By David Holland

February 11, 2021


0 comments

Using the power of story to create a compelling message, connect with your prospects on an emotional level, and make more sales as a result.

As I mention in my book The Sales Circuit, a successful sales and marketing system has several elements, including successful lead generation, long-term nurture, a frictionless sales process and a methodology to ensure repeat purchases.

Many businesses understand this at some level, and have robust systems in place to get in front of customers, make offers to customers and maximise the value of those customers after they’ve come on board.

But – in my experience – far too few businesses understand one of the fundamental things that needs to underpin ALL sales and marketing activity: the importance of connecting emotionally with a prospect.

And – quite simply – the best way to do that is by telling stories.

I based the narrative of my book on MY story – a career that included successful spells at Proctor & Gamble, Kraft Foods and IBM before I started EXELA back in 2000.

I weave the crucial elements of The Sales Circuit throughout those stories, but it’s the stories themselves that grab the reader, encourage him or her to read more, and digest the business lessons as a result.

So, with that introduction, let’s dive deep into the first question:

Why should you be using stories in your sales and marketing?

1. Without a story, you’re relying on the cold, hard facts and features/benefits of what you sell

Consequently, you’re only appealing to your prospects’ logic, not their emotion

Which is bad news, when “95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious”

In other words, we buy things because of our emotions and justify them with logic.

2. Without a story, you’re reducing the chances of your message getting absorbed

Statistics suggest that people can retain 70% of information they receive through stories, but only 10% from data and statistics.

If you just go down the data and statistics route, then only 10% of what you say is retained by your prospect

3. Without a story, your product or service has no context

Showing what you sell is far more effective than telling people about what you sell, and a story provides you the context to show how your product works - why do you think the shopping channels are still going?!

4. Without a story, you’re missing out on the chemical reaction that occurs when you tell a story

3. Without a story, you’re just selling

People don’t like to be sold to, but they love to buy.

Forgo story, and you’re not giving your audience anything to buy into, and the focus in your copy and your videos just comes back to you selling them, which is less effective.

Without a story, your business is just one of the hundreds out there that happens to sell a product or service.

But WITH A STORY, you’re immediately placing your business in its own category, because no one else has your story.

Does your story need to be long?

No.  In fact, you can pretty much remove the notion that it needs to be a traditional ‘once upon a time’ story.  

When we refer to story, what we’re really referring to is narrative that extends beyond cold hard facts and figures.

It might be your story – the reason why you set up the business – check out the video from Toms below:

It could be a story about how one of your customers has thrived as a result of your product – here’s a great example below of how we captured an EXELA customer’s story:

Or it could be a fictional story about the kind of person your audience has an affinity with, or who has the same problems as your audience.  The video below from Chatbooks is a great example:

 Brands big and small provide a veritable treasure trove of examples for you to swipe and deploy here, so the best thing you can be doing is studying the marketing and advertising you consume,  and working out which elements of story you can use in your own marketing.

One tip when it comes to swiping and deploying from other industries: look at the stuff that’s been around for a LONG time; the story-based campaigns that just get run again and again.

One great example is the Tesco “Food Love Stories” campaign, which has been running for at least four years in different guises.

The concept is simple: rather than just selling food, Tesco are selling emotional connection, and they’re doing that by telling stories that you and I can resonate with.

You can see all of the Tesco Food Love Stories here.

As you might expect, Tesco are pretty hot on their numbers, and there really is no chance that they’d keep running something that doesn’t deliver a good return on investment – there are definitely some big learns in that campaign there for most businesses.

Where should you use your story?

As I said up top, storytelling underpins the ENTIRE customer journey – from the initial lead generation, through to the customer aftercare and any upselling or referral opportunities there are.

As a result, it’s important to limit where you tell your stories – the more places you get them, the more chance they have of being absorbed.

As a starter for ten, we’d suggest ensuring your stories are including in the following places:

  • Website home page
  • About us page
  • Sales letter
  • Brochure
  • Video
  • Webinar
  • Facebook Ads
  • Email campaigns

But just to be clear, this is not exhaustive list – if your marketing doesn’t include story, the chances are it’s not very compelling.

So, what’s the takeaway for your business?

Hopefully you’ve been reacquainted with the importance of story, and the fact that if you don’t use stories in your sales and marketing, you’re just another business, selling another product.

But as soon as you start including stories, you start communicating with a different part of your prospect’s brain, tapping into their emotions and not only holding their attention for a lot longer, but increasing their ability to retain the information you share with them.

Simply put, if you’re not using stories, you need to start – the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll start connecting more powerfully with the people you want to do business with.

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About the author

Nice bloke with practical ideas. Former Procter & Gamble, Kraft and IBM sales and marketing executive. Became a business owner 20 years ago. Started multiple businesses including EXELA which is the most successful Keap® & Infusionsoft™ reseller in the EMEA region.

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