Killing What Stands in Your Way

Image by Frank Hong.


The word kill is charged with such violence and emotion. It can be full of both screaming rage and gentle mercy.

When we use the customer journey mapping process to aid in our sales and marketing efforts (i.e. a framework like StoryBrand), we place our ideal client in the center of the story. They are the hero and protagonist who has embarked on a quest to solve their problems (internal, external or philosophical). We identify a villain — someone or something that stands in their way and thwarts their progress at every turn. And, we are their guide (Yoda, Gandalf, The Scarecrow or Glinda the Good Witch). 

When they finally overcome this villain to claim ultimate victory and the gift of achievement, we have helped them up the mountaintop and filled them with the power and confidence to stand with one foot on the belly of the dragon and hold their sword to the sky. 

To move our potential customers from the safety and warmth of their hearth and up this treacherous mountainside, we may feel the need to shy away from such polarizing language when addressing them. We might think they need to be gently coaxed into a place of safety — lured into a cave and given the plan or solution in secret.

In reality, our hero has been waiting for years for someone (a guide) to come along that has the courage to speak to her in such polarizing language — a language that draws a stark relief between what she’s afraid of and what’s truly at stake and what she stands to win.  

Identifying the villain — and what success will look like — allows us to plug simple, yet mythic and powerful words into formulas like the ones below that speak directly to the heart of our ideal client.

The formulas are quite simple. 

Formula 1: Kill / Claim

This one uses the “k” sound to create an alliteration. The inputs should be short and use rhyming and/or rhythm to create a brief, memorable statement. 

Formula 2: Slay / Step Into

This one relies on the “s” sound and uses the mythic term “slay” in place of “kill.”

Here are a few case studies, based on some of my past sessions:

Example #1

A corporate innovation company that helps other businesses think ten steps ahead. They have identified as their villain the “Prime Movers” — those who are first to market. Their success looks like a prominent place in their chosen market segment.

For them: Slay the competition. Step into your position.

Example #2

A sales-based insurance company whose villain is the gray, shadowy, “big bad wolf” that threatens the safety of the community. Success looks like them being perceived as the trusted advisor, providing safety and shelter through the mitigation of risk.

For them: Kill your monsters. Claim peace of mind.

Example #3

A coaching program that encourages therapists to leave behind the clinical 1:1 practice model, become entrepreneurs and launch a group coaching business. The villain that terrorizes their (primarily female) protagonist is self-doubt and the fear of the unknown. Success looks like the fulfillment of a career they knew they were destined for.

For them: Slay the unknown. Step into the light.

Or, more boldly, and my favorite: Kill your fears. Claim your future.

Copy like this is perfect for headlines in blog or social posts, webinar or workshop titles, or display ads. It serves to address their needs/pains and immediately begins to position you as the guide who is empathetic and demonstrates the authority to lead them on their quest. 

You can start today by using more bold, direct language with your potential customers. Watch how they react and respond. Measure how much faster they move up the mountain. And let me know the results.


If you’re interested in what a StoryBrand or business coaching session can do for you, e-mail me at to schedule a free 45-minute discovery call.


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