One of the biggest differences between marketing via story and other marketing frameworks is that the customer is ALWAYS the hero of the story.

Not your business.


Because we all – including our customers – want to be the hero of our own story.

When brands play the hero in the story, they do less business. Your customer isn’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.

Don’t be a hero.

In movies, heroes transform.

At the beginning of the story, the hero is usually flawed, filled with doubt, and ill-equipped for the task set before them. They begin as a seemingly weak character.

The guide aids them on their journey, helps them resolve their problems, and ultimately helps them transform into a stronger, more confident person.

The story transforms them into the person they want to become.

How do brands unintentionally play the hero?

We all know we need to demonstrate that we can solve the problem our customers have.

It’s the WAY we talk about solving that problem that gets us into trouble.

We use insider language (which is usually full of jargon and other words and phrases that don’t mean anything to the customer.)

We talk about the features of our solution (and forget to describe the benefits to the customer. Features are about us and our solution, while benefits are about them and their transformation.)

We go overboard demonstrating authority (and forget to convey empathy for the customer’s situation.)


I personally believe this is the biggest reason we all have so much trouble talking about ourselves and our brands. Subconsciously, we know we are trying to play the wrong role in the story.

Remember – at the beginning of the story, heroes are ill-equipped to solve the problem set before them. They don’t know what to do to solve the problem. That’s why they need us!

We already know how to solve the problem, so we can’t be the hero.

Be the guide.

Establish yourself as the guide by expressing empathy and demonstrating authority.

Many people have asked me if positioning themselves as the guide means they can’t talk about themselves.

You actually can talk about yourself as much as you want, so long as you only emphasize why you care about your customers’ problems and why you can be trusted to help them solve those problems (empathy and authority).

Empathy means understanding your customer’s pain points. Really strong empathetic statements speak to how the customer feels about having the problem and say, “I see you, and I know what that feels like. I understand.”

When our customers sense that we understand their problems, we create a bond.

Here are some examples of ways you can express empathy:

  • We know how hard it is to deal with…

  • Many of our customers have struggled with . . .

  • Don’t you just hate it when . . .

  • We understand how it feels to . . .

Our customer needs to see something in our marketing collateral that lets them know we know what we’re doing.

But we have to be careful. If we express too much authority in our messaging, we could inadvertently move into the role of the hero.

We just explain why we are trustworthy and move on. 

Here are a few examples of ways to incorporate authority:

  • Statistics
  • We’ve helped ten thousand people solve this problem . . .
  • We’ve helped people in your situation save up to half a million dollars per year . . .
  • Awards
  • Logos
  • Media
  • Testimonials

All of this may seem to conflict with what I’ve been saying about how the story is about our customers, not about us. Isn’t talking about our brand making us the hero?


If you only use empathy and authority, then what you are communicating is still about the customer.

If your business is brand new…

Doesn’t it feel a whole lot easier to speak from the role of the guide than of the hero?

This is one of the things I like best about using storytelling for marketing. Even new businesses can use it successfully.

If you don’t have even one customer yet, you can still genuinely express empathy for your prospective customer’s problem. 

You’ve been there. You’ve had the problem. You solved it for yourself (hello! – that’s authority!) and now here you are in business to help others solve it.

That sounds like a worthy guide to me!