by Steve Phipps

Why Playing the Hero Will Cost You Business and How to Fix It

May 23, 2019 | Marketing, Website

Think about your favorite movie or book. Who is the hero of the story? Now think about a character who helps the hero. That is the guide.

The hero and the guide are two of the main characters when it comes to telling your story. Business owners who understand these roles and how they relate are more likely to win business with their marketing. Keep reading to find out why it’s so important and what do to with it.

In case you’ve missed previous blog posts, we are in the middle of a six-part series to help you get more business from your website. Here’s the first post in the series to get you started.

Guides win more business than heroes

There are three primary characters in a compelling storyline: the villain, hero, and guide. Most of these roles are apparent. The villain is the antagonist who wreaks havoc and gets in the hero’s way. The hero is the character with a mission to fulfill to win the day. The guide is the person who has a plan that—when used—helps the hero overcome obstacles, defeat the villain, and ultimately achieve victory.  

For example, in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is the hero, the empire is the villain (personified in Darth Vader), and Obi-Wan Kenobi is the guide who helps Luke realize his potential. Yoda also serves as a guide. In the movie The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen is the hero, President Snow is the enemy, and Haymitch Abernathy is the guide. If you think about it, you’ll see this formula is most movies and books.

When we apply these roles in marketing and position our customer as the hero and our brand as the guide, your customers get a lot more interested in what you say.

When a potential customer lands on your website, they are showing up as the hero of the story. They have goals they want to accomplish and obstacles to conquer. And they are looking for a guide who can help them succeed. If you make it easy for them to understand how your product or service can help them achieve their goals, then they’re more likely to stick around and take the next step towards doing business with you. However, if everything your potential client reads positions your brand as a hero, they are more likely to leave because they don’t see how you can help them solve their problem.

Here’s the good news, the rest of this blog post (and the one to follow) gives you insight on how to position yourself as a guide, not as the hero.

Two attributes of the guide

A winning guide has two characteristics which work in tandem to build trust and connection with customers and prospects:

  1. Empathy: Your customer needs to know you understand the unique challenges they are facing. When you can connect to their problems, it makes you more approachable.
  2. Authority: Your customer needs to be confident that you can solve their problem. Authority is what shows your customers and prospects that you are trustworthy and capable of helping them achieve success.

When a customer notices that you have both empathy and authority—trust begins to grow. They also understand that you are making them the hero of the story and positioning what you do around their needs, challenges, and goals.

A guide always has a plan

Imagine hiring a tour guide who has no clue where they are going. They wouldn’t be your guide for very long. Every guide needs to have a map. For someone to do business with you, they need to be confident that you have an effective plan to help them overcome their challenges.

A guide without a plan will get everyone lost.

Three ways to show you are the guide

Let’s get tactical for a few minutes. There are several ways in which you can establish your business as the guide of the story.

  1. Show empathy in your content. Make sure your website visitors know that you understand their challenges and how it feels to experience and overcome those obstacles. You can use phrases such as, ‘we know how frustrating it can be to ____.’ Merely acknowledging the barriers they are facing can go a long way toward gaining trust.
  2. Demonstrate your authority by sharing proof of how you’ve helped others succeed. You can do this through testimonials, case studies, or relevant statistics. Avoid including information that your customers don’t care about. It’s great that you’ve been in business for 75 years, but if that isn’t relevant to your customer’s success, it’s not worth noting. (We’ll cover more about demonstrating authority in our next blog post).
  3. Use benefit-focused language on your site. Features don’t entice people to make a purchase, but benefits do because they show the value of the feature to a customer.  Customers want to know ‘What’s in it for me?’ if they use our product or service. Say you sell umbrellas. You could describe an umbrella you sell as ‘auto retracting.’ However, it’s much more effective to note it doesn’t require two hands, which means you aren’t fumbling to get it closed while getting into your car or walking into your office.

Apple has been selling benefits for decades. Here is an example.


The features are aligned across the bottom of the ad, but the real benefit to the customer is that they can walk around with 1,000 songs in their pocket.

The feature is on the left, and the benefit is on the right. See the difference?

Final thoughts

Here’s a parting idea for you – the guide is the strongest character in the story, not the hero. This is because the guide has led others to success while the hero needs help. When you assume the role of the guide, you are not lessening the importance of what you do. You are taking on the most vital role because you are the one who can help your customers achieve their goals, and in some cases, become a better version of themselves.

Seeing your brand as the guide and not the hero can be a significant perspective shift for a lot of people. If you are feeling uncomfortable in this new territory, then congratulations, you may be on your way to winning more business! Assuming, of course, you implement these steps.

Are you ready to revolutionize how your customers see your role in their story? We’d love to help you get started. Our team created a free guide that you can download with six ways you can transform your website to win more opportunities. So grab a copy and dive in so you can show your customers how you can steer them to success.

by Steve Phipps

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