Once upon a time, there was a talented, yet frustrated business owner…
Nah, I’m just kidding.
You don’t need to start your stories like that.
You could start them like I did in the subject line though: I bet you couldn’t resist clicking, huh? Because you know there’s a story in there and we’re all suckers for a good story.
I’m not at liberty to say too much about this one, but suffice it to say that drinks were imbibed at the Monaco Grand Prix, and my mate ended up fastened to a fence courtesy of the great and awesome Nicolas Cage, Hollywood actor and all-round wag.
Anyway, I digress.
But do use storytelling in your marketing, because it’s profitable as hell. That’s not just my opinion, either; the best sales letter of all time made more than $2 billion while it ran. It did so by telling a story. You can see for yourself, because my gift to you today is a download of that very letter for you to read and re-read.
Before that, though, let me explain why I’m so enamoured of storytelling.
It’s not just because great stories give huge pleasure, although that’s part of it. You see, we humans are wired for story. Story is important for much more than entertainment.
It’s built into our entire makeup.
Storytelling was crucial to our evolution. More, in fact, than opposable thumbs! As Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story (which I thoroughly recommend) put it: “Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.”
Studies in neuroscience have discovered that our brains are designed to respond to stories. The pleasure we get from listening to great stories is what seduces us into paying attention.
Here’s an example.
Let’s go back a few thousand years and imagine we’re still living in caves. If I tell you not to eat those orange berries by the pool because they’re poisonous, you might possibly remember that and pay heed.
But if I tell you a colourful story, it might just stick in your head a little longer. A story like this…
“You’ll never guess what! Wilma from two caves down went for a walk and came across these delicious-looking orange berries by the pond. You know, by the waterfall? They smelled good, and although Wilma was supposed to be gathering tea for the family, she couldn’t resist stuffing a few into her mouth. Greedy girl. But when she got home, she turned green. Green! And spent the next three days with problems at BOTH ends. No word of a lie! It was really grim. Poor Wilma, she thought she was dying!”
Much more memorable, right? You’d avoid the orange berries by the waterfall, I bet.
Now think back to school. Do you remember dozing off in lessons where teachers just droned out a long list of facts and figures? I do. And yet, I can remember so much detail about the Enid Blyton books I used to devour at the same age.
That’s because our neural pathways are designed to respond to story. The best teachers know this, and they weave their facts and figures into lurid, exciting stories that appeal to their students.
As marketers, we can do the same.
You know by now, that nobody is interested in dreary lists of features or hearing about your company. And even if you get the benefits in there, it can still be uninspiring.
But if you can tell a story that makes your product real to your reader, you’re onto a winner.
When your brain focuses its full attention on something, it ignores everything else. So if you want to get and keep somebody’s attention, you need to make sure everything in your story is something that your reader needs to know.
Here’s another secret: you have to be emotional. If you don’t make people feel, you’ll never persuade them to act. Ever.
All stories are emotional. What’s your favourite film? Mine is Amelie, and it makes me laugh and cry, every single time. I know it intimately. Same goes for books. I’m emotionally attached to my favourite stories, and it’s the same for you. And for your clients.
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.