Marketing

3 reasons to stop selling and start storytelling

The benefits of evoking emotion

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I’m a dude, so it’s easy for me to remember a random sports statistic or an obscure line out of a movie. But in our defense (yes, I’m now speaking for all dudes, so that I’m not going at this alone) those stats and lines tie back to a story.

Peter Gabriel’s song “In Your Eyes” will forever bring on the image of Lloyd Dobler holding his boombox over his head. Why? Because that song — from the iconic scene from the ’80s classic “Say Anything” — is part of the film’s story.

A song, a stat, a life lesson — all of them stick when there is a story involved. The strength of that “stickiness” leads to a more memorable story, and that is where the power of storytelling can be leverage.

Whether it’s blogging, a marketing campaign, advice, an Instagram or a Facebook post, remarkable stories will be shared again and again. That’s why, especially in today’s world, it’s the stories behind a product or service that lead to recognition and sell.

Here are three most beneficial effects of using storytelling as a sales tool:

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1. Stories evoke emotion

When was the last time you cried? I’m not talking about a lump in the throat or a single tear running down your cheek because you were moved when Groot says, “We are Groot.”

I’m talking about uncontrollably crying because you are so overcome with emotion.

For me, it was my brother’s rehearsal lunch the day before his wedding. I made a toast about how proud I was of him, how amazing it was to watch him grow into a man.

I found myself welling up with emotion, and I started crying — real tears. In my heightened state of emotions, I said “I” was his biggest hero. Then I quickly realized it and corrected myself by saying my brother was my biggest hero. Laughter washed over the tears (mine and the guests).

The point is that a personal story is never emotionally neutral. Using storytelling as a sales tool attaches emotion to whatever it is you have to offer; no longer are you selling a home or a widget, you’re selling the story and the emotion that comes with it.

Pro tip:

You can’t fake or manipulate a story. Be authentic and honest while connecting with your audience.

Telling a client about a couple who was devastated when their dream home was purchased out from under them because they didn’t give their highest bid upfront is way more effective than expecting them to listen because you’re the expert. Use your experiences to paint a picture.

2. Stories are easy to remember

A friend told me about a business trip he took to Chicago. He got on an elevator, and an exceptionally tall man ducked in as the doors closed.

My friend felt like he recognized the man from somewhere but just couldn’t remember where. My friend, who is about 5 feet 7 inches tall, realized the man he thought he recognized was a good foot taller than him.

To break the silence, my friend asked, “Do you play basketball?” Without missing a beat, the man said, “No, are you a jockey?” The door opened, and the man left my friend behind in a jumbled heap.

I’ll never forget that story or the lesson that comes with it. Conveying the benefits of your product or service through a story makes it easier to remember and more likely to be retold. Having your story retold is the first step in making your brand go viral.

Pro tip:

Humor often makes a lasting impression. Think of your favorite commercial, I bet it’s funny with a great punchline or plot twist.

Using humor shows your audience that even though you take them seriously, you don’t take yourself too seriously. If you are going to use humor, don’t let it be in the form of a joke or at someone else’s expense.

Even the cleanest joke could be taken the wrong way or fall flat.

3. Stories are more likely to be shared

I rarely got sick as a child, but somehow I got chickenpox — three times. Yes, three times. The first two times it was very mild. But the third time, it finally unleashed in full force.

It seriously felt like I was sent to this world to spread chickenpox to every kid in the neighborhood, repeatedly.

The Internet has given the ability for videos, pictures and words to go viral. How is a virus spread? It’s shared between a few. Then that few become many, then — as Malcolm Gladwell coined it — it tips.

Exponential or viral growth is the dream of any brand or product. The fear of missing something takes over, and before you know it, you’re waiting outside of an Apple store for a new phone that’s not much different than your current one that works perfectly fine.

Unfortunately, not all of us have the capabilities of Apple’s marketing machine.

That being said, we have stories about why we do what we do and who we are. Be generous, proud and honest with your stories. Those people you help and cared for will willingly tell others about you — thus spreading your story.

Pro tip:

Reputation matters. When we like, share, retweet and comment, we are putting our online reputation at stake. We share what we like so others can know who we are. When we share an inspirational quote, it’s because we want to inspire our friends and make them feel happy and warm inside.

So take the time to craft your message — even spend time crafting the title. Because “Become a hero to your audience in 3 quick steps” sounds way more interesting than “3 things to do to have a better email marketing campaign.”

Using emotion, making things memorable and knowing how to prompt people to share are three key ways storytelling will boost your sales.

We might not all have all the clients we want right now, but we all have the stories within us to attract them.

Jan Michael Aldea is a founder and president at Go Left Marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @JanMichaelAldea or LinkedIn.

Email Jan Michael Aldea.