What do the most successful authors, politicians, entertainers, and yes, even digital marketers all have in common? They know the persuasive power of a well-told story.
For thousands of years, humans have been exchanging information and ideas through stories. And as a marketer, this is your business... the sharing of ideas. Long before the iPhone and Facebook Messenger, there were stories. And while the mediums have certainly changed, the power of the message has not.
Our brains are wired to be highly receptive to them, making them one of the best ways to not only communicate your message but to influence those who do hear it.
The author Seth Godin put it like this:
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”
Marketing is all about attention
Boiled down to its simplest form, marketing is all about attention.
You want your marketing to capture, maintain, and direct the attention of your prospects onto your product or service as a solution to their problems, needs, or wants.
And there’s nothing better at doing this than consistently deploying strategic stories throughout your marketing campaigns.
As you know, we live in a world where your prospects prioritize entertainment almost over anything else. From Netflix to the news, those who entertain are winning more than ever.
Your prospects are waiting to be led by those marketers who know how to entertain and inform. Just like kids love the teachers at school who tell the best stories, so too will your prospects anxiously await your marketing as you learn to harness this incredible skill.
That’s why as a Knowledge Commerce entrepreneur and someone who sells their unique skills and information online…
Integrating stories into your marketing efforts should always be at the forefront of your mind.
But many tend to overthink this process and procrastinate using them.
So in today’s article, we’ll quickly provide you with 5 turn-key templates and strategies you can use right away to begin unleashing the power of stories throughout your marketing.
5 turnkey templates
#1: The before and after story
This is one of the most tried and true templates there is. It can be used in ads, emails, and everything in between.
You’re simply sharing with your prospects that you used to be just like them before you were where you are today. You experienced their same problems, setbacks, and frustrations. But then something happened or was discovered which changed everything. You no longer suffer from those same problems.
Ultimately it transformed everything for you and brought you where you are today. Now you experience all the benefits.
You could fill in the blanks:
[I was just like you…]
[Experiencing the same problems…]
[Until “x” happened or was discovered…]
[Now I don’t suffer from “x” anymore…]
[Now I experience “xyz” benefits…]
The main key in before and after stories is the transformation. That’s what it’s all about.
The darker the pain, the brighter the pleasure.
But don’t think this type of story can only be used for “big” life-changing events.
You can use it for anything you can think of! Just right now, there was a “before reading this article” and now an “after reading this article” and the transformation which took place in your understanding of stories.
Use before and after stories to help engage your audience and demonstrate the transformation (both big and small) which can also take place for them.
#2: The testimonial story
Want an almost unlimited supply of stories to use in all aspects of your marketing? Well, look no further than your collection of testimonials! You are keeping a file of all your testimonials, aren’t you? ; )
While stories on their own are powerful, it’s even better when they come from someone else other than you because they bypass the skepticism embedded in your prospects mind.
Which is what makes testimonial stories so incredibly effective.
Let’s imagine you sell an online course teaching beginner photographers how to edit like professionals and you just received the following testimonial:
“This course cut hundreds of hours off my learning curve! I used to sit in front of YouTube all day trying to piece together different editing tactics. It was slow and ineffective. At times it actually made me hate this passion that I love. But with this course, all of that’s changed. I know exactly how to edit a photo to make it look absolutely incredible. I’m getting paid more, saving tons of time, and am back to enjoying my work again.”
Pretty good testimonial right? Amazing what you can do when you make stuff up ; )
But if this was the testimonial you just received, you could then use pieces of it (or all of it) in any kind of marketing you can think of.
You’d then just simply tie-in your product.
You could also pick different parts of the testimonial to highlight. Like how this person was actually hating doing work that he used to love, or what he could now do with all his extra free time.
The goal is to always find ways to tie the testimonial into the pains and problems of your market. That’s a much more effective strategy than throwing it out there.
And if you get a negative testimonial? You can use that too! Sometimes negative stories are even more powerful and give you a chance to be human and address the concern which arose.
So if you’re looking for a quick way to start using more stories, go ahead and dig up any testimonials you have and start leveraging them in your marketing.
#3: The hypothetical story
A more out-of-the-box way to incorporate story into your marketing is to use a hypothetical format.
For the record, when using this method you want to be crystal clear the story you’re sharing is hypothetical. This is not about lying. It’s about painting a picture for your prospect. And to be honest, even if you say it’s not a true story, it’s still incredibly influential if you’re speaking to your prospects exact pain points.
You need to look no further than the movies for proof.
Haven’t you ever been emotionally moved by a film even though it was 100% hypothetical? Haven't you ever walked away thinking differently about something even though you knew what you just watched wasn’t “based on a true story”?
Of course. We all have.
And the same applies to your marketing.
This kind of story gives you an unlimited amount of ideas and options in which to begin from.
If you’ve ever read a sales letter or watched a presentation which began with “Imagine…” then you were being sucked into a hypothetical story. This sort of method allows you to layer it right on top of any other type of story you choose. Whether it’s a before/after, testimonial, “the hero’s journey”, or any other kind you find.
Like a great screenwriter, you’re simply “inventing” a story for your reader to fall into.
Just be clear in your articulation that it is completely hypothetical so you’re not lying.
#4: The metaphor or analogy story
If you’re ever at a loss for story ideas, look no further than a quick Google search. Type in “popular metaphors or analogies” and your search is over. You’ll have an endless list from which to pull from.
This is a great strategy to use in emails because they act as the main idea of the email and provide a quick jump off point to start from.
The key is to always tie it back into your product or service.
Using this method allows you to take what may appear as a completely random metaphor or analogy and turn it into a quick and effective persuasive story to sell your product or service.
Here are a few ones we found and how we might tie them into an online course selling social media marketing training:
“Life is like a roller coaster. You can either scream every time there’s a bump, or you can throw your hands up and enjoy the ride.”
Tie-In: Share a story about how being effective on social media is about being okay doing things that don’t always work.
“The elephant in the room.”
Tie-In: Share a story about how many business owners know they should be more active on social media, but the “elephant in the room” is that they don’t know how to do it.
These are just a few quick examples, but this shows you just how easy it can be.
The goal is to use metaphors or analogies as jumping off points into your own stories instead of just sharing boring facts.
#5: The time and place story
Many people struggle in using stories because they’re not quite sure how to start. We already mentioned metaphors and analogies as jumping off points, but if you’re looking for another effective way, use the “time and place” hack.
“Long ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
Not only is that one of the most memorable lead-ins for the Star Wars story, but it’s also a fantastic example of using time and place.
“Long ago” - Time
“In a galaxy far, far away…” - Place
These work great when wanting to start an email or ad with a story.
Let’s imagine you have a monthly membership site helping women with their fitness. Here are a few examples of how you could use time and place to jump into a story...
“Years ago I remember feeling embarrassed while sitting in the McDonalds drive through. It was my second time there that day…”
“Yesterday, while working from my home office, one of my coaching clients gave me the great news…”
“2 weeks ago while out walking the beach, I made a decision to finally get fit…”
Using time and place provides an easy transition into any story you want to tell.
Try it today and you may be surprised just how quickly your skills have increased.
Stories equals sales
Every one of you has stories to share. And as a digital entrepreneur, the better you get at sharing them the better your marketing will become.
Your prospects will trust you and be more willing to try out your course, coaching, or whatever it is you have to offer. This is how you can monetize the attention of your prospects.
Use any of these templates to crank out your next story out faster than ever before:
- The Before And After Story
- The Testimonial Story
- The Hypothetical Story
- The Metaphor Or Analogy Story
- The Time And Place Story