Selling is giving way to storytelling. Are you ready?

Selling with stories on a typewriterI have seen a lot of changes over the course of my career as a copywriter.

Back in 1979, when I got started, I wrote my copy on lined paper, with a pen. Then a secretary typed it up using one of those trendy new IBM “golf ball” typewriters.

By 1985 I was working on an Apple Macintosh computer, saving my files to those huge floppy discs.

Fast forward to 1995, when I wrote and published my first website. I fell in love with writing for the web from day one.

Over those first 15 or so years of my career, my job was the same. My job was to sell with words. I was a copywriter, plain and simple. I wrote sales copy.

Back then, copywriting was all about selling “at” your audience, because offline media don’t allow for much in the way of reciprocity. Companies used TV to get their commercials in front of an audience, but the audience couldn’t use TV to talk back to those companies. Or to each other.

Little by little, the web changed that one-way dynamic. First through bulletin boards, then through forums and comment streams… and finally, through social media.

Today, billions of people around the world are communicating through social apps on their mobile devices.

The copywriting paradigm of the 1980’s has finally been cracked, broken, crushed and changed.

You can no longer simply write hard-selling copy at a passive audience.

Your online audience is not passive. Quite the reverse.

They can talk back. They can talk among themselves.

And they can “turn off” your advertising any time they want.

If people find a company’s emails too salesy or pushy, they’ll unsubscribe or mark those emails as spam.

If people get fed up with all the ads that litter their favorite news, sports and entertainment websites, they’ll install an adblocker.

It is estimated that by 2020 over $12 billion worth of ads will have been blocked with adblockers.

And fewer and fewer people will sit still while you serve up one of your long, traditional, one-way sales pitches.

People have better things to so… like keeping up with their friends online, watching a short video, or creating and publishing a video of their own.

Today’s customers are not passive, sitting at home waiting for your next sales message to hit. They are writers, creators and makers. Truly. Anyone who is active on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social channel is a maker and a creator.

They have neither the time nor the patience for your blah blah sales message.

So… if sales copy is losing its bite… what’s the answer?

How can you get the attention of your prospects?

How can you hold that attention, deepen your relationships with those prospects, and then convert them into loyal customers?

And once they become customers, how do you keep them?

The answer is simple.

Tell stories.

Stories about your company, or your clients’ companies.

Stories about your products.

Stories about your customers.

It turns out that stories are a great way to get into the minds and hearts of your audience.

Better still, while the modern, social web becomes less and less hospitable to traditional, hard-sell sales copy, it is a natural and nurturing environment for storytellers.

The web loves stories. And social media really, really loves stories.

If you are a content writer, web copywriter or online marketer, you should immerse yourself in the craft of selling with stories.

NOTE: If you’re serious about increasing your skills as a web content writer, online copywriter or social media writer, find out about my new course… Selling With Stories…

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2 thoughts on “Selling is giving way to storytelling. Are you ready?”

  1. Great insight as always, Nick. Stories are timeless and can be told so many different ways.

    It’s wonderful to have you as a resource and teacher of all the endless changes and nuances in copywriting. You help all of us keep updated on what’s happening in the market and what we need to do to increase our perceived value. There’s no doubt you’ve pretty much seen it all.

    I do wonder about the 30 versus 60 hour weeks though (as referenced in your newsletter with this article). What say you about the hype out there that the “freelance writer’s life” means you can work less and make more money? Do you have a story about that?


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