Marketers don’t sell products or services—they sell experiences, feelings, and transformations. And to do that well, they tell stories in a way that makes you feel like you’re temporarily transported into a different place and time.
You’re not just watching a father teach his son to shave for the first time…you are the dad in the commercial, showing your son how to move the blade across his skin without nicking himself. Or you’re back in your childhood home, watching in awe as your dad removes the stubble from his face, feeling excited and proud of the day you’ll grow your first facial hair and join him by the sink.
We don’t remember what our friend bought at the grocery store…we remember the story they told us about going to the grocery store…how they ran into an old crush from college and felt so flustered they dropped the glass jar of tomato sauce and ended up covering themselves and said crush in bright red, sticky paste.
And there’s actually a scientific reason why. When you’re immersed in a great story your brain goes into an alpha wavelength state, that accesses your subconscious mind, so it feels like you’re actually experiencing the story, not just watching or reading it.
As human beings, our brains are literally wired for stories, which is why stories are such powerful marketing tools.
But how do you actually tell a captivating, memorable story? These three storytelling secrets will help you craft powerful narratives you can use to talk about what you do and why it matters in a way that feels natural, easy, and authentically you. Because it’s possible to grow your career or business in a way that feels good, and these storytelling secrets will show you how to do that.
1. A story comes alive through the details, so get specific!
It often feels like in order to relate to someone, we need to tell a story that is super, super general. In fact, the opposite is actually true. A story comes to life through its details, because the details are what enable us to paint a picture in our minds, and that picture we create, that’s what we remember.
If you still don’t quite believe me, think about it like this: you know that feeling of intense nostalgia you feel for a distant memory? Maybe you walk by a restaurant and smell the same smell you smelled on a first date with your spouse. Or you sip a drink that tastes exactly like a drink you had during that summer trip to Italy you took with your best friend back in college. While you don’t remember every single moment of the Italy trip, that one specific detail is the thing that triggers your emotional response and instantaneously transports you back to the memory.
For short-form storytelling (like an Instagram post or single content block on your website), try to include 2-3 specific details. For longer-form storytelling, try to get so specific that someone could go out and make a movie (or a scene) of the story you’re telling exactly the way it’s showing up in your mind.
PRO TIP: Human beings also remember details
We don’t want to When clients come to me for business coaching, sometimes they’re already using storytelling in their marketing. But, they have this false idea that
2. What keeps the reader reading (or the viewer watching) is the protagonist’s internal change.
Writers often refer to this internal change as the invisible web that weaves the story together and keeps the audience invested in the outcome. When we’re consuming content, it can feel like what we’re invested in is the plot…but in reality, the plot is just a series of external events that happen. We’re invested in whether or not the protagonist is going to learn the internal “lesson” they’re faced with. If they’re going to change the “misbelief” they have about the way the world works.
When it comes to content marketing, think about the ONE THING (yes, it really needs to be just one thing) you want someone reading the story to take away. What is the one piece of intel about the way the world works (or about the impact your services/product have) that you want them to remember long after they’ve stopped scrolling?
That is what becomes the foundation for the internal change for whoever/or whatever the protagonist in the story is (sometimes this will be you or your business as a whole, but in a testimonial, for example, your client becomes the protagonist).
It can also be helpful to think about this in terms of “before” and “after” — If you are a coach and consultant, try describing what your client is experiencing/how they feel before they work with you in contrast to what they experience/how they feel after.
3. Keep the story focused on them, not you.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use personal stories in your content marketing. You absolutely can, and if you’re a coach or healer you want to be using personal stories. As a solopreneur, you are an extension of your business, and your business is an extension of you––and that’s a good, powerful thing! 9/10 you started your business because you yourself had a very powerful, life-changing experience and now you want to share that gift with as many other people as possible. So lean into that!
Share your story! But make sure to do it in a way that when someone reads your story, they’re seeing themselves reflected back in it. This is the key distinction. In this way, it’s not about you, but about them. They are seeing the transformation they want to experience in the story you’re sharing about your own journey or the change you experienced.