How to Use the Power of Storytelling
to Write Captivating Copy
Great writers know one thing to heart: words are powerful tools. And when used correctly, they breathe life into any message.
They touch your reader’s imaginations, guiding them from point A to B while compelling them to decide and take action.
Emotionless copy with no soul is dead copy. You need hooks, emotive language, ebbs, and flows — all weaved together with calculated precision to persuade your readers.
You don’t need a degree in literature or marketing to improve your copy.
But you do need one thing...
A storytelling strategy.
In this post, we’ll discuss the steps to creating a more captivating piece of copy.
But first, a quick word on how storytelling works.
Why Storytelling Works
Do you remember the time when you felt the most rejected?
How about your first kiss?
You probably do.
According to research from the University of Queensland, our brain’s amygdala is hardwired to register highly emotional memories better. Adrenaline and cortisol get released during these emotive moments, enhancing our perception and attention.
While you might remember your childhood pastimes, you may not remember the time spacing out during high school geometry class.
Emotional tactics have been around since the time of Aristotle. By touching on your reader’s pathos (or emotion), you draw out feelings of joy, confidence, anger, belonging, or fear.
And from a marketing standpoint, this is the opportune moment to foster the association of your brand to your audience.
Studies show ads tapping into human emotions have a 31% success rate compared to rational content at a meager 16%.
Good stories are the ones readers are emotionally invested in. No one finds an academic textbook memorable.
Evoke emotions, and evoke them often.
People Feel Stories
Did you know? Almost all romance films and books end with a happy ever after or an awful tragedy.
It’s a tried and true process, and there are only so many ways to make lukewarm endings a hit.
Still, copies don’t need to have well-crafted storylines with a Grammy-winning conclusion.
It’s about the journey itself — how you set the world’s tone, and how the words fit in the whole.
Good stories can lead to the production of oxytocin, which makes us feel more immersed and connects us more humanly.
So the next time you include that statistic in your next campaign, ask yourself this:
“Will this connect my brand with the person? Or will it just impress them, and nothing more?”
The Hero’s Journey
Have you heard of the Hero’s Journey?
It’s a story archetype where a protagonist sets out on a journey to solve a crisis. By the end of the tale, the hero usually returns transformed and all the wiser.
Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lion King, Spirited Away — all these movies and countless others derive from this narrative.
But now you may ask, “What the heck does this have to do with storytelling in copies?”
The reason why the Hero’s Journey is so great is because it’s a universal journey all humans understand.
The story of growth, resiliency, challenges, triumphs—all these make up the grand human condition.
We project ourselves to the lives of our heroes, empathizing with them and rooting for them during the right moments.
Just like how we celebrate our own successes.
To tell you the truth, copywriting is not too far different from fiction.
By conceptualizing a premise people can relate to and root for, your brand’s already one foot in the reader’s door.
The succeeding parts of the copy will flesh out the things you need to know to craft a powerful copy. If you want to dive into your own transformative journey, consider eLearning platforms such as Skillshare.
Commit to improving a key skill and share your journey with your readers. Bloggers do this all the time when creating copy for landing pages — often to sell an online course or eBook.
That said, let’s start with the most important element:
Element #1: A Relatable Hero
Yes, we’re going with the Hero’s Journey route.
The good thing (or bad, however you see it) about copywriting is the pre-set rules you can’t avoid.
One of these pre-conditioned tenets is this: the hero of the story must be your target market.
Create your copy in a way that anyone reading would find it natural to root for your hero’s success.
You should write your copy in a way that a reader could naturally reflect and empathize with. Not in a superficial sense like their age, gender, or ethnicity, but more human elements.
Think along the lines of their motivations, values, and aspirations.
What is their relationship with the world? How do they view themselves? What fulfills them emotionally?
Setting this as the foundation of your copy is pivotal to how invested they’d feel by the end of it. If you fail to conceptualize someone people can relate to, then your consumers simply won’t care.
Once you’ve captured the characteristics of your hero, you’re set to move on to the next steps.
Element #2: Emotional Language and Motivation
In marketing, your brand voice adds a human element that can be used to draw people in.
And it’s a no-brainer that the use of emotional language plays a role in that. But by how much?
Studies from Neuroimage reported interesting findings. In it, readers were asked to read words like “coffee” and “perfume” as well as “chair” and “key”.
The fMRI results were fascinating. When participants read the former two words, their primary olfactory cortex lit up. When they read “chair” and “key”, the region of the brain remained in a neutral state.
Sensory words, or words that evoke senses of sound, touch, sight, and taste, leave longer-lasting imprints on a reader’s mind.
Our brains process sensory words faster too. This aids the well-known fact that copywriters must be able to write relatable and engaging copy.
So there — language is important. But you shouldn’t be shooting it at the sky with dud rifles.
You must find the motivation or reason for them to interact with your brand in the first place.
Here are six common psychological motivators that consumers think about when picking a brand.
- Adventure — Seeking the connection of being alive.
- Belonging — Seeking a personal connection with others.
- Generosity — Helping others in need; or seeking appreciation for being good.
- Peace of Mind — Seeking genuineness and value set.
- Self-Expression — Seeking acceptance and self-respect for identity.
- Conviction — Seeking boldness and a sense of justice.
Once you find out how your brand can fulfill their motivation, find powerful and emotional words for your sales copy.
Element #3: The Goal or Problem to Solve
Your hero, the target audience, needs to have a problem to solve.
Sometimes, they might not even know what it is — so you’ll need to lay it out on them clearly.
This problem doesn’t have to be earth-shattering stuff. It can be as simple as missing the alarm or a bad haircut. It can also be something noble too, like uplifting local businesses and reducing carbon emissions.
Without a goal, it’s as if you’re wading through murky water without knowing the location of the shore. Therefore, you need to create a sense of direction for your readers by presenting a basic problem.
Once that need is met, ensure that your copy comes from a place of helping them solve that problem.
The last thing a customer wants in their inbox is a spammy sales pitch and the realization of a problem. One that your brand can’t solve.
So, it’s imperative to connect your brand’s role in the solution seamlessly.
Element #4: The Consequences of Inaction
So your prospect opened the email, read through the copy, and spotted the big, shiny CTA button. A recipe for success surely follows thereafter, right?
If the problem isn’t urgent enough, your copy may fail to capture the customer’s attention.
Without it, you can kiss that conversion goodbye. Simple as that.
Using emotional language in your arsenal, paint the consequence of not buying to look like the worse-off option.
Of course, you shouldn’t sound like you’re straight-up shaming your audience for not taking action. Keep your tone level-headed, calm, collected, and consistent with your brand voice.
The consequence can even remain as subtle as a trailing sentence, but it should be there. Like, if you don’t buy a certain plant fertilizer, you wouldn’t reap the benefits come harvest time.
Either way, keep on brainstorming ways to cleverly communicate the dire consequences.
Once you’re done with that, now it’s time to insert yourself into the picture.
Element #5: Your Solution
The hero now realizes the presence of a problem.
All hyped up, they’d be seeking out ways to fix that problem. That’s where your brand comes into the picture.
Your relationship would be something akin to a royal court advisor with his or her king. Full of intellect and rich knowledge, but all for the betterment of your kingdom and ruler.
But first, you need to win their trust.
Social proof by way of testimonials further pushes the notion that your brand is the fittest one for the job. But if you don’t have the experience or reviews yet, establish your authority by your own volition.
This means creating content and executing marketing campaigns that paint your brand in a light that entices your buyers.
Hammer down how you’d want to represent yourself in front of your customers.
Would it be as a friend, an expert, or a guide?
Whatever your choice, write the way you talk and try to come across as humanly as possible.
Just avoid a copy-and-paste persona of your competitors. Your prospects would see right through you and go to the guys with better social proof.
Once you have your brand image settled, it’s time for you to share your one-of-a-kind magical solution.
Element #7: Your Offer
And now it’s time to show your big guns to the customer. The solution, the quick fix, the game-changer — what have you.
But now, your customer is on the hot seat. Your ability to persuade will make or break the buying decision.
Terrifying, right? Contrary to where our brains would lead us, your offer isn’t just about the product or service you offer.
The effectiveness of your copy stems from other parts of the marketing funnel too, like your lead magnet. But whatever the case, you must show your solution in a way that promotes a sense of urgency.
These three things, in particular, help in that aspect:
- Limited Availability
But remember, don’t get ahead of yourself by merely highlighting the product. Instead, talk about the solution more.
If you own a hair salon, sell beauty and confidence to your demographic. If you’re selling sugarless tea, sell a healthier alternative to the countless sweetened drinks in the market.
In copywriting, you can do this by focusing on actionable information, not the products your customers need. Guide them through the journey that they — the heroes — need to take.
Element #8: The Next Steps
Now, you shift seats and put your customer in control.
If they say NO, don’t sweat it.
If they say YES, then great!
Congratulate them and bring them along the journey.
Remember: it’s just the beginning of this new relationship.
There is always a “next step” in the customer journey. Visitors become subscribers, subscribers become customers, and customers become repeat buyers.
More often than not, you can show them how to move forward by the end of each copy. If not, give them a tiny nudge — perhaps something they can do in a second, like:
- Sharing your post
- Leaving a comment
- Checking out other posts
There’s no need to try anything complicated for this. Just mention what you want them to do and state that you’ll highly appreciate their gesture.
As long as you sustain the relationship, your shared story will have more chapters to cover. And the happier you keep your audience, the more testimonials, conversions, and profits will fall on your lap.
It can take well over 1,000 hours to write a full-length novel. While you realistically won’t be hitting those hours, condensing a compelling story in one copy is not easy.
The best way to do it is to focus on one storytelling element at a time.
With the elements above, your copy could hold the same value and impact as a well-written novel.
Humans are emotional beings after all, and we’re suckers for tales of triumph after hardships — the Hero’s Journey.
About the Author
Catherine loves learning and is passionate about personal and professional development. She is the founder of Upskillwise and spends much of her time researching new skills and reviewing online courses.
When she is not sitting at her desk, you can find her on her yoga mat which is always the place she feels most inspired. You can follow her @upskillwise