The 5 Things Every Awesome Story Needs

Ever heard the saying, “Facts tell, stories sell?” 

Well, they do.

Whether you know it or not, or whether you intended to or not, you’re telling a story in everything that you do to market your business.

But that’s okay. Stories are a fundamental part of how we communicate as human beings. By telling someone a story, you can capture their attention, entertain, enlighten and persuade them.


Also, stories are memorable and shareable – two of the most important components of great content.

Heck, even my About page isn’t some informative “this is my site and it’s about bla bla bla” kind of page. No, my About page tells my story. Why?

Because by telling my story, it helps people to relate to me and what I do. It helps me to set my website apart from others and create that important initial connection with a new visitor or reader.

So yes, stories are important when it comes to marketing. But how do you tell one effectively?

Well, according to Robert Dickman, the author of The Elements of Persuasion, this is the formula for a truly effective story:

  1. A story is a fact
  2. Wrapped in emotion
  3. That compels us to take action
  4. That transforms us in some way

So here are the five important elements that every great marketing story needs:

1. A Hero/Heroine.


It wouldn’t be much of a story if it wasn’t about someone, right?

Think about it. Have you ever read a story that didn’t have a hero or heroine in it? Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 Shades, Godzilla – no matter what, every awesome story has a main character.

However, when it comes to marketing…. your main character shouldn’t be just anyone. And contrary to popular practice, it shouldn’t be youNor should it be your company or business.

That just makes for what we call “insecurity marketing”: “Buy our soda drink or you’ll look like a loser.” Which in turn makes for an easily-ignored, selfish marketing message.

Instead, the hero of your marketing story… should be the customer. 

You know, someone who is transformed as the story progresses, from a normal, regular Joe – into someone really extraordinary.

2. A goal. 


The best businesses are all about solving their customers’ problems. If we follow the point I just made above, they’re about transforming your customers.

To craft a story that your customers can relate to, you need to know where they are today, and where they need to go.

You want to tell a story that answers questions such as:

  • What will your customer be able to do that they can’t do now?
  • What will they have that they didn’t have before?
  • What will they believe?
  • Will there be a physical transformation, and if so, what kind?

Without understanding your customer-hero’s goal, you won’t have a story, just a collection of anecdotes.

3. A problem/obstacle.


If there is no problem, then your customer wouldn’t need you to solve anything for them.

Obstacles and problems are what make stories interesting. Your obstacle should be the thing that is currently in between where your customer currently is, and where they want to be.

Some obstacles are external, some are internal. But no matter which kind, you need to know exactly what is stopping your customer from reaching his or her goal.

This is part of the reason why you should really look into researching buyer personas for your target audience. They’ll help you to understand your audience better, and help you to craft a more authentic, compelling story.

4. A mentor/teacher figure. 


Now I know you’ve been thinking: Hey, wait a minute. If my customer is the hero, what role is left for me and my business?

Well… remember in Star Wars, Luke had Obi-Wan Kenobi? Well, that’s you. You’re Obi-Wan.

If your customer is Harry Potter, then you’re Dumbledore.

If your customer is Frodo Baggins, then you’re Gandalf.

You’re the wise mentor/teacher who can provide the tools or information that the hero needs in order to achieve his goal.

Yes, you’re freaking Yoda.

This is why you shouldn’t portray your customer as a damsel-in-distress – because your company should not be portrayed as the hero who rides in on a white horse and rescues them. That infantilizes your customer, and makes them look helpless and dumb.

Instead, you want to make sure that you emphasize on how your customer-hero’s journey was the result of his or her own hard work and effort, while your business is always there to guide, mentor and help.

5. The truth.

[19th century copywriter] John Powers had given us all we’ve ever really needed to know. Be interesting. Tell the truth. And if you can’t tell the truth, change what you’re doing so you can. In other words, live the truth.”

Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs


Transparency in your marketing can really help you to get amazing results sometimes.

You may not think it, but it takes real courage to be open and honest about your business, about who you serve and what problems you solve. But the more honest you can be, the more customer loyalty you’ll find your business getting.

Of course, you may not be in a position to decide how honest you can be in your marketing. That’s fine. But in today’s world, honesty and transparency can really be one of the most valued story elements of all.

Split test and try it out. You may find yourself getting results that you never expected.

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