Story Telling 101

Story Telling 101

Story Telling 101;  Are YOU doing it right?

by Dave Cottrell

Story Telling 101;  How to tell your story so your audience will listen.  They, whoever they are, ought to have a class on this subject for everyone starting online.  It could be included in Internet Marketing 101 or something very similar!                                                                                                     Story Telling 101

I went to my mailbox, yesterday, and in there, along with all the other junk mail, bills, reminders, etc., was a small, robin’s egg blue envelope.

The first thing I noticed when I turned it over was the way it was addressed.  The address was correct, except that it had redundant information on it that hasn’t been used here for a very long time.

Somewhat intrigued, I looked at the return address and the name of the sender, only to find the mystery increasing.   It was not from someone whose name I recognized.

I had to go to pick up my daughter-in-law and grandchildren who were waiting outside the local clinic where they can gone to have my youngest grandson’s cast checked (he’s a little tank who thinks he’s indestructible) and the weather was not conducive to waiting long.  I had only stopped briefly en route to pick up the mail, so had to set the rather thick little envelope aside until later.

After dropping off my passengers, and once I was back in my office, I opened the intriguing little package.  story telling

Inside was a short, personal note to me, typed in “typewriter” font on a notepad-sized sheet of paper, and signed in ink by the sender.

The note was only one paragraph, and was a challenge to me to read a little story, in a very small, attractive, paperback booklet that was included with the note.

There is a very important point to make at this part of the story:  This might have been thrown away by most people, but it was laser targeted to me.  After all, of course it was advertising!  What else would it be, considering that it came from a complete stranger?

But it didn’t end there.

Inside that little book was a story.  But the story, itself, had a little introductory “teaser’ of its own.

Here’s what I read:  “How seven sick salmon, unconventional wisdom, serendipity and a beer brewery saved an economy, healed the hopeless, and changed the course of modern Immunology.”  

Does that sound interesting, or what?    The word, “serendipity,” while fitting somewhat if you stretched it a bit to the story, was perfect for the sound and “feel” of that little introduction.

The story, itself, is very interesting.  It tells of a problem so serious it threatened an entire industry and the economy of a modern nation!  It goes on to explain how conventional wisdom failed miserably and catastrophically, and how finally, an expert was hired who had an unconventional idea that worked.

From there, the story expands into how the solution was financed, how the financiers and the expert developed a co-operation together that expanded into a large and very successful business, and how the final product jumped boundaries from the original problem-solution challenges to solving problems of human immunology.  The story telling in this little book is fascinating and kept my attention, right through the few short product pages at the very end.

You see, this book was a terrific example for “Story Telling 101.”  It got my attention right from the beginning, spun a very good yarn that kept me interested, and nailed it right after the main story with enough information on the product being sold to get me to their website.

This is what successful advertising is all about.  It is story telling at its best.

First of all, it was targeted.  I don’t know where the person who sent it to me got my address, because while accurate enough to get the package to me, it is a very old format that hasn’t been used for about twenty years.  However, this person must know enough about me to spend the time and money to send me something that was very targeted to my particular needs.

I have Lyme disease, and have since the end of 2007.  It was not diagnosed early, which is not a good thing.  When diagnosed early, while still in the acute stage – that is, still in the blood only – it is very simple to cure with a short run of antibiotics.

However, the longer it is left untreated, the more it goes into surrounding tissues and organs, forms cysts, globules, no-cell-wall structures, and biofilms, making it extremely difficult to treat, and leaving the very real possibility for life of it returning, even after all symptoms disappear.

The ONLY treatment proven to work, no matter how many well-meaning folks tell me differently, and no matter how many alternative health practitioners who haven’t done their homework also tell me differently, is with heavy doses of multiple differnct antibiotics over a long period of time.

The problem with this is that the antibiotics, themselves, begin to take a toll, and ALSO harm the immune system, along with the organisms they are supposed to destroy.  It is therefore necessary, at the same time as taking the antibiotics, to support the immune system and help it to be strengthened.  That is no simple challenge, and there is no magic bullet, despite what so many friends (and ambulance chasers) have told me of their own products.

With that said, I will go back to MY story telling 101!  It is a certainty that this doctor who sent me this information has found out about my case.  Perhaps he has been to my website, which I set up to help others like me.  Perhaps he has seen posts on Facebook or other venues.  But the bottom line is, he has picked a very powerfully targeted individual for his story telling.

Let me ask you a question.  How often have you found yourself talking about something that is terrifically interesting to you, only to notice that at least one person in your group is showing signs of extreme boredom and a strong desire to be somewhere else?

No matter how good your story telling, it is NOT going to be of interest to everyone.  The very first thing you need to make sure of in your online story telling for your business is that you’re story telling has got an audience that is interested!  You could be telling your story to thousands and thousands of the wrong people!

Next, when you are certain of your audience, you need to get their attention.  That means you need to appeal to their emotions and nail them with an emotion loaded statement that promises to make their life better.

I will share contents of the note I received from the good doctor:  “Dear Dave,  No matter what your health condition, even if you’ve given up all hope, read this little book.  It will change your life!  Sincerely…”

I’ve been fighting this battle for quite a while, and am certain that I’ve done a LOT more research than most, including most doctors on this particular topic.  In other words, I am skeptical about ANYTHING that even MIGHT be helpful.

However, the compelling words of this little introduction were enough to get me to open the book.  Read the above statement the doctor made to me again, and just think about it.  It is LOADED with emotion.  It’s telling me it doesn’t matter what has come before, it doesn’t matter how skeptical I am, even if I’ve given up hope, if I do this, it if going to fix my life!  That is powerful!  That is a very well-crafted call to action!

Then give your readers a short, punchy overview of what they will find in the story, appealing to their curiosity.  Use words like “how, why, when, what,where” and phrases like “ten ways,” etc.  These either ask a question that demands and answer or promise something you might not find anywhere else.  They propel you prospect from simply a name on a page to someone who is actively involved in the story you’re telling, because they now have a strong desire to have their curiosity satisfied.  story telling woman

Tell your story.  Tell it like you would tell any story.  Don’t start with the ending (the product or service), but tell the story.  Every story has a beginning, a climax and a conclusion.  In good story telling, you want to hit hard with your opening, driving up the curiosity if you possibly can.  Take the time to work on your first few paragraphs, because this is where you are going to set the tone and drive up the curiosity and interest that will take your reader through to the climax, finish, and finally, your product page.

Keep your story interesting!  There’s nothing worse when you are hanging out with friends, starting into story telling that has their rapt attention, only to notice them yawning and looking away before you get anywhere near the end.  Keep on track.  Don’t go rabbit tripping all over the place.  Fortunately, in printed media, you can proofread and remove details that are not on target or don’t help the story. (Most of us could probably use this in verbal communication if it were possible!)

Before you get to your product page, give some anecdotes about other people who have used your product or service with great results.  If you can do it, keep your story telling going in this area with emotion laden stories of how people have had their problems solved and their lives changed for the better WITHOUT revealing the name of your product.  If you use this strategy in your story telling, it heightens the excitement and emotional pull for your product when you finally do reveal it.

Finally, do reveal your product.  Name it and immediately provide an easy, clear, and convenient way for your reader to make the purchase.  This should be a short as possible.  Your story telling has already accomplished its purpose of getting your prospect on the sales page, and hopefully, buying something.  Make their purchase fast, secure, and pleasant.  You’ve done your job!

– About the author – 

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  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
    ~ Maya Angelou

    This quote speaks to what you are talking about Dave and that is the “STORY”

    The fact is we can be the best story tellers in the world, but if we are not targeting to the right people, then we may as well be talking to ourselves.
    Many marketers tend to get so lost in the shouting out their ads, they forget what social media is about..telling that story.
    It is getting harder to get people to feel these days as our attention economics is more challenging. It is through blog posts such as yours that we can start understanding that we need to learn how to focus that “story” and learn how to track who is listening so that we can keep sharing with the right people.

    Some of the things I am still learning how to do with Story telling is
    1. creating a good goal
    2. learning to understand what “your” people want to hear
    3. learning how to evoke a response in people
    …it all takes time!

  • Amen! You nailed it, Diane. It DOES take time and it DOES take work, and maybe that’s what the problem is in this crazy online world.

    People are treating this just like the people of yesterday treated the various gold rushes. They expect to get rich in a moment with almost no work, and they end up going broke or worse in the process.
    Dave Cottrell recently posted…Google SlappedMy Profile

    • In the internet marketing boom the point of selling was more push selling where people pushed out the ads or classifieds and were able to make money doing it.
      The reality is that the internet has changed and with the advent of social media, it is now recognized that selling is more a pull marketing.
      There is a cool term that speaks to story telling and that is “attention economics”.
      Basically it means that the managing of information is a commodity and its is getting very scarce with the more information that we are being bombarded with.
      It is only by learning how to leverage a persons attention via branding or telling that story, that people can hope to make a sale and maybe more important a persons loyalty.
      We are always going to have to use a variety of means to accomplish the goal of marketing, understanding these terms is important to create a good strategy.

      • Very true. Above all, just tell YOUR story YOUR way. What I see really creating a lot of problems for people is getting bogged down by all the so-called experts with their “Next-big-secret.” The real secret is to tell the story in your own words about something you are interested in and passionate about. That can be fine tuned.
        It’s kind of like tuning a guitar well. If you have a guitar, there are lots of things you can do to make it sound better, but the really important thing about tuning a guitar is having one to start with! 😉
        Dave Cottrell recently posted…Google SlappedMy Profile

  • Spot on, Dave. Excellent post. Should be a compelling subject for any marketer, and what I especially like is that you not only TELL HOW it’s done, you SHOW by doing. This is what every story teller needs to know, study, review.

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  • Excellent article Dave. Great subject too, it’s the story that get’s the attention every time. The long sales letter is a time tested technique. Did you try the product and did it help you?

    • Thanks Jim.

      No, I haven’t yet tried the product. I have been doing my research, first. A good story does not necessarily mean that the person who wrote it is on the up and up. In this case, the “person” who sent it to me does not appear to exist.

      That said, the product, itself, is rooted in reality and good science, so this person may still have done me a favour. I am still looking into it, as the scientific studies say that it has to be manufactured properly or the body cannot absorb it. This might be a future story. lol.
      Dave Cottrell recently posted…Google SlappedMy Profile

  • Hi Dave, Great story telling and marketing advice. I agree with most of what you said up until the end when you said that…”You’ve done your job.” I believe that your job has just begun. Lets say your are that person that has the product to sell, You tell your story and capture your prospects attention. They go so far as to make a purchase. At this point your job has just begun. It is important to follow up with your new customer. Make sure that they receive the product and are happy with it. More than that is to get to know the person and develop a long term relationship. It is one thing to get new customers but it is so important to take care of the ones that you have. I like that you mentioned doing the research on the product. The science involved in the production of a product is of the utmost importance. Your points about the immune system and the need to support it when taking antibiotics shows that you know what you are talking about. I do wish you the best in dealing with the Lyme disease.


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