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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To make more sales, stimulate the release of this drug.

oxytocin stimulates trust

You’re walking down a busy street and a homeless person approaches you.

Your emotions are conflicted. You’re in a hurry. You don’t need the delay. You know you’re about to be hustled.

And yet…

So you pause and listen to “the pitch”.

If the homeless person just asks for money, you’ll probably say no and not even make eye contact.

But if he or she begins to tell you a story… about being hungry, about their kids, about their sick dog, about their mom who has cancer… you’ll more than likely find yourself reaching for some money.

Yes, you know the story is probably 100% fiction. Yes, you’ve heard it all before.

But you still reach for your money.

How come?

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A visit to your local market will teach you plenty about selling with stories.

Each week my wife and I go to Jean Talon Market here in Montreal. It is one of the city’s busiest markets, particularly over the summer months.

Last week I took my camera along, in search of how stall holders might be using stories to help market their produce.

It’s funny how the mind works. As soon as I looked around in search of “story”, suddenly I was surrounded by them.

You’ll get the full roundup in the video above.

But a couple of examples jumped out at me.

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To change how people feel, just tell them a story.

Speedmaster watch story
Ed White, during America’s first space walk.

If you’ve been involved in marketing for more than ten minutes, you’ve probably figured out that people buy things based on their emotions.

People don’t line up on the sidewalk all night to buy the latest iPhone for any rational reason.

It’s not like their existing iPhone is about to stop working.

They line up for the new phone not because they need it, but because they want it.

Their purchase decision is driven by emotion.

And it turns out that one of the best and fastest ways to trigger emotions is through stories.

You know this already, of course.

Every time you watch a movie you’re taken on an emotional roller-coaster. Movies are stories, and stories move us.

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