Did you know you’re a storyteller?
It doesn’t matter if you majored in literature or if you can’t remember the last novel you read cover-to-cover.
If you’re in marketing, you’re a storyteller.
We all view the world through the lens of stories. Your job as a marketer is to tell your potential customers a story of transformation—the story of how your product can change their lives—that will convince them to make a purchase.
In this blog post, we’re going to look at the hero’s journey, a storytelling pattern found everywhere from Star Wars to the Odyssey to The Hunger Games. To keep things simple, we’ll break the journey into 4 sections and teach you how to use them to create irresistible marketing materials.
First Things First: Meet Your Hero
When telling stories about your brand, you might be tempted to make your business the protagonist of the story. But that’s a surefire way to lose your audience’s attention.
People want to engage in stories that they can relate to. They want to imagine themselves going on adventures and experiencing a life-changing journey.
In order to write a compelling story with your marketing materials, you need to make your potential customer the hero, not your brand.
After all, a “hero” in a story is the person who makes a decision and experiences change. Does that sound more like your business or your potential customer?
When your audience member makes the choice to purchase your product, they’ll experience positive changes that meet their external and internal needs.
This is their story, and your brand is the helpful guide who will lead them on their way. Think of your business as the Obi-Wan to their Luke, the Gandalf to their Frodo, the Haymitch to their Katniss.
Stage 1: Show them where they are now.
Every story needs a beginning.
Many business owners want to focus on the end result, the happy ending that comes when a customer makes a purchase and has their problems solved.
However, in order for that ending to be meaningful, you have to establish the beginning first.
Your products or services meet your customers’ wants and needs. But what does life look like before that purchase?
If you offer a time-saving service, talk about how busy your hero probably is. If you sell beauty products, focus on your hero’s desire to feel confident and good-looking.
Be empathetic and kind, and avoid language that sounds condescending or mocking. Try to meet your hero where they’re at instead of looking down on them. Your tone should be along the lines of, “Hey. I’ve been there, too. It’s tough, isn’t it?” This empathy helps position your brand as the perfect guide to help the hero out of their situation.
Don’t linger on the beginning of the story for too long. You should present the solution (purchasing your product, signing up for your service, etc.) right away, so your hero can take action if and when they’re ready.
Stage 2: Establish a change in circumstances.
In a typical hero’s journey, the “change in circumstances” is usually dire and dramatic. (Think of Luke Skywalker losing his aunt and uncle on Tatooine, leading him to decide to follow Obi-Wan.) But in marketing, the change typically comes down to time and scarcity.
Tap into your readers’ fear of missing out by setting a deadline or limiting the availability of your product. Focus on why they should make a purchase now. What makes today different from yesterday? Why is it in their best interest to accept your offer right now?
There are plenty of ways to leverage time and scarcity in your offer:
- Hold a sale with a clearly stated end date.
- Is it time to raise the prices on some of your products? Encourage your audience to shop before the price increase takes effect.
- When promoting an event or webinar, emphasize the limited number of seats. (If you can send out communications that include the number of remaining seats, even better!)
- Offer a coupon code that only works for the first 100 users.
- If you’re running low on certain products, tell readers to “get them before they’re gone.”
As the deadline draws nearer (or as availability runs out), emphasize how urgent it is for your reader to take action.
Stage 3: Imagine what life could be like if they take action.
This is probably the most fun part of the hero’s journey, both for you and your reader. You get to paint a picture of the future your hero can enjoy if they act now.
Will they save time, leaving them free to relax on the weekend?
Will they save money that they can put toward their future?
Will they feel more confident, giving them the courage to try new things?
Will they be healthier, adding months or years to their lifespan that they can spend with the people they love?
You’re not selling just a product. You’re selling an experience, emotions, time, a lifestyle, and more. Dig deep into what your hero wants, and think about how your business can provide it.
Remember that this stage is different from the typical hero’s journey because it is imagined. Your hero hasn’t taken action yet. And that brings us to the final stage of the journey.
Stage 4: Return to the present.
At the end of a traditional hero’s journey, the hero returns home changed. In marketing, our hero returns to reality after imagining the possible futures your business can provide.
Remind your hero that the imagined future depends on them making a choice. If they choose to purchase now, they can bring stage 3 into reality. If they choose not to purchase, they’re missing out on an incredible opportunity.
Reinforce the scarcity by reminding them of the deadline, and present a clear call to action. Hint at the possible future that could happen if they don’t make a purchase. Make the hero’s decision as easy and obvious as possible.
If you’ve told a compelling story, your hero should be ready to make the choice.
Every Email Is a Story
Now that we’ve walked through the hero’s journey, let’s see what it looks like in practice.
Every promotional email you send to your audience should include some elements of the hero’s journey. Most emails will contain all 4 stages, though the sections will probably vary in length. A series of promotional emails will also tell a story, with the earlier emails focusing more on stages 1 through 3, and the later emails heavily focused on stage 4.
Look at the following email copy and see if you can find all 4 stages of the journey.
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