How to Write a Selling Story–Part 1
Set the Stage to Strategic Storytelling
In my recent article How to Write a Perfect Script, I went over several technical aspects of script writing and touched on the importance of storytelling. I discussed 5 Key Elements and the importance of following the Made to Stick Principles.
A second article, 7 Reasons Whiteboard Storytelling Builds Business, also addressed how critical a good story is in your whiteboard video, but both of those articles don’t tell you how to actually write a selling story.
This post does.
I now invite you to connect with your right brain and…get…creative!
Don’t be scared.
Even as a seasoned writer, when put on the spot to “come up with a great story” on the fly, I sometimes draw a blank at first and even feel a little inadequate at times; it’s natural!
When I first started working for Ydraw I watched the videos in awe and revered our creative directors and their brains that just spouted magical metaphors..all..the..time!
I haven’t watched one single video that doesn’t catch my attention and make me smile. I mean, a prison for husbands and boyfriends who buy bad gifts? Who comes up with that-that’s brilliant!! Lesa Thomas, I salute you…along with the rest of the Ydraw goldmine team of writers!
I found myself thinking “I just don’t have that kind of a brain!”
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m a talented writer. I’ve won several awards over the years and am on the verge of publishing a novel, but my primary background has been in memoir, honoring leaders and making people cry. But fun and quirky? That was fairly new territory for me.
Sometimes it can be harder to inspire genuine guttural laughter than warm fuzzies and tears with the written word. Many people (like me) are afraid of “trying too hard” and being that annoying person who gets crickets and eye rolls after a failed attempt at humor. There really is a fine line between being funny and being obnoxious.
Don’t let that stop you!
Creativity isn’t exclusive to advertising executives, fantasy writers, and comedians. The authors of Made to Stick say that creativity can be learned. I agree, and add that humor can be learned too. It just takes a little research, practice and following steps that have been proven to work.
When I took this job I took it with a staunch resolve to succeed! I did my research, asked a bunch of questions, dug into my existing bag of literary tricks and started utilizing tactics provided by my new cohorts, and guess what? With a little exercise and practice, I found out I really do have “that kind of a brain”.
I’m here to share some of those secrets along with other helpful hints to help you write a really great story that sells!
Where a selling story is more than just entertaining word vomit, I’m going to break the instructions into two posts. After all, I told you I’m here to tell you how to write a quality story to showcase your business. Where it isn’t as scary as it may sound and is definitely doable, it takes effort and a lot of strategic thought to write a really good marketing story.
This post will help you set the stage to strategic storytelling and provide structure; next week’s post will help you develop descriptive details to delight your audience and teach you how to access creativity you’ve had within you all along!
I love writing stories and believe in the process I’m about to share with you.
I just may give you homework!
1-Set Your Intentions Before You Set the Stage
Free thinking writing where you just let your brain go has it’s place and can be fun. Chances are, however, that you’re writing your story with a purpose in mind so save the expressive energy for a step later on down the line. It’s time to set your intentions and build a solid foundation.
Kimberly Smith provides 4 great suggestions to help you prepare to write your story in her book Once Upon a Marketing Message: How to Craft Stories that Sell.
I took her points and put my own spin on them. Most of these have already been addressed in other articles, but they are worth mentioning again.
- 1-Establish your goal.
What do you want your audience to do after they watch your video? How will the video encourage them to do what you want them to do?
- 2-Understand your audience.
Make sure you understand who you’re targeting and what kind of story would speak to them. Where it would be nice to be universally appealing, keep in mind you want to really connect with online “shoppers” who are looking for what you have but don’t know that they want your product or services yet. The target audience for Buffalo Wild Wings is slightly different than the target audience for The Cheesecake Factory. Both serve amazing food and both are wildly popular, but think about the atmosphere and experience at both places. They definitely draw in different crowds, even though some of the same people will frequent both places. They will just experience a different kind of dining at each place. Don’t just understand your audience in general but narrow it down and write a story to a specific “person” or avatar. Follow the steps in the article Script Writing 101: Know Your Audience to help there.
- 3-Know how you want your audience to feel.
Do you want to get them discouraged about a problem so they will love the solution you have to offer? Do you want to pump them up and motivate them to embark on a new adventure or make a lifestyle change with your services? Do you want them to select your establishment as a place they will unwind after a long day or week when they’re overwhelmed with life? Figure out which emotion(s) you want to trigger during each phase of your story. How do you want them to feel and what is going to get them motivated to answer your call to action?
- 4-Uncover what will elicit the feelings.
Picture different scenarios where the desired emotions could be triggered. Keep them in mind as you write your story
2-Develop an Outline to Set the Stage
Kim Smith also provides the following suggested parts of your story. These are helpful as you organize a basic outline/timeline to build on.
- 1-Introduce the Characters
You need a small cast including a main protagonist your audience can connect with as well as a challenger. Where your story will be about overcoming something, there needs to be a challenger whether it be another person, an illness, a natural disaster or creature from another planet..whatever..just come up with and introduce your hero and your challenger. At this point you should know your specific target audience or avatar, so create a character they can relate to.
- 2-Set the Scene
Put your characters in a place your audience will understand. Are they at home, at work, in the jungle? Where are they going? Where will they end up?
- 3-Lay Down the Stakes
Simply put, what is the problem and why must it be overcome?
- 4-Develop Some Drama
This goes right along with laying down the stakes and understanding how you want your audience to feel. Create some dramatic events that will evoke desired emotions.
- 5-Resolve the Issues
Resolve the issues (drama) realistically. Keep the story in mind and please, though you’re writing the story for a purpose, do NOT make it pitchy! You will lose credibility and possibly even lose your audience. This takes practice but it can be done. Look at other stories that have sold you and keep those in mind.
- 6-Wrap it Up
We naturally like to see things resolved in the end. Now that Jimmy has his finances fixed or has lost 60 pounds, show him at a beach enjoying the fruits of his efforts. With Jenny’s newly found health, show her in running clothes with a race medal around her neck. Make sure you have a nice clean ending unless, of course, you want to leave a cliff hanger for a potential sequel…that can be good too!
3-Finalize Your Outline
Now that your strategy is set, clean it up into an outline of how it will go from start to finish. Don’t worry about perfecting it or having details quite yet, just make your outline clear and make sure your call to action is in focus.
Homework time! By next time have an outline typed up on a word document. Come back and I will give you tips on how to bring your outline to life in a selling story! Challenge issued but not required to read part 2. 😉
Until then, happy writing! Thanks for your time!