COPY STRATEGIES: HOW TO USE STORIES

It only took one sentence from my coworker’s mouth to change everything. 

Lanae was my contact person in a company that provided 80 percent of my family’s income. We talked to each other every day, multiple times a day, about various ads that were due and catalogs that were being worked on. We had become good friends, and I didn’t expect this call to be any different than usual. 

I was wrong.

“I’m not supposed to tell you this,” she said, “but this is my last day. The company owners are retiring. This is their last sale season.”

When they – whoever “they” is – say everything can change in an instant, they’re right. 

I was rocked. I had worked for this company for 16 years, and not only was I losing the majority of our income in one fell swoop, they didn’t even feel I was important enough to tell.

“It’s not fair of them not to tell you,” she went on. “You deserve to know too …”

She kept talking, but I was already tuned out as my mind struggled to take in the news. 

What was I going to do? I had always taken for granted that this position was secure. It had honestly never crossed my mind they’d retired.

In that moment, I realized that I’d been telling myself for years that I had a great business, but I didn’t. I didn’t really have a business at all. I was a glorified employee at the beck and call of a company that didn’t value or respect me. 

And now I was an unemployed glorified employee at nobody’s beck and call. I wasn’t sure what was worse. It shook me to my core, and for the next few months I vacillated between panic and depression as I tried to figure out what to do.

How could I have let this happen to myself? I was a 36-year-old wife with two preteens and a mortgage. My husband had just had major reconstructive shoulder surgery and was never going to physically be able to go back to his previous career.  

My business was our sole source of income. I’d put all my eggs in one basket, and it felt like I’d just discovered the basket was gone and the eggs were missing. 

I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me professionally.

Turns out it was the best. 

I went on to discover hidden talents and build a successful business I love. I get to work with amazing clients, travel the country, and spend time with my kids whenever I want to. I could have never dreamed up where I’d be today, and it certainly would never have happened had that phone call never happened.

Now I could have told you all that by saying my business fell apart, so I built a new one.

Or I could have listed all kinds of statistics and given you a play-by-play of exactly what I did to start over. 

But nothing get to the heart of emotion like a story. 

Did you buy in? Did you find yourself compelled to keep reading to find out what happened? 

Storytelling is something that’s been used since the beginning of time to pass down information from generation to generation, and it’s a frequently-used strategy by marketers and advertisers all over the world.

But why are stories such an effective copy strategy? Three main reasons:

Stories are Memorable

Stories aren’t just words. When our minds hear or read stories, we unconsciously begin imagining the circumstances. This links images with text, creating more of an impression on us. Want people to remember you? Tell a story. 

Stories are Relatable

Everybody loves a good story, right? Using story in your copy gives you the ability to communicate with the reader in a way that creates genuine connections. Sharing a story is a great way to become more human and relatable to your audience.

Stories are Vehicles

Stories have the unique ability to take a reader from point A to point B all the while enjoying the ride. Plain text can be kind of like pedaling a bicycle uphill. You’ll eventually get there, but you have to work awfully hard at it. A story makes the journey fun, exciting, and emotional. It’s like the skyrail at a safari theme park – you get a 360 degree view without the danger of being eaten by lions.

But I Don’t Know Any Stories …

Yes you do. ANYTHING can become a story! 

If writing stories is a challenge for you, here’s a simple framework that can help streamline story creation from The 16 Word Sales Letter by Evaldo Albuquerque. It’s called ABT structure, and it stands for “And, But, Therefore”.

  • And sets up the background and give momentum to the story.
  • But introduces conflict and adds tension.
  • Therefore presents the resolution.

Here’s an example of how I used ABT structure to create a quick story from something that happened this morning.

“I knew I should just bite the bullet and get up. It was 6 a.m., and the coffee wasn’t going to start itself. The problem was (BUT), my bed was so warm and comfortable. I decided to check my messages before getting up. I grabbed my iPhone and opened up the Slack app, when all of the sudden I was attacked by a flying furball. He’d found me. Doug, my cat, was awake. There would be no more sleep for me this morning. (THEREFORE) I threw back the covers and dragged myself out of bed. Thank you Douglas.”

See how easy? That was so much more fun and engaging to read than, “My cat jumped on me so I decided to get out of bed.”

Want some help giving story writing a try? You can grab today’s worksheet on my website at https://www.christanicholsmessaging.com/painpoints. It’s FREE, and there’s no opt-in required. I just want you to have it. 

I also did a live training on my Facebook page @christanicholsmessaging. Come on over and visit me – I can’t wait to see you there!

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