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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The copywriter’s cure for being slapped around the head.

the elephant and hat storyLet’s open with a story.

Way back in the mists of time I had a boss and copywriting mentor called Dave.

I was a total newbie when it came to writing hard-selling, direct response copy for our clients. I was a decent enough copywriter, but had yet to develop the edge that would make me a worthwhile direct response copywriter.

Enter Dave.

He’d look over my shoulder as I was writing, and whenever he came across a line of copy he thought wasn’t as strong as it should be, he’d give me a slap around the back of the head.

Yes, this was back in the days when you could get away with that sort of thing.

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Help me choose the topic of my next course…

Survey behind the barn doorI have a question for you… if I may.

And a very short, two-click questionnaire.

I’m trying to figure out a topic for my next course, and would really appreciate your help and input.

As you may know, a couple of months ago I launched a short course on Web Content Optimization.

This is a short-form course, delivered on the Udemy platform, and takes about 3 hours to complete.

Right now I’m working on getting a second course published, also on Udemy.

This second course is about Selling with Stories. (You’ll love this one if you’re an online writer who doesn’t feel terribly comfortable with the direct, hard-selling aspect of copywriting.)

Selling with Stories should be available within 3 or 4 weeks. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

And that brings me to my question…

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