Stories stick and sell

60049803 Stories are a part of our lives from the time we're babies. 

  • Dad read stories to us at bed time. 
  • Mom tells us the story of the little boy who bumped his head because he didn't put on his seat belt. 
  • Grannie's stories about growing up and getting her first TV set teaches us about innovation.
  • Papa regals us with his tale of how his stage kiss brought down the house in high school connects our generational passion for theater.

Then, we get to school.  In just about every class we are taught via stories.  Whether it's a history lesson wrapped up in the Gold Rush, a humanities study woven into haunting Holocaust stories, or a sociology primer on how people around the globe practice their religion — school is filled with stories.

When we date…what do we do to learn about the other person?  Exactly….we tell stories.  Whether they're sad, funny, heartwarming or ego-boosting — human beings teach and learn via stories.

Recognizing all of that, doesn't it make sense that we would use stories in our marketing?  The truth is…the tactic is already all around us.  Jared is thin, thanks to SubwayeHarmony couples want you to be as happy as they are,and average Joe John Erlendson wants you to know that Lipitor is keeping his heart healthy.

Dandy…you're sold.  You now believe that stories can help you strengthen your brand, sell more and reinforce your customers' buying decision.

Now what?

Creating stories to use in your marketing, especially if you are going to use real customers, is no small task.  Fortunately, there's a book out to help.  Casey Hibbard has written Stories that Sell, which is literally a step-by-step playbook of how to create incredibly powerful marketing tools from customer stories.

In the book, Hibbard covers everything from planning the campaign, to finding the best stories (even stories you didn't know about), getting your customers to say yes to letting you tell their story, and how to create compelling stories that really stick.  There are 9 steps in all and she explains each one in detail so you can't possibly go astray.

This is a very practical and yet inspiring book.  You'll read it and know with confidence that you can hunt down the right stories and create amazing marketing materials from them.

Want even better news?  I have three signed copies to give away. Just leave a comment and we'll randomly select three lucky winners!

In the meantime…how are you using stories today in your marketing?  Or, how would you like to?

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29 comments on “Stories stick and sell

  1. This is really interesting Drew. When teaching speaking skills one of our top ten tips is to tell stories. I am sure we have all sat through dry business presentations that could have been brought to life with a tale or 2. In my experience follow up conversations with new contacts are more likely to be prompted by a story that struck a chord than anything else!

  2. Teri Dean says:

    Even though this seems to be a common sense thing, I don’t consciously think about doing in the marketing area. When speaking to an audience I always try to relate with stories. Thanks for the tip on the book!

  3. Julia H Kern says:

    I like this post and can relate to it…

    I always use stories when doing public speaking. Something I learned from the Dale Carnegie course and the good old days of extemporaneous public speaking with the FFA.

    American Family Insurance frequently used stories in their ads or rather testimonials. They moved away from it and now I see other insurance companies using stories in their ads..

    Good post…

  4. Gary Knowles says:

    Great post and thanks for the reminder. Look at some of the most successful ads (short stories?) of all time – including that (print) one with the headline “They laughed when I sat down at the piano…”
    that sdets up the great turn around story –
    and of course the (TV) classic “Mean Joe Green gets a Coke, throws the jersey to the good kid…” —
    Stories = life.

  5. Josh Shipley says:

    At a recent presentation, we asked a client to share his experiences with our services. His story was quoted in the paper the following day and led to 10% of the attendees calling me to discuss business within one week. Without a doubt, I will check out the book to see how we can get similar customer experiences and grow our business. Thanks for the post.

  6. Doug Phillips says:

    Stories are the woven fabric that connect our generations, our families, and our customers. The ability to relate a specific story or anecdote during presentations has an exponential impact on your audience retaining the information. A tip of the marketing hat to you for this topic.

  7. Jackie,

    You are so right…stories don’t just sell product. They are an amazing teaching tool in any setting. Most of the best speakers tell memorable stories. That’s how they make their points.


  8. Teri,

    Sometimes I think the lessons that make the most sense are the ones we almost take for granted…forgetting that just because they’re not complicated doesn’t mean they aren’t important!


  9. Julia,

    Stories work in just about any situation and with any industry. We just have to remember to use them!


  10. Gary,

    I think the Mean Joe Green commercial may go down as one of the most memorable spots of all time. A stroke of genius.


  11. Josh,

    Wow…talk about a powerful story! You just provided the perfect testimonial to the potential of using stories.


  12. Doug,

    I could not agree more. Stories add emotion and memorability to every situation, teaching, selling or just connecting.


  13. Susan says:


    Great post. Stories really have an amazing impact on people. Especially when they engage the listener, viewer or reader.

  14. John Stein says:

    Right on Drew. Case studies presented in story form are the ultimate low cost marketing method. A close second – testimonials (mini-stories) – should be required as part of every customers payment structure. They cost nothing and help the customer reflect on their experience.
    Great post – look forward to reading more.

  15. Gayle Welter says:

    Drew –
    I’ve learned from you the power of a good story – and digging deep to get something a little more than the superficial concept. I love a good story and would love to read this book.

  16. This reminds me of Walt Disney’s insistence that his studio focus on telling a good story first and building everything else around that story.

  17. Thanks for the post Drew! And great points by everyone. Stories work on many levels in sales and marketing, whether spoken or written:

    – People pay more attention to stories and remember better what they hear
    – People love to hear about other people
    – Telling a story about an organization just like that of the reader helps the reader envision him/herself using the product/service
    – Using a named story provides credibility, educates the audience, and validates that the solution does what you promise

    Good stuff!


  18. Kamy Herbst says:

    Drew, one of your responses above is key… “you have to remember to use them.”
    Sometimes the “common sense” isn’t always common until brought up, then a light bulb goes off.
    Ok, my light bulb anyway.

  19. John,

    Now there’s an interesting notion — making testimonials part of the payment strategy. Can you elaborate on that for us?


  20. Gayle,

    The beauty of story telling as a marketing technique is that it works no matter the industry. It’s truly a universal concept that is as effective selling shoes to soldering irons.


  21. Scott,

    That’s why he was such a genius. Walt understood the power of storytelling. And that’s why his earlier works like Cinderella and Snow White are such classics today. They started with a memorable story.


  22. Kamy,

    I think we all need nudges to remind us of some of the basics. We get going to so fast that we forget sometimes.


  23. Stories are huge in marketing, sales, education, life. We all have them and it makes things relatable. It is proven that your memory will retain something almost 5 to 1 if you feel it and share an emotion about it vs just seeing it and it is 10 to 1 vs just hearing it. (called episodic memory)

    So to engage an audience, you need to create emotion. This really is what charasmatic people are really good at. They get you to identify and feel a certain way and in turn you want to be around that person. All they do is lead you where you want to be…

    Make sure your story and message match. Make sure the story is relatable by that specific audience or target audience. If it is not then figure out a tie in that will bring that story to the audience.

    If you can make it feel specific and relatable to that audience where they say… I think he was talking directly to me. You hit a HOME RUN!!!

    Chad Rothschild

  24. Scott Purdie says:

    This is exactly what im about to start working on in my own business, I think il grab the book if i dont get drawn out of the hat,

    Im going to work on letting our users tell their stories about how we help.

    Stories are powerful, i think if you can do it well with video its going to rock.

  25. Chad,

    I think it’s the “emotion” element that really makes stories work. When marketing sells based features, the facts are just that — facts. But they lack any emotional appeal or connection.

    Stories are also much easier to pass along because they’re memorable.

    Can you think of any product where a story telling technique wouldn’t work? I’m not sure I can.


  26. Scott,

    You are very right…video is an excellent medium to use in storytelling. It’s a powerful way to trigger an emotional reaction.


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  28. brainstrom says:

    The ability to relate a specific story or anecdote during presentations has an exponential impact on your audience retaining the information. A tip of the marketing hat to you for this topic.


  29. Nice One Drew. This info is so basic, but not often realized.

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