Why Many Business Stories Are Too Boring (And The Simple Fix To Captivate Your Audience)
Gloria Ames is a mom who home-schools her son. She created a curriculum and wants to share it with other moms. She’s writing the sales letter with the help of a mastermind group and she gave me permission to post it here, with all the names changed.
Here’s a summary of Gloria’s original story, greatly condensed:
“I’ve stayed home with my own kids since my first son was born 10 weeks early. We spent a lot of time going to different therapies to help him catch up to his peers and there just wasn’t time to get him into “regular” preschool when he was three.
“Plus, I adore doing preschool activities with my son and his little brother! It’s my absolute favorite part of the day.
“Still, it took a LOT of time for me to prepare preschool activities for my boys (they’re just 21 months apart). And even when I found an activity they loved, I still wondered if it was the right activity to support their educational development. Or was it just a fun way to spend some time together?
“So I started researching. One night I came across an article about a one-hundred-year-old educational methodology (a philosophy, really) called Montessori… Once I learned about Maria’s Montessori method, I started applying it with my own boys.
“ I picked one activity per week (sometimes more) to cover each sensitive period. My planning was transformed overnight! And my kids loved it.
Finally, we were having so much fun with our school times.”
What’s missing from this story?
Unlike the classical “beginning, middle and end” stories, marketing stories tend to begin with a problem. For marketing purposes, Gloria’s story begins when she encounters a big problem — maybe just a sentence about homeschooling and being shocked to learn how much time she needed to prepare lessons.
Gloria’s journey begins as she looks for ways to complete her lessons earlier. Soon she discovers the Montessori method.
That’s not a bad story: state the problem, do the research, and find a solution.
But it’s not very exciting because it’s too easy. We don’t get a sense of what Gloria contributes to her product. Why should readers buy her product instead of just heading over to Montessori themselves?
So Gloria needs to emphasize her struggles, first with her home-schooling schedule and then with the Montessori method.
For struggle #1, she can dig deep into the home-schooling challenge:
“When I started home-schooling, I would spend at least 4 hours prepping each day. I was totally exhausted and frazzled by noon…and was getting by on just a few hours’ sleep. My husband and my other kids were feeling neglected.
“People told me to forget about homeschooling and send my son to a regular school. But I knew he would be miserable. I was determined to find a solution.
“At first I was overwhelmed by all the materials out there…everything from those do-a-dot programs to music to …”
Think like a mystery writer.
Gloria finds a solution with the Montessori method … but her story isn’t over. Now she has a new challenge: how to learn and apply the Montessori method.
If you can work this kind of two-step struggle into your story, you’ll hook your readers and make your point even more effectively.
Mystery writers do this all the time. They set a scene where the hero seems to solve the mystery. As a reader, you start to relax and wait for the fun part of wrapping everything up. Usually, at this point, the romantic interest takes over.
But just as you and the hero (or heroine) get ready to say “The End,” the author introduces a twist.
That’s not really the villain! The real villain is coming to get you!
Or you solved part of the mystery but there’s a missing piece, often deadly, that everyone forgot.
Gloria gets to do the same. We think she can relax as she embraces Montessori, but she’s about to embark on a new struggle. How do you adapt this popular program — designed for nursery schools — to the home environment of a busy mom?
A rough draft of the copy might go like this (the actual copy would have a lot more detail and draw many more word pictures):
“But then I was back in a new trap. I had to spend hours and hours learning this method. Some things worked and some didn’t.
So I drew on the project skills I learned as an MBA student and business executive. I collected all the materials in one place. I experimented with different approaches…and after a LOT of experimenting, trial and error, and more loss of sleep, I found shortcuts and tools that made things even easier for me and more fun for the boys.
“When I told other moms what I was doing, they wanted to learn more. So as I explained, I put together the Visual Montessori program — the mom-tested home- schooling system!”
When writing your marketing story, don’t let your readers off the hook too soon.
Just when they think they’re home free, you show up again with a new problem that’s even tougher than the first. And that’s the one you solve.
A lot of times we feel uncomfortable when we watch the hero squirm. But that’s exactly the moment when your audience begins paying attention. They came for conflict, not soothing bedtime stories.
After all, they pay you to do the tough stuff, right? If it’s too easy, they’ve got a DIY project.
I’m Cathy Goodwin, a marketing educator and writer who helps service-based businesses attract more clients online. Entrepreneurs often get frustrated when they start telling stories, so I created this free guide:
3 Common Storytelling Mistakes Most Business Owners Make (And the ONE Surprisingly Simple Solution) Click here to get access.
As a copywriter, I find many business owners have just ONE story in their repertoire. So I created this course, Build Your Brand One Story At A Time, where you’ll learn how to share 3 stories and use them to build your brand. marketing. http://mycopy.info/storybrand
Originally published at https://cathygoodwin.com on August 6, 2020.