Years ago, when I was studying the craft of writing fiction, I ran across a book that talked about how story was the “sugarcoating” to make the “medicine go down.”
The example the author used was fairy tales, which he claimed were old-fashioned morality lessons (the medicine) wrapped in story (the sugarcoating). People would want to read the fairy tales, and when they did, they would learn the lesson.
As humans, we’re genetically wired to respond to stories. It’s in our DNA. It’s one of our most powerful communication tools. Whether we’re telling our spouse a story about what happened to us at work, or our friends a story about what happened on our vacation, we use story to make sense of the events that happen to us.
So, as a business owner, wouldn’t it make sense to use our most powerful communication tool to convey the benefits of our products and services and programs?
And there’s more—have you ever noticed how we can get lost in a book or a movie? The pages disappear, the words disappear, the screen disappears?
That’s because the story hypnotizes you. You are literally in a light trance.
And, when you’re in that light trance, you’re going to continue engaging with the story.
As a marketer, wouldn’t you like your ideal clients to be so engaged with your marketing materials that they feel compelled to keep reading?
That’s the power of story.
Now, let’s not forget the true power of story, which is to trigger our emotions. Stories provide us with a safe container to feel our emotions. Whether it’s a scary story or suspenseful or sad or romantic, when we’re in a story, we feel the emotions.
And, it’s safe, because it’s not our life that’s causing us to feel those emotions. It’s a fictional reality.
So often (especially because we spend so much of our time running away from feeling our fear-based emotions), we walk around feeling completely numb. That’s because it’s not possible to just numb one emotion, we’re either feeling all of our emotions, or none of them.
But, as humans, feeling emotions is an important part of fully experiencing life. So, if we’ve numbed our emotions, we find ourselves actually craving them.
Stories can help us feel emotions, that way.
And, last but certainly not least, stories are entertaining. As marketing guru Dan Kennedy says, you can’t bore your clients into working with you, so why not use stories in your marketing?
But, not all stories are created equal (nor do all stories even work in a marketing setting).
Below are examples of some of the best stories to use for marketing, and some best ways to use those stories.
This is sometimes called your “origin story,” or your “hero’s journey.” And yes, people want to know how you got started in business.
But, they want more than a list of titles or accomplishments that prove your expertise. Yes, those are important, but those types of “bio” bullet points tend to be less than memorable. (Not to mention, people’s eyes tend to glaze over when you get into the weeds.)
But, more importantly, those types of bios don’t make you relatable. Or human.
However, if you tell your story about how you got in business, and you include some vulnerability in it, like maybe how you hit rock bottom in some fashion or failed in some way, now you’re relatable.
And, that’s what people are going to remember.
People won’t remember all the words you say, but they WILL remember how you made them feel. Your story of how you became an entrepreneur or business owner is a great place to help them start to get to know you as a person. (And, remember, people buy from people they know, like, and trust.)
Now, you may have one origin story, but chances are you’ll end up with multiple origin stories (especially if you’ve been in business for many years). That’s perfect. I’m a big believer that businesses are living entities that grow and change over time, so your stories will also grow and change over time.
Your customer or client stories (also known as a testimonial or case study).
A case study is a story that basically outline why a client decided to work with you.
They’re important because, as the expert, your prospects may see you as someone “above” them, so even though what you’re selling worked for you, it may not work for them.
But, with a case study, you have the opportunity to highlight a lot of different life situations, so your prospects can see themselves in your current clients.
If they can see themselves in a case study, it can give them hope that they too can overcome whatever it is that’s keeping them up at night, and start sleeping like a newborn babe.
If you have a business where you rely heavily on email and the Internet to market and promote your products and services, you’re likely going to find yourself creating a lot of posts and articles and emails.
And, using general, life story emails are a great tool to toss into the mix.
Maybe you had a conversation with your eight-year-old daughter that leads to an ah-ha to a problem your clients wrestle with. Or maybe you had a breakdown on your recent vacation that is a great illustration of the breakdowns your prospects are going through.
Collect those stories. They’re valuable.
There’s definitely more ways you can use stories in your marketing, but these are a good place to start. Once you start opening your eyes to all the different stories you can be using in your marketing, you’ll be amazed.
In future blog posts, I’ll share more around best practices for writing stories, but for now, be open to all the stories around you that you can use in your marketing. Maybe you can even start an idea log to keep track of those stories (which is also a great idea to start waking your muse up).