Everyone knows that storytelling is a vital part of effective marketing, but most companies don’t know how to tell a story that actually sells. In 2020, there was $430 million spent on Super Bowl ads (that’s 77 commercials at $5.6 million a pop). Can you remember more than one or two of them?

The market is louder than ever. According to Forbes, the average American is exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day. For small and medium-sized businesses, this can feel like a daunting task as you try to cut through all of the noise and successfully reach people with your marketing. 

While all of this may be true, there’s good news. If you tell your company's story in a way that centers around your customers, they will memorize your message and buy when they’re ready. 

how to tell a story

The Story That Customers Don’t Buy

Before we explain the components of a story that customers do buy, let’s talk about the story they don’t buy: 

  • Stories that don’t make sense. 
  • Stories that are told at your company’s level of expertise. 
  • Stories that don’t help your customers become a better version of themselves.

In your messaging, you should avoid stories that are all about your company. Your customer doesn’t want to listen to a story that’s all about you. 

(Side note: Looking for a more in-depth breakdown of the storytelling  framework? Click here to download our e-book.)

Experiment: Now, go to the homepage of your website. Glance over the copy of your website and ask yourself these three questions: 

  1. Is my website about my company or my customer? (Hint: If you use ‘we’ more than ‘you’, your website is likely too self-centered.)
  2. Is the copy of your website written in a way that anyone can understand? Or does it use language that only resonates with your employees?
  3. Could someone read the copy of your homepage and understand how your product can help them become a better version of themselves?

With these questions in mind, the first step to solving the storytelling problem at your company is admitting that there is one. If your website isn’t achieving a positive ROI on your marketing efforts, the root issue is almost always a storytelling problem. The easiest way to confuse your customers is to tell a story that’s all about you and told in language that only an expert would understand. 

Tip: Remember, if you don’t tell the right story, your customers won’t listen. If they don’t listen, they won’t buy. 

Discerning What Your Customer Wants 

If stories that customers listen to become the stories that customers buy, how do you write a story that engages your audience? And what compels someone to buy after they’ve heard that story? 

At a foundational level, here’s what we’ve found: 

  1. Customers listen to a story that identifies what they want or what they want out of. 
  2. The average attention span—thanks to technology—is down from twelve seconds to about eight seconds. (A goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds in case you were wondering.) 

When telling the story that customers buy, you only have a few seconds to identify what the customer wants or what they want out of. As you learned when you reviewed your website, if the story you tell isn’t all about your customer’s success, you’re already losing. Think of your customers success as, “What happens when your customer gets out of their problem and into your solution?”. This is what you want to clearly convey on your homepage. 

Example: Here was one of our favorite Super Bowl commercials from this year. Take a moment to give it a watch:

What did Jeep do right in this commercial? Very quickly, they identify what their customer wants: they want a way out of the monotony of everyday life—and the Jeep Gladiator is how they do it. The owner of a Jeep Gladiator doesn’t dread the sound of their alarm clock every morning. 

Similarly, your customer also has a Groundhog Day that they want to get out of. If you tell them this story and help them imagine their future self, you’ve told the story they want to hear. This messaging technique will help you win in sales and marketing. 

The Takeaway

Remember, the stories that customers listen to become the stories that customers buy. Make the story you tell more engaging by identifying what your customer wants and what they want out of. In times like these, your company can’t afford to waste money on a story that doesn’t sell. If you identify what your customer wants and then show them how to get it, you’ll be well on your way to a story that engages readers and closes customers.

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Posted in Storytelling