by Karen J. Marchetti

First 4 Steps in Story Approach

The Story Approach helps you focus on your target audience — and discover the key points of differentiation that are going to get that audience excited.

The end result is a stronger, more unique, memorable brand promise – that can drive leads and sales more effectively.

To create your “story,” you’ll draft and hone answers to 7 key questions. As you go through each of these seven, just start writing the answers to the questions — and hone the words later. Don’t worry about writing copy initially. As you polish your answers, you’ll want to come up with a single statement for each question.

The 7 steps are from Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. So let’s have a look at those seven steps. This is a case study for a client that sells online courses.

Step one. What does the prospect want?

Hopefully there’s a specific desire that you can become known for helping your customers achieve.

Our client has multiple audiences that are rather diverse. They sell continuing education courses in 47 states to insurance agents and certified financial planners. They also sell continuing education for real estate agents, but only in California. Their other audience is for Californians who want to become a real estate agent or a broker.

These audiences are rather diverse in what they want. The continuing education people just want to get it done. They want to get their continued education done fast, as easily and painlessly, and as inexpensively as they possibly can.

Our California real estate people need to actually learn, because they need to pass the real estate exam. So how do you turn these two ideas into one statement?

We started out with:

Most Effective Way to Learn and Pass

Everybody needs to pass. That’s critical to finishing each course.

But we looked at the competition – offering video courses, audio courses, in-person courses. Our client offers courses as downloadable PDFs. We discovered that PDFs may actually be a more effective way to learn over these other options, because it’s easier to work at your own pace. So that’s why we led with “most effective way to learn.”

This client’s entire brand promise now relates to the most effective way to learn.

Step two:  what’s standing in the way, what’s the problem? What are the frustrations that your audience goes through?

In looking at these online courses, there are a ton of people offering them. So how does a prospect decide among so many choices?

And what if you make the wrong decision? What if you choose a class that takes you longer to finish? What if you choose a course format that makes it hard to go back if you miss something? And what if you do all the coursework and don’t pass.

How do you take all that frustration and turn it into a single emotionally-charged statement?

What if you choose a class that actually takes you longer to finish or that you struggle to pass, or a format that’s frustrating when you’re trying to learn?

Step three: We are your guide – and uniquely able to give you what you want

You want to empathize with the prospect’s feelings, but establish your expertise. “Hey, we can help you. We’ve been there. We understand your pain, but we can get you through it. Experience matters.“

We know you don’t want to risk choosing the wrong school for your courses – over 4 million courses successfully completed might help you decide.

Maybe the strongest thing this particular company can say is that they’ve been around forever. And they have over 4 million courses successfully completed. That’s a pretty good competency statement.

Step four: Your clear step-by-step plan to get them where they want to go

It could be a process. Ideally, your journey is going to be four or fewer steps, or it might be an agreement like a warranty or a guarantee. In this case, we actually have both. In general, no matter your licensing or renewal situation, we can guide you through it.

Here are our four steps:

  • Download your course and get started today
  • Get your optional printed textbooks tomorrow
  • Have a real expert with 21 years CE and licensing experience on call seven days a week for questions. (Since this client has been around forever, they actually have people answering the phones with an average of 21 years experience. So we thought that was a unique benefit.)
  • Enjoy a 30-day money back guarantee to try a course risk free

Next time: Steps five, six, and seven.


Karen J. Marchetti is Head of Client Services for Response FX ( She is a master copywriter who regularly doubles and triples client results. Her best-selling book, The Results Obsession: ROI-Focused Digital Strategies to Transform Your Marketing, is available on Amazon. Marchetti has taught direct-response and online copywriting for more than 20 years.

Her 4-video copywriting course presented to SD Direct is available on-demand.