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4 Emotional Elements That Are Vital to Storytelling in Marketing

Yvonne Dutchover
September 29, 2014
emotional elements vital to storytelling in marketing

As I’ve covered in a previous post, storytelling in marketing is a powerful tool. In fact, our brains will invent stories, even when there is no actual story present. However, there’s more to good content marketing than good storytelling.

One of my colleagues recently attended Content Marketing World and shared ideas from a keynote presentation by Andrew Davis.

Davis said that most marketers are like Ptolemy, with their company serving as the Earth in the center of the universe. While it may be easy to think “me, me, me,” Davis recommends we would do well to take a tip from Galileo and remember that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe.

As content marketers, one of our greatest tools is empathy – in other words, putting ourselves in our customer or audience’s position.

Once you understand what your customer needs or desires, use these storytelling techniques (the following four points were suggested by Davis in his keynote) to strengthen your approach to marketing your business and to drive growth.

1. Build suspense

Davis recommends asking yourself: “Is there inherent suspense in the story I’m telling?”

Good stories make us care about people or a situation. Your job is to find a story we will care about, and then make us worry about what’s going to happen next. Good marketing tells us a compelling story by capturing our attention and making us eager for more. What might this look like in real life?

Let’s pretend that you’re a loan officer. A few weeks ago, a young mother named Sarah contacted me about qualifying for a mortgage. She’s divorced with two young children. She’s rebuilding her credit after a difficult divorce, and she has some extra challenges because she’s self-employed. She needs to prove that she has enough income to qualify for the home she wants.

2. Foster aspiration

For part two, Davis recommends asking: “What does my audience aspire to do or be?”

What do your customers dream about? For most loan officers, their clients aspire to buy a home in which they can make memories, raise a family and create a sanctuary for busy lives. Figure out what your customers aspire to do or be and tell a story that reflects that aspiration.

Sarah has found the perfect home for her family. It is beautiful and spacious enough for her two kids to grow into teenagers. It’s in a great school district, and it’s located near their father’s home, which would make their shared custody easier for everyone.

3. Drive empathy

For number three, Davis recommends asking: “Can I get my audience to feel/relate to what I’m talking about?”

For our loan officer, many of his clients have played the waiting game to see if they would qualify for a mortgage. For some, self-employment or divorce can complicate approval. For others, a period of unemployment or a financial mistake made when young can come back to haunt credit for years. Other clients could easily relate to Sarah. And everyone loves an underdog story.

Sarah’s business is doing well, but the first loan officer she went to did not understand how to properly evaluate her personal and business tax returns. He told her she wouldn’t be able to qualify for the mortgage, which meant she wouldn’t be able to buy the perfect home for her family.

4. Harness emotion

For step four, Davis recommends that you ask yourself: “Can I inspire my audience enough to go and take action?”

Our loan officer has shared a compelling story, fostered aspiration, and made us feel empathy for his client. Now it’s time for him to use that goodwill to encourage action and let that story be the emotional link between him and his future clients.

Sarah thought this home was out of her reach, until she heard that I have experience with self-employed clients. I understand how to evaluate income and tax returns, and I was able to help Sarah prove she had the income to qualify for her mortgage. If you’re having a hard time like Sarah, please get in touch to see how I can help you.

With a story in place that uses strong emotional triggers, a good loan officer could do great things for branding and marketing his business. He could let Sarah tell her story through a video interview and post it to his website. He could, with her permission, tell her story through his blog and share her success with the world. There are plenty of ways to make this story work for your business, but you have to get out there and tell it.

While your customer service and expertise may spread great word of mouth for you, don’t forget that you have another excellent source to draw on: your clients. Share compelling stories to connect with your potential customers, and you’ll inspire them to move from reading a story to participating in one. You will shift from mere storytelling to story making.


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