Stories That Sell Products and Services

The door to immediate action is easily kicked open by the steel-toed boot of urgency.

If you want people to take immediate action, you’re going to need a credible shortage.
A shortage of product. “Only 11 remain!”
A shortage of time. “Sale ends Saturday at 6PM!”
A shortage of capacity. “Only 128 seats are available!”
Some kind of shortage.

But smart marketers don’t create a series of non-stop urgencies.
Smart marketers create a bond with future customers.
And you don’t create a bond by crying wolf.
You create a bond by telling a story.

Do you want to inspire your customer?

Inspirational stories are never about accumulation.
They’re about sacrifice.

What have you sacrificed and why? Are you willing to tell that story?

Scientific American published an essay on May 8, 2013, in which Jag Bhalla quotes Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor. Everyone loves a good story; every culture bathes its children in stories.” The purpose of these stories is to engage and educate the emotions. Stories teach us character types, plots, and the social-rule dilemmas prevalent in our culture.

Stories explain how the world works and help us understand who we are.

“Research consistently shows that fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard…”

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories. But why are humans storytelling animals at all? Why are we, as a species, so hopelessly addicted to narratives about the fake struggles of pretend people? Anthropologists have long argued that stories have group-level benefits. Traditional tales, from hero epics to sacred myths, perform the essential work of defining group identity and reinforcing cultural values.”
– Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

Stories are what shape and define a tribe.

Make no mistake, people who bond with a brand are people who have joined a tribe. And that’s a healthy thing. According to Professor Alison Gopnik, “other people are the most important part of our environment. In our ultra-social species, social acceptance matters as much as food.” *

We include ourselves in dozens of tribes. Tribes of geography, school, sport, faith, music, nationality, art, hobby, history, family affiliation, hair color, age, gender, lifestyle, transportation, recreation, food, fashion, tattoos, facial hair and footwear. We buy what we buy to remind ourselves – and tell the world around us – who we are.

Our purchases tell our story.

Most ads are full of information. They don’t really tell a story.

Story = character + predicament + attempted extrication.

“Stories the world over are almost always about people with problems,” writes Jonathan Gottschall. They display “a deep pattern of heroes confronting trouble and struggling to overcome. Stories give us feelings we don’t have to pay full cost for.” Stories free us from the limits of our own direct experience and allow us to learn from the experiences of others.

Online reviews are stories told by customers about their experiences.
Testimonial ads are another type of story told by customers about their experiences. But we listen to these stories with a grain of suspicion as we seek to pierce the veiled motives of the storytellers.

Propaganda is a story that represents itself to be the truth.

We believe it only to the degree that we trust the storyteller.

Entertainment is a story that doesn’t represent itself to be the truth.

If a story doesn’t claim to be the truth, there is no reason to doubt it.
This is why we are more willing to believe fiction than nonfiction.

Entertainment is the currency that will purchase the time and attention of a too-busy public.

Have you found your story?
Are you telling it well?
Are people entertained?

How’s business?

Roy H. Williams