Using storytelling to sell

As a society, we love stories. From the latest Netflix show to the stories we tell our friends when we share details of our life, we tell stories all the time. So why is it, when we come to sell products, that all that stops?

Storytelling is an effective way to reach your customers and show them you understand their challenges. And it’s one of the best ways to engage with them, build a relationship and close a sale. Here are our tips on how to do it.

Why storytelling matters

Media companies have a lot of statistics and data about everything from audience and reach to engagement levels. These are essential for measuring outcomes, refining campaigns and proving value to your clients. But focusing on these statistics is not the best approach when you first talk to a prospect to talk about opportunities.

There are clear reasons for this.

• Stories are easier to remember. After a presentation, 62% remember stories, 5% remember facts and figures.
• Stories engage a different part of your brain. When we hear statistics, we tend to respond critically, testing them against what we already know. When we hear stories, our brain responds more emotionally and empathetically, making it easier to associate with the information.

The elements of a good story

Not every story will provoke such a response. In order for them to be effective, they need to be engaging and provoke some emotion in the listener – surprise, fear, shock, excitement, empathy, laughter. You don’t have to work out how to do this, as there are clear structures for stories that you can use to get your message across.

Here are the seven standard story structures – and how you could use them for a case study.

Conquering the Monster: a story of overcoming a hurdle or block to achieving something, ending with success. The monster could be poor sales, an unknown brand or any of the challenges that your clients face.
Rags to Riches: the classic tale. In this case, you could tell the story of a business and how they have grown from small beginnings to where they are now.
The Quest: this is a search for something – maybe a new market or something else that would transform their business. Advertising could be positioned as the reliable sidekick, supporting them in achieving their goals.
Voyage and Return: this involves travel, either to a new place or by stepping outside your comfort zone. This is a great way to showcase a client who is breaking new ground with their business or who simply had never used advertising before and had to branch out for the good of the business.
Tragedy: not all stories are happy. Sometimes a loss precipitates a change – but it can end happily.
Comedy: this isn’t necessarily a funny story, although it can be. This might be a tale of overcoming confusion or amusing challenges. These stories always finish with a resolution that restores things to the way they should be.
Rebirth: these stories involve a fall to a low position, a change by the characters and then a transformation to achieve a happy ending. They work very well for businesses that have faced a tough time but come through it to be stronger.

Don’t worry too much about which type of story you’re telling. Just use these examples to think about how you tell the stories from within your business and beyond.

Ways to use storytelling to get your message across

There are many ways to use storytelling in your business. Here are just a few:

In your sales meetings: speak to the customer about other similar businesses and what advertising did for them. Don’t just focus on the facts – tell their story and the difference between their business in the past and their business now. These type of stories are inspiring and encourage your prospective customers to think differently.
On your website: you can also share these stories on your website. Moving away from the classic case study can make your site more compelling. Think about formats too – could you do videos, podcasts or infographics to bring the information to life?
On social media: stories don’t have to be long so look for opportunities to tell snapshot stories on social media too.
In your clients’ advertising: because stories are so effective, they work well in advertising. Encourage your clients to use stories and they could see an uplift in engagement, recall and brand association.


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