Be the Guide, Not the Hero: Your Marketing Message Can Be Costing You

Be The Guide Not the Hero

If I were to ask you right now whether you think your clients would want you to be their hero or their guide, which one do you think they would choose? For many years I would have confidently chosen the hero because that’s what I always thought my clients wanted. But I was wrong.

Three years ago, I was introduced to a book called “Building a Storybrand” by business marketing expert and New York Times Best Selling author, Donald Miller. I’m always looking to learn new business perspectives and ideas on marketing, so I gave it a read.

Miller’s premise shook my heroic service concept to the core and turned it on its head. He believes that a client with a problem isn’t looking to be saved, they’re looking for a trusted expert who can help guide them toward the best solution that will take away their pain.

When I looked at issues I needed solutions to in the past and how I wanted to be treated by a service provider, I realized he was right.

Miller isn’t dismissing heroism as a positive value. He acknowledges that it’s deeply embedded throughout our human experience. Most of us want to help others and make a difference in their lives as a way to feel connected and appreciated.

Storytelling is how we connect to others

How Storytelling Connects Us

He points to our societal love of storytelling as an example of how feeling connected is crucial in every important aspect of our lives including work, play, and interacting with other members of our “tribe”. He also suggests that the storytelling process has a formula.

The story always starts with an average character who is faced with a significant and painful problem. But he or she never sees themselves as a hero material.

At first, they do everything they can to reject the “call” to fix the challenge they’re faced with because they don’t feel capable. But at some point, they are forced to come to terms with it and press forward to find a resolution.

Now, think back to your favorite hero movie. You might believe that the person becomes the hero because of their courage and heroic actions when all seemed lost.

As one of Luke’s Master Guides, Yoda helped him face his fears and find the answers

The Hero Can’t Succeed Without The Guide

But Miller invites us to look a little deeper and realize that, in reality, the hero could not have survived or triumphed over the challenge without the wise and patient counsel of a “Guide”. For example, Obi-Wan and Yoda provided patient guidance to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, ultimately helping him win despite immense challenges.

As Guides, they used their quiet, calm strength, and life experience to help him find the confidence to prevail. The Guide’s role is to help instill in their Hero a belief that they are capable of overcoming any challenge, then help them form the right plan and work side by side with them to execute it.   

Whether the Hero experiences complete success or total failure isn’t the final or most important part of the story. The true takeaway is that the Hero always experiences some kind of life-changing personal transformation, one that he or she will never forget and it changes the course of their life forever.

Hero or Guide?

Are You Marketing Yourself as The Hero or The Guide?

So, how does all this translate to helping you market your business more effectively? Which of these roles do you feel you play when working with a client?

Are you the Hero swooping in with the solution and taking over your client’s challenge? Do you sell the same old way you always have with marketing that assumes the client will just “know” that you can make a difference in their life just by providing a service list, some happy client testimonials, and an invitation to call for an appointment?

Or do you present yourself as the Guide that can work on a deeper level with them to ease their painful world? One that shows them how to see their challenge from a different perspective, with encouragement and wise counsel.

Neither role is bad. But which one do you believe is the most effective for your business and developing a better connection with your client? One that encourages them to feel empowered, creates trust, and a higher tendency for a long-term working relationship?

The Right Messaging is Crucial

Re-Framing Our Partnership Messaging With Our Clients

Our clients certainly appreciate professionals who are good at what they do, are proactive in problem-solving, and are trustworthy.

But consider this. If you are promoting yourself as the Hero who drops in commando style to control and drive the entire process, you might be preventing your clients from experiencing an even more important and life-changing personal transformation that they deserve.  

How do you do that? By developing, and consistently executing, a clear business marketing message that shows your willingness to be their “Guide”. You encouraging them to be the Hero in their own story.

Time to Reflect and Ask The Important Questions

Some Important Questions

After I read his book, I had to ask myself some important questions. I may offer great solutions and service, but what are my clients learning during, and from, the process? Are they more confident and happier after working with me to solve future problems or do they feel they were just along for the ride? How could I re-frame and improve my approach, so I could take a step back, and encourage them to shine more?

Have you developed that trusting connection with your clients that a real “Guide” offers?  A connection that, while feeling fully supported by you, they also feel in charge of their own story, more empowered and prepared to take on their next life challenge?

A Hero will always need more guidance, returning again and again to their trusted Guide as new challenges arise. Empowering others doesn’t mean “one and done” or that they won’t need or ask for help again from you in the future.

Encouraging your client to be the Hero in their own story is really what our roles as service specialists embody, especially when serving our senior clients.  But how do you get that message out to those you want to serve using this philosophy?

Time to Fine-Tune Your Marketing Message

Time to Fine-Tune Your Marketing Message

Start by thinking about the messaging you currently use to market your services. Think about it from your client’s perspective. How do they perceive you? The Hero or the Guide? Not sure? Ask! Let them know it’s important for you to get feedback that allows you to improve future services.

Do you use language that clearly shows you not only know but understand, the pain that they are experiencing from their problem? Are you showing them how hiring you and your unique philosophy and services can change their world for the better?

Are you sharing client testimonials in your marketing that share those life-changing experiences, not just that you give great service?

Do you show them, step-by-step, in your marketing of ways that you can lessen their stress and anxiety while providing the calm leadership perspective they crave? Are you giving them a clear vision of how you’ll help them create the right plan as a team, supporting them through it all to a successful conclusion?

Words Have Power

Important Resources To Draw From

After answering these questions, you may feel you have some work to do. Interested in getting more specifics on how to re-shape your storytelling messaging? Words are powerful, but they don’t have to be complicated.  I encourage you to read any of the following of Miller’s amazing books: Building a Storybrand, Marketing Made Simple or Business Made Simple.

He puts it in simple, uncomplicated steps that are easy to understand, follow, and implement, especially when it comes to your website, a key communicator of your business messaging.

Once I understood the areas which I needed to re-frame, the implementation was fairly easy. As with anything, it takes focus and time. But within weeks of doing the work and simplifying my presentation on my website, social media posts, and collateral materials, I immediately started seeing noticeable and positive results.

More importantly, not only did I see my business substantially grow the following year and beyond, I enjoyed a deeper connection with my clients and a higher confidence in the vision and direction I wanted to take my business in the future.

Heroes aren’t always just in the movies. They surround us every day waiting for the right Guide to help them rise and succeed in the face of life’s challenges. Are you going to be that Guide?


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