Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand and author of the new book Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen is my guest on the latest episode of the Disrupt Yourself podcast. He’s an expert in helping people identify their marketing message and crafting the strategy that will actually get things sold.

This might be my favorite line from the podcast yet:

“What an absolute dismal mess I was as a business leader.”

On the surface, this appears the perfect opening for a discussion of Giving Failure Its Due or Being Discovery Driven, both important accelerants of personal disruption.

Donald didn’t disappoint on either count.

“Whitney, bottom line: I was horrible at it. I was a good writer and I sold a bunch of books – millions of books – and I create a little conference, and I invited all my readers – millions of readers – to this conference. And guess how many people came? Three hundred and fifty people. That was a 700 seat theater.”

Being only human, like the rest of us, Donald’s first reaction was to take it personally.

“What this means is, people love my books but they don’t like me…We sent out surveys after that conference and the reviews were glowing. So I thought, ‘OK, no problem. The next conference will sell out.’”

It didn’t.

350 people. 700 seats. I’m looking at a half empty theater and I’m wondering what’s going on. I ended up realizing…the problem is I’m not talking about my conference in a way that people actually want to come.”

Donald’s moment of discovery is like something from a reality show.

“I realized while talking to a stranger on an airplane who happened to be reading my latest book; I never told them who I was. I just sat there and asked question after question…I’ve never met him again; I never told him who I was. I walked off the airplane after two hours. He didn’t know. He is sitting there holding my book and I’m asking him questions about the book and I’m realizing, ‘You know what? I’ve never given my fans – or my customers, if you will – sound bites they can use to spread word about me?’”

The key to this discovery about crafting the message was realizing that “the more he talked about that book the less I wanted to read it.”

He had the confidence to realize that the book itself wasn’t the problem; he’d written it to be an enjoyable read and it was. But there are ways to market that are effective and other methods that are really just black holes for the advertising budget. Donald applied what he learned to marketing his next event and sold out so fast he had to move to a larger venue—which also sold out quickly.

There’s so much to learn from this conversation, including how attending Donald’s StoryBrand workshop earlier this year helped me update this website and clarify my elevator pitch. I asked my team member Macy Robison (who is also a StoryBrand Certified Guide) to create a content upgrade so you can develop and clarify your own elevator pitch or One-Liner. Enter your email below, and you’ll get the content upgrade delivered directly to your inbox.

Resources Mentioned in the Show and Transcript

Donald Miller

Other Resources

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