Sue Smith
CBA Board Chairman

After the Christmas rush, with the pace of retail calming down, January seems like the perfect time to reset our business goals and priorities. Juliet Funt of states, “There is no space to be creative if everything is urgent.” This call to retreat to a strategic pause has become strong for us. Our leadership team takes a day away off site to kick back and gain thoughtful energy. This year we’re taking a new direction. In the past, we’ve taken this time to reflect inwardly as a business. We would typically ask ourselves who we thought we were, what we accomplished last year and what we failed at, and who we wanted to be. As important as these questions are, I’m now convinced that our focus needs a 180-degree redirect.

Because I just finished one of the best marketing books that I’ve ever read, I realized that it was imperative to digest its message with my leadership team. Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller shows how to clarify our message so our customers will listen. “This is not a book about telling your company’s story. A book like that would be a waste of time,” Miller writes. “Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own.”

As a veteran of Christian retail, those words rang true immediately for me. Too much of our creative time had been focused on us versus our customers. Given this was an aha moment for me, I’m guessing that it might be for you as well. Consider a small sample of the basic principles this book discusses:


“At the highest level, the most important challenge for business leaders is to define something simple and relevant their customers want and to become known for delivering on that promise.”

As retailers, we’re pretty sure we know what our customers want. Who wouldn’t want the great products that we sell? But in our current industry retail state, I would challenge all of us to reconsider if the customer is truly the hero of our story. This is a hard question to answer. To know our customer is difficult enough; positioning them as the hero means that we know them well enough to provide solutions to their everyday needs and desires.


The guide simply plays a role by coming alongside the hero (our customer) to enable the success of the hero’s story. I like the way Miller puts it: “The story is not about us. The day that we stop losing sleep over the success of our business and start losing sleep over the success of our customers is the day our business will start growing again.”

It’s not about us. I encourage you to buy this book and guide your customer with empathy and authority. Let me know how customer engagement shifts for you.