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A Quick Guide to Better Storytelling



5 min read

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You’ve probably heard the saying: ‘We buy on emotions and justify with logic.’ 

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman discussed this notion in detail, stating that 95% of all cognition happens in the subconscious mind. 

But although neuroscientists have long agreed that the rational mind plays a small role in decision making, many B2B sales messages still favor facts, figures and logic.

Some B2B marketers emphasize the more emotional benefits of their product or service, such as saving time or avoiding stress. However, these tactics often fail to resonate with buyers on a deep, emotional level that elicits a reaction, such as a sense of accomplishment, feelings of security or even nostalgia.

So, how can we tap into people’s emotions to increase conversion rates? How can we resonate so strongly with our target market that they convert effortlessly?

Enter storytelling.

Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling

Stories can effortlessly change our emotions and physiological state — and, consequently, our actions.

I’ll prove it to you right now.

Imagine a fresh, juicy lemon in your hand. Imagine squeezing it and feeling the lemon’s cool, textured skin with your fingertips. It’s firm and ripe. You put it to your nose and can smell its bright, citrusy scent. Next, you carefully place the lemon between your teeth and brace yourself.  Then, you bite down hard. A rush of zingy, sour lemon juice squirts out and pours into your mouth.

If you’re like most people, your mouth is probably salivating right now — I know mine is, and I haven’t seen a lemon all day.

Science has proven again and again that stories are one of the most effective ways of communicating. In fact, a study at Princeton University by the neuroscientist Uri Hassen discovered that during successful communication, the listener’s brain responses mirror the speaker’s brain responses.

This shows that the feelings and emotions portrayed through storytelling are easily transferred to business leads — if you tell a good story, of course.

But stories aren’t just powerful communication devices — they’re also able to influence objective value.

Related: Storytelling Can Help Anyone Connect to Your Brand 

A good story can increase the value of your offer

Are you familiar with the literary and anthropological experiment called Significant Objects?

Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn wanted to find out if they could buy cheap knick-knacks on eBay and resell them at a profit by adding an interesting story to the product page’s description. They bought things like a fake plastic banana and a flannel ball for an average cost of $1.25 per item.

The hypothesis? Emotionally charged stories can dramatically increase both the subjective and objective value of an object.

Here’s what happened: Walker and Glenn managed to sell $128.74 worth of thrift-store junk for $3,612.51 — just by adding a compelling story.

The fake banana was purchased for measly 0.25 cents and sold — with the aid of a cartoon story about a man who lives in a zoo installation on another planet — for a whopping $76. 

Or, to put it another way, a short story can increase the value of an object by 30,300%.

This is the reason why you can buy a plain, organic, fair trade white cotton t-shirt for $30 or a white cotton t-shirt from a designer brand for hundreds of dollars. It doesn’t even matter if the designer t-shirt costs less to produce than the fairtrade t-shirt. People value the brand.

But why are brands so valuable? Because of their ability to influence the way people feel – and how do brands influence the way people feel? With stories.

Related: Stories Are Entrepreneurs’ Most Powerful Tool. But What Ingredient Gives Them Power? 

You don’t need to tell a story — you can trigger one

Marketers often employ storytelling in branding campaigns. For example, we’ve all seen advertisements from big brands like Nike and Coca-Cola telling the story of an athlete’s arduous journey from zero to hero.

But how can we use storytelling to increase conversion rates on landing pages, product pages and forms? It’s not like we can pull up a chair and spin a tale for each stage of the marketing funnel.

Thankfully, we don’t have to.

It’s a well-known scientific fact that humans tend to look for patterns—even when there are none. Here’s the thing: the patterns we see are based on years of social and societal conditioning.

In other words, your target market already has a library of stories in their minds. 

All you need to do is trigger the right story to generate the emotions that lead to conversions. Something as simple as an image, phrase or even a color scheme can achieve this goal.

This is why perfume advertisers have always used images of young, beautiful people in luxurious surroundings. Our minds will automatically construct a story around the image, perhaps placing the models at an exclusive event full of important, famous people. As a result, this story will trigger feelings of luxury, adoration and pride.

Related: How to Use Storytelling to Sell Your Brand and Vision 

Increase your conversion rates with powerful stories

If you want to increase your conversion rates, you need to elicit a powerful emotional—and perhaps also physiological—reaction from your website visitor.

The aim is to trigger a story that resonates with their thoughts and emotions so profoundly they feel compelled to purchase or sign up.

How can you do this? 

Reverse engineer the buyer’s journey and focus on eliciting the perfect concoction of emotions:

  1. Determine the reasons why people purchase your product or service.
  2. Identify the emotions driving these reasons.
  3. Pinpoint a familiar story or narrative that generates these emotions. 
  4. Find ways to trigger this story in your marketing funnel.

Arguably, storytelling is the most effective tool in a marketer’s arsenal. Use it wisely.

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