If you want people to remember something, tell them a story.

The story of Noah's Ark

A few months back I wrote about how telling stories can influence people’s feelings.

In fact, writers of all stripes have been using stories to tap into people’s emotions for centuries.

Well… it turns out that as well as evoking strong emotions, stories are also a powerful tool to help us remember things.

A few days ago I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show podcast. His guest was Stephen Dubner, one of the authors of Freakonomics.

In response to a question about the power of stories, Stephen came up with some interesting numbers.

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Tap into the power of a shared, common experience.

Hiking is often a shared experience

If, like me, you write a blog, you’ve probably promised yourself you’ll post at least once a week.

Or maybe twice a week. Daily even.

There are plenty of good reasons for posting to your blog, whether you run a business or work as a freelancer.

Writing a blog makes sure your voice is heard. Writing posts regularly helps get your message out there, and keeps your name on people’s lips. (Google likes to see you posting regularly too.)

Is it always easy to come up with new post ideas? No, it isn’t.

In my case, sometimes l’ll have a lineup of ideas for posts, all clamoring for attention. But other times the well runs a little dry, and I have to cast around for inspiration.

I’m guessing it’s not so very different for you.

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But Nick, you didn’t teach me how to create stories that sell. Fail!

Two kids reading storiesI have paraphrased a little, but that’s pretty much what someone wrote after taking my course, Selling with Stories.

He felt a little disappointed because I hadn’t given him a structure or template he could use for creating stories as part of his direct sales promotions. My bad. Kind of.

My mistake, I think, was not in what I taught… but in how I failed to be 100 percent clear about what I’d be teaching.

When I created the course I did so based on a strong belief that the whole idea of “selling” online is changing, and changing fast.

The traditional hard-sell approach is on the way out.

A more sincere and story-based style of selling is on the way in.

There are two reasons for this.

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How to differentiate your product with a compelling story.

the death wish coffee storyAs you may know, I have a bit of a thing for coffee.

I have way too much coffee making equipment, and have tried dozens of different coffees from all over the world.

And… given what I do for a living… I have become something of a student of the coffee business.

When it comes to marketing, coffee presents us with a few challenges.

First off, coffee is essentially a commodity. Literally, it is second only to oil in terms of its value as a traded commodity.

But from a marketer’s and a copywriter’s point of view, coffee is a commodity because… well… it’s just a green bean that is roasted until it’s brown.

It’s a brown bean.

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When selling online, content does most of the heavy lifting.

Web content does the heavy lifting

Ask an online copywriter how to sell stuff online, and she’ll likely tell you it’s all about great sales copy.

Makes sense, right?

If you want to sell stuff, you need strong copy that sells hard and closes the sale.

Well, this may have been the case back in the days before the web.

But today I would argue, and do argue, that most of the heavy lifting is actually done by web content, not sales copy.

Why? In large part because consumers online are becoming increasingly resistant to sales messages. In particular, they dislike sales messages that interrupt them and get in the way of what they really want to do.

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You can sell with stories. Unless you use fake stories.

Pages from storiesA couple of weeks ago I got an email from a copywriter who wanted my take on a piece of story-based copy he had written.

It was a sales email, and it opened with a story.

Technically, the email was pretty well written.

It opened with the story, transitioned into sharing information about one of his client’s services, and then pivoted to a call to action at the end.

Quite nicely put together.

Just one problem.

The story he opened with didn’t feel right. It just felt false. Creepy. Kind of manipulative.

So I asked him about it, thinking maybe he was fed it by his client’s PR department.

Nope. Not even. He just made it up.

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