Fresh E-commerce E-mail Ideas: There’s More to E-commerce Emails than Discounts

How happy are you with your email newsletter?

I recently surveyed a group of ethical business owners, and this was the first question.

To my surprise, not a single respondent gave their newsletter a 10 out of 10.

The best rating was a 7, and the overall result averaged at 5.

Let me be brutally honest: that’s not the way we’ll win the fight against the climate crisis, change shopping behaviour, make the new economy flourish, or achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.


If we want to make an impact, we need to send emails that we’re proud of.

Because here’s the thing:

  • Half the global population uses email, and that number is growing every year. There’s no better way to reach so many people at so little cost.
  • Just by sending great emails, you can make a difference in people’s lives — and grow your audience without spending big bucks on ads. (Listen to the Change Creator podcast episode with Sam Parr for a great example.)
  • Email lets you segment and personalise each reader’s journey to sustainability and adopting your products at scale — in a way that no other marketing tool can.

In this article, I’ll focus on that journey.

You’ll learn how your business can…

  • send emails that add value and engage your readers,
  • set up the sale in a way that resonates with conscious consumers, and
  • convert more people to a more sustainable way of life.

Why Should You Be Careful With Discount Codes in Your Emails?

Ever heard of “customer journey mapping”?

In copywriting, we like to map people’s journey along Eugene Schwartz’ Stages of Awareness:

  1. Unaware: This person has never heard of you, your product, or the problem you solve.
  2. Problem Aware: They sense they have a problem and may even be searching for a solution — but they haven’t found it yet. (Or they sense a desire but they’re not sure how to get there.)
  3. Solution Aware: They know what result they want to achieve, but they have no idea that your product/service can help them.
  4. Product Aware: They know what you sell, but they’re not sure it’s right for them.
  5. Most Aware: They know your product and that it’s perfect for them. Given the right deal, they’re ready to buy!

Emails are so powerful because with a bit of segmentation, you can help each reader along their journey:

Someone might be searching for a solution for their problem, find your website and sign up for your emails because you promise to help them with their problem. Over time, they discover how your product or service can solve their problem. They get to know your offer, and eventually they’ll be convinced that it’s perfect for them. Then, in that fateful email, you offer them a discount code — and the deal is closed.

However, let’s say someone finds your website and you offer them a discount code right from the start. A number of things might happen:

Scenario A

They’re already a fan of your product (most aware), so they’re delighted about the special offer. They sign up to your newsletter just for the code and place their order straightaway. Congratulations! You now have a new subscriber who’s hungry for more discount codes and trained to expect them.

Scenario B

They’re product aware. Depending on the cost of your products, they might just go ahead and sign up for that discount code. (After all, if the product’s not right for them, they’ll be able to return it.) Congratulations! You now have a new subscriber, and if your product has to be experienced to be believed, you also have a real chance of winning a new customer.

Scenario C

They’re unaware, problem aware or solution aware. In other words: not ready to buy from you. They may sign up to get the discount code, but it’s likely to sit in their inbox unused until it expires.

In summary, discount codes can train people to expect lower prices, place orders with the plan of returning the item, or fail to resonate altogether.

Those are just the reasons why ANY business should beware of overusing discount codes.

I’m writing this for Change Creator, so I’m guessing you care about the next point too:

For Change Creator Businesses, the Customer Journey is Intertwined with the Sustainability Journey

Those 5 stages of awareness Eugene Schwartz described describe a learning process that can apply to many things — from sales to changing our way of life.

And they’re particularly applicable to people’s journey into a more sustainable lifestyle:

  1. Unaware: This person has never heard of a particular issue. Imagine yourself before seeing the picture of a seahorse clutching a Q-tip, for example. Or think back to the time before the #metoo movement.
  2. Problem Aware: They sense they have a problem and may even be searching for a solution — but they haven’t found it yet. (Or they sense a desire but they’re not sure how to get there.) For example, they’d like to reduce the amount of waste they produce, but they have no idea how to get there.
  3. Solution Aware: Staying with the waste example, they know the term “zero waste”, and they’re already engaged in the community. But they have no idea that your product or service can help them reduce their waste even more.
  4. Product Aware: They know that you sell solid shampoo, but they’re not sure it’s right for them.
  5. Most Aware: They know your shampoo and that it’s perfect for them. Given the right deal, they’re ready to buy!

Looking at the journey in this way, it’s easy to see that a marketing strategy that relies on discounts only works with die-hard conscious consumers who already love your offer.

There are 3 problems with that:

  • Many change creator brands are still small or don’t even plan to grow into corporations. Meaning, there’s only a tiny number of people you’ll reach with that approach.
  • Die-hard conscious consumers make very considered purchases. While that means they’re less likely to be swayed by a discount, once they’ve fallen in love with you, they’re more likely to stay loyal — and buy at full price.
  • You’re limiting your impact by excluding the vast majority of people — instead of helping them take the next step.

Which brings me to the big question:

What If Brands Took Responsibility for Changing Buying Behaviour… Instead of Just Taking Advantage of It?

If we all worked together to make people’s journey into a future-proof way of life more accessible, we could turn conscious consumerism from a niche phenomenon into a mass movement.

Here are three practical ways your brand can help us create that movement:

  1. Offer at least one lead magnet that’s not directly related to selling your product

    For example, you could offer a guide that tells people how to use your product category (“How to Get Started with Solid Shampoo” — a great match for product-aware folks). Or you could build a calculator that helps them find out how much positive impact they could make with your offer (“How many times per week do you wash your hair? We’ll tell you how much plastic you could save with solid shampoo every year!” — a strong entry point for solution-aware readers.)
  2. Segment your emails according to people’s current position on their journey

    To find out where they are on their journey, you could offer a fun quiz, tag people based on the lead magnet they’ve downloaded, or simply ask a segmentation question in the first email.

    For example, in my first email to new subscribers, I offer different kinds of content to find out about their needs.
  3. Practice customer empathy by designing email sequences that will help each segment take the next step

    The easiest way to get started with this is by listening to your ideal customers. Buy people coffee and ask them about their way into becoming a conscious shopper. Hang out in Facebook groups and pay attention to people’s stories. Then use that insight to write emails that are related to what you’re selling — but not about the sale:
  • Write honestly about something that happened to you and find a way to link it to your product. A bit of educational storytelling goes a long way in adding value!
  • Share a piece of insider knowledge that you’ve gained “on the job” (legally). Your readers will feel like they’re part of an exclusive group, and they’ll want to show off their new insights — helping your story to touch more people’s lives, with no extra effort on your part.
  • What changes are happening in your industry that you can share with your readers? Everyone wants to be ahead of the game. Be the brand that allows your readers to feel special.
  • Share something that will create an aha! moment for your readers. Those lightbulb moments will speed them up as they fall in love with your offer and adopt a new way of life.
  • Share a collection of articles, videos and other content that inspired you this month. Not everything in your emails needs to be written by your brand. Just make sure you add that personal touch by explaining why you chose this collection. This will build your “know, like, and trust factor” — a crucial element in moving people through those stages of awareness.

Over to You

I’d love to know which of these ideas you’ll try out first. Let me know in the comments!

How to Find YOUR Story: With Real-Life Examples

If you’ve read anything about storytelling on the internet in recent years, you’re likely to have come across this:

“Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own.” (Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen)

A bold statement.

Also, a statement often taken out of context. (Donald Miller is talking about branding here, not about storytelling.)

As Anna Bradshaw’s article about storytelling in e-commerce shows, “if you’re producing a high-quality product, using provenance in your marketing copy could allow you to charge twice as much” — suggesting that customers do indeed care about your story. And academic research has your back.

But how do you get started when you’re new to storytelling? If you’re (figuratively) dying to tell the world how you started your company, read on.

Step 1: Find Your What If…?

Still worried about the Donald Miller quote above — that people don’t care about your story?

Well, here’s the thing:

It doesn’t really matter whether “customers generally don’t care about your story”. That’s to be expected. After all, they don’t even know you, or why they should care.

Your job is to make them care.

And that’s the true power of a good story, even if it’s about yourself.

Here’s how storytelling expert Marsha Shandur explains how to make them care: 

“Whether it’s your business, passionate hobby or worthy cause, tell the story of it in a way that shows us why it’s important to you. … Show some vulnerability. This doesn’t have to mean pouring out your innermost turmoiled diary thoughts (you can totally save those for your therapist). Just give us enough to know that you’re human.”

Jody Aberdeen’s article here on Change Creator explains why that approach will hit a nerve with your audience:

“In an age of outrage culture and sensational news media, we are inundated in everything that we don’t want the world to be and have. What people are craving more than anything in 2019 is something, maybe someone, to root for, not rail against. Make sure to show your audiences, through your storytelling, the world that you want to create and invite them to create it with you.”

That’s the power of the humble “What if…”: the power to “invite the imagination into a story we want to explore.” Which is why the What If is usually the first thing the Pixar team come up with when they create a new story:


To give you some What-If examples:

  • This podcast with SheEO founder & entrepreneur Vicky Saunders quite literally begins with her What-if statement.

  • Ethical Brand Marketing focus on visionary leaders working to save animals and the planet. Founder Jessica Lohmann’s What-If is simple: “What if we lived in a world of healthy choices and opportunities for all animals, humans included?”

  • Here’s how the fully transparent apparel brand Where Does It Come From? describe their What If: “What if we lived in a world where nurture after our planet and the life on it, producing just what we need and ensuring that it is created with kindness to people and planet and as part of a circular economy?”

What’s great about these examples is how closely tied they are to the daily work of the change creators. In the next step, we’ll form the same kind of bond between what you do and your vision.

Step 2: Take Us On the Road Towards Your What If

Now it’s time to list all the things you do in order to make your What If a reality.

This is a great exercise for a team brainstorming session. Mindmapping, journaling or recording voice memos whenever you can think of something new can also be useful.

However you decide to tackle this step, Anna Bradshaw’s list of questions is a great place to start:

  • “What’s the unique personal story that led you to develop this product?

  • How is this product manufactured?

  • Is it made with special equipment, in a special place, or stored in a certain way?

  • Where do the materials come from? Are they all from the same area? Are the ingredients organic?

  • Have you or your suppliers implemented more sustainable practices that set you apart in your industry?

  • Where do you get your inspiration and ideas for small design details and color palette?

  • Who actually manufactures your goods? Do you have a special group of product testers?”

Answering questions like these will make sure there’s a perfect fit between your vision, the way you run your business and the offer you make to your audience.

Swimwear brand Deakin and Blue‘s story is a particularly effective example of this.

It starts with the founder’s personal experiences, takes us on the road to her realizing her What If (What if there was swimwear with both style and substance?) and invites us to get involved at the end:

“Join our Revolution.

Over 500 women have already told us that our swimsuits have changed the way they feel about their bodies.

And we’re just getting started.”

Step 3: Plot a Story Arc onto Your Roadmap

At this point, you’ve got all the data to talk about your vision, how you’ll reach it and the impact you’re making.

The important thing now is to continue working on your story.

One of the most common mistakes I see impact businesses make is to stop here and declare a collection of facts their “story”. But until you’ve got that story arc in place, it’s really just a bunch of claims and numbers.

A clear beginning, middle, and end let the audience perk up, take notice and get involved emotionally.

In his seminal book Into the Woods, John Yorke (who’s behind UK drama favorites such as Shameless, Casualty, and Life on Mars) suggests a five-act story structure. It “creates gripping turning points that increase narrative tension and in turn eliminates one of the most common problems” less experienced storytellers struggle with: “the ‘sagging’, disjointed, confused and often hard-to-follow” middle of the story.

Importantly, when you develop your story, be brave and talk about some of the challenges you faced. What went wrong? How did you overcome the (inevitable) bumps in the road? Too few companies do this, although it makes your story so much more compelling. If you’re concerned about greenwashing or “social-washing”, then working your challenges into your story can be an effective way to stay real.

Example time! Let’s look at the structure of Cuddle & Kind‘s brand story:

Act 1: Call to adventure:

What If… we could help feed children in need? (Inspired by watching a documentary on childhood hunger)

Act 2: Response to the call: 

Son Ethan suggests doing something about it — idea is to create sustainably hand-knit dolls and provide 10 free meals for each doll sold

Act 3: Midpoint: things get even more exciting, as they’re now in the thick of it. Going back is just as hard as carrying on: 

Crowdfunding campaign

Act 4: Challenges — perhaps even a crisis point: 

This is the weakest point in the video. Potential challenges that could make this story even more engaging could be the anxious first hours of their crowdfunding campaign, hearing about new areas where children need their support, or perhaps even the question of whether they’ll be able to attract enough revenue to be able to reach their vision

Act 5: Winning the (internal) battle: 

Being able to give 4.2 million meals in just 3 years!

Step 4: Bring Your Story Arc to Life

Journalists, screenwriters and novelists have always known that an “honest story of someone going through the struggles of starting a business can be a great way to connect with your audience” (source).

One of the best ways to foster that connection is by using action scenes.

Choose at least one moment in your story that you can tell as if it were a film: show what the characters in your story are doing, describe what the place looks like and share how that situation feels.

The BBC’s take on the launch story of Bristol Cloth is a nice example. We get to see the place where Bristol Cloth is made, we can observe the production process. The imagery is so rich that we can almost smell the landscape and feel the texture of the cloth:

From the music to the imagery and the interview, it feels thoroughly authentic. According to the Ultimate Change Creator Guide to Creating a Brand Story, those are the precise ingredients that “help customers develop a sense of loyalty … that lasts for a long time”.

It’s perhaps easiest to do this in a video, but comic strips, news features and novels are all great sources for inspiration if you’re looking to work mainly with words and static images.

Step 5: Practice Telling Your Story 

Congratulations! Your story is ready to be shared with the world.

If you don’t yet feel confident about it, don’t worry: that’s completely normal. Just go ahead and tell your story as often as you can, and in as many different ways as possible:

  • Face to face when you meet someone new

  • In a Facebook post

  • In an Instagram story

  • In a tweet

  • In a blog post

  • In a pitch desk to wholesalers, clients or investors

  • On your LinkedIn profile

  • On TV, on podcasts, on the radio or in magazines…

Over time, you’ll grow into your story, and your story will develop a life of its own. And remember, there’s a whole Change Creator Community waiting to dive into your story, too!

You might also like:

5 Powerful Ways To Use The Hero’s Journey To Easily Grow Your Impact Business

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

That’s the short version of the storytelling pattern known as the Hero’s Journey, as described in Joseph Campbell’s 1949 work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

While a fascinating book for sure, it was not intended as a guide to writing better stories. Campbell simply wanted to show that many myths around the world have a similar structure.

That’s why you’ll probably find yourself using this pattern, even if you’ve never heard of it. To quote master copywriter John Simmons:

Quest, love, conflict. The grand themes of storytelling are powerful simply because they are embedded in all our lives, including our business lives.

(John Simmons, The Invisible Grail: How Brands Can Tell Better Stories. Chatham, Kent: Urbane Publications, 2016 pp. 13f.)

5 powerful ways you can use it in your impact business! (And only 2 of them are about marketing.)

  1. Improve the way you run your business

  2. Shape the UX of your digital product or website

  3. Speed up your storytelling efforts

  4. Make your marketing more effective

  5. Model the change we need to see in the world

Let’s dive in!

1. Improve How You Run Your Business

Business success is impossible without empathy — especially if you work for a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. 

Enter the Hero’s Journey: the most fun and effective customer empathy tool you’ll find. Here’s how it works:

  • Cast your customer as the hero on a quest, and you’ll automatically follow the Hero’s Journey pattern.

  • Write down the story and then work with it to achieve good outcomes for your hero and your company. For example, you can tweak scenes showing your customer interacting with your company to change the atmosphere. Or you can find ways of turning a dramatic mid-point crisis (oh no! they sent me the wrong size!) into a happy ending.

  • Let the whole team take part so everyone understands

    • your customers’ needs,

    • how your product can help them, and

    • what gaps in the market your company can address.

As an added bonus, this methodology will also unify your team around a “company campfire” as you all work together towards a shared vision.

I first learned about the approach from startup mentor Andrew Harrison.

If you are looking for more help and want to know how story can be used in your business, Change Creator has a Facebook Group dedicated to helping social impact entrepreneurs harness the power of storytelling for your business (you can find me there too!). 


company culture change creator

2. Shape the User Experience (UX)

Let’s stay with the empathy theme. As Adam G. Force explains in this Change Creator article,

“Storytelling is a deep understanding of human pain, human behavior, and then the most, most ideal format for communicating that”.

Our world is increasingly shaped by behavior in virtual spaces. If we want those spaces to be safe, enjoyable and nurturing, then we need a deep understanding that storytelling brings. This is what “narrative UX” is all about — a concept I first discovered and applied in 2014 when I was still working in-house at LEGO Group.

Sounds complicated? It’s really simple and fun:

Start by thinking of your users as heroes on a quest through your app or website. Then, take responsibility for guiding them through their choose-your-own-adventure tales.

If you’re in charge of a website or you make a digital product, Jessica Collier’s brilliant Medium article about narrative UX is a must-read.

3. Speed Up Your Storytelling Efforts

Remember how I said that Joseph Campbell didn’t intend his book as a storytelling guide?

And still, it’s turned into a popular source of storytelling templates.

And that’s OK…

… as long as we bear in mind that the Hero’s Journey is just one way to tell a story…

… and as long as the complexity of Campbell’s 17-stage model doesn’t cause writers’ block and anxiety.

If you’re after a Hero’s Journey template that’s simple enough to use and realistic enough to produce a great “story skeleton”, the French playwright Eugène Scribe (1791-1861) is a better guide than Campbell. As John Yorke, creator of the BBC Writers’ Academy, explains in his fascinating book, Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them (pp.42f.):

Scribe’s prolific output (he ‘wrote’ over 400 works collected in no less than seventy-six volumes) is largely explained by his employment of a team of juniors who followed a formula he honed to perfection — much as an author like James Patterson does today. …

Though the topicality of his plays means his work has dated, Scribe is… arguably the first to articulate a template for mass production… his works were incredibly well structured, full of dashing rhetorical devices and — in their time — great fun. …

Without Scribe, then, there would have been no Ibsen or Shaw (at least not quite in the same form).

Not only is a 5-act template much easier to use than Campbell’s 17 stages. The resulting structure also makes for more powerful marketing. 

To find out what makes an ad successful, Keith A. Quesenberry and Michael K. Coolsen analyzed 108 Super Bowl commercials over the course of 2 years: “Results demonstrated that average consumer ratings were higher for commercials that followed a five-act dramatic form.”

I’ve adapted Scribe’s 5-act template into a 5-step worksheet to help you plot your stories. You can download it here.

4. Make Your Marketing Messages More Effective

Marketing is the world in which the Hero’s Journey is the most talked about. But how do you use it in real life?

Here are 3 ways you can play with the Hero’s Journey in your marketing:

1. For your Brand Story

Brand Stories are easy to understand and remember, so they will help the entire team integrate all your communications. Essentially, you’re using your favorite story from the Story Model described above — and turn it into the foundation of your marketing.

2. To get more testimonials and make them relatable

Many brand owners struggle to get testimonials and reviews. One major reason for this is that customers can feel overwhelmed with having to write such a piece.

Here’s an easy way to help them — and your business:

Ask your customer some questions.

Following the Hero’s Journey, you could, for example, ask:

  1. What was going on in your life that made you want to try [our product]?

  2. Tell me what it was like to order and receive your product.

  3. Did you have any concerns or issues using it?

  4. How did you overcome those issues?

  5. How have things improved for you since you got the product? What’s the biggest benefit you’ve seen?

As this in-depth article from Help Scout explains, the answers will also help you to “set up the ‘before, after, bridge’ that is so effective in persuasion — start with a vivid description of the pain, end with an enviable, headache-free outcome, and make it obvious how the tool was able to bridge the gap.”

Plus, the questions prompt honest answers that will help you improve your product and customer experience.

3. Storytelling in Advertising.

Not all transformation stories have to be strictly true. If you’re creating an ad, it’s enough to make the story believable.

The following 1927 ad by John Caples has been called “quite possibly the most swiped advertisement ever“. The hero of this story is a man on a quest to prove the snickering people wrong and embarrass them by how well he can play the piano. We’re thrown right into the thick of it:

Note how the story transforms into a sales pitch when the hero explains how he learned to play. We may find this example a bit dated today — but it’s still one of the most effective ways you can tell a story that effortlessly supports your offer.

5. Model the Change We Need to See in the World

One reason why John Caples’ ad seems quaint is that we’re fighting much bigger battles today. Yes, there’s a huge market for personal improvement, and it’s important. But the real power of story in the 21st century is in inspiring social change.

Which is why (contrary to what the critics say) we need a lot more superhero movies.

We need to see more flying, costumed creatures in capes protecting the earth.

And more undercover superheroes quietly doing their thing to save species — thus ultimately saving humanity from extinction.

Good stories have the power to inspire us to take action.

But only if they allow us to identify with the hero who’s changing the world. That experience (Aristotle called it “catharsis”) lets us experience and practice the change before we’re getting our hands dirty.

The thing is, different kinds of people have different kinds of self-images. And at the moment, there’s still a huge gap between people denying climate change and climate change believers. 

Summer Harrison’s research found that lack of identification with the cultural community of believers is to blame:

“Attempts to educate the public through the use of scientific facts fails to acknowledge something fundamental about human understanding. Despite its importance, especially given the recent rise of so-called “alternative facts,” access to this knowledge does not account for the role of emotion and identity in the creation of our beliefs.”

Even amongst climate change believers, the attitude-behavior gap is still huge. For example, Renée Shaw Hughner found that 67% of consumers showed a positive attitude towards buying organic food, but only 4% actually bought it.

If “people like us do things like this” — one of Seth Godin’s oft-quoted mantras — then we urgently need to harness stories of diverse eco-warrior heroes.

Only storytelling can fuel the fire of passion inside as many different people as possible. And build their confidence that they can drive the change we need to see before 2030. 

You might also enjoy:

How to Cut Through The Overwhelm And Start to Enjoy Storytelling

If you’re a living, breathing human being, you know how to tell a story.

That’s because our brains are built to run on stories the way your phone runs on Android or iOS.

Still, a lot of impact entrepreneurs feel out of their depth even just thinking about telling their stories.

And if you’ve ever searched for “storytelling” online, it’s not all that surprising. At the time of writing, Google spits out 137 million search results — many of which contradict one another.

Spend 30 minutes reading blogs online, and you’ll come across information such as this

When you want to use storytelling in your copywriting you need to pick a genre you’re going to steal from. You want to center your work around a certain mood, a specific emotional response. Are you writing a horror story? A romantic comedy? Or something else? 

… which seems to give completely different advice from this article by Jody Aberdeen:

What people are craving more than anything in 2019 is something, maybe someone, to root for, not rail against. Make sure to show your audiences, through your storytelling, the world that you want to create and invite them to create it with you.

Faced with the decision between picking a genre and painting a positive vision of the future, many social entrepreneurs simply give up.

If that’s you, I want to encourage you to enjoy the power of story. Check out our extensive Brand Story Guide and learn more about how you can use story to build your brand today. 

Read on to find out about the benefits of storytelling — and how to overcome the overwhelm that’s holding you back.

Stories Help Us to Become Better Humans

Not only are stories a source of great joy, they also build deep connections, switch on our empathy and allow us to learn by impacting our brains and our hormones directly.

It’s that authentic connection that makes storytelling so important, “especially in times of widespread crisis of trust in advertising”.

Whether you’re writing blog posts or producing video ads, stories can work wonders for your business and your cause. They will engage people more than factual content, and your audience will think more highly of your work.

Here are 3 areas where you’ll benefit most from the power of stories:

1. Storytelling Will Make Your Blog More Engaging

Did you know that stories can keep your visitors reading for longer? Carolina Stubb from the Stockholm School of Economics found that

using a storytelling message format compared to an informational message format when a blogger reviews a sponsored product increases the blog readers’ viewing time of the sponsored blog post. This has important implications for advertising attention, since increased attention towards an advertisement can result in enhanced brand recall and purchase intentions.

2. Storytelling Will Make Your Facebook Ads More Profitable

Tara West found that 55% of people would consider buying from a new brand in the future if they really loved a story told via Facebook ads:


According to her research, the most effective way to advertise on Facebook is by “sequencing ads together in a way that tells a brand story”, rather than “a sustained message focused solely on driving an action”.

It’s worth playing with ads that break up the customer journey into smaller steps based on your story, rather than “going all in” with a single ad that asks the viewer to make a purchase straight away. This approach establishes you in the minds of your audience, and you’re more likely to ask for the sale at the right time in their relationship with you.

3. Storytelling on Your Packaging Will Make People Love Your Product More

Beata Zatwarnicka-Madura and Robert Nowacki summarised the research on the effectiveness of storytelling in advertising. They found that “even a short brand story included on FMCG [Fast-Moving Consumer Goods] packaging had a positive impact on consumers’ affective, attitudinal, product value, and behavioral intention responses to the brand.”

This means you can build stronger customer relationships, long-term loyalty and spontaneous advocacy just by printing your story on the box or wrapper! Plus, you’ll get away with charging a higher price — which is so important for any brand with a fair and sustainable supply chain.

Right, so we know that storytelling is the holy grail of marketing. But how do you get started if you’re feeling stuck?

What’s holding you back from telling your story?

In my work as a copy coach and trainer, I’ve found that most storytelling overwhelm comes from 3 mindsets holding us back:

  1. The search for “the one” story

  2. Reading too many business books

  3. Worrying that storytelling for business is inherently unethical 

In the final part of my article, I want to shed some light on each one to help you free yourself from those unhelpful mindsets.

1. Are You Searching For The One Story That Will Change Everything?

You may be searching in vain.

The thing is, all that content about “telling your story” — in the singular — suggests that there is this ONE magical story that you need to tell, and your business success is basically guaranteed.

Sounds great!

But then you sit down at your desk and you start to take notes, and you discover…

There’s no single story beckoning to be told.

Instead, you’re faced with a multitude of story snippets, glittering like fairy dust. All of them seem worth telling.

The best thing you can do is this:

Catch the one that appeals to you the most right now and start telling that story. Then move on to the next one.

You’re in this for the long haul. There’s always time to tell more stories later; the important thing is to get started.

2. Are You Reading Too Many Business Books?

In recent years, we’ve been inundated with “storytelling-for-business” books.

At first, this seemed like a genius idea — but as more and more books got published, many have gone too far in their search for an easily repeatable recipe.

As a result, many readers start out enthusiastically until they start working on their story and hit a prescriptive wall.

One of my favorite love-hate example of this is Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand. The book is a huge commercial success and a huge commercial enterprise, with associated consulting, online platforms, events, and webinars attached.

However, it’s also one of the most misunderstood books of the last decade. Building a Story Brand is often recommended as a book about storytelling, creativity or even copywriting. Thing is, it’s none of the above. Really, it’s a book about branding, and that’s where it’s strongest. Donald Miller uses stories as metaphors that help businesses understand how branding works. When he ventures into storytelling or copywriting territory, he makes claims that are so absolute that they’re no longer true. (After all, one of the only rules of copywriting that all copywriters can agree on is “always be testing”.)

Storytelling is a courageous creative process. So, read books that help you build your confidence and your creativity muscle — for example, books by artists, novels, short stories, and autobiographies.

And if you decide to use a framework, remember it exists to serve you, not the other way around. Use it as a springboard for your imagination and to bring order to the chaos of too many ideas.

Are You Secretly Worried That Storytelling is a Sneaky Sales Technique? 

There’s a myth that’s causing much trouble in the purpose-driven business world…

The belief that all stories must be used for marketing a product or service:

If you want to advance your social enterprise, you’ll need to transform the stories that mass numbers of people around the planet have about the causes and issues that matter to your business. You’ll need to inspire them on a deeply emotional level to do what’s right, which should also look like buying your products and services.

Why is this a problem?

Most people don’t like stories with ulterior motives. They feel dishonest and smell of snake oil.  Listening to a story like that is almost like ‘sponsored content’ or clumsy product placement.

But what’s even worse, I’ve seen the pressure to sell via story lead to writing blocks in some of the most creative people I know.

And a strong focus on selling a product or service pushes the far more important offer in the background: the idea that’s being sold.

If you’re stuck telling your story, forget about your products and services and focus on the ideas and mindsets you want to foster in people. The best movies, novels and long-form news articles “sell” an idea to us: they create meaning and help us to make sense of the world. Just think of E.T. (friendship is also about letting go), The Lord of the Rings (a fellowship can overcome anything to fight evil) or even Pretty Woman (love crosses social boundaries and class is a function of looks and behaviour).

Whether you’re telling your founder’s story, your impact story or the story of your happiest customers: each is driven by a strong sense of purpose. Make your story about that, and your story has the power to change the world.

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