If you can’t find a story to tell… borrow, steal or create one.


Stories in books

A while back I wrote a post about how selling is giving way to storytelling.

The thing is, “selling at people” just isn’t a good fit online. Nobody wants to be interrupted and sold at when they’re looking at their tablet or smartphone. That’s why tens of millions of people use adblockers.

Soo… if the traditional, hard-nosed sales approach is no longer welcome, what can marketers do?

First off, they can get serious about content marketing.

The delivery of great content, across all devices, will do about 80% of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting prospects ready to make a purchase.

Just because people don’t want to be exposed to hard-hitting sales pitches doesn’t mean they’re not interested in reading or viewing great content related to your products or services. They are.

As for bridging that last 20%… first, use the power of story and then, by all means, include a short sales pitch.

If you’ve delivered great content and shared an engaging story, people won’t mind at all if you respectfully reach out to close the sale.

But what if my business or my client doesn’t have a story to tell?

I hear this all the time.

“We don’t have any interesting stories to share.”

“We don’t have a compelling origin story. The origins of our business were pretty mundane.”

“We don’t have a ‘hero’s journey’ story to share. Just a team of engineers moving forward step by step.”

If you have a client who claims their business has no story, there are three things you can do.

First, challenge them.

Put on your “story hunter” hat and dig into their business and its origins. Think and work like an investigative reporter.

This usually means looking for “sources” within the company. Just because the marketing folks you’re dealing with don’t know any stories doesn’t mean there aren’t any to be found.

See if you can get to talk to the people who have worked there the longest. These may not even be the most senior people.

And the stories you are looking for don’t have to be huge and world-changing. It could be a simple, human interest story. Like the day they delivered their product through a snowstorm and saved the day for some family, sports team or small business.

Dig deep enough and you’ll always find some stories.

The second thing you can do is leverage or piggyback other people’s stories.

Think about Red Bull. They sell an energy drink. Doesn’t taste very good. It may or may not work as advertised. But they have created a huge and successful business.

And they did it with story

They don’t really have a story of their own. So they set out to create new stories every day by sponsoring extreme sports. Their marketing is built on the back of the stories they create with their partnerships and sponsorships.

They are leveraging stories that are actually not their stories at all, but the stories of extreme athletes.

Nespresso – a maker of automatic espresso machines – does something similar by using George Clooney as their spokesperson. They are leveraging every cool role he has ever played. They are piggybacking on the success of the stories he has told as an actor.

Third, do something to seed the creation of new stories.

Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign has been running for well over 10 years now. It tells stories of our perceptions of women’s beauty, and has helped a generation of women redefine what it means to feel beautiful.

Nordstrom seeds new stories through “Nordy Stories”. They asked their customer service people to watch out for and collect great customer stories that could the be used in their marketing.

With your own clients, or your own business, simply ask yourself how you can do something new or different. Something that will stimulate discussion and feedback. Something worth talking about and sharing. Something that might catch the media’s attention.

Wrapping it up…

Stories have always been a powerful way to grab and hold people’s attention, and then engage them at a deep emotional level.

The web has put stories on steroids, because the medium gives everyone a voice, and has made the telling and sharing of stories global.

And the arrival of social media and smartphones has further expanded the power of stories.

Stories are the foundation of the new selling.

Deliver great content. Tell great stories. And then, with the lightest of touches, close the sale.

NOTE: If you’d like to use the power of storytelling to increase your skills as a web content writer, online copywriter or social media writer, take my course… Selling With Stories…

Selling with Stories banner


Writing for the Web

If you found this post helpful, sign up for my e-newsletter and get a free copy of my 35-page guide…

Writing For The Web #1 — 7 Challenges every Writer and Copywriter faces when writing for the Web.

Sign up and I’ll send you the link for the download, and then you’ll receive my most recent post as part of my e-newsletter every Tuesday morning.

Sign Up for my Excess Voice Newsletter…


(Your email address will be used only for the purpose of sending you this newsletter, and you’ll be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

1 thought on “If you can’t find a story to tell… borrow, steal or create one.

  1. I so agree! Hands down, every time i use a story in my content, I get responses. No more crickets. I plan to improve my story telling with your course. Thanks!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.