Clarifying Your Message: Lessons From Donald Miller at BMSU

Clarifying Your Message: Lessons From Donald Miller at BMSU

Engaging customers with a clear and actionable message is how you capture interest and sell products. There are several mistakes that businesses make when crafting their messaging, including making it too vague, positioning their product incorrectly, or not creating a sense of urgency in the customer. 

This overview will cover some of the dos and don’ts of messaging according to Business Made Simple’s CEO, Donald Miller. Keep reading to learn how to use the “story framework” to increase interest in your product and make more sales.

Using the Story Framework

Part of clarifying your message is being straightforward and specific. As Donald asks, “can your customers figure out really quickly why they need your product or service?” If the answer is no, success is likely not yet within your reach. Customers should be able to see your product as a solution to their problems.

The most powerful way of presenting your message is through the story framework. Stories get people interested, and an engaging story demands their full attention. Donald shares the 7 things that are present in every story that your messaging should replicate in order to keep customers engaged:

  1. A character or “hero” that needs or desires something specific.
  2. A problem that the hero faces.
  3. A guide that helps the hero overcome the problem.
  4. A plan that consists of a few steps that define the journey and lead the hero in the right direction.
  5. A call to action that challenges the hero to get started on solving their problem.
  6. A successful ending that shows what life could be like if the problem is solved.
  7. An idea of the failure and loss that is possible if the problem is not solved.


This messaging framework makes your marketing more captivating and draws the customer into the story of your product or service rather than just presenting it to them from the outside.

Turning the Customer Into the Hero

The idea of positioning your business or your product as the hero of the story may be enticing, but it isn’t effective. People like to think of themselves as the main character, so giving them the hero’s role in your messaging allows them to better imagine the reality of solving their problems with your help. If the customer is the hero, then your business, product, or service is the guide that is meant to help them throughout their journey and ensure that they prevail in the end. 

Donald mentions that a competent guide has two main characteristics: empathy and authority. This means that you are able to recognize, understand, and validate the issues that the customer is facing, and since you are competent and capable, you are also able to help.

Talking About the Problem

Positioning yourself as a guide along the customer’s life journey helps them feel more involved in your message and allows them to consider the benefits they will get from purchasing your product.


In every story, the hero faces a problem. In terms of your business and your messaging, Donald reminds us that “the problem is what’s making customers want to buy something in the first place.” When you show customers that you understand a problem they’re experiencing, your brand and your products become more compelling. After defining the hero’s problem, establish how you will solve it!

Creating a Sense of Urgency

You should ask and answer the question “what are the stakes?” A sense of urgency is created when you define the possible successes or failures of the hero depending on if they buy your product or not. This encourages action and makes your message memorable, as people always want to strive for success and avoid failure.

If you keep your message vague and relaxed, it becomes easy to ignore. If the customer sees no difference between engaging with your story and not engaging with it, there is absolutely no sense of urgency. Your product will seem useless to them (even if it isn’t) because they haven’t been drawn in and shown the ways in which it can improve their lives.

Making a Clear Call to Action

What are people supposed to do after they understand the stakes and feel that sense of urgency? As Donald says, “you’ve got to give people something to accept or reject.” This means having very clear places in which people can take action and buy your product. This is not the time for passive language, but rather very bold and confident directions to sign up, buy a product, or set up an appointment.

When you turn your message into a story with the customer as the hero and your business as the guide, you are able to position your products as the solution to the customer’s problems. To create a sense of urgency, outline how the customer’s life can change for the better if they buy from you, or how they can experience failure if they do not. To finish it off, be sure to have a strong and clear call to action that doesn’t leave room for hesitation.

If you liked this lesson from Donald Miller, click here to read the next one about building a better character.