By the end of this post, you will know the secret of how to develop content for your business using the power of story.

We will review a simple formula that simplifies this seemingly complicated task into easy, quick steps.

As avid readers, my wife and I took extra effort to make sure that our kids enjoyed reading too. Our house was stocked with all sorts of primers, from See Spot Run to Arthur the Aardvark. I can still quote some of their favorites.

Unfortunately, our youngest was having difficulty reading when she was ready to enter school. While reading with her, she struggled mightily. Many times in trying to sound out the words, she would start start with the last letter of the word, so ‘run’ would start “Nnnn – Uhhhh”

Worried that she might be dyslexic, we took her to a specialist to see if that might be the issue.

We were relieved to hear that the results of numerous tests ruled that out. We redoubled our efforts, spending lots of time reading together.

But still she struggled. Her attention span was short, and her frustrations would build until they all let loose. It was a heart-rending scene, oft repeated. Fun and adventure turned into drudgery for her, painful for us.

Her increased resistance only amplified our desire to make sure she had the building blocks for educational success. We were getting nowhere, fast. My anxiety level was going through the roof!

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Struggling to Find the Story

Yet this was the same kid who would sit for hours in front of the TV watching a Disney movie over and over. As I pondered the issue, I had a flash of insight. She was working so hard to get the individual words, that the STORY was getting lost.

There was no story, just individual words that stood alone. So I came up with a new approach.

More on that later.

As we reviewed in my earlier post on using stories to sell, we humans have developed fine tuned abilities to recognize advertising. When think we’re getting pitched, our shields go up.

Conversely, we’re hard wired to stories. Evolution has made us highly receptive to stories, and a well told story affects us emotionally. If you can wrap your marketing message into a good story, there is a much higher possibility that your message will be heard, and acted upon.

Far too often however, our marketing messages revert to the hackneyed ways of the past. We talk too much about ourselves, our firms and our products, and little if at all about our customers.  There might be a story here, but if so, it is pretty boring.

“‘Dog bites man’? Heard that one before.”

The old methods are easy. We are exposed to them multiple times each day, We do what is familiar, because it is the only model we have.

Story telling on the other hand seems to be hard. Not just because we don’t have good examples, but also because when you think story, you think about the last great novel you read, or the block buster movie.

It isn’t that hard. Not when you’ve got the key to using stories in your marketing.

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3 5 3 – Story Telling By the Numbers

Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker proved that storytelling works for marketing. She assigned her students a project to deliver a one minute marketing presentation.

  • 90% of the class used traditional messaging, with facts and figures.
  • The remaining 10% used story as the medium.

After they all had presented, each student was asked to write down everything they could remember about each presentation. Only 5% could remember a specific fact or percentage, but 63% remembered the story.

So it is obvious that using story in our marketing messages works.

But you are an incredibly busy professional. You may not think of yourself as a writer. But you have decided that you want to use story telling to attract prospects and retain customers. How do you get started?

To write a story that catches and keeps our attention, use a simple  3 number formula.  Three.  Five. Three. 

  • The first step is to define the three part foundation.You build the foundation by determining your audience and their situation; develop the action by identifying the story points that move your story from inception to conclusion; and create that conclusion so that it follows logically from the action.
  • Then you identify the five plot features that will add color to the story. The customer becomes the hero, and solving their problem is the goal. You are the mentor, helping the customer overcome the obstacle that forms the crux of the problem.
  • Finally you use the three principles of story movement to determine how to sequence the story components to create suspense and the emotional highs and lows that capture and keep your audience’s attention.

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Long Story Short.

It’s easy to parrot the simple advertising that is all around us, if only because it is so prevalent. Good stories engage us in ways no simple advertising can, and when teamed with the right sales message can be far more influential than traditional advertising.

Although writing stories to help you sell seems like very hard work, the 3 5 3 formula presented above dramatically simplifies the process. In my next post, I will explain the 3 5 3 formula in detail and provide examples that will help you start using the formula to write your own stories that sell.

But how about my daughter’s challenge with reading?

Her sisters were devouring the “Harry Potter” series of books, and armed with my new assumption that the struggles of ‘reading the words’ were destroying the concept of ‘reading the story’, I committed to reading the first book of the series with her, reading in bed every night. But this wasn’t her reading; it was me reading aloud to her.

All she had to do was to get lost in Hogwarts’ halls and let her imagination soar with the Griffindor Quidditch team.

Over time, the effort paid off. She began to see beyond the words to find the story. Reading went from terrible to terrific, and many times she’d be elbowing me awake to keep the story going. And when she read a sentence or two from time to time, her interest in finding out what happened next powered her over the rough spots.

We went on to read all of the books together, and today she to is a voracious reader. The other day she came home and handed me the first in a series of books and said,”Dad, here is a good one. You should read it next!”

And that is the power of story.

Good Selling,

Marty Agather

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