May 18, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
In the movie You’ve Got Mail, the main character Kathleen Kelly says, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” Think about that. What books did you read in childhood that you still remember? Or maybe you have a song, movie, or television show that shaped your outlook on life. It’s not just in childhood where we learn why stories are important. They’re around us and can affect us every day.
The characters can be real or fictional, the setting may matter or it may not. But what does come through in every story is the emotion and meaning behind what you’re saying and explaining. When you share stories in your content marketing, you’re bringing your audience back to that sense of wonder they remember. You can make them curious about the world and how you and your products and services fit into theirs. In this article, we’re covering why stories are important in marketing and life with topics like:
You probably use stories every day when you’re talking or writing and don’t even realize it. They’re not always planned out and prepared for books, television, and movies. Ever share an anecdote with your family about something funny that happened at work? Have you ever explained to tech support or the repair company what happened to a piece of equipment and why it isn’t working now? These are stories too, and we’re hardwired to seek them out in everything we do, including in content marketing. Here are just a few of the reasons people love stories:
Think about your favorite story. It can be anything from a TV narrative to a story your grandmother told you as a child. Why do you like it so much? Did it make you feel happy or hopeful? Was it funny? Now, think about a story you dislike. Why does it bother you? Does it make you angry or scared? Do you disagree with its message?
Both of those trains of thought have something in common. Whether you like or hate a story, you remember it because it made you feel something. Stories can evoke deep emotions that show us or remind us what it means to be human. And only humans can provide that. You can’t get it from a simulation or AI-generated content.
Telling stories can help people remember information they may otherwise forget. Their construction lets you link information in your brain to retain it better. Stories have a clear beginning and end, and context. Think about things you learned in school. Years later, you might not remember a list of state capitols you memorized. But do you remember the plots of some books you read for English class? Chances are, you tied the information you remember most to a story.
You can use that trick to your advantage in marketing. If you can tie your product or service to a funny anecdote or narrative tale, your audience is more likely to remember it. Stories help your long-term strategy as people work through the sales funnel. If they hear a story about your brand near the top and aren’t ready to buy, they might file it away for later. As they progress through the funnel, they’re going to recall your story and services when they’re finally ready to convert.
One of the main goals of marketing is convincing people they need a specific product or service. But that’s harder when you offer something that people don’t even know exists. Stories help with brand recognition, but once your audience finds you, how do you get them to need your products or services? Storytelling helps here, too. By sharing tales of how your products improve people’s lives or how your services worked for others, you get your audience’s imaginations going.
For example, an email automation software company might tell stories of how many other tasks their clients could complete in a day by saving time and scheduling their emails. Or they may talk about how their clients were able to dedicate more time to things like client meetings to increase sales because they weren’t spending hours typing out and manually sending emails. Setting up realistic but fictional stories allows your audience to put themselves in the place of the main characters. They can imagine what their own lives would be like if they partnered with you.
Stories are a great way to test out theories or try different solutions to problems in a safe environment. When you tell a fictional story, you’re in control of every action, character, and consequence.
These types of “what if” or “If then” stories work great for marketing. They let you, as the content creator, set up believable but fictional tales of what could happen for people who use your products and services versus those who don’t. To write them, think about customer pain points and the solutions they look for. Then, set your products and services up as those solutions.
Related reading: How To Get Started With Pain Point Marketing
Have you ever heard of the story of 1,001 Arabian Nights? Scheherazade is the narrator. She told this story to a king who took a new wife every night and then beheaded the one from the night before. The night she became his bride and started the story, she ended it on a cliffhanger. It was so riveting that he couldn’t behead her until he heard the rest. But she never finished the story, saving her own life.
Though you might not tell a story with consequences that extreme, you can use the same practice in marketing. If we weave a story that captivates the target audience, we’ve got them hooked. They have to come back to us for more because only we can finish that particular story for them. If you end on cliffhangers and make conversions the only way to finish the story, people may complete an action to satisfy their curiosity. The conversion itself doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’ve got their attention so they’ll do anything to find out what happens next.
Everyone sees the world differently based on their upbringing and experiences. Telling stories lets us share our unique views of the world. They’re how we get other people to understand us better. Marketing stories and brand stories let you share your company’s view of the world with your audience. Why did you start your brand in the first place? What inspired you to create the products and services you sell? How do you see your brand and offerings changing people’s lives? When your audience understands these key areas, they can connect with your brand on a deeper level.
Image via Unsplash by @etiennegirardet
Storytelling is a two-way street. When you listen to other people’s stories, you can better understand them too. They teach us how to be sympathetic and empathetic to other people’s situations, needs, or desires. Conveying these experiences is something only humans can do.
As a content manager, your job is to express your company’s own story or share one someone else told you and bring the emotion to your audience. At CopyPress, our team understands the importance of these human connections. Our creatives provide expert content writing to spin stories that connect with your readers and convince them that your solutions are right for their needs.
Have you ever listened to a story and throughout you find yourself saying “me too”? Stories have the power not just to show people how we feel about the world or to understand what they think, but to find common ground. Even when human experiences differ, like across cultures or generations, some universal elements connect us to each other and the world. In marketing, using stories to unite your brand with clients helps them see how your values and theirs are alike. This builds bonds of trust and loyalty.
You’ve likely read a fable, parable, or story with a moral in your lifetime. We use stories like these to share information and teach lessons that may be hard to understand any other way. Think about The Tortoise and the Hare, for example. The moral is “slow and steady wins the race.” But this story teaches the lesson that sometimes patience and taking your time have more benefits than being speedy. And mocking someone for going at their own pace or doing things differently may make you look foolish.
We can teach these kinds of lessons in marketing, too. Showing off what can happen if people do or don’t use your products or services is a great way to sell them. While you don’t need to set up your brand as the hero of every story you tell, a well-placed “lesson learned” story can help you make some sales.
Sometimes, stories are just a way to share knowledge and information. But they do it in a way that makes the content memorable. Take history, for example. Did you love or hate that subject in school? If you hated it, you probably memorized a lot of names and dates and spit them back out for a test. Even if you’re good at memorizing, that’s not exactly enjoyable. If you liked history, you probably had a teacher that said “it’s not about boring, old dead people.” They probably told stories of epic battles, tense meetings, and moments that changed the world.
You can do the same in marketing. Not every piece of content you or your team writes is pushing for a hard sell. Sometimes you’re providing value for your audience by sharing knowledge. Rather than giving a list of all the benefits of your services, or a step-by-step tutorial, add a story. Create characters, and develop a narrative arc. Not every story has to be persuasive, but they can work as memory tools for important information.
Stories help us navigate unfamiliar or confusing situations. This is a storytelling perk that some B2B companies use to their advantage. For example, not every business owner knows from experience what it’s like to have a flood on their property. This is a tricky situation they might not want to think about. But an insurance agency can use that situation to convince companies they need flood insurance.
The insurance agency may tell a real-life account of something that happened to another client and how they worked through the issue. The brand shows how its services helped the other client as an example of what they can do for your business. Remembering that story could help you cope and work through the process if your property ever has a flood. This type of story also sets the business, products, or services up as the solution to a scary or uncomfortable situation. When you evoke that emotion of providing safety, your brand becomes more valuable to the client.
Storytelling has a long history and deep roots in culture. Though it’s an ancient practice, stories and storytelling are always timely. You can flip stories and mold them to fit what’s happening right now while preserving the truths at their core. Consider retellings of stories like fairy and folk tales, or reimaginings of classics, like Pride & Prejudice.
Timely stories are helpful in marketing because the landscape of the industry changes quickly. A story you told in your marketing materials 20 years ago may not work as-is anymore. But, you can update it and adapt it to fit the needs of your clients today.
Anyone can be a storyteller. Some people are naturally better at it than others, but it’s a skill we all have. It’s how we communicate. If you’re looking for ways to get better at your storytelling, consider the elements to include to make each one memorable:
Your audience is smart. They can tell when you’re being genuine in your marketing materials and when you’re feeding them a line. That’s part of what sometimes turns people away from super “salesy” content. A hard sell can feel phony or pushy. But telling a story that grabs their interest and attention? That feels genuine.
Authenticity doesn’t mean every single element of your story has to be 100% factually accurate. It just means you have to base it on truth. Don’t try to trick your audience. Persuade them, yes, but don’t dupe them.
Compelling characters are how people relate to your story. It doesn’t matter if they’re real or fake, individuals or companies. One of the best ways to suck someone into a story is to make them care about the characters. What are their struggles? What makes them relatable? How can your audience identify with them? That emotional connection makes people care about the story and what you have to say.
Stories alone are great, but they can be even better when you back them up with facts. Even most fictional stories have roots in reality in some way. That’s what makes them believable. In marketing, whether you’re telling a real or made-up story, use data where you can to support any claims you make. Presenting facts is good for sales, and it fuels authenticity. In fact, data tells a story all on its own. When you combine statistics and research with your stories, you’re making the best possible case to sell your products and services.
Marketing is all about convincing people to do things. The best way to do that is to appeal to your audience’s emotional side. It works because feeling emotions are one of the things people love about stories. The type of feelings you try to get out of people with each story or campaign can be different. You can play on people’s empathy or fears. Other times you may want them to feel happy or content.
Emotion and authenticity go hand in hand. It’s important to make an emotional appeal with your stories, but it has to be genuine. Nobody likes a person or a company who plays on sympathies just to get what they want.
There are two types of personalization that help you tell a great marketing story: customer personalization and company personalization. Customer personalization relies on your buyer personas, customer pain points, and what you know about your target audience. What do they like? What are they looking for? Are there certain things that capture their attention? This type of personalization hooks a reader and makes them want to hear what you have to say.
Company personalization is how you let your brand voice and values shine. As you set your company up as a solution to customer problems, why should they trust you? What makes your company better than the competition? By incorporating both elements of personalization, you create emotional bonds people love by understanding them and being relatable. Need help finding the right personalization topics? Request your free content marketing analysis from CopyPress. This report shows gaps in your content strategy where your audience is craving information and stories. Use the report to craft your next set of stellar content.
The storyline or structure helps take your narrative from beginning to end. It helps you outline the elements you want to include in each story and how they work together to capture your audience. Stories with any surprise or mystery elements are a great example of why you need structure to make your stories believable and keep people interested.
To write a good mystery, you can’t point all the evidence toward one character through the entire thing, then have a completely different culprit in the end. That’s not believable, and it might even make readers mad. But if you plant clues along the way, no matter how subtle, you have a surprise ending that leaves people satisfied. This is important in marketing to subliminally convince your readers of what conversion you want them to make. If you’re doing marketing and telling stories right, you never have to make a hard sell and you still see the rewards.
You can tell a story in any medium. Books, songs, TV commercials, and even jokes all take the form of stories. In marketing, there are some specific content pieces you can use to capture your audience. They include:
Storytelling helps you make sales without making a sales pitch. When you understand why people love stories, you can connect with your audience and inspire them to think differently. This builds trust and leads to better customer loyalty, more conversions, and higher income. At CopyPress, one of our favorite things to do is tell great stories. Schedule an introductory call with us to talk about your content needs, and discover how to make your audience fall in love with that content through stories.
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