3 Fail-Proof Steps to Clarify Your Message and Grow Your Brand

3 Fail-Proof Steps to Clarify Your Message and Grow Your Brand

Have you created something wonderful? Maybe it’s a ministry that serves people or a book with an inspirational message. Perhaps you’ve created a business that helps people overcome a common struggle. You believe in it. You’ve invested money and shared it all over social media. But it still feels like no one knows about it—and that’s frustrating. I invite you to discover how to clarify your message to help your ministry, book, or business stand out in a noisy online environment.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see our affiliate disclosure.


How to Reach a Wider Audience for Your Ministry, Book, or Business


The sad truth is, even though your product or service may be exactly what people need, they won’t engage with your brand unless your message is easy to understand.


“People do not buy the best products and services, they buy the products and services that are communicated the clearest.”  Donald Miller, Bestselling Author of Building a StoryBrand and Marketing Made Simple


Since people buy-in to the easiest rather than the best, what would happen if you developed a clear message for your product or service? What if you became the easiest brand in your field to do business with?


The average consumer sees over five thousand marketing images each day. The online world is more than noisy, sometimes it feels like pure chaos. With so much stimulation, it’s nearly impossible to capture anyone’s attention, even when you have something they need. Instead of trying to figure out an unclear message, they tune it out.


That’s a problem for someone trying to share details about a ministry with the potential to change the world or a business with a revolutionary solution. It feels disheartening. It shouldn’t be so hard to get your product or service into the hands of those who need it.


What you need to cut through all the noise is clarity.


What a Confusing Message is Costing You


You worked hard to develop and launch your service. Now, instead of serving customers and watching the resulting glow from the help you provide, you spend countless hours trying to advertise. Marketing feels like an experiment that never works, yet without it, you fear you’ll become just another failed statistic. You’ve poured way too much of yourself into your brand to have that happen.


But there is a better way! When you clarify your message and present it with consistency, your customers will understand. They’ll begin to see you as an expert, but more importantly as a guide who can lead them to the solutions their hearts crave. Soon you’ll see that they will engage with your brand, make purchases, and share what you offer with friends.


After reading the StoryBrand book (Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller) I knew immediately—this was the solution I’d searched for. I took all I learned a step further and pursued training to become a StoryBrand Certified Guide. While in training, my cohorts and I were tasked with writing a clear message for a product. I selected a prayer devotional for marriage that I’d written about 2 years prior. This was one of the best products I’d ever created, yet sales were disappointing.


To complete my assignment, I wrote a new message that focused on clarity. Then I shared it on social media over a break in our training. Without even creating a sales funnel, I simply used the StoryBrand framework to share a clear message. By the end of training that very day, I had email notifications for two new book sales. Within hours, my clear message was already bringing results.


To reach a wider audience for your ministry, book, or business, you must clarify your message. I’ve seen it work for many clients and for my own products and services too.


3 Fail-Proof Steps to Clarify Your Message


So how do you clarify your message? While the StoryBrand framework is a bit more involved, I’ll break it down into a simple, three-step roadmap.


Begin with the problem


By talking about the problems your potential customers encounter, they’ll become more interested in your message. Suddenly, they’ll see themselves in a story. They can envision using your product or service because you’ve proven that you understand what they’re facing.


As you reflect on the problem that you solve for your audience, consider what roadblocks to success that they see every day, the way those roadblocks make them feel, and how they might believe the world “should” be. These are known as external, internal, and philosophical problems. When you convey that you understand what they face, you’ve helped them understand how you can help.


Share the plan


This is the part where you make it easy for them. Break the process of engaging with your brand into three simple steps. Let me share a few examples:


If you’re running a ministry for the homeless your three steps might be:  view our online list of needs, drop off supplies at our central location, feel the satisfaction of helping families in your community.


If you’ve written a book, three simple steps may be: read my book, follow the 5-part blueprint, enjoy newfound confidence.


Don’t overcomplicate the process. Our minds easily function with sets of three so keeping your plan to 3-steps is best. Make the journey easy for your potential customers so they know what to expect and can envision themselves taking the next step.


Invite the action


Too many leaders fail to ask for the sale. The third no-fail step to clarifying your message is to call your audience to action. Tell them what you want them to do. Your call to action doesn’t need to be lengthy or over-involved. Words like “buy now” “schedule an appointment” or “give online today” are clear, easy to execute, and create engagement. Weaker calls to action like “learn more,” “start now,” or “click here” are vague, muddled, and confusing. Invite them to take a very specific next step.


How Clarifying Your Message Can Grow Your Brand


Most businesses and ministries are multi-faceted. Books cover multiple topics. As you work to clarify your message, focus on one aspect at a time. How do you want to be known? When your customers think of you, what do you want to come to their minds every single time?


By clarifying your message, you begin to establish yourself (or your brand, or your team) as a go-to expert. You stimulate curiosity about what you offer and begin to build a trust relationship with potential customers. When they’re ready to engage, they’ll think of you first and connect without hesitation. Your reach will expand, and your brand will grow.


Staying consistent with your clear message, repeating it often, and helping your audience envision a connection with you will give you a competitive advantage. You’ll help your customers understand the benefits of working with you. A clear message will forever change the way your customers think about you and the value you bring to their lives.



Help to Clarify Your Message


If you have mind-blowing ideas but struggle to execute strong messaging principles, I can help. I lead ministries, small businesses, and solo-preneurs through repeatable frameworks so they can grow their brand while prioritizing what matters most. As we work together, I’ll help you adopt effective business-building strategies and expand your reach. My superpower is leading others to success. I can’t wait to come alongside you on your journey.


Schedule a consultation today at www.cathymcintosh.com/growyourbrand.  I aim to be the best investment you make in your business or ministry. Let’s meet for a virtual coffee and discover if we’re a good match.






Should Christians Pursue Planning and Goal Setting?

Should Christians Pursue Planning and Goal Setting?

As Christians, should we pursue planning and goal setting?


Surprisingly, in some circles of faith I have been discouraged from doing so—to relax as I see God planning my life and directing each moment. I was led to verses such as:


Matthew 6:34 (ESV) “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”


James 4:13, 14 (ESV) Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”


planning and goal setting


Through these passages, it was reasoned that there was no point in creating a meaningful life plan or SMART goals. But there’s far more to consider.


God has a Plan


Interpreting certain Scriptures to mean “don’t plan for tomorrow” contradicts the nature of God and the words of Jesus. Through the full context of the Bible, we see that the entire journey of following Jesus and finding His success involves long-term planning.

Throughout the Bible, God reveals Himself as a planner. He is a God of order, One who prepares and plans for what’s coming next. We are wise to do likewise, so planning and goal setting are key.


As we follow Jesus, our aim is to become increasingly like Him. We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). God has a plan for us; we should have plans for ourselves as well. Our plans are best when aligned with His. Then they can most effectively help us accomplish His divine purpose for our lives.


The Bible is alive and active, able to breathe life into our weary bones and align our hearts and minds to God’s will—all by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only by seeking and relying on the Holy Spirit can we begin to grasp all that God’s Word reveals to us. It takes a lifetime of study and meditation.


That’s why we must always remain mindful of the context of His Word and its overarching revelation of Who God is.


What Does God Say About Success?


By scouring the Bible to discover God’s heart about planning, success, and even health and wealth, we find wisdom and encouragement that is often overlooked.


The Power to Gain Wealth


Deuteronomy 8:18 conveys that God gives us the power to gain wealth. It does not say God gives us wealth, rather He provides all we need to attain it. Looking deeper, the original Hebrew term for wealth implies far more than monetary gain. It encompasses valor, strength, virtue and might—all of which are worthy of an effective life plan.


The Path to Prosperity


Joshua 1:8 teaches that when we follow God’s ways, we will make our way prosperous. Again, God is not promising prosperity but providing all we need to make our own way prosperous. He gives us the means, but the doing is up to us. We can become prosperous in our relationships, finances, generosity, wellness, and so much more.


We have a responsibility to obey God’s ways and do as He calls us to do. Rather than sitting idly by and waiting for Him to move on our behalf, He tasks us with moving to action and helping others in His name. Planning and goal setting are monumental first steps in following Him.


Create a meaningful life plan and develop a daily routine to make it happen.



What Does the Bible Say About Planning for the Future?


Throughout the Word of God, we see His encouragement to plan for the future and not be caught unawares.


Proverbs 14:15-16 (NASB) “The naïve believes everything, But the sensible person considers his steps. A wise person is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless.”


Matthew 10:16  (CSB) “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.”


Luke 14:28 (CSB) “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”


1 Corinthians 14:40 (ESV) But all things should be done decently and in order.”

The Proverbs 31 woman is a careful planner, thinking ahead and considering potential consequences and her family’s well-being before acting.


Ultimately, as God is planning our life we should be making plans to do as He leads.



How to incorporate Faith into Daily Planning and Goal Setting


When planning, it’s wise to aim for more than financial prosperity and business success. We can also plan for Kingdom living here on earth, for strong, healthy relationships and for peace and joy. By keeping God’s ways in the forefront of the planning process, Christians can more effectively serve as His ambassadors and maintain an eternal focus—even while working toward earthly success.


There’s a bit to reconcile as we balance surrender to Him while embracing our own responsibility. To effectively plan with this balance in mind, we can follow these simple steps:


Get Quiet Before God Before Planning and Goal Setting

Psalm 46:10 (ESV) says “Be still and know that I am God.” When we sit at His feet, God calms our fears and aligns our heart with His own. Every good, God-honoring plan should begin with prayer and time in His presence.


Seek God’s Will

Actively seeking God’s will ensures our plans don’t stem from a place of fear, anxiety or worry. We’re to rest in His provision and seek His ways above our own. Matthew 6:33 (CSB) declares, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you”.


Follow God-Given Dreams

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4 (CSB) which says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Many believe the verse implies God will give us everything we desire. Instead, it reveals that He plants desires in the hearts of His followers. Our hopes and dreams are inspired—and ordained—by the loving God of the universe. We can confidently write these dreams in concrete. They are a gift from God that we are to nourish, protect, and pursue.


Get to Work With Your Plans and Goals

As you step into service toward God’s will, first plan with care then put that plan in motion. By following His ways, we will see His unquestionable partnership in the work we do in His name. The psalmist cries out in Psalm 90:17 (ESV), “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”


Respond to God’s Lead

It’s said that as we write our dreams in concrete, we’re to write our plans in the sand. In other words, we’re not to become slaves to our plans but to leave room for God to move and direct or path. God has a plan. Knowing He’s always at work helps us (as Matthew 7:7-8 teach us) to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking to continuously seek His direction and lead.


Remember to Plan Rest

Every plan must include time to rest, refuel, and rejuvenate. We’re to practice self-care as we serve the Lord with diligence. Mark 6:31 shares Jesus’ specific encouragement to His disciples to find rest. We must be filled with Christ to pour out to others in His name. Just like meaningful work, intentional rest requires careful preparation and planning.



Should Christians pursue planning and goal setting? The Scriptures and the heart of God are clear. Yes, we’re to make careful plans and diligently work toward God-inspired outcomes. By all means—plan, prepare, set SMART goals. Follow a proven process to help you create a meaningful life plan and adopt a daily routine to make it happen. Then enjoy the manifold blessings that God pours into your life.


As followers of Christ, it’s our aim to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we enter Heaven. To live a life worthy of His acclaim doesn’t come by aimlessly drifting. It requires intentionality and execution of a meaningful plan.


I invite you to discover how to create a meaningful life plan in my half-day workshop called Hero on a Mission. I’ll walk you through three important steps and provide the tools and resources you need. Come select a date that works on your calendar and let’s get started!













5 Simple Tips to Become a Better Storyteller (and why you should)

5 Simple Tips to Become a Better Storyteller (and why you should)

“Well? What happened?”


I’d just returned from the doctor’s office and my husband wanted to hear the story. As I sorted out the complicated details inside my mind, I found myself wondering how I could become a better storyteller in the next fifteen seconds.


Story is a powerful, sense-making tool that often lends better understanding. While the news I had to share wasn’t bad, it was a bit convoluted and I didn’t want to give him a long-winded answer. I knew by staying simple and focused, I could best ease his concerns.



The importance of storytelling


Anyone can be a storyteller, in fact, most of us already are. We use story as a tool in daily communication, parenting, business, ministry, writing, and even marketing. Even Jesus taught with parables (stories) to help listeners make sense of complex matters. Stories not only entertain; they engage us emotionally and help us remember details that might otherwise be forgotten.


These are ample reasons to become a better storyteller.


What are the techniques of storytelling?


It’s not difficult to learn the art of storytelling, but like any other talent, it takes a bit of practice. Remember that to become better at something, you must keep trying. So, start where you are and keep working to get better.  There are a few techniques that are helpful.

  • Keep your story as clear and concise as possible
  • Make your main character likable
  • Make your villain (either a person or a circumstance) easy to dislike
  • Don’t always rely on the first ideas that come to mind. Let your story unfold inside your mind and look for deeper meaning.


5 simple tips to become a better storyteller:


Great stories have a controlling idea.

Those that ramble are hard to follow, so when telling a strong story you’ll want to stick with the point you’re trying to make. Toy Story focused on Sheriff Woody’s fear of rejection. Finding Nemo took us on Marlin’s journey of letting go. Avoid digressing and adding too many diversions or subplots.

Great stories convey emotion.

They tug on our hearts. When sharing a story, draw on your own emotional experiences and help the listener (or reader) feel them too. Think beyond what your character sees and reach into what she feels. How do those feelings cause her to react or withdraw?

Great stories share conflict.

A movie with no conflict is not interesting. As soon as conflict resolves, the movie is over. A fight doesn’t have to be between people but can also be an internal struggle or an external obstacle that the hero must overcome. The conflict is one of the most important aspects of your story so emphasize it well.

Great stories deliver the unexpected.

A story that’s too predictable (or shared too often) doesn’t capture attention. Mix it up and deliver a twist your reader didn’t see coming. You don’t have to be overly imaginative, just consider that in life things rarely go exactly as we expected. Use real-life examples to reveal a surprise.

Great stories finish strong.

Have a strong conclusion—one that resolves the conflict of the character and convincingly portrays the emotion of success or failure. A powerful conclusion will also defend the idea of your story or convey a moral. Tie a nice bow around your story before you call it finished.


The storytelling examples around us


As you work to become a better storyteller, go back and re-read your favorite novel or watch one of your favorite movies. Look at it with new eyes, examining it to learn its storytelling techniques. Consider things like:

  • What made you like the hero of the story
  • Identify the obvious and subtle obstacles the hero faces
  • How does the hero feel? Did you feel that emotion too?
  • What is the main point of the story? Now look a bit deeper and see if you can find an even deeper theme.
  • Which parts of the story surprised you the first time you read it?
  • How does the conclusion resolve the conflict and show victory or defeat?


Every one of us has a storyteller inside and good storytelling is a powerful and effective means of communication. To discover the art of storytelling, simply look at the stories unfolding around you every day. Pay attention to the things that hold your attention and then use those techniques in your own storytelling.


Before long, you’ll see your writing (even your non-fiction writing) improve. Your communication skills will become stronger, and you’ll begin to feel more confident in the thoughts and ideas you share with others. Above all, remember to enjoy the journey.



The Power of Storytelling in Marketing

The Power of Storytelling in Marketing

Writers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses know the frustrations of marketing. You pay for ads and work to build your social media traffic but see little impact. Instead of wondering why your promotions don’t work, it could be time to adopt storytelling in marketing.


A couple of years ago, while researching for a client, I came across a podcast and had my first exposure to a company called Story Brand. At the time, client work was straggling in, I’d been a devotional blogger for several years, and I was beyond frustrated with the traffic and sales I wasn’t seeing. In all transparency, I questioned whether I had what it takes to be in business for myself. Maybe you’ve been there too.


This post contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure statement.


I felt like a failure and wrestled, almost daily, with the idea of quitting the life of an entrepreneur and going back to the corporate world. There seemed to be a ceiling I couldn’t break through. I could only take my business so far before hitting a plateau then watching my income stagnate or fall backward.


Then I listened to Donald Miller in a podcast about StoryBrand. He explained the power of a story and the success it brings to marketers. I devoured his book, Building a StoryBrand. I knew this was the answer I’d been waiting for—and I was right. Soon, I embraced storytelling in marketing so completely I wanted to use what I learned to help others.


Since then, I’ve watched my own businesses grow—without putting all my hopes in the social media bucket. I can’t express to you what a relief it is to spend more time on business and less on social posts. And I’m blessed to help others as a StoryBrand Certified Guide. By guiding other small businesses and ministries to take a storytelling approach to their messaging, I’ve watched their frustrations dissolve into exciting celebrations.


How is Storytelling used in Marketing?


In today’s culture, people see well over 3,000 advertising campaigns every day. The sad truth is, we’re so inundated with promotions, we no longer buy the best products and services. We buy what we can most easily understand.


Story is a sense-making device. And it’s easy to imagine ourselves as part of a story.


In the “old days,” businesses told customers facts about their products then hoped they’d engage. With storytelling, we invite our potential customers to envision how our service will help them overcome a problem they face. Through story, we evoke emotion and help them see how great their life can be with our help.


Using Storytelling to Strengthen Your Brand


The best way to strengthen a brand through storytelling is to focus on the customer as the hero of the story. Too many businesses position themselves as the hero—sharing their expertise, or their academic training, or the number of years they’ve been in business. There is a shift that happens when a brand serves as a guide who helps the hero win the day. In other words, the brand is Yoda or Obi Wan while the customer is Luke Skywalker.


Brands are strengthened when they point the hero (their potential customers) toward products and services that will help them conquer the problems they encounter. When a business guides a customer to success, their brand becomes stronger.


Examples of Storytelling in Marketing


Now that you can see a clearer picture of using storytelling in marketing, I believe a few examples are in order.


Amazon has a commercial about a ballerina that brings me to tears each time I see it. And the story rings true. We know we can easily find what we’re searching for on Amazon and make purchases that help us survive the pandemic and engage with those around us. As customers, we can see ourselves caring for our neighbors in a similar fashion.


Another of my favorites is this branding video by 6th Avenue Homes in Texas. The team draws potential customers into a story and helps them envision themselves enjoying the services provided. While it is a video, it’s clear to see their storytelling message. 


In both instances, the customer becomes the hero and finds success through the help of a guide.


Advance Your Business


Writers, small business owners, and ministry leaders often feel insecure because they haven’t mastered strong marketing and business principles. Secretly, they wonder if they have what it takes to grow a successful business and worry that soon they’ll be exposed as a fraud.


I understand completely because I’ve walked that exact path and finally found a way to overcome it.


The power of storytelling in messaging and marketing is something I’ve seen first-hand. I believe it’s a concept every business owner should embrace as soon as possible. That’s why I’ve taken my journey with StoryBrand a step further and have become a Business Made Simple Coach. Now I can guide more professionals to the success they desire.


If you’re ready to gain traction in your marketing efforts and earn the loyalty of your customers, I invite you to Advance Academy—a monthly coaching membership to help you master effective messaging, marketing, and other proven business strategies. 

You’ve invested in your craft and you have products and services that are worthy of recognition. Now invest in your brand, discover the value of effective marketing, and watch your reach expand.


Entrepreneurs often have mind-blowing ideas but struggle to execute strong business and marketing principles. I help them master repeatable frameworks so they make more money while prioritizing what matters most.


As we work together through Advance Academy, I’ll help you adopt effective business-building strategies and increase profits. I can’t wait to come alongside you on your business journey.


To strengthening your brand,







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