February 22

Episode 111: How to Find Your Brand’s Voice


In today’s episode, Mike talks with Thom Van Dycke, a Certified StoryBrand Guide from Manitoba Canada. He is an expert in helping businesses find their brand voice to stand out in the marketplace. He is a champion for clear communication in all messaging.

Thom Van Dycke’s Biography

Thom Van Dycke is a Certified StoryBrand Guide from Manitoba Canada. He is an expert in helping businesses find their brand voice so that they stand out in the marketplace. Thom is married to Tara and they have 8 children. They are foster and adoption advocates and have welcomed 30 foster children into their home since 2011.

Questions in This Episode

  • What is StoryBrand?
  • How do you help your clients find their brand’s voice?
  • What type of client resonates best with this concept of embracing you as a guide?
  • What type of clients find that you are the best StoryBrand guide to affiliate with?
  • In your process, where do you find that your clients have the most difficulty implementing what it is that you’re recommending?
  • Can you think of an example of a situation where perhaps you or a client got stuck? And how did you help them get unstuck?
  • If folks wanna reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to do so?

Links & Resources Mentioned…

Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck and On Target podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders, and we help companies solve the people problems that are slowing their growth and hurting their profits. Joining me today from Manitoba, Canada is Thom Van Dycke. Thom is a Certified StoryBrand Guide. He's an expert in helping businesses find their brand voice to stand out in the marketplace.

He's a champion for clear communication in all messaging. You'll find out why here in a moment. I want to add a little personal note. Thom is married to Tara and they have eight children. They are foster and adoption advocates and they've welcomed 30 foster children into their home since 2011. Welcome, Thom.

Thom Van Dycke: Hi Mike. Thank you so much for having me. It's great privilege.

Mike O'Neill: Well, the privilege is gonna be mine and for our listeners. I know that already because we've had an opportunity to have a number of conversations before we set this date to record this podcast. I would love to do an episode just on, on you and your all's experiences as foster parents.

That is a remarkable number, 30 foster children. Not to diminish that you have eight in your household now.

Thom Van Dycke: Yeah. Eight in my household. And you might hear one just a little bit in the background. So I'm a dad first so.

Mike O'Neill: Well, you do marry up your dad role with your StoryBrand Guide role, and what I would love to be able to do is focus primarily on yes, how do you help your clients find their brand's voice?

And yes, I introduced you as a Certified StoryBrand Guide, but let's just start with StoryBrand. I understand who kind of conceived it with Donald Miller, but tell us a little bit about what StoryBrand is please.

Thom Van Dycke: Sure. So, StoryBrand, pardon me, is a framework for copywriting. So Donald Miller, who's a well-known author, he's written many books and has sort of transitioned from really memoir type books to business books and marketing books.

Took what he knew about good story writing and turned it into a framework that is repeatable for businesses and brands. Really what it does is, I mean, it follows the, you know, sort of the thinking of Joseph Campbell and Hero of a Thousand Faces, and then Carol Pearson's the Hero and the Outlaw.

It looks at what makes a great story and how can we use those elements in our marketing and our messaging. So every story has seven loops. And this this is just true. And once you learn StoryBrand, it kind of ruins movies for you forever cuz you can see them in every single movie. In fact, I'm always looking for them and if I can't find them, I'm like, it troubles me.

But you have a character who wants something or a hero who wants something, they can't get it. And that's, so that's a problem. They face a problem, makes them feel internally anxious or something like that. They meet a guide. The guide gives them a plan to overcome their problem. Calls them to action.

There's a call to action in the movie and then or the story, and that ends in success or failure. And so in our marketing, so what Donald Miller really did was he said, okay, let's take those seven parts and let's figure out where the business should be, where the client should be, and how we can invite them into a story through our marketing.

And so, that's what we do. And I became certified in September of 2020. And certification means I get to use their intellectual property is what it means. And it's a wonderful repeatable sense-making structure. That's what's really nice about it. If you were to tell somebody to go out and do you know, stories important for marketing, people would nod along with you.

it's true. This idea of story has it, I mean, that's not new with Donald Miller. Certainly not. But to have a framework that you can plug in information and you now have what we call a brand script or a brand story on the other side, that's really helpful. And so that's what I do for my clients.

We almost always start by writing out their brand story and then we say, where can we apply this brand story in all your marketing?

Mike O'Neill: So when you're doing that, you start off by creating that the product that results from that. Remind me, what is that you? There's a name that I think you give it to. Yes.

Thom Van Dycke: Yeah, I call it a brand identity and messaging guide. Lots of other StoryBrand guides, and we're called StoryBrand guides for a reason. We are our clients are the hero in our, in, in their story, and we play the guide to their problem, just like we're gonna teach them to play the guide to their cusThomers problems, right?

So I'm a story. Other StoryBrand guides that they leave off the identity part. They just call it a brand messaging guide. But I put in brand identity and messaging guide because I go I have a few additions that I add to the story. For example something called brand archetypes. So, what is the personality of your brand?

StoryBrand doesn't talk about that much, but I have found that takes what StoryBrand offers and just supercharges it.

Mike O'Neill: So as you kind of reflect on the clients that you've attracted thus far, and if you could be selective in the attraction of those clients. Yeah. What type of client resonates best one with this concept of embracing you as a guide. And two, what type of clients find that you are the best StoryBrand guide to affiliate with ?

Thom Van Dycke: Well, I don't know about that. I've got a great I've got one, one of my favorite clients in the world Marjorie Adam. She's a realtor in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I mean, we literally start every call by saying, ah, there's my favorite client, ah, there's my favorite StoryBrand Guide.

So, I really I've really enjoyed working with real estate. The type of industry that needs a very good story is coaches, real estate agents consultants, financial advisors. Because, and I'll tell you why. The, anytime you find an industry where it's saturated , it's incredibly competitive.

You need to have a good story. So if you are a plumber with a brick and mortar store, what people are gonna do is they're gonna have an emergency and they're gonna say, I need a plumber near me, or plumbing emergency after hours. And they're gonna put that in Google and Google's gonna search in your area for near me plumbers.

And that plumber just needs to rank in Google. And once you get there, it needs to be clear, you know, kind of what you do next, how you get ahold of them. But they don't need a story as somebody in like a real estate agent. So a real estate agent, what happens is you don't usually Google for that, or you don't do a Google search for business coaches near me cuz they can be anywhere in the world.

And as a business coach, Mike, you're going to, you're never gonna rank, I mean, it's gonna be virtually impossible. You're gonna have these massive coaching agencies that spend an enormous amount of money to rank. Yes. So Google doesn't work so well for you. What works for you is story because you're gonna have clients and their client, your clients are gonna tell their friends, you need to work with Mike.

But then another friend is gonna say, ah, you need to work with Paul. And so you're this new person is gonna put Mike's website up and Thom's website up side by side, and now he's gonna read the story. And he needs to be invited in and understand and find out that you answer the problems that he's facing as the hero of his own life.

So for that kind of an industry, it becomes very powerful. Now, Donald Miller has worked with, you know, like the Chick-fil-a's of the World, and I mean, they've worked with massive brands. Anybody will benefit from understanding how story works with messaging, but it is those types of clients the coaches, consultants, real estate agents, those are the ones that I really enjoy working with.

Because they have so often, they have so much to offer and it's saturated with a lot of fluff. And I want to help people get through to my clients who have so much to offer the world, but struggle against, you know, just noise and competition and I tell people their greatest competition is not people who do the same thing they do.

It is just distraction and noise. Because there are enough people out there who need Mike O'Neill that if they could just find you, you'd be in great shape. Right? There are lots of people looking for our services. So I love helping people. You know, it almost feels a little bit underdog, a little bit, right?

I love helping the solopreneur without a huge budget. And don't get me wrong, like I wanna get paid but if you don't have any I want to help those people so that they can succeed and share their wisdom with the world and lead. And so, but I so I really enjoy working with the solopreneurs, small teams, coaches, consultants, that, that kind of thing.

And I think they do benefit from StoryBrand.

Mike O'Neill: So, You fit any of those subscriptions, you're listening or watching right now. You know that this is gonna have immediate application, but you've already described what we're about to talk about in a little more detail can apply to any business. And specifically what I'd love to do is learn a little bit more, Thom, about how you help your clients actually find their brand's voice.

What does that look like?

Thom Van Dycke: Well, first of all, you have to understand what it is, and I think a lot of people don't. Many people, when they think about marketing, they're gonna think in terms of, can I need a website? I'm gonna need good seo. That's search engine optimization. You know, so that when they show up in Google maybe I need digital ads, but I can't afford to pay for ads.

Where do I go on social media? That's what they think about for marketing. And often the place that I start with people is we need to we need a new website. We need to refresh or build a new one from scratch. And I say, really your website is secondary to a foundational thing called your brand message.

And the way I describe it for people is, you know, brands will spend thousands of dollars to get their logo, their fonts, and their colors. That's the visual brand. They'll think about where their brand positioning in the market, like what differentiates them, you know, where their audience lives a little bit.

They'll think about that. But what is often neglected is how they sound. And you know, if you, I, if Bench Builders has a logo and that logo is recognizable and when people see it, it communicates something to them. And you want to be memorable with your branding. It should. And you would never use an old logo on a new website.

You wouldn't mix and match logos because you're creating an expectation in your client's mind. This is how we look. The same should be true of your messaging. So that every time you show up on social media, on a podcast, anywhere, it sounds like you, it's really important. So the brand, and it also gives you a summary of how to speak about your company because it's a little bit terrifying sometimes if you, once you start adding employees.

How do your employees speak about the brand and do they represent the brand accurately? And, you know, I'm part of some networking groups and there's always these introductions. And as the introductions go around, we're supposed to do 30-second introductions in our weekly meeting. Okay. Never happens. I don't I mean, I struggle to keep it to 30 seconds too, but I mean, 30-second introductions, nobody can do it because they've never thought about the essence of what they do. They throw in too much stuff and they lose the plot. So that's what I help my clients do. Now, how do we do that? We sit down and once I've convinced them they need a brand identity and messaging guide, I get them to fill out an extensive questionnaire, sort of, an onboarding questionnaire that asks them all the typical stuff.

Who's your ideal client? What problem are you solving for them? I give them little prompts, like, answer this question in relation to your client. It's just plain wrong that they what? So my, my answer to that is it's just plain wrong that coaches don't have a way to be noticed in all the noise that's just plain wrong.

And I get, so I give 'em that questionnaire and then we sit down and we do what's called a discovery session, and it's about 90 minutes to two hours. And I just, I interview them and it's my favorite part of the process. Because I get to ask them questions. You can see little light bulb moments where they haven't, you know, they're thinking about something in a new way.

And and I get to learn so much. I just love it. I learn, I love working with business coaches. Because it's almost like they're paying me to be coached, right? Because they're telling me what's important to them and what they teach their clients. Then I go away for two weeks and I write, and then we meet again and I deliver this document.

And the document that I usually do is about 37 pages long. And it just it goes through it goes through their ideal client. It goes through their brand archetype. brand archetype is a little bit, that's a little tricky. There's some nuances there to figuring that out for clients, goes through their brand story and then I have a bunch of ways that you can start to use your brand message and so it walks you through a whole marketing playbook and that kind of thing.

It's a fairly extensive document and by and large, people. We have a mutual friend, Suzanne, and when I wrote her brand messaging guide, I mean, her eyes were just like, in fact, she talked to me again about it this week. She just goes, Thom, it gave me such confidence. She says, now I know how to show up, who I need to show up as.

So, but that's the process. You know, questionnaire, interview, writing, and then an implementation session. The whole process takes about two to three weeks.

Mike O'Neill: You mentioned Suzanne. We're referring to Suzanne Taylor Keen and right. You know, you know me I'm a coach and a consultant and people sometimes are a little bit surprised that I as a coach have a coach.

Well, Suzanne's one of one of my coaches, of course. And of course what makes us really neat is that I'm talking to you and you're working with Suzanne, and so I find that the, these kinds of relationships that has probably been one of the most rewarding parts of self-employment. I spent 25 years in a corporate HR role leading HR teams for the last 15 years or so.

I get a chance to choose who I enter into relationships with who do I get to meet. This podcast is a perfect example that after speaking to you is real clear to me. You would be a great podcast guest, not just because of your expertise, but your ability to explain things. So Thom, you've kind of walked us through how people would engage with you.

You've shared with us a bit about the kind of clients that really you resonate, right? Coaches, consultants, real estate, a lot of these are in the service sector, and you've kind of give us a sense of what the finished product kind of looks like. In your process, where do you find that your clients have the most difficulty implementing what it is that you're recommending?

Thom Van Dycke: Well, you know, most of them, when they see it, they want it. And it's often a limitation of just actually budget that's hard for them. I think that the sort of the, you know, the, maybe the philosophical struggle trying to figure it out is how does this work if I have more than one offering, that's a real struggle.

So for example, my real estate agent Marjorie how we actually have to write something. Pardon me? Pardon me? We have to write something a little bit different for the seller as opposed to the buyer. So, you know, we have a landing page and then it's gonna branch off in two directions for the seller and the buyer.

Now, that's very common in real estate, but that, that's one example I had. I had a client I worked with who was an industrial manufacturer, and they had all sorts of of different products. Four different, very diverse, extremely different. So again, how do you and one client would come into one area of their business, but never cross over to another.

So how do you. How do you write an overarching story for the brand? And it's possible. So, so what we typically do, actually churches are a good example of this because in a church you actually have oh gosh, at least seven different churches. You have con, you have these little mini congregations because you have a youth group, a children's ministry worship ministry, adult ministry small group ministry.

And so you have to write one brand story for the whole organization. And then each one has a little bit of a, sort of a chapter within the greater story. And in business you see that as well. So that can be really hard. Another thing that's hard is people don't want to talk about their client's problem.

And you need to, you know, if you were to watch a movie without a problem, you wouldn't watch because it's the tension that draws people in. And the reality is everybody's facing problems. They're all overwhelmed about something, they're all anxious about something. They all feel like they're spinning their wheels and stuck somewhere.

So you have to talk about it. You have to say, Like on a website, for example, right under the header, which is the first thing you see, it's called Above the Fold. Okay? So that the first thing you see, that's like a summary of your whole story, okay? You have to have it there. People have to know within seven seconds what you do what problem you solve and how, what the next step is to getting involved with you or engaged in your company, right?

Under that you talk about their problems and. and what you'll get is people will start nodding along with you. Look, if your company does not solve a problem for somebody, you're not gonna be in business very long. So you might as well call it out. And actually what does is it pre-qualifies people because if you're not answering the problem that they have, they're not going to call you, which is perfect cuz why would you waste your time on people that aren't going to actually need your services?

But it feels negative to people. People just want to they just want to be positive. And that's also like in the stakes, we call it the stakes success or failure. If there's no consequence to not doing business with you, why would I do business with you? Right? Right. So I can say, look if you want to keep struggle with, struggling with building your website, by all means do it.

But it's gonna be a struggle. That's failure. You're gonna spend a lot of time and waste a lot of time. or we could work together and I can do it in about three months, and I can get you a brand new website. I can show you some examples of what other websites look like that I've worked on. And it's gonna communicate absolutely clearly what you do.

It's gonna land with your audience and it's gonna sound like you . So, you know, but I have to paint those stakes. And it doesn't feel nice sometimes to paint the stakes of failure. But that's, that is. There is a, there's just a reality. Like if you don't work, if we don't, I can't solve your problem if we don't work together.

Mike O'Neill: So, Thom, with that in mind, in keeping with the theme of this podcast, can you think of an example of a situation where perhaps you or a client got stuck? And it may very well be what you've just did is an example after example, but when they got stuck and how did you help them get unstuck?

Thom Van Dycke: Yes, there is one.

There's one particular client in mind and he's wonderful. The owner has become a good friend of mine, actually. His name is Dale and he owns a company called UV Pools in Winnipeg in our capital city. And all they do is repairs, pool repairs. That's all they do. and they hired me because they had read Building a StoryBrand.

They were working with a business coach who was familiar with StoryBrand and they were really struggling to implement it. And I got involved. And so basically what I did for them was I did audits. I audited their website, I audited their sales material, and I tweaked it. And then if they liked what I was talking about, then I sometimes I just rewrote it entirely.

And what I found on their website was that there was this, it didn't sound like the company, like, it just did not sound like it. And what I found was they kept slipping in all these little jokes. And you know, they were like, you know, like beach jokes and bikini jokes and stuff like that. And I go, it feels weird to me.

Like it just, I'm not saying there isn't a place for that. I mean, Geico, for example, is hilarious. You. Dollar Shave Club. Hilarious. Right? So there's a place for the Jester archetype that uses humor to sell their product. The problem is that didn't reflect their brand properly, and the reason it didn't is that they had somebody else writing up the material on their website who wasn't familiar with copywriting and brand voice.

So I went through and I started highlighting where these moments were. And it wasn't just jokes, it was other little things that just didn't sound like them. And when I brought it to them, I said, look, we've talked about what your brand archetype is, and they are through and through what you call the every person, the every guy or every gal that's the Home Depot.

Come on down, you know, earth, salt of the earth type people. You know, let's build a community. Let's help you get your friends back together. That's who they are. They don't use humor effectively. So anytime you slip it in, it actually it's jarring. And while you don't, I mean, I don't know if they lost deals over it or not, but it certainly didn't help them sell themselves.

Right. It didn't feel consistent. So that, that is one place that I see when you don't understand who you are. And you don't have that, you don't have this guiding principle. Of this is who we are, this is how we show up in our messaging. That is one place that people really do get stuck. And so I was able to sit down and it, you should have seen the light bulbs go on.

I he go, yes. Yes, I see it now, right? Like, it, it was, that was probably those traumatic for probably the most animated I've seen him also because he's not a terribly animated person. But you could just see him on, oh, this is what we're talking about. This is why it doesn't feel like it flows, you know?

So that's definitely one thing.

Mike O'Neill: Yeah, I think that's a perfect illustration. You slipped it in, but here's something I heard you say this repairs pools. One might say that's boring, but you said something to the effect of, but don't you wanna bring your friends back together? Yes. And so it sounded to me that would be an example of why a broken pool is impacting.

Right. And you and just on that one little phrase, you've got it. All you gotta do is fix it so you can have it again. Exactly. And here's what it brings to you. And I think that was brilliant. Example. Thanks. Thank you for doing that, Thom. I've enjoyed just listening to you. You have a natural way of telling your story in a very easy, conversational way.

If folks wanna reach out to you, what's the best way for them to do so?

Thom Van Dycke: You know, LinkedIn is a great place. I live on LinkedIn. It's my social media platform of choice, and so we can certainly reach out there. I think we can put my handle in the description maybe? Or it's just, it's at Thom dash van dash Dycke.

Just take note that my name Thom is spelled different. Van Dycke is spelled different.

Mike O'Neill: So well lemme go ahead and do that and say that. So it's Thom, t h o m and Van Dycke, v a n d y c k e. We will include your contact information in the show notes. Thom, I knew this was gonna be fun. It was fun, it was informative as well.

Thom Van Dycke: Oh, thanks for having me, Mike. This I've enjoyed getting to know you and it's a privilege to meet your audience through your podcast.

Mike O'Neill: Well, the pleasure really has been mine and I now know that the audience would be able, if they could speak, would be saying the same. I also wanna thank our listeners for joining us today, this is episode 111, so if you like access to all the podcasts, simply go to your browser and type unstuck.show. While you're there, you can also subscribe to our weekly blog that we call the Bottom Line. So if you're trying to grow your business, but people problems had kind of slowed you down, let's talk.

Head over to bench-builders.com to schedule a call. I would enjoy getting to know you and exploring how perhaps we can do some things that would help you immediately. So I wanna thank you for joining us, and I hope you have picked up upon some tips from Thom that will help you get unstuck and on target.

 Until next time.

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