Let me tell you a story…
It’s about how a tennis match in England completely changed the course of my web-writing career.
Be honest, did you lean in to hear more? (And, are you a little bit annoyed right now that I’m not continuing the story I just started?)
Stories are powerful.
The human brain is naturally wired to respond to stories. It’s how our ancestors conveyed important — often life-and-death — information. Like where to find food, what was safe to eat, and which plants could treat different illnesses.
Because of that, stories have a couple of effects that are very handy when you’re marketing yourself or creating marketing materials for your clients.
First, they’re memorable. If you give someone a logical, reasonable outline of why something is good using facts and figures, and then you tell them a story about how that good thing changed someone’s life… it’s the story they’ll remember later. And, it’s the story that will bring them back to find out more.
If you stop at the facts and figures, and they don’t buy or sign up based on those alone, you’ll probably lose them for good.
Second, stories create a connection. When you listen to a well-told story, you develop an emotional connection with the protagonist. But, you also develop a sense of loyalty to the storyteller. It’s why we have favorite authors. And, it’s why companies who weave stories into their brand typically engender more loyalty among their customers.
And finally, stories create empathy by engaging all the senses. If I tell you about a meal, and I describe how it looks, how it tastes, how it smells, and how it makes me feel… in your mind, you’ve eaten that meal. That creates an inconsistency your brain wants to fix, because you haven’t actually eaten the meal. The logical way to fix the inconsistency is to eat the meal, which means making the purchase. Which, for a copywriter, equals success.
Now obviously, in marketing, you can’t tell fictional stories. And, you aren’t writing a novel.
But, you can use short, powerful, true stories to lodge yourself or your product into your reader’s mind. In a good way.
The first trick to using stories in your marketing is to learn how to find them.
If you follow the steps I’m about to share, you’ll have a list of story ideas you can call on whether you’re writing a landing page, a pay-per-click ad (you bet you can tell a story in 100 characters or less), a full sales package, or a blog post.
Then, when you sit down to write anything, you can flip through the stories you’ve collected and see what resonates.
Step 1: Recognize Stories
Your life is a story. It’s a collection of a lot of different stories, actually. And, many of those stories can work well in a marketing capacity.
Start paying attention to:
- Unusual happenings
- Challenges you’re facing
- Striking quotes you come across
- News stories
- How your hobbies unfold
These are all rich ground for compelling stories.
Step 2: Capture Your Stories
Stories happen to you every day, whether you realize it or not. For example…
- The funny encounter with a clerk at the grocery store checkout…
- The song on the radio that stirred up a memory so strong, tears came to your eyes…
- The high school friend you reconnected with on Facebook…
And, each of these could convey something useful about something else. The grocery clerk story could lead to a lesson about clear communication. The song on the radio could serve as an analogy for how some things come out of the blue and have a big impact. Your Facebook friend could serve as a jumping off point for an article on networking.
But, these tiny moments — stories unto themselves — have a way of disappearing from our minds. So, unless you make it a point to capture your daily stories, chances are they’ll be fleeting and soon forgotten.
You can capture stories a couple of ways. Evernote or Trello make for good digital options that can go with you on your phone. You could carry a notebook and jot down your thoughts as they come to you. Or, you could keep a journal and make it a point each evening to write down as many of these little stories as you can remember. If you go this route, at first you’ll feel like you’re missing a lot, but as you become more practiced, you’ll be able to recall more.
Step 3: Find the Potential
As you capture your stories, also make a few notes about the potential lessons or analogies or product tie-ins each story has.
This will make it easier, when you search your stories for something to use on a specific project, to find the right one for whatever message you’re trying to convey.
Step 4: Practice Writing
Finding stories in your everyday life is the first step to deeper, more connective, and more effective writing.
The next is conveying those stories in a way that resonates with your reader. And, that just takes practice. One of the best things you can do to develop this skill is to, each day, review one of the stories you’ve captured and use it to convey a marketing message. Limit your word count to 200 words. That way, you’ll learn to use stories in small spaces — a valuable skill for any writer working on a marketing message.
Follow these four steps, and it won’t take long before you become adept at weaving interesting, unique, and moving stories into your marketing message and into the materials you write for your clients.
And, if you’re still wondering how a tennis match changed my life, you can click here to find out.