Stop Selling Products and Start Selling Stories

Recently, while teaching an evening class on “Setting up a Website for a Small Business,” a student approached me and asked, “What should I say on my website?”

Given the class’s technical focus, content strategy wasn’t something we dove deep into. Frankly, the question was quite loaded, but nonetheless I wanted to make sure this student left with confidence and was excited to set up a new website. So I asked to hear a bit more about the business.

The student excitedly told me a story about how her service was able to help one of her customers save thousands of dollars a year on medical costs.

Rather than jumping into a typical pitch, “We do X for Y and make money through Z”, this entrepreneur  excitedly told me a story about how the service helped one customer save thousands of dollars a year on medical costs. Although I didn’t understand all of the technical aspects of the business, I was immediately compelled by the results and the affect on this customer.

Going back to her website’s content, I simply told her, “Tell that exact story”. At first she was very confused (and possibly regretting she even brought up the subject). However, I jumped back up to the teaching podium, opened up my laptop and walked her through some examples of exactly what I meant.

I explained to her that one emerging trend on the web we’ve been seeing is the use of storytelling as a means to grab a visitor’s attention, demonstrate the value of a product/service and guide the visitor to making a purchase/inquiry. At that point, I had actually recently read a review of Peter Guber’s book, Tell to Win, written by Jonathan Gottschall’s that explains how storytelling “seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.” Samantha was fascinated, so I walked her through two great examples.

GoDaddy

Stop Selling Products and Start Selling Stories image GoDaddy Story 600x372Stop Selling Products and Start Selling Stories
GoDaddy, one of the largest domain registrars and hosting providers on the web and a company notorious for its aggressive ‘up-selling’ techniques within its website, has certainly added a bit of humanity to their new homepage design. They’ve combined imagery, video and content to tell Sindy’s story of how GoDaddy has helped her grow her business. What’s great is that they’ve put the focus on Sindy and value/benefit she received from GoDaddy’s products and not the technical details of their various features.

PipelineDeals

Stop Selling Products and Start Selling Stories image PipelineDeals Story 600x296Stop Selling Products and Start Selling Stories
PipelineDeals, a popular CRM built specifically for small businesses, has used a similar approach to tell the story of Patrick. They’ve built an entire landing page for Patrick’s story forgoing charts and statistics, and focusing on using concise narrative and imagery to bring an emotional appeal how PipelineDeals has helped Patrick better manage his sales team.

After walking through both websites, I could see Samantha had a crystal-clear vision as to the story she wanted to tell about her own company via her website. I was thrilled and look forward to her results.

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