When I first started using storytelling in my copywriting, I thought the goal would be to engage readers’ attention.
That’s the standard line from storytelling gurus.
“Your readers are overwhelmed with content. They’re bored. You need something to get them to stop and read what you’ve written. That’s why you need stories.”
But I noticed that some stories didn’t work that way. Some stories were so strong and powerful they actually turned readers into qualified leads … and often went one step further, to turn them into buyers.
At first these stories didn’t seem to have much in common.
One business owner invited readers to imagine themselves on a VIP day. They’d be met at the airport and driven to a luxury hotel. Their working sessions would be interrupted by a delicious seafood lunch. An afternoon break might be a walk on the beach.
Another told stories about clients who never thought they’d be able to reach their financial goals. Their family almost split up over money arguments. Now they were buying a house and planning a dream vacation.
Finally I noticed a pattern. The stories that sold incorporated 5 elements of success. And by chance, I recently ran across a story that’s likely to bring the marketer a ton of sales, in a very unlikely industry: real estate. This very short story — literally sized to fit on a post card — packs a wallop.
A COMPELLING REAL ESTATE STORY
One of the toughest places to differentiate yourself is the real estate industry. By pure chance, I came across an example of excellent copy – with a model success story – that you might find useful for almost any industry.
Like many of you, I get post cards in the mail from real estate agents all over the city. Even though I’ve just bought and have no intention of selling for the next ten years, I get these notices. Mostly I ignore them, as they tend to sound alike.
But just today I got a card from an agent I’d never heard of — Reid Rosenthal of The Rosenthal Group in Philly. I read every word. His copy could be a model for how to write a success story in any field, but it’s particularly impressive because he’s in real estate. Here’s what he wrote:
“We were employed by the seller of this gorgeous loft condo at [location] after it sat on the market unsold for over 200 days with their previous Realtor. We took new professional photos, virtually staged the condo and put our powerful marketing plan to work We put it under contract in 7 days!
“Selling your home for top dollar requires a marketing strategy that’s as unique as it is effective. Ensuring that the sale happens quickly requires the diligence of a highly active team paired with an extensive network. We offer the most innovative and aggressive real estate marketing services that you deserve.”
What makes this copy work?
(1) He’s got a genuine success.
No amount of copywriting can achieve results that become possible when you can document a strong outcome, preferably with numbers. “Over 200 days on the market” is every home seller’s nightmare.
You can’t fake it.
But if you’ve been in business awhile, you probably have something you can point to — not just something you’ve achieved, but an outcome you can help others achieve, if they qualify and follow your guidance.
For instance, do you deliver ordinary outcomes faster or easier, or with less equipment? You could promise, “Work out at home with just two plastic bands and a handweight.” One successful marketer created a lead magnet, “How To Get 1000 Subscribers in 30 Days.”
This Realtor pointed to a very specific, verifiable outcome — the ideal ingredient.
(2) He set up the example as a story.
A lot of Realtors would write, “This beautiful home sat on the market for 200 days. Then the seller hired us.”
This story focuses on how the Realtor solved this problem. In the language of Storybrand, the seller is the hero and the Realtor is the guide.
Beginning a story with, “We were hired…” sets your reader up in problem-solving mode.
A lot of service business owners don’t like to use the word “hired.” But experienced marketers aren’t afraid to introduce the elephant in the room. Your readers know they’ll be hiring someone. You won’t be buddies. Words like “retained” or “consulted with” might seem a little more elegant and professional, but ultimately they boil down to the same thing. You’re hired to do a job. Let’s get on with it!
(3) The story explained HOW they carried out the job. They were specific, not abstract or general.
They took photos.
They did virtual staging. As someone who’s dealt with wonderful non-virtual stagers, this statement alone would get my attention.
They referred to “our powerful marketing plan.” This statement suggests they’ve got a proven solution – a marketing plan that’s been known to work.
(4) They showed what they did … just enough to give you a sense of what they did, but not so much that you feel, “I could do this myself.”
This is the trickiest part of copywriting. The standard guideline is, “Show what you do … but now how you do it.”
But share too little and you’re just not credible. Share too much and … well, this time you did give away the store.
(5) They followed up with some straightforward reasons to choose their company.
In business, telling a story is just the first step; you have to clarify just what you want the reader to take away.
It’s Critical To Identify your purpose.
The purpose of this story was to differentiate this particular company from the hundreds of competitors out there. This purpose drives the words you use, the details you share and the summary.
Note that the purpose wasn’t to entertain, engage or captivate. It was about moving the readers to see themselves as winners…and to understand how hiring this company could make that goal possible.