Internal Problems

By limiting our marketing messages to only external problems, we neglect a principle that is costing us thousands and potentially millions of dollars. That principle is this: Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but people but solutions to internal problems.

The purpose of an external problem in a story is to manifest an internal problem. If I wrote a movie about a guy who simply needed to disarm a bomb, audiences would lose interest. What storytellers and screenwriters do, then, is create a backstory of frustration in the hero’s life,

In the movie Moneyball, for instance, Billy Beane failed in his playing career and so was filled with self-doubt about whether he could redeem himself as a general manager. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker was told by his uncle that he was too young to join the resistance, so he doubted his ability until the very end.

In almost every story the hero struggles with the same question; Do I have what it takes? This questions can make them feel frustrated, incompetent, and confused. The sense of self-doubt is what makes a movie about baseball relatable to a soccer mom and a romantic comedy relatable to a truck-driving husband.

What stories teach us is that people’s internal desire to resolve a frustration is a greater motivator than their desire to solve an external problem.

from “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen” by Donald Miller