As inbound marketers, we want to create content that breaks through the clutter and gets the attention of our target persona. Our brains are wired for story, and the classic Hollywood storytelling structure that sells movie tickets also works to captivate your prospects.
Every story has the same elements; and every movie that’s ever kept you on the edge of your seat follows the same structure — but it goes beyond weekend entertainment.
Storytelling Sells Your Brand and Vision
Every story contains the following elements:
- There is a hero we can relate to who…
- We want to root for, who…
- wants or desires something that is just out of reach
- They have problems and struggles; there might even be an evil…
- antagonist keeping them from their dreams
- Through a series of missteps and plot twists, the hero learns and grows, often with the help of a guide
- The audience makes an emotional connection with the hero, as we experience their story, and the…
- conflict is resolved, hopefully, but not always, with a happily-ever-after ending
From boardroom sales pitches, to speeches from the stage, to case studies shared via video or writing — story sells. As much as someone goes into a meeting with the intent to learn, a few weeks down the line, they will only remember the big ideas. And, the stories you tell ensure it’s you and your organization that the prospect remembers.
Identify Your Characters
Before you can tell a blockbuster story, you need to head to casting. There are three characters you’ll want to identify:
- Who is the hero? Your potential customer is the hero of the story. As you tell the story, remember that they are the star. The story is always about the hero, their challenges, and their journey.
- Who (or what) is the antagonist? This is the villain, the person we root against, and the person or situation that contributes to the story’s conflict. This could be the environment, self-sabotage, a competitor, a poor decision — anything that keeps our hero from what they want.
- Who is the guide? That’s YOU! With your help, the hero overcomes their problem and lives happily ever after. Remember, as in all good stories, the guide does not solve the problem. The guide provides the resources that help the hero make the choice on their own.
Examples of famous guides: Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid, The Genie in Aladdin, Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter, and every Fairy Godmother you’ve ever encountered.
Begin Telling Your Story
To pull this together and begin telling stories that sell, think about:
- What do you do? If someone asked you what you specialized in, how would you answer? Take it deeper than the first thing that pops into your head.
- What are your customer’s pain points? What do they want? What is the problem that is just out of reach for them?
- What is the sticking point that is keeping them from being successful?
- How do you/your products/your services address these pain points?
Next, identify some core stories around key areas of your business.
Types of Stories to Tell
Your stories don’t all have to be long. Maybe you’ve heard of the Six Word Stories website, which is inspired by Hemingway's famous six word tale, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” It doesn’t need to be long to pack a punch.
Maybe you need to send out an email, but you don’t know how to start it. You could tell a relatable story from your day that you use to transition into some points about your product/service.
Tell a multi-part story in a series of emails or blog posts. We all like a good cliff hanger, and they’ll be eager to come back for the next installment.
The next time you need to punch up your content, think about the Hollywood story structure. Then, cast your characters, and think about the type of story you want to tell. You’ll connect with your audience and have a blockbuster every time.