There is a saying in the marketing and sales world:
No one wants to be sold to but everyone wants to buy.
If that is true, how do we capture the readers who land on our eCommerce site? How do we make them want to know more about our products? How do we motivate them to buy without pushing hard sales messages at them?
One way to do it is through a well-told story. Stories not only educate people about your product but they engage so your potential customers want to connect with you. And the very best ones also entertain us and keep us coming back for more.
Why stories work: the science behind the art
As we have talked about in past posts, when you use stories in your business, you are hitting your readers’ emotions and senses. They will remember your content because you have touched the heart as well as the head.
MRI nuero-imagery shows that when consumers look at brands, they use more of the parts of their brains that sense emotions (feelings and human experiences) than the parts that process pure facts and data. Researchers in Spain found that appealing to the senses activates specific parts of the brain. For example, words that evoke smells will light up the olfactory cortex of the brain.
When we awaken the senses, we create emotional connections that influence buying decisions.
How to write ‘sticky’ stories
When we read a good story, our brains are hardwired to remember it. ‘Sticky’ stories just have more staying power.
What is a ‘sticky’ story? It’s one that the reader can’t get out of her brain. Once David Letterman started his late night show with a hilarious stunt. He ran across the stage and hurled himself against a Velcro wall, his arms and legs sticking, like a fly caught in a spider’s web.
Think of your reader’s mind as that Velcro. You want your stories to stick—to stay with her so she remembers them.
Sticky stories do three things. 1) They appeal to the senses; 2) they bond with your reader; and 3) they get emotional buy-in.
5 ways to tell your product’s story online
The easiest place to start experimenting with storytelling is on your site’s about page. From there, you can expand, strategically placing your stories to capture attention and turn your readers into customers. Here are some ideas:
1. Share the story of your company’s beginnings.
How you got started in your online business can make an interesting story. If the name you chose for your business has special significance, why not share that?
Each time I told the story of how we came up with the name of our first business, Cat’s Eye Design, I would get a reaction because it was funny and touching at the same time. The short version of the story went something like this:
…One day in early March, after four hours of struggling to find a unique name for our new business, we came to a dead end. Nothing felt quite right.
Bob looked at the dozens of bright pink sticky notes on the white board and said, “I don’t like any of these ideas. I think we should call it Cat’s Eye.”
We knew we had hit on something. The name conjured attention to detail, persistence in capturing a client’s vision, keen observation skills and the ability to pounce on a good idea.
Cat’s Eye it would be.
24 hours later, a ferocious spring storm slammed Ocean Shores. From the direction of the patio door, amid the howling winds and torrential rains, I heard a faint cry.
I opened the sliding door. Before me was a shivering, bony kitten. He was pure white with oversized Yoda-like ears.
I scooped him up, took him inside and towel-dried him. When I turned him around, I saw something strange. His right eye was green and his left, bright blue.
It was an omen. The odd-eyed cat was telling us that Cat’s Eye was the right name.
The feline once at death’s door now tips the scale at 24 pounds and is official mascot and manager of public relations here at Cat’s Eye.
Now this story wasn’t particularly created to sell anything, but it was amazing how many people felt connected to it—and our name. We would run into people five years later, who we had only met once, and they would say, “It’s Cat’s Eye!” and extend their hand.
They remembered the story. It was sticky.
2. Tell stories in your team members’ profiles.
Try writing the profiles on your team page as mini-stories. Sprinkle in unique things like home states/towns, what led them to working with your company, their passions outside the office and personality quirks that make them unique.
If you are a solopreneur, consider telling your backstory. In fiction writing, that’s the piece that tells readers what they need to know about the character: the events that shaped her and impact her thinking and behavior as the current story moves forward.
People have a natural curiosity about your background and the experiences that brought you to where you are today.
This is your backstory.
I once helped a business coach write her bio. In it, she told a tale of going from “broke, busted and disgusted” to becoming an award-winning coach and nationally renowned speaker.
It was an important story because it showed her readers that she gets what it means to be stuck, that she understands the barriers to growth and that she knows how to get people on the road to living a life of passion.
Your story helps us understand your personal journey and we remember it long after the telling is over.
3. Use storytelling techniques on your blog.
One storytelling tool that works well is the use of metaphors. It’s a fun way to give your readers a visual “hook” to hang ideas on. In one of Bob’s posts on blog design, he compared a blog to a house. The point was that visitors are ringing your blog’s doorbell, wondering if they will find what they need inside.
In story form, Bob walked his readers through the features of a user-friendly blog, starting with the foundation (the theme) and moving on to the front door (the blog’s header), the main rooms (the navigation bar), the garage (the tools in the sidebar) the front porch (the comments section) and the playroom (the place to be generous with our “content toys” through the social share buttons).
Even non-technically inclined readers could visualize the features and functions of a blog by comparing them to something simple: a house. And from that, they could better see which areas of their own blog might need a little work.
To read that post, go here.
4. Tell the history behind your online products.
Whether your site sells t-shirts, outdoor gear, organic teas or something else, when you come up with a new product, your readers might enjoy knowing the story behind it: how and why it was created. Introduce a problem they can relate to and tell how you created a solution with your product. You might:
- tell what frustrated you with the design of similar products
- share ‘learning curve’ experiences: what worked, what didn’t
- supplement your stories with engaging photos
Consider telling what inspired you to create a new piece in a line of products. For example, if you have an online store that sells hand-crafted pieces of jewelry, describe your products with stories that answer some of these questions:
What motivated you to create this particular necklace?
What is the story behind an interesting gem in the necklace?
Where did some of the beads originate from and how were they made?
Who in history or literature would you imagine might wear this necklace and in what setting?
5. Tell a story from real life to illustrate a business point.
Often we compartmentalize our lives.
“First I was a bartender. Then I went to school and got my degree. Then I became an accountant and now I own my own business.”
Don’t do that. Every experience you have had in life makes your story richer and contributes to who you are today and what you have learned about life.
In one of my former lives, I was a teacher of first graders—six- and seven-year-olds. On first thought, that would not appear to have made me a better blogger, marketer and business owner.
But it did. Because it made me a keen observer of human nature and taught me lessons about how people behave and interact.
In one blog post, Building a Blogger’s Community: What I Learned at Recess, I posed the question: what would happen if we took a few moments a week to recognize our blogging colleagues and shine a light on some of their accomplishments? And it all came to me from one experience on the playground with my class.
It is very likely that you, too, have past experiences, stories that could benefit your readers and improve their lives or businesses.
What do you think about this?
Have you tried marketing your online business with stories?
An audio option for this post.