Design Your Ideal Business Part 3: Your Strategic Narrative

Feeling stuck trying to communicate your offer in a way that truly resonates with potential customers? Finding the right words to describe the value you deliver is often a lot harder than it looks.

Let’s explore how to craft a brand story that focuses on your ideal customers’ problems (and how you’ll solve them) so that your marketing and sales messaging is always on target.

[Full Transcript]

Feeling stuck trying to communicate your offer in a way that truly resonates with potential customers? Finding the right words to describe the value you deliver is often a lot harder than it looks.

Let’s explore how to craft a brand story that focuses on your ideal customers’ problems (and how you’ll solve them) so that your marketing and sales messaging is always on target.

Defining Strategic Narrative

“Strategic narrative” is one of those squishy business words that has a lot of different meanings, depending on who you ask. To keep things as straightforward as possible, I’ll simply define it as your brand story—how you explain the problems you solve, who you solve them for, and how you’ll impact their lives—told in a way that clicks with the right people.

Your strategic narrative builds on your positioning strategy, defining the specific messaging you’ll use to communicate your unique value to your audience and market.

Your narrative and brand story relay information in a more meaningful way than facts alone. By themselves, value props, selling points, hooks, and benefits lack context. That’s where the power of story comes in. We all make sense of the world—as well as who we are as individuals—by telling ourselves stories.

  • We buy the expensive car based on our story about how it expresses who we are, or how people will perceive us, or how it will make us feel.
  • We go to Whole Foods based on our story about what we value most, the type of person we aspire to be, and what we deserve in life.
  • We invest in a training course or consulting based on our story about what type of person we want to evolve into, how these things will help us achieve our vision, and our own current capabilities.

Without these stories, a Mercedes would just be a very pretty but overpriced way to get from point A to point B. Whole Foods would just be an expensive option for groceries. Training courses and consultants would feel like an indulgence versus a necessity.

It’s the stories we tell ourselves about these things that create our subjective perception of their value. And it’s the strategic narrative that helps you tell your story in a way that aligns with their stories.

The Narrative Framework

There are a variety of ways to tell a compelling business story, but two approaches in particular that I’ve found most useful:

  1. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, by Donald Miller.
  2. Everyday Business Storytelling: Create, Simplify, and Adapt A Visual Narrative for Any Audience, by Janine Kurnoff and Lee Lazarus.

While each of these approaches stands on its own (and I highly recommend picking up both books), I’ve combined my favorite elements from both into a narrative framework.

Characters/Setting/Challenge (Current State)

Make the initial focus about the customer, not yourself. What does their world and situation look like? Be more relevant to them by describing the challenge from their POV.

Big Idea

A short, impactful statement that makes a bold claim about their challenges and how to resolve them. Sets up the solution/impact sections—the “how” and why it matters.


How you solve these challenges.

Impact (Future State)

Why it matters. The big picture, high-level payoff.


What does the path forward look like, and what’s the first step that a potential customer needs to take to get started?

Why a Strategic Narrative is Critical For Entrepreneurs

It Builds a Strong Marketing/Sales Foundation

When you get your brand story and messaging right, the rest of your marketing tends to fall into place much more easily.

Your business’s strategic narrative and core messaging—the specific value props, selling points, hooks, and benefits you focus on in order to attract your ideal customers—is the single most important piece of the marketing/sales puzzle.

Your messaging is how you:

  • Get customers’ attention and make a connection.
  • Become part of their world and their awareness.
  • Frame your solution, create meaningful context, and help customers see why your offer should matter to them.

Without effective messaging, there’s no sales and no business. Think about all the marketing and sales messages you ignore because they’re simply irrelevant to you. Unless you’re able to articulate exactly how your offer helps potential customers solve their problem, you’ll be irrelevant to them as well.

It Guides Marketing/Selling Decisions

Marketing and sales are all about communication. As your business development approach gets more complex, it’s easy to lose sight of your fundamental core messaging strategy.

Your brand story can become increasingly convoluted and abstract with every new tactic, channel, and iteration. You write one version of your message on your home page, and another version in your outbound emails. Your LinkedIn page and other social media accounts say something else altogether.

Your potential customer, seeing these messages for the first time, is left confused. And as the saying goes—a confused mind doesn’t buy.

A strong strategic narrative acts as a central point of truth. A living document that’s your primary source for core messaging when creating new sales or marketing materials. By always starting with the core messaging, you’ll ensure consistency throughout your marketing and sales campaigns.

It Keeps You Focused on the Customer

The customer, not your product or service, is the hero of the story. That means that the focus of your messaging should always be on the customer and their:

  • Perspective of the problem.
  • Belief about the problem’s impact on their lives.
  • Vision of what they could achieve by solving that problem.

Your strategic narrative helps keep you (and everyone on your team) aligned with that philosophy. It also helps prevent you from sliding into bad messaging habits, like data dumping product features or rambling on about “what makes you different.”

What Blocks Us From Developing a Strong Narrative

Cracking the messaging code isn’t easy. It requires making tough decisions, cutting off potential options, and standing for something specific.

And this is where many entrepreneurs get stuck.

The more we crave certainty, the more likely we’ll get caught up in endless analysis, hedging, and overthinking about the “right” messaging. We approach our brand story as a one time, “all or nothing” event. One strategic decision to rule them all.

But when there are too many options to pick from, we tend to just go with what’s most comfortable. And that preference for the familiar can lead us to making our entire messaging approach about ourselves. Our business. Our products and services. Our story.

  • “We’re the leading blah blah blah.”
  • “We’re not your typical blah blah blah.”
  • “How we’re different…Blah. Blah. Blah.”

We make our business the hero, and as a result miss the entire point of a strategic narrative—framing our offer in a way that best relates to the problems, needs, and wants of our customers.

How to Turn Things Around

To create clear, compelling, and effective messaging, you need to align on the right “red thread,” a central guiding messaging framework. A narrative that resonates with your ideal customers by making them, not you, the hero of the story.

There are three main characters in the classic hero’s journey—the hero, the villain, and the guide.

  • The hero is your customer. It’s who your whole story should really be about. Their struggles. Their obstacles. Their dreams. Their victories.
  • The villain is the problem they’re facing (and that you sell a solution for). The declining performance of their sales team. The clunky looking website. The tax audit.
  • The guide is your business, product, or service. It’s how you’ll help the hero defeat the villain.

We’ll get into more details about crafting your brand story in future posts. But for now, take a few minutes to start framing your business in a way that relates to your ideal customer and their unique hero’s journey.


  • Who’s the ideal customer?
  • What do they want?


  • Where does this story take place (their office, their company, their home, etc.)?


  • What external problems do they face? (plummeting sales, outdated web presence, stressful relationships.)
  • What internal problems do they face? (frustration, lack of confidence, worry.)

Big Idea

  • What’s a short, impactful statement that makes a bold claim about their challenges and how to resolve them? The “how” their problem will be solved, and why it matters?


  • In what specific ways does your business solve these challenges for your customers?


  • What’s the big picture, high-level payoff your customer will get by solving these challenges?


  • What’s the first step that potential customers should take?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: