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Book Summary: Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller – A Step-by-Step StoryBrand Guide for Any Business

Marketing Made Simple (2020) is a handy guide to growing your brand. This practical manual teaches a five-point system for effectively funneling new customers to your business.

Who is it for?

  • New entrepreneurs looking for a strong start
  • Experienced business owners seeking new ideas
  • Anyone interested in the fundamentals of marketing

A proven strategy for effective marketing.

Each quarter, your company brings in a pretty solid stream of sales — and that’s great! But, just imagine, in addition to those base sales, there’s a whole world of potential clients you could’ve reached, but didn’t.

Essentially, there’s always room to grow — and these summaries can show you how.

This manual delivers a five-part plan for cultivating sales. It describes specific steps that will attract, and keep, new customers. You’ll learn how to develop a smooth and efficient sales funnel that catches new clients, engages with their needs, and then closes the deal, again and again.

Use the strategies presented here, and your business will finally attain its true potential.

Book Summary: Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller - A Step-by-Step StoryBrand Guide for Any Business

In these summaries, you’ll learn

  • why marketing is like dating;
  • how to conduct a grunt test; and
  • what three things go into a good one-liner.

Marketing creates new customers through curiosity and enlightenment.

Let’s say you’ve created a brilliant new product. Maybe you’ve written a phenomenal book that’s full of action, adventure, and insight. Perhaps you’ve built an innovative stereo system that delivers that pristine sound audiophiles crave.

Or maybe you’ve simply made the perfect breakfast pastry.

Now, you have this amazing product, so customers should be lining up all around the block, right? If only it was that easy. The truth is, even if you have a perfect product, no one will buy it if they don’t know about it. And that’s where marketing comes in.

The art of marketing is all about connecting people to goods and services that they don’t yet know they want.

The key message here is: Marketing creates new customers through curiosity and enlightenment.

Oftentimes, people conflate marketing with branding. But these are two very different things. Branding molds how people feel about your company – it gives your products a character, based on images, design, and logos.

Marketing is different. It makes customers understand what your company or products can do for them. In other words, it communicates a specific offer.

Good marketing is a process that comes in three stages. The first is curiosity. All you need to do here is catch a potential customer’s eye. More often than not, it’s about a split-second decision or snap judgment.

Maybe the customer sees a flashy picture of your product, glimpses a well-designed advertisement for your service, or simply hears a friend mention your company. Either way, they’re now curious to know more.

They’re ready for the next step: enlightenment. At this stage, your marketing campaign fills in the details. You explain what problems your product solves, what solution your service provides – in other words, how the customer’s life will change after they’ve made the purchase. This could be as simple as giving a flashy synopsis of that thrilling novel. Or, it could be more engaged: perhaps a technical explanation of why your stereo delivers superior sound.

Finally comes commitment. This is the crucial stage where you actually ask the customer to make a purchase. And you should ask – giving your customer a direct call to action is often necessary for sales.

For instance, placing a prominent buy now button on your website is a simple way to remind visitors to close the deal.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. But there is a way to streamline the process. We’ll delve into this five-part plan in the next chapters.

Sell your business with a short and sweet one-line pitch.

Hollywood is a fast-paced town. It often takes studio executives just seconds to make judgments about which films get made and which ones end up in the bin. So, when an enterprising young writer has a script they really believe in, they have to make an effective pitch – and fast.

That’s why every writer whips up a one-liner for their project. It’s a snappy sentence designed to catch an executive’s attention. A good one-liner needs to be short enough to deliver in a brief meeting or short elevator ride, but enticing enough to conjure the image of an entire hit blockbuster movie.

But one-liners aren’t just for the film industry. In fact, every smart company should craft a compelling and concise pitch for its products.

The key message here is: Sell your business with a short and sweet one-line pitch.

At its most basic, a one-liner is a brief and memorable statement that succinctly summarises what your business has to offer. This is something more substantial than a catchphrase or slogan. Those aim to be clever or catchy. In contrast, a one-liner is informative and descriptive. In general, the best of them consist of three parts – the problem, the solution, and the result.

One-liners start by highlighting a problem. This means suggesting a difficulty that could be overcome or a pitfall a customer might want to avoid. It’s important to be specific about the problem, because that is what creates a need your product can meet.

For instance, if you’re selling a vitality vitamin, you may start your one-liner with something like “Many people struggle with fatigue…” There, you’ve clearly pointed to the problem: exhaustion.

Next, a one-liner presents your product as a solution. This works best if you have a clear, logical connection between the original problem and the solution you’re offering. Going back to the vitality vitamin, your solution may sound something like, “we’ve created a vitamin that gives balanced energy from morning till night.” This easily connects to the problem of fatigue.

Finally, your one-liner should show the result of choosing your product. This is the kicker that gives customers something to look forward to.

Let’s think about our vitamins again. Your full one-liner may go something like this, “Many people struggle with fatigue – we’ve created a vitamin that gives balanced energy from morning till night so you can feel fresh and strong all day, every day.”

And there you have it, a one-liner that’s ready for business cards, social media campaigns, or even the quick elevator pitch.

Create a website that caters to the customer’s needs.

The internet is a very big place – there are billions of websites to click and scroll through. And new ones pop up every single day. By the time you catch up on your social media feed, you can hit refresh and start all over again.

You can never run out of internet.

So – how do you make your page stand out? Well, many businesses try to grab the public’s attention with extravagant content, blinking banners, and loads of superfluous information. This approach is certainly flashy – but it’s wrong.

No, an effective website is a simple website. Your homepage should be one thing – a machine for generating sales.

That’s why companies often pay thousands of dollars to hire skilled web developers. However, even the most talented designers can sometimes create websites that are more style than substance.

The key message here is: Create a website that caters to the customer’s needs.

To make your website work for you, get your web developer to build a simple and effective wireframe, or outline, for a website that’s designed to do one thing: sell.

An effective wireframe puts the most important information first, then smoothly leads the customer toward a call to action. It should start with a clear, concise header that spells out exactly what you offer, in just a few words.

Right below this should be your first call to action. Now that your customer knows what you’re selling, the option to buy should be evident right away.

Further down, you can begin fleshing out some more details. You may include a brief section about what your products actually do, that is, their value proposition. This is like a more detailed version of your one-liner – it highlights the problems you solve, the solutions you offer, and the better world your company can create for the customer. Here, a flashy video may be appropriate, but only if you also explain these details in simple text.

Finally, the bottom of your website should invite your customer to learn more. Here you can delve more deeply into the mechanics of your product, the background of your company, or perhaps include some short and informative testimonials from happy customers.

These details should entice potential customers who are still undecided. And, of course, you should include another call to action – a customer shouldn’t click away without being offered another chance to buy now.

Create a list of potential clients with lead-generating PDFs.

Imagine you’re at a party, mixing and mingling with a diverse crowd. As the night goes on, you jump from one conversation to the next. Some are dull and listless, others are so thrilling that you crave for more.

You’re nearing the end of the night. One or two fellow revelers have really caught your attention. You think meeting them again would be fun and rewarding. So, what do you do? Obviously, you give them some way to stay in touch; a business card, a phone number, or maybe just your email address.

As a marketer, your goal is to be that exciting partygoer. To build a substantial list of potential clients, you want to be leaving the festivities with as many business cards as possible.

The key message here is: Create a list of potential clients with lead-generating PDFs.

In business lingo, a potential client is called a lead. A strong lead is a person who is both interested in your product and has willingly handed over their contact information. This second part is crucial. Having contact information, such as an email address, allows you to directly market to potential clients again and again.

So, then, any good marketing campaign should include a way to collect contacts and generate strong leads.

One effective way to do this is to use what’s known as a lead generator. A lead generator is any enticing offer or service that you can provide in exchange for contact information. This could be a free sample of your product, access to an event or webinar, or even something as simple as a digital flier with quality information.

You can package this into lots of formats – even a good old-fashioned PDF can make a great lead generator. Your aim is to design something that, first, offers your potential leads clear benefits, and, second, won’t take more than 20 minutes to read.

Let’s say you run an electric bicycle company. Your product could list the top ten ways in which e-bikes save time and money. If you run a digital business consultancy, whip up a PDF that gives five easy ways to optimize a sales website.

There’s a trick to turning such information-based products into lead generators. You need to create a clear point of exchange. Place an advertisement or pop-up on your website that offers to email your insights to anyone who’s interested.

Curious customers will gladly enter their contact information to receive your information sheet – and just like that, you have a way to contact future leads. In the following chapter, we’ll talk about what to do next.

Cultivate a strong client relationship with a two-level email campaign.

Picture a typical romantic relationship. How do two people go from exchanging their first suggestive glances from across the room, to exchanging “I do’s” at the altar?

Well, for most couples this transition doesn’t happen overnight. There’s usually a long and involved courtship process. First, they exchange numbers. Next, one calls the other for a date. Then the two build trust, compatibility, and rapport over many days and weeks.

It may be months before someone pops the question.

Business relationships are generally a little less intimate, but they do follow a similar pattern. It takes time to build an effective marketing strategy and a strong connection with clients.

The key message here is: Cultivate a strong client relationship with a two-level email campaign.

So, let’s say you’ve designed a great lead-generating PDF, and you’ve successfully built up a list of potential clients. Now, what do you do with all those email addresses? Obviously, letting them linger on your hard drive won’t be any good. You’ve got to be proactive in turning those leads into sales – and the best way to do that is by conducting a two-stage email campaign.

Step one is the nurture campaign. These are sometimes called drip campaigns because they’re all about engaging your leads with a steady stream of information over time. Find a reason to send out an informational email about once a week. Here are just some ideas: you could create a news roundup of your industry, you could offer tips and tricks about using your product, or you could publish interviews with important clients.

The goal here is to build trust and keep your business on the customer’s mind.

Now comes step two, the direct sales campaign. After you’ve sent a few nurturing emails, your potential clients might be ready to pull the trigger. They’re now just a step away from becoming actual paying customers. Send an email with a clear and enticing offer. Remember to add a time-limited call to action.

For instance, offer your most prized product at a 20% discount if the customer buys within the next 24 hours. This should finally prompt people into hitting that “buy” button.

For either campaign, a few style pointers can make your emails more likely to be read. First, carefully select a catchy subject line – try something short and snappy. Magazine adverts are a good source of inspiration here. Next, always write with short sentences and in a light, informal tone. Use your own voice and clients will respond.

Put your marketing campaign into action with six meetings.

Meet Doug and Maria. This couple is happily married and they’ve just purchased their new home; a large, elegant Victorian mansion. The only problem is, their dream house is a bit of a fixer-upper. The roof is leaking, the walls need painting, and the kitchen could use a thorough revamp.

So there they are, looking at their new ramshackle abode. They are understandably overwhelmed. But, rather than take a messy, ad-hoc approach to tackling the job, they sit down and write out a detailed plan, complete with steps and milestones.

They’ve just made their project manageable.

Luckily, the same approach can be applied to revamping your company’s marketing strategy.

The key message here is: Put your marketing campaign into action with six meetings.

By now you probably understand the benefits of creating a well-developed marketing pipeline of the sort we’d discussed in previous chapters.

But assembling the whole thing and putting your new project into action can seem a bit intimidating. That’s understandable. And yet, even the most hesitant business can accomplish this goal. All you need to do is take one step at a time.

To begin, schedule six meetings. Each will cover just one step of the marketing process, and the goal should always be to build a solid foundation before moving on to the next step.

So how do you go about it all? Well, meeting one is where you set the overall goals and timeline for the rest of the project. The following two sessions are all about laying the marketing groundwork. Use one to craft the perfect one-liner and the second, to design a comprehensive wireframe website.

For meeting four, put together a lead generator and plot out the two email campaigns you’ll use to target your leads. Then, for meeting five, put everything together to analyze it as a full sequence. Does it easily flow from one-liner to final sale? Can you imagine a customer going from step to step?

Great, now’s the time to put the plan into action!

But wait, what about the sixth and final meeting? Well, that one comes a bit after. In this meeting, look back at your results. Is your marketing plan hitting its goals? Why or why not? Try to identify where customers drop out in the process and use this information to tighten up your next campaign. With a little practice, you’ll create a well-oiled marketing machine.


The key message in these summaries:

Even the most brilliant products and services will never sell without a proper marketing campaign. An efficient marketing campaign will educate potential consumers about your business and guide them toward a purchase. Start by crafting an excellent one-liner and designing a simple website, then cultivate a relationship with clients using a lead-generator and email campaign. Put the whole plan into action with six meetings.

Actionable advice: Make your website pass the “grunt test.”

A good website should be so simple a caveman could understand it. Look at your webpage and ask yourself this. If a caveman looked at your site, would he understand what the firm offers? Could he see how it’ll make his life better? And would he know what he needs to do to buy the product? If your imaginary Neanderthal would have grunted “yes” – congratulations, you’ve passed the test!

About the author

Donald Miller is the CEO of Business Made Simple, the host of the hit podcast Business Made Simple, and the author of best-selling titles such as Business Made Simple and Building a StoryBrand.

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