This article was originally published on May 10th — it remains one of the most popular posts on Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
I thought it’s especially relevant, given my “encore” presentation of the free video training series on Story Selling I’ve been doing this week.
Earlier today I released the latest video to the wait list for the Story Selling Master Class. It addresses the 5 biggest challenges most marketers, copywriters, salespeople, and business-builders face in using stories to sell. And, how to bust through the roadblocks for fast success.
Here’s the original article…
The #1 Best Selling Story [includes template]
“The highest-paid person in the first half of the [21st] century will be the ‘storyteller.’ The value of products will depend on the story they tell.”
— Rolf Jensen, from “The Dream Society.”
A couple weeks ago — as you probably know — my house was broken into. In the moment, my animal/survival instincts came out. All I cared about was getting the intruder out of our family’s personal and private space. I attacked. In a fury, I punched him a good 5 or 6 times before he could get out the door and flee down the street. He got away with an old iPad, but other than that our family was unharmed.
That was just after 4 AM.
By 10:15 AM, I’d committed to telling the story in a marketing context. I wrote a short version of the story, and used it as an excuse to justify a sale. I wanted to replace our family’s iPad — that our kids were so devastated to lose.
Within 48 hours, the story I told turned into more than enough revenue to cover the cost of the iPad, and then some.
There is nothing that sells like stories…
I could have offered the same sale on the same service without the story, and I wouldn’t have had the same results.
It was the story that got attention. It was the story that stirred the buyers’ emotions. It was the story that primed the prospect to be responsive to the offer that I put in front of them.
A few years back, I got to sit down with Bill Bonner, founder of the half-billion-plus per year consumer publishing giant, Agora.
Bill founded the company by telling a story, in a letter, to launch his International Living magazine. That was in the mid 1970s. He — and his company — has continued to tell stories to grow the business from zero to hundreds-of-millions per year in revenue.
While Bill is known for his “copywriting,” he thinks of it in a very different way than most copywriters. For most copywriters, writing ads, marketing pieces, and sales letters is about technical things like headlines and bullets and guarantees and offers.
Bill knows these technical aspects of writing to sell, but he largely ignores them. Rather, he told me that he simply tries to find the story that will be most interesting to his prospects, and tell it in as compelling a way as possible.
It’s all about the story.
When you’re sitting there with someone whose net worth is estimated at well over a billion dollars, and he tells you he got rich by telling stories, it’s worth paying attention to.
Now here’s a secret: some stories are more effective than others at making the sale…
I’ve been putting a lot of thought into selling stories recently. All the stories that work to sell. Where to use different stories throughout the sales process. Which work best, in which context. Which are nearly universal in their selling power. And so on.
I’ve looked at many of my biggest marketing successes, and evaluated how the stories they told contributed to their success.
I considered the stories I try hardest to pull out my current clients, because I know that if I can tell them, they will increase sales.
I’ve left no stone unturned.
And in the process, I believe I’ve identified…
The single-best selling story you can tell!
This particular story type has been, by far, the most powerful selling story I’ve used. And the good news is it’s incredibly common among businesses large and small.
If you’re the founder or owner of a business, you probably have this story in your head, but your customers don’t hear it enough.
If you’re a marketer or copywriter, this is the kind of selling story you want to try to get out of your client so that it can be used to the fullest.
In it’s most basic form, you can call this…
The “I couldn’t find it, so I built it” story…
With that name alone, you probably have a pretty good sense of what the story is. I’ll dive in a little bit, then give you a template I follow when I tell this story.
At its most basic level, this is the story of the Everyman (or Everywoman) turned inventor.
I wanted a solution to X problem. I knew what I wanted. And I looked and looked and looked, trying to find that solution.
After evaluating every other option available to me, I couldn’t find what I wanted.
And so I figured out how to solve the problem on my own. I built my solution. And I thought it was so good (or, someone else saw it and insisted I share!), that I turned it into a product/service I could offer to you.
Here’s why this is so powerful…
You’ve probably heard of a concept called the Unique Selling Proposition. This is your explanation of why your product or service is a better choice than any other option available to your prospects.
If you have an “I couldn’t find it, so I built it” story for your offering, you already have your Unique Selling Proposition. Your entire offer is built on the back of a Unique Selling Proposition.
Not only that, you have a far more compelling way to tell about your Unique Selling Proposition than through claims and promises.
You’re able to establish buying criteria that favors your product. You’re able to explain how your product or service is different. You’re able to lay out the entire sales argument that favors your product.
… And, you’re able to do it through story — which our human brains are wired to pay attention to, and which bypasses the filters in our brain that are trained to ignore advertising.
Now, here’s your template for telling your “I couldn’t find it, so I built it” story…
This is the most comprehensive narrative for this story to follow. Going step-by-step through the story points below will make it most effective.
Note though, that each step doesn’t need equal weight. Some can be accomplished in a sentence or two. Others require much more detail. Do what is right for your story.
— Tell how you ran into the problem. Your product is the solution to a problem you once had, and that your prospect is facing now. Tell your personal story of suddenly being confronted with this problem, and needing to solve it.
— Give your reason why for solving the problem. Why was it so agitating? What frustrations did it create? What ill fate did you fear would become you as a result of facing this problem? What would be the cost of failing to solve it?
— Future-pace your ideal solution. This is a moment of discovery. You realize that there must be a perfect solution, and you have an idea of what you want it to look like. You’re not talking about your product yet, but the features you’re looking for in a solution will line up with what you put into your product.
— Share your search for the solution. You looked at a lot of options — and they all came up short. Dramatize the struggle. Pick the top few competitive and best-known solutions, and invalidate them. They were great for some of your buying criteria, but failed on others. In the end, they simply didn’t measure up.
— Reveal the darkest hour. At one point, you faced ultimate frustration. None of the solutions available to you in the marketplace were sufficient. While you could solve your problem in a way that wasn’t ideal, you knew it wouldn’t make you satisfied.
— The moment of truth. This is where you change from problem-haver to problem-solver. It’s an emotional moment. This is where the story gets its name. In your darkest hour, you make a decision. “I can’t find it, so I’ll build it.”
— The invention. Here you again touch on the buying criteria — the feature list of the ideal solution. “I wanted this to do X, Y, and Z, so I built it all in. I created the solution that I would have been an excited customer for, if only someone else had built it first.”
— The triumph. With your invention complete, you recognize it as the perfect solution to your problem.
— The call to share. This is where your solution goes from personal to product. Either you realize this is too good not to share, or better, someone else facing the same problem tells you that you need to share it.
— The packaging. Briefly, if relevant, tell of the creation of the product itself. What extraordinary steps did you take to create a packaged, perfect solution?
— The offer. Here is where you finally shift to “selling” your product — although you’ve been selling all along. Compare the blood, sweat, tears, and expense you endured to make the product, to the silver-platter service you’re offering for a more refined version of the same solution.
That’s it! You can either tell this story on its own (it’s incredibly powerful to people experiencing the problem right now), or you can use it to introduce your product as part of a bigger narrative. Either way, this is the single-most powerful and effective selling story I know, and should be used whenever and wherever you can make it apply.
Done right, this can quickly become the most powerful selling asset.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Getting good at using story is the single-most powerful way I know of to develop your persuasive ability.
For me, it means I’ve gone from making $2k per project to $20k per project — and that’s just the fee. My royalties have gone from 2% of gross to 3.5% all the way up to 10%, depending on the project. And the total sales generated have continued to rise as well.
I’m already hearing from Story Selling Master Class participants that they’re seeing $10,000s more in sales just from their earliest use of what I teach.
If you haven’t been paying attention yet, it’s time.
And in case you missed them, you can watch my 3 Pillars of Highly-Effective Story Selling video here, and watch the Story Selling Case Studies here.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,