Your Customers Aren’t Looking for Another Hero

What they need is a trusted guide


Jim Farina

3 years ago | 5 min read

No two lives are the same. We all have our unique stories to tell. These stories can even be broken down into separate acts. The longer you’ve lived, the more story you have to tell.

These story acts can be further broken down into chapters. There’s the chapter growing up without money. The chapter when you began to forge great relationships.

The chapter when you realized that one thing you excel in. Maybe it was swimming, baseball, soccer, or some other athletic pursuit. It could be you found that you had an aptitude in math or solving puzzles.

There’s a chapter when you found your first love, left home, took that big step in your career. If we zoom into these events closer, you’ll often find there’s somebody else in your story.

Somebody who nudged you along the way, who identified your strengths and nurtured growth in a particular area. In a story plot, these characters are often portrayed as mystical, mysterious, and all-knowing. In Donald Miller’s bestseller, “Building a Story Brand,” these characters are what he refers to as guides.

A Guide Can Come in Many Forms

If you think about it for a moment, you’ll come up with people who you consider as guides in your life’s story. Your parents, a baseball coach, an aunt or uncle, a therapist,

or maybe a supervisor or peer at one of your early jobs could serve as this guide model. I felt drawn toward writing and have to credit the encouragement and guidance given by specific people through the years.

Storytellers use the guide character to encourage the hero and equip them to win the day.

Frodo has Gandalf, Luke has Yoda, Katniss has Haymitch, Harry has Dumbledore, and Daniel Larusso has Mr. Miagi. The list goes on. We all wake up each morning and put on the shoes of a hero. We’re all plagued on some level by internal, external, and philosophical conflicts.

We don’t need another hero — we are the heroes of our story. What we need is a guide.

One of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is to position themselves as the hero. This is especially common among young brands. A brand positioning itself as the hero is a mistake that can cost a company dearly.

Stop Losing Sleep Over the Success of Your Business and Start Losing Sleep Over the Success of Your Customer

Think about a hero character from your favorite story. Now, if you have a specific hero in mind, I’m going to wager they’re not the strongest character in the narrative.

They never are. I’ll even go as far as to say the hero you have in mind is full of self-doubt and probably ill-equipped for whatever challenge is set before them.

They’re likely reluctant and unsure if they have what it takes for the task — a task they are thrown into rather than willingly engaging in. So what happens next?

Seemingly out of nowhere, a new character pops in. They have their own backstory. They’ve already been there and done that. They’re going to prepare and equip your hero for success. This character is the guide.

The guide is the one with all the authority. But the story is still, and always should be, about the hero and their journey. As a business leader, you must always keep this in mind.

Don’t muck it up or you’ll only confuse things. Your customers are looking for a guide to help them.

A business person or political leader who positions themselves as the hero and makes the story all about them risks becoming the villain in the story.

The Two Characteristics of a Guide

Author Donald Miller says, “Simply turning our focus to the customer and offering them a heroic role in a meaningful story is enough to radically change the way we talk about, and even do, business.” Miller maintains there are two essentials a brand must communicate to position themselves as the guide. It’s a one-two punch of empathy and authority.


Yoda’s empathy would go nowhere if it weren’t for his authority as a Jedi himself. Yoda has the experience and understanding to fully grasp Luke’s dilemma.

He also has mastery of the skills Luke needs to develop to become the hero and achieve his goal. Sentimental slogans and catchy market-speak alone isn’t going to cut it. We need to let our customers know that we see them much as we see ourselves.

Once a customer feels a strong connection with a brand, the brain has a way of filling in any open fissures with trust.

One clever television campaign for a credit card company leveraged the power of empathy by showing a person calling customer service with a problem.

The customer service rep who picked up the phone on the other end was an identical replica of themselves. In other words, we’ll take care of you as well as we’d take care of ourselves.

People tend to trust those who they feel best understand them. And it’s the same way with brands. It’s about being heard and understood. Scan your marketing material and make sure you make the message loud and clear: We hear you. We feel you. We care.


Nice as the idea of a trusted guide walking side-by-side with us is, as some experts suggest, it’s not the best advice. Some believe that by exercising our authority we might appear as know-it-alls or coming off too preachy to our customer. Nobody likes this approach — it’s a turn-off.

On the other hand, there’s an earnest way to demonstrate authority without displaying this know-it-all attitude.

If you’re looking for a personal trainer to help you lose weight and bulk up some muscle, you don’t want someone who says, “Yeah, that sounds like a great goal — I’d like that too.” You’d probably find another trainer who will help you reach those goals with logical steps.

Authority is more about competence and instilling confidence in our customers that we have the expertise to help them. Here are four great ways to do that:

Testimonials: Do you have satisfied customers? Then let them do the talking for you. Don’t use too many of these or you risk positioning yourself as the hero. Three powerful testimonials is a good number to start with.

Statistics: How many satisfied customers have you helped? How much money have you saved them? Has their business grown since you worked with them? If you can gather these statistics and facts, put them out in your marketing materials.

Awards: Recognition from an unbiased source can go a long way. If you can showcase any awards from your chamber of commerce, Better Business Bureau, or community organizations, put them out there. You don’t need to make a huge show of it. It can be a small logo at the bottom of your page.

Logos: Customers want to know that you’ve helped other companies with similar situations and challenges. This is especially true if you provide a B2B service. Placing the logos of other recognized businesses throughout your marketing collateral is the proof in your social pudding.

Once you express empathy and demonstrate authority, you’re well on your way to positioning your brand as that trusted and competent guide who will win the day for your faithful hero.

Originally published on medium.


Created by

Jim Farina







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