Once upon a time, a good copywriter only had to write descriptive, informative copy about a product or service. In today’s ultra-competitive business world, content needs to be literally unforgettable. Copywriters and businesses who want to build an authentic bridge to an audience should consider employing classic storytelling skills: nothing forms a rapport like the sharing of stories.
Why do stories work?
Stories work for copywriters because everybody has one: everybody has a story to share, and more often than not, our stories overlap. There’s a connective factor in every story. The greatest writers in the span of world literature knew this---this is where we get the concept of motifs and archetypal themes from. A trip down memory lane brings you to high school lit class and discussions about universal themes and heroes (like the epic hero and the tragic hero). You don’t have to be Shakespeare, but stories like those told in Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello stick with us because we can find pieces of ourselves in those tales.
When we can identify with a character or situation, or when we feel intrigued by the conflict, when we anticipate the suspense of a plot, we feel invited in to the story. When someone feels invited in, they feel like they can hunker on down and stay a while. This is how site visitors stick around long enough to become customers; this is how storytelling can work to produce sensational sales results.
How can I benefit for using storytelling in my copywriting?
Stories are essential/crucial/critical to the sales process because they build relationships and they build trust. They also:
- Grab attention
- Draw in readers
- Relax and disarm sales-averse listeners
- Introduce your service, organization, or product
- Help potential clients to remember information better than they would by simply Hearing a slew of statistics
- Enhance the value of what you have to offer
What a story is not
Anybody can have a blog, but writing a blog doesn’t guarantee that someone is a great writer. A few choice photos and effusive language doesn’t make a story any more than your friend telling your how they went down the street to the bagel shop and ran into your worst enemy: it might be slightly interesting, yes, and it might even be a piece of juicy gossip, but it’s not an actual story. Take for example your friend the chef: he might have an intriguing life story to share with you, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to run down to his restaurant and order his spaghetti and meatballs.
What a story is: the classical components of a narrative
Any good story needs to include the following elements of the traditional narrative arc:
- 1. Exposition
The writers introduce the main character (usually the hero or the protagonist), any minor characters, the setting, and some sort of conflict (internal or external).
- 2. Rising Action
As the name indicates, this is where things pick up. A complication of events or additional conflicts arise, tension builds, and the action increases.
- 3. Climax
The highest point of drama in the plot occurs at the climax and addresses the major point of conflict.
- 4. Falling action and Resolution
The falling action includes all of the steps that follow the climax that ultimately lead to the conclusion of the story.
Some common themes
Everything’s been said before—but it’s the writer’s job to find a new way of saying it, right? Keeping your audience and your product at the forefront of your mind, which of these common storytelling themes can you use?
- overcoming adversity
- the great battle
- change versus tradition
- chaos and order
- lightness and darkness
- fate versus free will
- facing reality
- fear of failure
- human beings share the same needs
- inner/outer strength
- individual vs. society
- the great journey
- knowledge versus ignorance
- love as the worthiest pursuit
- the big mystery
- quest for discovery
- identity and rebirth
- the noble sacrifice
- wisdom and experience
- youth and beauty
How to use storytelling in your copy writing
You can include the traditional elements of storytelling in your modern-day copy in the following ways:
- Use the elements of the 4-part narrative.
The narrative works best in longer segments of copy, since you really can’t develop a story in a tagline or an ad, but content marketing provides a great platform as do site pages (sales, landing, about, services, bios, testimonials, history)--even print copy provide the length necessary to establish a beginning, middle, an end.
- Cast your client as the protagonist.
If your client can identify with the main character—the hero of your story—your marketing becomes truly efficient. Let your service or product be the Robin to your customer’s Batman: the helpy helperton who helps Batman defeat evil and get the job done.
- Work on your leads.
By leads we mean hook. It has the nickname for a reason: it lures the reader in just like fish to bait. Remember that great first lines become famous because they set the stage for the rest of the story.
- Use conflict.
The conflict in your story might not be a battle from the Trojan War, but it can be your client’s challenges, difficulties, and issues—and of course, you showcase how your product, service, or organization comes to save the day.
- Go back to universal themes.
Surface needs are obvious, but consider what values lie deep beyond that surface and use those concepts to guide your story.
And here's another last little tip for you before you go. If you ever get stuck (and you will), take a look at Steve Mueller's guide to overcoming writer's block. He has some strong advice to help you get jump over that hurdle.
When you master the art of storytelling, you’ll see a major spike in sales, which is a very happy ending.
Let us know if you implement storytelling techniques in your copy. What kinds of results and responses have you received?