Hey there Rainmaker, do you want to know how to get into the head of your prospects and make more sales and profits with your marketing?
Let me tell you a story.
Back when I was really getting into copywriting, I had an opportunity to write a promo for a major business opportunity publisher.
The program they were selling was a comprehensive “business in a box” blueprint course.
If I could craft a successful promo for this program… First, it would mean thousands of dollars in up-front income. Second, it gave me the opportunity to generate a ton of royalties, because they had a big and ready-to-buy customer file. And third, it would be a big reputation builder, because of their position in the industry.
All I had to do was come up with the right “lead” — the intro to my sales letter.
I went through the program. I took notes on all that was covered. It was actually really amazing. They packed a ton of good content into what was being taught.
And so I decided to write my sales letter around the content of the program.
I dove in, wrote an intro, and then really focused on telling everything I could about all the info you’d get if you bought the program.
Now I’ll tell you what.
This is what we rationally think makes a good sales argument. We think that if people are given the logical argument for all the ways they’ll benefit, they’ll buy.
My client knew better. They killed the project.
I was devastated.
But I followed the advice I’ve given so many times since then. Get back up. Dust yourself off. And go for it again.
A little more than a year later, I got another shot with the client.
A different product. This one, built around the story of someone who had succeeded with a certain business opportunity.
All I had to do was talk to this person who’d succeeded… And get their story… Then turn around and tell it in a compelling way.
This was suddenly very different.
I wasn’t challenged with making raw content compelling. The client had found this compelling case study, and I simply had to turn that person’s experience into copy.
Yes, I’d eventually have to dive into the details of that program, as well. But I didn’t lead with it. I led with the story of this person stumbling onto an incredible opportunity.
Well, long story short, the product launch was the biggest of its type in the company’s history.
I got paid thousands upon thousands of dollars in royalties, for years, even though my deal was for the lowest royalty percentage I’d ever work for. I lost track, but that was probably a 7-figure story by the time all was said and done.
The right story will move mountains of product, and bring you mountains of profit…
If you find the right story, it’s no longer about your ability to write compelling marketing messages. It’s simply about your ability to re-tell the story in a way that resonates with your reader.
If you get good at only one marketing, selling, or copywriting skill, make it storytelling.
Because if you tell the right story to the right people, tied to the right offer, you will make a lot of sales.
It’s not about being able to write a perfect bullet. Or knowing which of 58 headline formulas you need to use. Or how to craft a compelling bio of the spokesperson of the piece.
Story sells. Period. End of story.
Get the story right, and very little else matters.
What makes a story that sells?
I’m going to run through a few items that contribute to making a story compelling, interesting, and ultimately the kind of story that generates sales.
You’ll notice that a lot of this is very similar to what makes everyday stories worth reading — the main difference between a selling story and one only worth reading is that the selling story sets up the presentation of an offer at the end.
Conflict is the heart of story. The main character has something they want. Something stands in the way of it. What must the main character go through to get what it is they want? If you want a reader to get hooked then stay with you to the end, you need conflict. (More on this below.)
The extraordinary and incredible.
Especially when it comes to selling stories, you need things to be interesting, extraordinary, and incredible. A selling story should be a larger-than-life discovery in an unexpected place. It should be the tale of rising from rags to riches. It should be a newly-revealed secret that nobody has heard before.
When you’re thinking about moving product, it can be easy to forget people. Don’t. The more people come into a story, the better it is. Ultimately, a story isn’t interesting or believable without the people involved. Develop interesting characters if you want an interesting story.
Use your five senses. Even if just in your imagination. A story will be more interesting and more believable if it feels like it has a place. It’s easy to neglect this, and it’s easy to go overboard (that used to be my storytelling curse!). Finding the sweet spot where it feels like your story takes place somewhere will draw your reader in further.
Resonating with the prospect.
This is the area at which you have to be even better in a selling story than in most other types of storytelling. Your prospect has fears, frustrations, and failures… Dreams, desires, and a sense of destiny. A great selling story will take them on an arc from where they are to where they want to be. It might be in your story, or someone else’s. But they should see themselves in the story — they should resonate.
Tension and release.
Tied to the conflict theme above, a great story holds people in by the tension and release. It’s smart to study the concept of open loops — leaving an element of the story unresolved while you take it in other directions. It’s a subtle way (when done well) told hold tension and interest throughout the story.
Here’s an important point for stories that sell. You can’t lose yourself in storytelling, or you lose your prospect, and they become a mere reader. Remember when using stories in selling (including marketing) that your ultimate goal is to make the sale. Make the story ultra-relevant to the offer you’re making, and make sure you get to that offer with enough momentum to close the deal. This is probably the biggest area where novice copywriters stand to go wrong in using stories to sell — don’t get lost in your story!
Starting with a good idea.
Just like any storytelling, you need to start with the seed of a good idea. While I believe you don’t need a great idea, where you start can drive where you end up. Study selling stories, digging back into classic ads and famous sales letters, and try to understand their deep structure. The more you familiarize yourself with story formulas that have worked in the past, the more likely you are to recognize when a story for your current project matches up and can be mapped to the proven formula as you tell it.
A story arc.
All good stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. A setup, a turn, and a conclusion. Follow this formula in your sales stories, and they will feel natural to your readers. Ignore it, and there will be something wrong that they can’t place their finger on — which can be deadly to your selling attempt. Study storytelling and don’t be afraid to really outline and flesh out your story before you actually write it. Many of the world’s best storytellers (for sales and entertainment) use outlines and formulas — you should seriously consider doing so as well.
More on storytelling from folks who know…
If you’re a long-time reader, you probably know I’ve followed Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright for a long time. They are ex-copywriters who turned their love of telling stories into a full-time business writing fiction. Although I don’t really write fiction, I find their thinking about business, writing, and productivity very on-point.
And so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they recorded a 9-episode standalone podcast called StoryShop: Better Stories Faster (view on their website or search for it in iTunes or whatever podcast app you use). Unlike most ongoing podcasts, this is a discussion series that is already 100% complete. You just consume it like you would a podcast — even though it’s equivalent to many courses that would normally fetch $97 or more!
I don’t get anything out of recommending this. But it was the inspiration for me writing this post, and I thought I’d share because I’ve gotten a lot from those guys over the last couple years.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets