Donald Miller (@donaldmiller) is the CEO of StoryBrand. Combined, his 7 books have spent more than a year on the NYT Bestsellers list. He’s consulted with hundreds of companies to help them clarify their messaging, including the likes of Berkshire Hathaway, Chick-fil-A, Charity Water, and Intel to name a few. They coach their clients on a seven step framework to successfully tell a story that clarifies their client’s messaging to create better websites, elevator pitches and marketing collateral.
Don and I have a lot of fun in this 60-minute conversation and cover a broad range of topics!
Here’s just a tiny sample of what we cover:
- Star Wars and Tommy Boy are actually the SAME movie when you break down the story-telling framework of Hollywood, but more importantly, Don covers how to apply this simple framework to better engage your clients and prospects!
- 2 things the human brain is trying to do at ALL times and what you can do in your marketing to capitalize on it
- How Don’s random encounter on an airplane completely changed his perspective on his own brand and eventually let to the creation of StoryBrand.
- POLITICS… Yeah we go here… No worries, we don’t pick any sides, but Don breaks down the reason Donald Trump’s campaign is working (hint: You can apply this to your business!)
- 3 quick changes on your website that can be implemented in less than 48 hours to dramatically increase your clients and prospects understanding of how to work with you!
- …and much more!
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- Listen to it on iTunes.
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Scroll below for links and show notes… Enjoy!
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Tommy Boy
- Star Wars
- Companies Don Miller has consulted for:
- Automated Nurturing Campaign via MailChimp
- One Trusted Advisor
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker
- George H.W. Bush Biography by Jon Meacham
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- Connect with Donald Miller
- *Note: time stamps correlate for audio version of podcast, not YouTube
- 5:25 Brad welcomes Don into the show
5:55 A compelling concept is introduced: Star Wars and Tommy Boy are essentially the same movie. Don explains how he studies story and their structure, and how they impact the human mind.
- 7:40 The two things the brain is trying to do – survival and preserving energy. Don describes and expands these two things and ties it to marketing.
10:30 What were the steps that took you from New York Times Best Seller to consulting companies?
- 11:40 Don tells us a story of sitting next to a fan on a flight who didn’t realize it was Don himself, and how that conversation changed his business dramatically.
- 14:08 Don was given advice to move into consulting, and he explains the demand for his services.
- 15:45 Scott describes the customer’s thought: “What’s in it for me?” He describes what customers are really looking for.
- 17:00 The story of Lincoln and Matthew McConaughey, Don works through the framework of story.
- 18:30 First part of the framework: the customer is the hero of the story.
- 19:30 Second part of the framework: hero’s can’t solve the story on their own.
- 20:15 Presidential campaigns of the past, their stories, and how that impacts success. How the winner was a guide, and not a hero.
- 22:00 Why is Donald Trump winning right now? His message is extremely simple, and he does not position himself as the hero.
- 25:30 The person who can come up with a simple statement, and repeat it loudly and often, will almost always win. Don applies it to the financial realm.
- 27:30 Story about an industrial painter, and how Don was able to simplify his message.
- 29:15 Brad brings up the “junk drawer” analogy for financial advising.
- 29:55 Don discusses what a lot of companies do, why it’s not effective, and explains the importance of strong and emotional sound bites.
- 31:25 Brad asks Don what he thinks the most common mistake financial advisors make.
- 32:20 Don lists off things to help your website be successful.
- 33:35 Don discusses the importance of e-mail, tactics you can use to get e-mail addresses, and how they will help you be successful.
- 35:05 Don discusses an e-mail strategy with an example of what he would do to help three different types of customers. He discusses how it turns into a “digital automated salesforce.”
- 40:35 Brad asks Don about his favorite book, or if there’s a book that Don gifts to others frequently.
- 43:00 Brad’s rapid fire questions begin. When you hear the word successful, who pops into your mind and why?
- 44:00 If you could go back to your 20-year-old self and give one piece of advice, what would it be?
- 46:00 Noise versus music, and the difference is structure. Brad asks him to explain.
- 48:00 One piece of advice that has led to your success that you could give, what would it be?
[00:02:36] Brad: Welcome everyone. In this episode, I have the pleasure of speaking with Donald Miller. For those of you unfamiliar with Don, his books have collectively spent over a year on the New York Times Bestseller list and he’s taken this passion for storytelling and created StoryBrand. A business that’s consulted the likes of Berkshire Hathaway, Chick-fil-A, Charity Water and Intel, to name just a few. They coach their clients on a seven-step framework to successfully tell a story and apply it to your business. Essentially, it’s using the framework of story, one that’s been passed down the last few thousand years of recorded human existence and using it to engage the human mind. Most importantly, Don applies this to your marketing to help you engage your ideal clients and compel them to take action.
In this wide-ranging conversation, we cover some incredible marketing concepts. We have a lot of fun at the same time. The conversation kicks off with how in reality, Star Wars and the movie Tommy Boy are actually identical stories when you look at the framework behind them that they’re actually constructed with. Deep stuff here, I know. But Don will show you exactly how this applies to your business once we dig in.
Next, we discussed the two things the human brain is trying to do at all times and what you can do when you’re marketing to capitalize on this. Don later digs in on how a random encounter on an airplane completely changed his perspective on his personal brand and how this eventually led to the creation of StoryBrand. In a fun segue, we actually talk politics. Don’t worry, we don’t pick any sides but we do dig into how Donald Trump’s campaign success can actually be linked to following a story-like framework. Don actually deconstructs this on the podcast. It’s incredible how spot on he is with this analysis.
Lastly, we dig into three quick steps to dramatically improve your web presence as a financial advisor. And in reality, this can be done in probably a day or two’s time. So, great, simple tips that you can all definitely utilize with your web presence. One final note, for those of you listening to this via podcast, this was originally a live video call with my client. There’s a piece of this conversation where I screen share the seven-step framework that Don utilizes at StoryBrand. If you’d like to check that out, you can find the video of this podcast at bradleyjohnson.com/donaldmiller. As always, thanks for listening and without further delay, my conversation with Don Miller.
[00:05:27] Brad: Welcome, Don. I’m excited to have you here on the Elite Advisor Blueprint podcast all the way from Nashville, Tennessee.
[00:05:34] Don: Yes, wonderful Nashville.
[00:05:36] Brad: Yes. So I was just actually down there earlier this week. Weather was beautiful, mid-70s. So hopefully you guys are still getting that weather down there right now.
[00:05:43] Don: Yes, you know Nashville’s so funny. You get all four seasons in one day. But I’ll take it over the rain of Portland, Oregon. It works fine for me.
[00:05:52] Brad: Well whatever you do, don’t come to Kansas then. It only gets worse from there. Well, I figured I would just hop right in here. You have this very compelling concept and actually the first time we met, we have a mutual friend in Michael Hyatt, I remember you just threw this out right off the bat and it made me think for a little bit. You have this crazy theory that Star Wars and Tommy Boy are essentially the same movie. And we’ll tie this all in to marketing and how that affects it. But I would love to hear you expand on that thought.
[00:06:24] Don: Yes, absolutely. So I’ve studied story for years and write books. And in order to study story, you study structure, you study how stories work and believe it or not, there are formulas, they are very formulaic. You are being tricked every time you go into a movie by 2000 years of best practices in storytelling. And a lot of story experts believed there are only seven stories that are ever told. You just exchange the hero, and the conflict and the obligatory scene at the end and all that kind of stuff. So, Star Wars and Tommy Boy are actually the same movie. Two guys who are each trying to accomplish something that’s good for the world, they’re opposed by an evil challenger that all comes down to one climactic scene in which they can save the day. And I wouldn’t even bring up the similar father issues that they have.
You know my wife… I’ve been studying stories so long that she hates to go to the movies with me. Because at some point I’m going to elbow her and point at the screen and say, “That guy dies in 31 minutes.” You know because they’re that formulaic. But what that teaches us in terms of just being people who need to grow our business, is if we can tap into that story structure in our marketing, then we are going to compel a human brain better than our competition. There’s two things that the brain is trying to do. One is trying to help you survive. That’s what your brain is trying to do; it’s trying to help you survive. Which means, food, water, the basic necessities, and all that stuff in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, including finding a mate, procreating, building a tribe of people who are like minded to help you protect your resources, getting ahead financially, not wasting money. All of that fits into this compartment of trying to survive. So your customer, the number one thing their brain is trying to do is survive.
The second thing their brain is trying to do, is trying not burn very many calories. Now that sounds really strange. But have you ever had to think really hard in order to pass an exam and you feel like at the end of the day you’ve ran a marathon and yet all you did was sit your butt in a chair and crunch numbers? It’s because your brain literally burns a ton of calories. So what your brain knows is, one, I’ve got to survive, and two, I’ve got to do this as efficiently as possible because if I burn too many calories up here, I’m going to deplete resources and it might affect my ability to survive. That’s why when you walk into a room, you won’t know how many chairs are in the room, your brain won’t subconsciously count the chairs. You will know where the entrances and the exits are because if there’s a fire you need to get out. So what your brain is doing in the background all the time is your brain is categorizing information, synthesizing information and organizing information. And in order to do that, it has to burn calories.
Here’s why all of these matters and here’s where story and marketing come together. When somebody goes to your website, if they can’t figure out on your website within a very few number of seconds, in my opinion five, within five seconds, how you can help them survive, they are programmed to tune you out. In other words, they’re saying, “You’re costing me too many calories to figure out what in the world you have that benefits me so I’m going to check out. So what happens is, your competition who has an inferior product or service, they’re not as good as you are, they’re not as smart in terms of financial planning as you are, they have a better website though, that speaks much more clearly. Almost every single time the client will do business with them over you even though you have a better product.
So that’s why it’s really important to create clear and compelling message systems that are simple and easy to understand. And the most powerful tool to do that is to understand story structure and how story structure works.
[00:10:17] Brad: So this kind of leads me into the next question. We’ll pop-up a diagram. For those of you that are listening via podcast, you can check all of this out on my website. We’ll have live video up there. Tell me the journey, because this is interesting to me. Read a little background on you, obviously. I’ve checked out a book or two of yours as well. Give me the A, to B to C, whatever the steps were that took you from New York Times Bestseller to now a guy that consults companies, I know you’ve consulted Pantene. Was Berkshire Hathaway on that list?
[00:10:52] Don: They were, yeah.
[00:10:53] Brad: Okay. So obviously some big name companies. How did you get from New York Times Bestseller to there?
[00:11:00] Don: Accidentally. I love writing books. I’ve written for years and I had a book about living a better story and I turned that into a conference company. The conference company did okay. We had about 350 people coming to each of our conferences but the problem is there were 700 seats in the theater. And when you’re wired like me that is not a room that is half full. That is a room that feels almost completely empty. And it really bothered me.
Then we’d send out surveys to the people who came to our conference and the surveys came out glowing. People loved them. So I thought, “Well, this will take care of itself. People love the product, they’re going to show up next time we do this.” And next time we had 350 people in the room, half full. And I got on an airplane one morning. I was flying from Portland, Oregon, where I lived at that time to Indianapolis, Indiana. And there was a guy sitting next to me in the airplane and he happened to have a copy of my book. Now that had never happened to me before. I’ve never seen one of my books in the wild. And I thought this is gonna be fun. So I sat down next to my seat. “Hey man, what do you think of that book?” He looked at me and he said, “I love this book. It’s the third time I’ve read it and in fact I’m flying to Indianapolis tonight to hear this guy speak. He’s my favorite author.”
And I’m kind of going, “You know my picture’s on the back cover of the book.” But he didn’t get it and I thought… you know I kind of joked with him a little more and asked him a few more questions and then the lightbulb went on above my head. I’ve got two hours to sit next to a raving fan and I can really find out what he thinks of my “brand”. A lot of you guys are financial advisors. Your personal brand like it or not. Wouldn’t you just love to hear what people say about you, sitting right there in the room? While I had the opportunity and I took it and what I discover was he had a lot of nice things to say but he couldn’t put words to what I’d offered him that would make me want to go out and buy my books or would make me want to attend my conference. Obviously, he’s never been to my conference for me to recognize me.
But he was speaking in vague terms, saying things like, “We’ll you’ll just have to read his books to understand.” You want him saying one sentence that makes me want to get off that plane at the next airport, walk into the bookstore and buy that book. And I took full responsibility for the fact that I had never given him that sentence. And so what happened was I went off to a cabin in Nashville, North Carolina to work on a book and thought, “Man I gotta spend a couple days just clarifying my messaging.” And that became, let me explore story, I know it’s the most powerful tool to use to help clarify message. That turned into me creating a framework. And the whole genesis of this was just to take my own conference company through it. I never intended to start a branding process.
I took my company through that process. We went from 350 to 970 that we sold out a theater of a larger theater. We went from that theater to selling a theater of 1,700, went from 1,700 to 2,400 and on and on. And some of the guys on my staff said, “Look, you’ve got this framework that helps a company clarify their message so that they can filter that into all their marketing collateral, their website, their email blasts, all these simple tools that we use to grow our business. You have to take another company through this.” So I said sure. I kind of hid something in my bio on Twitter saying I can help you clarify your message to this company.
And the idea was that a plumber would call and want to get together at Starbucks and I’d take him through it. I kid you not; the very first call was Pantene, Procter & Gamble’s shampoo division. Second call was Ford Lincoln. Chick-Fil-A was the third. White House was the fourth, to work on an initiative that President Obama’s gonna work on after he leaves office and on and on from there, Intel and Berkshire Hathaway and bunch of other companies.
We’ve also worked with over a thousand companies that are sub $5,000,000 businesses. And those also are my favorites because we can actually make changes very quickly, there’s not this massive bureaucracy that we have to go through. We can actually just look at your website and say don’t say that, say this and put a button right here and all the practical things that sharpen a hooks. So that’s how StoryBrand got started and what we teach those, we teach the seven-part framework that is ancient, it’s thousands of years old. But we basically say, “Unless your messaging is coming through one of these seven filters, if you will, nobody’s paying attention. Nobody’s listening. You’re asking them to burn too many calories.”
So, nobody cares that your grandfather started the company, right? No one wants to see pictures of your cat. If there’s a long paragraph on your website, nobody is reading it. You basically have to create a story structure on your website. It doesn’t mean that you tell the story of your company. That’s not what I’m talking about. But a customer literally needs to go to your website or when they’re listening to your elevator pitch; they’re asking immediately, “What’s in it for me?”
And so when you open up by saying, “I really believe most people in this room can retire early and with more money in their portfolio than they ever thought they could.” What did everybody in the room just do? You just said, “I’m going to help you survive. I’m going to help you thrive.” I’ve also positioned a obligatory scene in the future of your story that everybody in the room wants to achieve. And so what’s the story question in their brain? How can you help me do that? And what do you do then? You start handing out business cards and people call you. But when you stand up and say, “My grandfather started this company years ago and we’ve won 37 Customer Service awards and we have a gold to double revenue as a company”, everybody is tuning out. Because it doesn’t have anything to do with me surviving. So it’s little things like that that we teach at StoryBrand, the real reasons customers engage, the real things they’re looking for, and we help you filter out your marketing messages so you’re not putting all that clutter up there.
[00:16:52] Brad: Very cool. So you actually… You’re second company that you worked with reminds me of a story that you shared when we were in a private group, actually when we first met. And it was… if you don’t mind sharing it with me.
[00:17:05] Don: No.
[00:17:06] Brad: It was the story of Lincoln and Matthew McConaughey and how they had taken their ideal client or prospect, I should say, and made them the hero. Which is I know, really big in your messaging. So if you don’t mind digging into that. This company did it really well examples and this company did not do it so well. So any of those that you would love to share, what I’ll do is pop-up the screen share that kind of shows your framework…
[00:17:30] Don: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:17:32] Brad: …so the viewers can envision this as you walk through it.
[00:17:34] Don: Well, Ford we actually just ask for a lot of data on who their customer was and who bought a Lincoln. And we basically help them understand that they needed to position the Lincoln, not unlike a Viagra pill because the customers are the same age dealing with the same kind of things. And that worked really well. But I’ll walk you through the framework that you can see on the screen. If you’re not listening to podcast but you’re watching video you can see it on the screen. And you can see that this is a seven-part framework for how most stories work. Not every story, but most stories. You start with a character; the character has a problem, that’s number 2. Number 3 is they meet a guide. Number 4 is that guide gives them a plan. Number 5 you call them to action and this either ends in a success or a failure. Those are the seven things that happen in almost every story. Now we look at these as seven buckets and we say all your marketing message needs to come from one of these seven buckets. And here they are, I’ll explain them as we go through.
First, your customer is the hero of the story, not you. If you position yourself as the hero of the story you will lose sales. You always have to understand the customer’s journey and the customer is the hero. That customer has a problem and we need to identify what that problem is. In terms of financial advice and consulting, the problems would be, my financial life is chaos, I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel inept to manage my own money, I feel like I’m missing out on something. These will be the internal problems. External problem might be just the need to retire at some age, volatility in stock market might be an understanding… might be an external problem.
But they have problems and when we identify those problems and we list them out either in an elevator pitch or on our website, people go, “Oh yeah and we create a bond and they say you know what I started with that exact same thing,” and they lean in and they engage in the story that we’re telling.
The next thing we understand in story is that heroes can’t solve their own problems on their own. They need somebody to help them. So storytellers have brought in this character for centuries called a guide. Yoda is a guide and Haymitch in Hunger Games is a guide. There are these guides who help the hero along the way. We would say what you need to do as a brand is position yourself as the guide in the story. In other words, you’re Yoda; your customer is Luke Skywalker. And there are things that a guide needs to do in order to captivate the attention or set off the mental triggers of the subconscious of the customer to say, “Hey, you’re my guide.” And we need to do those things.
Now there are big mistakes for positioning ourselves as the hero of the story. In fact when you look at presidential campaigns, for instance, being a real life war hero is almost no benefit to you in terms of winning an election, great benefit to our country and all these kinds of things. John McCain was a war hero who lost the election to somebody with limited military experience. Bob Dole, a war hero, John Kerry, war hero, on and on. They all lost to people with limited military experience and what’s fascinating to me about that is everybody that they lost to played a guide instead of the hero. When you walk into a room and you say, “Here’s what my brand is about, here’s my company is about, here’s what we’re trying to accomplish”, what your customers hear is, “Oh you’re a hero too because I woke up this morning and I’m a hero trying to count something. Sounds like you woke up and you’re a hero and trying to count something. Boy, I hope you get what you want but would you step aside because I’m looking for a guide.”
And so what we want to do is walk into a room and say, “Hey, I understand your problem. I’ve helped a lot of people through that problem and I can help you achieve this future scene in your life that it feels like you’ve been thinking about or daydreaming about. I’ve got a plan to help you do that.” That is a customer-centric style of doing business. And when I talk about a narrative framework, StoryBrand, the seven-part narrative framework, we’re talking about experiencing that, understanding that, and doing business where our customer is the hero in the story and we’re the brand. All successful brands get this. Apple gets it, Coca-Cola gets it, all these brands that have done extremely well, they understand that they are the guide in the story and their customer is the hero.
[00:21:49] Brad: So since we brought up politics and we’re right in the heart of that right now, segue. We won’t go too far down this track but why is Donald Trump winning right now?
[00:22:00] Don: That’s a fantastic question. Politics aside, on my personal opinion whether it’s a good or bad thing that he’s winning right now aside, there are reasons he’s winning. One is he communicates at a 4th grade level, in other words, Jeb Bush communicates at an 8th grade level and he’s out of the race.
[00:22:20] Brad: Who would be the better president?
[00:22:22] Don: Well probably a lot of people would say Jeb Bush certainly. He has executive and legislative experience. But the reason Donald Trump is pulling ahead so far is because his messaging is extremely simple. Nobody listening to Donald Trump has to burn very many calories understand what he’s all about. I’ve spoken to a bunch of people, about 20,000 people since he started running when I say, “Hey, what is it that Donald Trump wants for America?” Everybody in the audience can say he wants America to be great again.
When I say, “What does Jeb Bush want for America?”, nobody knows. When I say, “What does Ben Carson want for America?” nobody knows. When I say, “what does John Kasich want for America?” nobody knows. That’s not going to do well for you. When somebody goes to your website and say, “Hey what does this person want to help you accomplish in their life?” If they say, I don’t know, you just lost a sale. We call it passing the grunt test. So the idea is that, can you sit down with your website and put in front of a caveman and in five seconds close that laptop and have him grunt your offer. “You make my lawn look good. My lawn care not cost much. My lawn look better than neighbor.” That’s what we’re looking for and even though that sounds so primitive and it makes customers sound like they’re dumb, they’re not dumb. They’re just encountering 3,000 commercial messages a day and if you want to break through all of that noise, you better have really simple, clear messaging points and you better repeat them over and over in such a way that people can finally understand them.
Donald Trump does that. Can he back it up? I don’t think so. But you know what he’s about, you know what he’s for, you know what he wants. The other thing that Donald does that will surprise you is he does not position himself as the hero. The hero can be on every billboard in town, on the cover of every book and on every commercial and can talk about themselves a lot. But when he talks about himself he literally refers to himself as the messenger. He says, “Look, I’m just the messenger here.” And what he’s saying is, you’re the hero, I’m Yoda. I’m just coming in trying to help you guys win. And he is a flag or a representation of a mass group of people and he’s extremely in tune with those people. Somebody like Jeb Bush is coming and saying, “Hey, here’s my story as governor…the people are gone.” I don’t know what you’re about or what you stand for. In fact, we flew to Miami and met with Jeb Bush’s campaign. It was a little too late but we helped then revamp their website and he chose a tag line, “For a stronger, freer America, safer for America.” In my opinion, if you got commas in your tag line, it’s too long. But nevertheless, he went from 3% to 10% and then dropped out. We like to take credit for that 7%.
[00:25:15] Brad: That’s like 300% there. I’m impressed.
[00:25:18] Don: I got to compete with Make America Great Again and everybody’s stupid but that’s right. So that’s why he’s winning, simple, simple messaging. And it’s just true in politics. The person who can come up with a simple statement that is relevant to people and repeat it loudly and often, will almost always win. So what does that mean for you? It means your elevator pitch needs to be, “Hey, we help people retire early with more money than they ever thought they could.” Just keep saying it. And you’re going to get tired of saying it. When you get tired of saying it, say it for just one more year. Because you’re tired of saying it but people haven’t really heard it. Somebody has to hear something about eight times before they really understand what you’re talking about. So how many times have you said it?
Again, you’re at a cocktail party, what do you do? You are a financial advisors, ultimately what we do is we help people retire younger and with more money than they ever thought they could. Over and over. If you literally steal that line from me and make yourself say it 75 times next week, your business will grow. We want the people to understand how the brain works and then give them the messages that they can say over and over in all of their marketing collateral.
So you need to say that in your website, you need to say that in an automated email nurturing campaign which can be created free using mailchimp. You need to say it live in person when you’re at a cocktail party or an elevator; it needs to be in your business card but you just need to repeat it over and over. You can use any message you want as long as it’s compelling and it triggers the brain say, “Hey, this person is gonna help me survive.” But that’s basically a StoryBrand framework. Understand your customer’s story, play the position, play the role of guide in their story and offer them something that they really want and will help them survive and thrive in the future.
[00:27:17] Brad: And I’m going to throw one more disclaimer on there… As long as it’s compliance approved.
[00:27:21] Don: That’s right. You guys have a special set of hoops you have to jump through. You know it’s funny because we have financial advisors at every single one of our workshops and they always bring that up. And I’d tell them a story because I think it’s a funny story. There was an industrial painter who came to one of our workshops and he said, “Don, you know, our business is so complicated. We powder coat auto parts, that’s a dominant revenue stream, with a concrete sealant so we’d seal people’s driveways and sidewalks and mostly commercial applications. Then I’ve got this sterilized painting system or whatever that we use for hospitals, that’s a big revenue stream. So I’ve got three revenue streams that are just scattered and I don’t know that I can get my website to communicate one simple message.”
And so I said, “Hey man, can I just put your website on the giant television screen?” And so I put it up on the big television screen but it looked like a website for an Italian restaurant. I mean I have no idea what he was trying to communicate. Like organizations that he supported in the community and all these kinds of things, really well-meaning stuff but ultimately, it wasn’t selling anything. And I said, “Look, what if we just, by show of hands in this room, if we change this website to say “We paint all kinds of crap.” and then just put one button that said “Get a quote.”, do you think this man’s business would increase?” And every single hand went up.
It’s really not that difficult, it’s not rocket science. The problem is, it’s the curse of knowledge. We are so close to our product and service that we project our understanding of it over the people that we’re talking to and we talk over their heads. And we need to back it way up and get way more simple in our communication.
[00:29:03] Brad: So you’ve done some work with financial advisor or two and I did check out the website and one thing that was really cool you had this picture that I love because I think it’s great for all the listeners or whoever’s watching here. You had this big and everybody has this drawer at their house, this big junk drawer that has all rubber bands, paper clips, erasers, pens all that stuff in it. And you made the analogy on the website, is this what your financial life looks like or something?
[00:29:33] Don: Yeah. Has your life become a junk drawer?
[00:29:36] Brad: Yes and I think, unfortunately for a lot of retirees out there who have gone 20 or 30 years and randomly bought products along the way which financial advisors move. That’s what their financial life looks like. You did a really good job on the website just with the picture in a very simple statement. I was like, “Makes sense.” And it’s like, we can help.
[00:29:59] Don: And a lot of companies would put a paragraph about we’ve been doing business X number of years and nobody cares. We need these really strong emotional kind of sound bites of helping people identify the problem that they’ve got and go, “Hey that’s me. I really need you to help me out.” So that was one of the ways we did that and that gentleman, one trusted advisor, he actually change the name of his company when he went through StoryBrand. It was called Provident something and nobody knew what he did and his website hardly explained what he did and so we changed everything and now he’s booming. I think he was going to hire seven people on the next year just to take on the new business that he’s getting.
There are really three traditional P’s in business: People, get your people right, who you’re selling to and who you’re working with, what is your Product, if you got a great product, I think everybody watching this webinar has a great product, and then the last one is always been Processes. Get your processes down, once you get those down you can franchise up and scale up and all that kind of stuff.
We have a fourth P and that is Positioning. So if you have great People, you have a great Product and you have great Processes and you’re still not growing, your problem is Positioning. You’re not positioned in the market where you want to be. And people aren’t thinking of you and we wanna make them think of you.
[00:31:23] Brad: Very cool. Can you go through… Because you’ve kind of seen the before and after as far as the financial advisors are concerned, what are the mistakes you think most financial advisors are making right now? Whether it’s their website or their message in general. I know we talked about the curse of knowledge but what were maybe some of the mistakes you saw when you started working on the front end of the gentleman that you’re referencing?
[00:31:45] Don: Well, the gentleman I’m referencing is actually my financial advisor so I got to be careful because I really like him and also he’s got the keys to my fortune.
[00:31:54] Brad: Dangerous proposition.
[00:31:56] Don: Exactly. I can’t throw him under the bus and he’s also a wonderful guy. His website was true to his heart. He had a lot of pictures of paintings and quotes and things that had nothing to do with financial advice. Nobody listening probably has a website that’s that bad. But I would say almost everybody listening can cut almost 90% of the text out of their website. We want images of happy customers, just make a shortlist… Images of happy customers, testimonials, no more than one or two sentences about people, now if you can do this in compliance that is fine with your service, and then we want all of the buttons at the top of your website.
You probably has way too many buttons at the top of their website. There needs to be one obvious button to press and its schedule a call or schedule an appointment; however you want to word it. That needs to be a different color at the top right of your website and it also needs to be in the center of your website above the fold. You know just practical tips. What that does is, without me having to burn very many calories, it tells me what you want me to do and that’s call you. And then you gotta give me a reason to call you. Would you like to retire early and with more money than you thought you could have? “Yes. I would.” Now if that’s in compliance, so be it, if not, we’ve got to figure out to massage those words so that they are compliant. But those would be two very very basic things.
Here’s another thing, I really want you to start collecting email addresses. Email is the most powerful way, it’s a sales force that works while you’re sleeping. And a lot of people say, “Well, Don, we do that you know. You can sign up for a newsletter.” Nobody’s gonna sign up for your newsletter. You need to offer them something in exchange for that email address. And I’ll get there in a second. Once you get that email address, you need to create about 5 or 10 emails that they get once every week that gives them something really practical and helpful for free. How not to panic when the market is volatile? Three keys to making more money off real estate property or whatever. You probably don’t deal with those kinds of portfolios. But you wanna help them. Here’s the other thing, it gets your email in their email box for 10 straight weeks which means they’re thinking about you 10 times longer than they would have before. And when they start thinking, “You know I probably need to change financial advisors or I need to find one”, you’re gonna be in their brain because you’ve been in their email box for 10 weeks. Not only that, you’ve given them really practical helpful information. You’ve positioned yourself as a guide and now that they have a question they say, “This guy’s help me about 8 or 10 times just through email. I like to meet with him.” So that’s one thing.
The other thing that you can do is when you offer that free thing in exchange for that email address, you want it to be something really helpful and it also will help you segment your audience. So let’s say I’ve got three kinds of customers as a financial advisor. I’ve got a customer who wants to help me make them more money. So this is probably somebody who’s making less than a million a year and they’re thinking about more money, right? How do I increase my wealth? Then I’ve got a second kind of customer, and they’re basically just thinking about tax strategy. They’re making $5,000,000 or less a year and they’re tired of giving it to the government. And then I’ve got a customer, who’s making more than $5,000,000… let’s say between 5 and 10. They’re thinking about legacy. They’re probably a little older, their company is a well-oiled machine that’s printing money for them. They got the tax strategy stuff figured out, they’ve done everything they could do. They’re thinking about passing this along to their kids without ruining it. Well I need to separate those three customers in order to market effectively to them.
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to create a 5 Mistake People Can Make with Their First Million. Well anybody who gets that PDF from me, which I can pay a writer to write I don’t have to write it, that email address, I know a specific suite of products and services this person needs and helpful advice that they need. The second one says 5 Ways You’re Paying the Government Too Much Every April or whenever your financial year ends. I know this person is probably thinking about tax strategy; probably in the $5,000,000 bracket. And then How to Leave Wealth Behind Without Ruining Your Kids.
With those three PDFs, I can segment my audience and on that every 3rd or 4th email, I can can say, “Hey listen, if you wanna talk about building a legacy strategy, I’d love to meet with you. Call me.” Now you have sales force, a digital automated sales force that is working full time. First of all, you’re not calling anybody, your phone rings, it is a qualified customer. “Why did you call?” “Well I just read this PDF that you wrote about ways to leave wealth behind without messing up your kids and got me thinking about my portfolio.” Great. Well you now know where exactly this person needs to go. So that’s the sort of thing. And how much does that cost? We’ve had customers who spent six figures on their website, a hundred grand. And we look to the website and I don’t know how you say it, we try to say it very nicely but I won’t say it nicely here. They wasted $100,000.
We’ve recreated their website for about $3,000 and they’re so inept taking business. Because your message matters more than your marketing, right? So that’s three grand in. You pay a writer a thousand bucks to write the PDF, mailchimp is free, you’re now in $4,000 and you have an automated sales force. You’ll make that money back on your first client. You just have to put in the time. You have to figure out those messages and what you need to say. The financial expense is your time, but if you can build that automated system, your company will grow.
[00:38:12] Brad: So I’ve jotted down a note here while you were talking. A lesson in delegation for all financial advisors that are listening to this or watching it, you heard a writer say, a New York Times Bestselling author say, pay a writer to write it.
[00:38:28] Don: Well that’s because I’m a writer, right?
[00:38:30] Brad: Exactly. I know. That’s what I love though. It’s because systemization and knowing, hey this tool will help my business, you can have the concept and pay somebody else to write it. Obviously it’s gotta go through compliance suitability that we’ve referenced here a few times but it doesn’t have to be you. Now I would assume at this point, Don, you’re not the guy writing all the copy for every email drip, right?
[00:38:54] Don: I’m actually writing a good bit, but if it’s got my name on it, I write it that’s because I got it right? But we do have a team of writers who write all these stuff and facilitators. But you don’t have to do it. And not only that, you might not even have to hire a writer. You can find something in a financial magazine and just say “Hey I wanted to link to this magazine and actually share some thoughts I have on these articles because I thought it was really fascinating.” That’s fine. You really just want to hit their email box once a week with helpful information and that positions you further as a guide. You also want to ask for the sale, you need to be very strong, we call it driving to the hoop. You need to drive to the hoop you need to say, “Hey, schedule an appointment. I want to talk to you about X.” otherwise people won’t do it. Anyway, there’s a bunch of little concepts like that but we do these workshops and by the time somebody leaves the workshop they have their plan together and what they need to go home and execute.
[00:39:48] Brad: Well I remember you shared analogy. It was like the Buy it Now button on Domino’s Order pizza. And then you’re like, “Hey, I ordered a pizza one time around and like next Sunday, right around kick off for the football game I get an email, Would you like this pizza?” It doesn’t have to be complicated, right?
[00:40:04] Don: They must be Seahawks fans because they emailed me right before the Seahawks game. They know I’m sitting on my fat butt on that couch and I just press that button. So I look around, make sure my wife’s not looking and then I press that button.
[00:40:15] Brad: Love it. With the little bit of the time, first off, this has been an awesome conversation so thank you for having some time off.
[00:40:23] Don: My pleasure.
[00:40:24] Brad: So I want to segue a little bit. We’ve got a little bit of time here left. Being obviously, an author, and I’m sure… looks like you read plenty of books based on your backdrop there, so, I’m curious, what’s your favorite book or one of your favorite books or, I’ll give you two options on this one, is there a book that you’ve gifted frequently that you’d like to share where you just got some amazing thoughts or beliefs out of it?
[00:40:57] Don: Well I just talk personally a little bit. There’s a book by Christopher Booker called The Seven Basic Plots, it’s about at 800 paged book. I don’t think I’ve got one behind me. I’ve got about four copies lying around the house. But it’s just about story structure. If you really are curious just from a story perspective how it works, that’s 800 pages of text smaller than your bible. You’ll geek out on it. I’ll buy that book for a lot of writers. I’m reading a Meacham’s biography of George H. W. Bush right now. And I’ve never had such a sentimental experience reading a political biography and I read them all the time. It’s such a wonderful book. And what I love about is a book that lets you know who to be, rather than how to be. It’s a book about a man who I think who had a deep integrity and I just love that book.
The book that I would recommend though for everybody to read is a book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism. And you’ve probably read it. It’s just a book that helps you create your priorities, organize your time and it’s the best. I’ve read a dozen books on that subject but this is by far the best. And I would recommend it for anybody who feels a little bit overwhelmed and like you’ve got too much going on. Essentialism. It’s a great book. It will give you your life back. And if you apply some of the principles that he talks about, and he overdoes it I think a little bit but I learned so much from him and I’m so grateful. I get more done and I play more than I ever have before I read that book. That would be the one that I would really recommend.
[00:42:34] Brad: It’s a great read. The story right at the beginning where he’s rushing back to the business meeting it shouldn’t be at just punches me right in the gut.
[00:42:42] Don: Yeah.
[00:42:43] Brad: As you’re listening to the audiobook going to the meeting that you shouldn’t be in. I’ve definitely been in that spot a few times myself. Alright, I’m gonna throw rapid fire a few questions at you if you’re cool with it.
[00:42:55] Don: Go for it.
[00:42:56] Brad: And if the heat gets too hot just like hang up and leave.
[00:42:59] Don: I’ll pretend we have a bad connection.
[00:43:03] Brad: When you hear the word successful who is the first person that pops into your mind and why?
[00:43:07] Don: I think your buddy Michael Hyatt. I think one of the reasons he pops into my mind is because he’s successful in his career which is I want to do. But he’s got a family and he’s successful with his family. In other words, his kids love him, his wife is gonna stick around. And so when I think about the things that Mike has accomplished and maintained his integrity, he’s definitely a point on the horizon that I point to and say, “I wanna keep heading toward Mike.” I don’t want to put him on a pedestal. Mike’s a great guy and we’re friends but he’s a guy, I said, “You know I wanna pattern a little bit of my life more of what Mike does.”
[00:43:44] Brad: I couldn’t agree more. What I like about it, the more I’ve gotten to know Mike is he’s authentic.
[00:43:50] Don: Yeah. He’s not a guy that writes a blog and then you meet somebody different when you meet him in person.
[00:43:55] Brad: Yeah exactly. Alright, so we’ll keep rolling here. If you don’t mind sharing Don, how old are you now?
[00:44:04] Don: 44.
[00:44:05] Brad: 44, alright. So if you could go back to your 20-year-old self, and just give yourself one piece of advice, it could be business-related, it could be life-related, what would it be?
[00:44:16] Don: You know I think about that question a lot. And the truth is, I’ll tell you what I would say, but the truth is I wouldn’t say it. Because there are pitfalls I could have helped myself avoid but I would be so scared that I wouldn’t enjoy who I am today because I think I made much more by my failures than my successes. And so to go back and say, “Hey don’t do this, it’s gonna be a big failure.” I think would be negative. So there are plenty of, if I could go back I would be tempted to say, “Hey, don’t date that girl.”
But you know what I would say early on and I think I’d be safe I won’t screw up the way my life is right now, I’d say study story. Like when I was 20, if I would’ve just started early. I didn’t start really studying story until I was in my thirties and study it. To study stories is to study life, is to study business, is to study psychology, is to study all of it. Even if you have no intention of writing, understand story structure and how it works. But I’m a geek. That would be like saying to a musician go back early and start studying music. It’s not for everybody but that’s the advice and also, don’t date that girl.
[00:45:29] Brad: Spoken like a true growth mindset guy. I’m actually just finishing the book Mindset which is a great read for those that haven’t read it through listening or watching. Okay and it’s the philosophy of a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. The growth mindset is learning from failures and getting better. The fixed mindset is you are who you are and whatever you were born with. It was cool to hear you.
[00:45:53] Don: Yeah I think I’m gonna pick up that book. It sounds fascinating.
[00:45:55] Brad: Well your buddy Mike was the one who recommended it so I’ve got him for that one. So actually you made a reference to music right there and I heard you and I’m completely gonna butcher this, you basically say there’s noise and then there’s music. And the difference is structure, right?
[00:46:15] Don: Right.
[00:46:16] Brad: It’s the same analogy with story, a properly-formed story. Is there anymore to that or is it that simple?
[00:46:22] Don: Well it’s pretty much that simple. I mean noise and music are the same thing really and it’s just waves traveling through the air rattling in your eardrums. The only difference between noise and music is that music is noise submitted to rules. And if you can submit noise to very real rules, you’re not cramped in terms of your creativity or your expression. You can express a million different things a million different ways. But when you break those rules you definitely descend into noise.
Story works the same way. Life can feel like a series of random events but when you take those random events and you organize them in a certain way, they create a story. And the human brain responds to story differently. When we look at most of our client’s websites, when they come through a StoryBrand workshop in order to clarify their marketing and their messaging, when we look at their website, what I’m looking at is noise. It is not clear. Their messaging has not obeyed rules. They have not filtered down their messaging through the seven-part framework that we teach and so what people process their messaging as is noise.
And what people do with noise is they take that business card and they put it in the junk drawer. That’s not what we want. We want them to take that business card and put it in the rolodex of their brain so they all have access to it and when the stock market goes down or they get into a bad investment, they think, “I’m gonna switch guys” and they pull that business card right out of it. Once it goes in the junk drawer, it might as well go into the trash. So that’s the importance of making music with our marketing as opposed to noise.
[00:47:53] Brad: Awesome. One last question because I know you have a very serious engagement to attend following this. We’ll leave it at that. Alright. If there was one piece of advice you can leave with everyone with here today, that has lead to your success, what would it be?
[00:48:17] Don: Boy, there’s so many. So many things go through my head like getting enough sleep, getting enough rest, staying focused all those sorts of things. But I would say, the real thing that has lead to my success it comes out of Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, but I learned it before that, I will have a day planner that I created. I had my graphic artist lay it out and I fill it out almost every morning and it puts a to-do list on there, it puts my appointments on there and a few other things. But it gives me three projects to work on, only three things. You can only work on these three things a day and you can go pick up your dry cleaning and all that.
But there are three major things, I usually only can get to two of them. But for me to sit down in the morning and say, ‘What’s important? What are the two things that are the most important?” For me, I’m a profit-minded guy when it comes to business and so when I say were the two most important things, it might as well be the two things that going to make you the most money today. Like so many people watching this webinar, I got to make thousands of dollars a day just to keep my staff. I like them, they’re like family to me. So I gotta get this work done.
And so focusing on the two things that are most important things to get done today and those things are going to get done no matter what. If I don’t pick up my dry-cleaning, that’s fine but what I won’t do is have finish that chapter in that book and pick up your dry-cleaning as equally important things. They’re not. The dry-cleaning can go. This is the most important thing. And it’s amazing how our minds get confused about what’s important and what’s not everyday. So even just asking the question what are the two most important things that I need to get done today. Not only that but it gives me sanity. It turns my mind from a junk drawer into an organized, you know, the forks and the spoons and the knives are in separate compartments. I like living that way a little bit more. So that would be the key to my success.
And again, if you ask me that question we could talk for days. Another one would be just your relationships. I don’t want to oversimplify this because to oversimplify it is to make it untrue. But there are people who are givers in life and there are people who are a little bit more takers. In my lifetime, I’ve encountered and gone into relationships with about three people who were takers. I don’t think there’s actually very many takers. I think most people are givers. I really believe that. I mean I think almost everybody you meet is a giver. They could be annoying, they could make mistakes, but they’re givers. I think not spending too much time with the takers is really important. Probably somebody watching this and they’re gone, “Man, Don, you just gave me permission to get out of this business relationship because this person is definitely a taker.” It’s gonna cost you.
And I’ve learned to see them pretty early and just to not even get into business with them and even personal friendships. I’ll just get out that. I don’t have enough time. We’re all gonna die, right? I want a healthy, good, solid relationship, I don’t want to be dragging that around. So there’s seven pieces of advice when you only asked for one.
[00:51:27] Brad: I love it. All of them were great. So Don I just want to say thank you. This has been an incredible hour or so that we’ve been able to spend here together. I know it’s going to be incredibly valuable for the financial advisors, among others that will watch and listen to this. Thank you.
[00:51:45] Don: My pleasure.
[00:51:46] Brad: Hopefully, we’ll run into each other next time I’m in Nashville. I’ll be there a few more times this year.
[00:51:51] Don: I love it. We’ll get some barbecue.
[00:51:54] Brad: We’ll we’re in Kansas so you have to be careful with that one. But if you make it our way then we’ll show you barbecue up here.
[00:52:01] Don: Sounds good.
[00:52:02] Brad: One thing, I wanna leave everyone with here with today, what Don’s actually put together, he has a, I believe it’s a new website, 5minutemarketingmakeover.com where if you want some of the stuff just to download in I guess about five minutes or so.
[00:52:18] Don: Yeah. Three five minute videos.
[00:52:20] Brad: There you go. So hop on there, plug in your email. It’s gonna be incredible just like this last hour you’ve spent with Don
[00:52:28] Don: Remembering now, the third video is actually about 10 minutes, don’t tell anybody. But we actually show you the before and after of what we did about the Jeb Bush campaign. And we’ll give you a really good vision of what your website looks like now and what it can look like after you clarify that messaging. And I think most people would see that and say, “Man, I wish he had done that early on.” And he might be the frontrunner but too little, too late.
[00:52:48] Brad: There you go, 5minutemarketingmakeover.com. Go check it out. Anyway, Don, thanks again for the time today. We’ll let you run, I know you got some fun plan for a little later so thank you.
[00:52:58] Don: Thank you so much. This was a blast.
[00:53:02] Brad: Alright buddy, we’ll see you.
[00:53:03] Don: Bye.
The information and opinions contained here and are provided by third parties have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by Advisors Excel. The guest speaker is not affiliated with or sponsored by Advisors Excel. For financial professional use only. Not to be use with the general public or in sales situation.
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