How to Begin Your Sales Copy With a Story

When I’m running copywriting workshops, two of the most popular questions I get is:

  • “How do I begin my sales copy? How do I kick it off in a way that’s compelling and holds the prospect’s attention?”
  • “I’ve heard storytelling can boost my response and conversion rates. How do I use stories in my sales copy?”

So I thought what I’d do this week is combine the two and give you some practical ideas on how to begin your sales copy with a story. In fact, I’ve created a short (5-minute) video lesson on that topic, which you can view above.

But if you prefer reading, here’s that lesson in a nutshell:

Idea #1: Ask a story-prompting question.

This is the simplest way to put the power of storytelling in your sales copy. Start your email, ad or landing page with a question that gets a story started in the prospect’s mind. This can be a winning technique because it’s the prospect, not you, who is creating the story.
Look at this example of an online ad for a training company:

Do you struggle to improve customer service when your retail employees don’t seem to give a damn?

If you manage retail employees, your mind can’t help but replay memories of that happening!

Idea #2: Ask them to imagine.

Here’s an example of the start of a sales page for an online training program.

Imagine if you could contact a list of prospects, introduce your services to them, and land a new client — this week! Without having to do or say anything that’s uncomfortable or exposes you to unpleasant rejection.

What better way to begin your copy than to get the prospect anticipating the happy result of your product or service.

Idea #3: Use an interesting fact or anecdote.

A few years ago, I wrote a very successful direct mail letter for a collections agency. Unlike similar firms, their approach was to help businesses recover overdue accounts without destroying customer relationships.

Here’s how I started that letter:

In ancient Greece, business owners would collect on overdue accounts by throwing stones at the customers. This forced the debtor to pay up or face a daily bruising. Today, things are more civilized, but debt collection is no less frustrating…

Idea #4: Make up a story.

This is the obvious technique. Simply dream up a story that fits your sales message. The famous “Two young men” sales letter for the Wall Street Journal did just that. By some reports, that letter sold more than a billion dollars in subscriptions.

Idea #5: Use a customer story.

Dig into your (or your client’s) treasure trove of customer case studies and testimonials. Using a customer/client story to start your sales copy is powerful because it’s not you singing the praises of your product or service, it’s your customer. That’s convincing.

Idea #6: Get personal.

Use a personal story, either your own or your team’s. This is an ideal approach if building trust and humanizing your product or service is important. If customers/clients “buy you” as much as they buy your product or service, then getting personal can build that needed trust.

So, try one of those ideas the next time you’re writing an email, ad, website page or other type of sales message. Stories have an impact. Stories stick.

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