Once upon a time in a land far, far away …
A lot of our favorite stories from childhood start out using this line, and with good reason. When you see it, you instantly fall back and get ready for a good story. It reminds you of a time when you’re mom or dad tucked you in tight and read you your favorite bedtime story. Or maybe your grandma snuggled you in a big chair and spent the afternoon reading the same tale over and over again.
“Once upon a time” evokes a fantasy time that makes us feel warm and secure.
Storytellers know it, and they use it all the time.
So in a matter of speaking, there are rules that can be followed that can immediately connect with a potential audience, just by following standard storytelling guidelines.
The same holds true for copywriting.
When we use a great story in our marketing, it makes people connect to us. They want to build a relationship, stick around to read even more of what you have to say, and take the next step necessary to get closer to doing business with you.
The problem is most businesses don’t understand the power of the story. They become technical by nature when they describe their products and services. They use as few words as possible and assume their potential customer will find things as fascinating as they do.
So before you spend one more dime on your marketing material, or create one more page on your website that will do nothing to connect with your reader, see if you can use one of these storylines instead.
Overcoming The Monster
Some of the best stories in our history let us cheer for the underdog and push the monster out of the way. The monster can be a true monster, as in the classic War Of The Worlds. Or the monster can be something that affects us as people, such as a disease like cancer, or even a feeling of loss and something missing in our lives, like is portrayed in the story Eat, Love, Pray.
As a business, your “monster” is what drives your customers to make a purchase from you. A tax accounting business could push the fear of an IRS audit. A pizza restaurant could use the fear of a hungry family that hates waiting for a meal. If your copy shows how you slay the monster, and provide more benefits than your competition, you’ll have a winning web presence that touches the hearts of your readers.
Humans feed on tragedy. Don’t believe me? Watch a reality television show. Or watch everyone slow down and gawk at the scene of an accident. Its human nature.
Tragedy makes us think and feel more human. If it could happen to them, it could happen to us too. Fear sets in. And we quickly try to find ways that we can eliminate the potential for tragedy from our own lives.
I recently saw a sales letter for book that gives advice on surviving disasters of any shape and size, whether natural (such as a flood) or manmade (such as an act of terror). It walked through story after story of things that have already happened to ordinary people; things that put them at risk. It focused in on the tragedy your family would face if you weren’t prepared. And of course this book would teach you everything you needed to know to be prepared every single day, no matter what happened.
Was it a great sales letter? You bet. Because it evoked fear in your heart; we could never face the consequences if something happened to our family, and there was something easy we could do now to prevent it or be prepared for it when it happened.
Tragedy can be big or small in scale. When you shock someone with the potential, and follow it by showing how you can be the solution, you have a story worth telling.
A quest is a journey; a mission to get from point A to point B with something important happening in between. The Lord Of The Rings is a classic tale of a quest that takes us through all sorts of perils and enlightenments.
Every business can use this classic style of storytelling by highlighting the path a client took from beginning to end. A coaching client could be stuck with no hope, only to follow your steps and achieve success – losing 50 pounds, or making a million dollars with their business venture. The story is meaningful because we can see where it began, where it ended, and the steps it took to achieve success.
Once you have your story in mind, the next step is to write it up in as much detail, as thoroughly as possible. No, people won’t get bored. If you write it up as a story, people will be pulled in from the beginning and stay with it to find out what happens in the end.
Add the funny little antidotes. Give detail. Talk about specific problems they had, and precise solutions you used to help them solve them. That’s what makes the story genuine, and what gives people a reason to come back you again and again.
Have an idea for a story? Not sure how to put it into words? Let us help you tell your tale. We’ve been writing online copy for clients all over the world, helping them reach out to their clients in truly unique ways. How can we help you?