Tell a Story!

The Power of a Story

You’re absorbed in reading a great story.  Your mind is in the story–you don’t answer the phone, your coffee gets cold, you may stay up until 2 a.m. reading.  Is this what happens when visitors to your Web site read the copy on the site?  Or do they see the usual sales talk.

Sales Resistance

To keep our sanity in today’s world, where we constantly encounter sales messages we build up considerable sales resistance.  This resistance goes up automatically–we may not even notice it–whenever we hear the usual “persuasive” words of ad-speak.  Lots of evaluative adjectives can set off sales resistance–and once it’s in place, nothing else that you communicate will be accepted easily.

What Makes an Effective Story?

Green and Brock published results of their research that show that a factor called “transportation” is a mechanism whereby a story can actually effect beliefs–whether the story is presented as factual or fictional.  By “transportation” they meant the extent to which the story absorbed the attention of the reader; it involves imagery, emotion and the focus of attention.  This tells us that if we tell an effective story, not only can we grab our reader’s attention, but we can change opinions!

How Do I Write a Story?

Here are some techniques to consider–but the central idea is a simple one.  Think up a story that indirectly brings in your sales message.  That’ll avoid raising sales resistance, and let you persuade without “selling”.
  • To write an effective story, use imagery–use actual images to help portray the message, or paint a mental picture of the situation.
  • Suspense is a time-tested technique; we all want to see how something turns out.
  • To persuade your reader to change–and adopt your approach–have the story talk about that very change.

Overcoming Sales Resistance

In a story, how do you overcome sales resistance?  Think about your marketing message–what makes your offering different.  Then use a story that indirectly shows that, without trumpeting as a marketing message.  For example, if great customer service is part of your message, then tell a true story about how one of your people was able to help a customer.  This story could not only get across the idea that your support people do great work, but also it could talk about some wonderful product feature that the customer couldn’t get to work.  Now two parts of your marketing message have been delivered, without encountering sales resistance.

The Bottom Line

Take a look at your sales copy, and if it’s boring, think about telling a story.  You’ll persuade better, and who knows, you may even have fun writing it..
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