading a website, we have not sat down to read a novel. We don’t want to read a novel. We are here to solve a problem, not to read a novel.

As an example, think about the last book you read. Picture one of the pages in your head. Now imagine going to a website and seeing hundreds of words, like you’d see in a book. What do you do?

You’re not there to read. You’re there to solve a problem. So you check out. Your brain says, “Oh dear God, please don’t make me read that.” When you sit down and read a book, that’s the purpose. But when you’re on a website, your purpose is to solve a problem. And just like StoryBrand talks about, we don’t want to make people burn calories. Their brains don’t want to burn calories reading all that text.

What I see people doing a lot is writing their website like they’d write a book. They have long sentences with lots of commas and semicolons and hyphens. And they’re worried if everything is grammatically correct.

But that’s not how people read websites.


What to do instead: Write the way you talk

I want you to shift your thinking here when you’re writing your website. Don’t write how you write, write how you talk. If you want a great example, pay attention at the dinner table. Or when a coworker comes over to small talk. Or even look closer at this article.

What you’ll notice is there are a lot of periods. There are no hyphens, no semi-colons, probably no colons, and minimal commas.

The way we talk is with short, punchy sentences. A lot of periods.

A great example of this is Apple’s website. They break so many grammatical rules. But it doesn’t matter because as we’re reading it our brain processes it as if it’s self talk. When we’re talking to ourselves, we’re not worried about grammar.

Think about this: when you write words on your website and somebody reads those words, you’re literally writing words into somebody’s brain. We don’t want it to feel foreign. We want it to feel normal and comfortable. Write the way people talk. The way they talk to themselves. Short, punchy sentences is the way to go.

When you write that way, people easily take in what you’re saying. They feel comfortable having those words inside of their head. They feel familiar, which means it’s easier for you to build up that relationship with your customer. Which means they buy more.

Mistake #3: Too much insider language

The third problem that I see people struggling with when they’re implementing StoryBrand on their website is that they use too much insider language. If you’re familiar with StoryBrand, you’ve probably heard of this, but let me define what I mean.

In a fantastic book called The Art of Explanation by Lee Lefever, Lee talks about this concept called the curse of knowledge. The idea is when you start learning about an industry or a product or an idea, you are at a level one of knowledge. Which means you know basically nothing.

The more you learn about it the higher your level of knowledge grows. Especially if you’re on the cutting edge of the topic. I’m working with a cybersecurity company who helped invent cybersecurity so their knowledge is a level 10 .

The problem that a lot of people struggle with is that their customers are at a level one. Maybe they’re at a two. So if you write at a level 10, they don’t understand what you’re saying. And when they don’t understand what you’re saying, they check out. They leave. They never come back.

We don’t want that to happen. Many people take their level 10 knowledge and they back it up a couple of degrees to level seven. Or even level five. But people don’t buy at level five. They buy at level two.

At this point, some people I work with say, “If they’re our customers they’re going to know about the industry. They’ll know X, Y or Z.” Wrong. We can never assume that. We can never assume that our customers are going to know anything.

Sometimes people think that if they don’t talk at a level five or level six, people will not know how much they know. Their customers might not believe they’re experts in the industry if they stop using their confusing insider language. That is not true.

What to do instead: Ask, “Would a fourth grader understand this?”

If you communicate clearly, people actually believe that you know more. When you take your confusing rhetoric and bring it down to a level two, people believe that you know it well enough to communicate it clearly.

When you talk at a high level, your customers don’t think you’re smart. They just don’t understand you.

Here’s the thing with clarity. If you are over-clear, so let’s say you communicate at a level two, anybody who’s at a level five will understand what you’re saying. And anybody who’s at a level two will understand it.

But if you communicate at a level five, level fives will understand it. But level twos won’t. So you just said goodbye to everybody who’s a level four, three, two or one. You’re losing business.

So we’re going to take your message all the way to level two. How do we do that?

The question that I like to ask is, “Would a fourth grader understand this? How would I explain this to a fourth grader?”

The reason we ask this is not because fourth graders are dumb or incompetent. They’re not. Neither are your customers. The reason is that we don’t expect fourth-graders to know our industry.

When I ask, “Would a fourth grader understand this,” what I’m really saying is, “Is this all the way to level one or level two?” By setting up a fake customer who we have zero expectations about what they know, we’re able to communicate more clearly.

As you’re writing your website, ask yourself, “Would a fourth grader understand what I’m selling? Would a fourth grader understand why this matters to them or the problem that’s going on here?”

In fact, if you have a fourth grader around, go ask them. That will be really eye opening for you. Do they understand where you’re going with the website and why the product matters?

When you communicate in a way that a fourth grader understands, you know that you made it to level one or two on the scale of knowledge. Which means your customers know what you’re talking about. They know why it matters to them so they buy more.


Wrapping up

There are the top three mistakes that I see most often with StoryBrand websites.

First, shoving too many things into each aspect of your BrandScript confuses your customers. We talked about reducing your BrandScript to one thing per section, except for failure and success.

The second thing I see all the time is people write how they write. Instead we want to write how we talk. It’s okay to break some grammatical rules. We want people to feel comfortable as they’re putting the words we wrote inside their head while they’re reading your website.

The third problem that a lot of people have is they accidentally use insider speak. Even if they’ve taken their level seven knowledge down to a level five, it’s not far enough. We need to go all the way down to a level two or a one. And the way to do that is by asking, “Would a fourth grader understand this?”

When we do all three of these things, our customers understand us. Which means they buy more.

If you enjoyed this article, fill out the form below. You’ll get a free gift from me and you’ll receive these articles straight to your inbox when I post new ones.

Then comment below with “Yes!” if your BrandScript has one clear thing that the customer wants. In fact, type in what your character wants. I would love to read it.

Good luck growing your business!

To your success,

Ryan Toth
Founder & CEO

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