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Is storytelling the secret to copy that sells?

We all enjoy stories.  Stories fire our imaginations and stir our emotions.  Stories whisk us away from our daily lives into whole new worlds.  Stories entertain, and the best ones broaden our understanding of people and the world.


Because they are so powerful, stories are copywriting gold.  They have the power to influence, provoke responses and to sell.  But they can only perform this magic if they written with the following points in mind.


1. Make it relevant


What is your objective?  Write a story that clearly communicates your goal eg.’I want the reader to sign up for the couch to 10k run’.  You need the reader to see herself in your copy.  She needs to feel as though you are writing just for her and she needs to imagine how her life will be improved if she accepts your call to action (signing up for the run).  Make sure the structure is clear with a definite beginning, middle and end so you don’t risk confusing or irritating the reader taking them further from your goal.


2. Keep the reader interested


Write an engaging story.  Boring doesn’t sell.  Learn the craft of storytelling by writing your own creative fiction.  If you are new to fiction writing you might consider taking a course.  Make reading stories part of your life – it’s food for the imagination and the vocabulary.  Take a risk – read books that you wouldn’t normally choose.  Your local library ‘what’s new?’ shelf is a great place to start!


3. What’s the problem?


Every story has a problem to be solved.  Think of your reader – what problems does she have that your product or service can solve?  The potential couch to 10k runner might want to lose weight because she’s feeling uncomfortable or unattractive; or she might be worried about the impact lack of exercise will have on her future health.  Write as many potential problems as you can and then choose one as the basis for your story.


4. A happy ending


How will your product or service solve the reader’s problem?  By the end of the program will she have lost 6 lbs?  Work the solution into the headline: ‘Lose 6 lb in four weeks with the couch to 10k program’.


5. Don’t forget the middle


Now you have the beginning and end of the story, you need to write the middle.  That’s the part that takes the reader from the problem to the solution.  For the couch to 10k, this will include the steps the reader needs to take to achieve the goals (going for daily runs; downloading an exercise app; reading motivational tips on a website; joining a private social media support group etc.)


6. The long and short of it


If your story is too short there won’t be enough substance to engage the reader.  If it’s too long the reader might become impatient.  Don’t indulge in lengthy descriptions – include just enough to spark the reader’s imagination.  When you edit your story ask yourself ‘Does this passage help me to achieve my goal?’ Storytelling must lead to the goal and not detract from it. Every sentence must be relevant, interesting and purposeful.  If in doubt, take it out!


7. Learn from other copywriters


How do experienced copywriters use storytelling?  How effectively do you think they have employed the technique?  Could they have done anything better?  Blending copywriting and storytelling is an art which can only be mastered through reading, listening and practising.


Related articles:

7 Incredible examples of brand storytelling on social media

M & S is the UK’s top storytelling retailer – Marketing Week 

These three commercials show brand storytelling at its finest – Adweek 

24 of the best brand storytelling campaigns – CMA 

20 ways to increase sales with direct mail letters

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Posted on October 8, 2018

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