“Do you think he’ll notice I’m wearing the same thing I had on last night?”
I glanced towards the door to see a familiar face, and began to wonder if this was the only Uber Eats driver in Palm Springs.
“You’re sitting in a hotel bar in your pajamas at 7:30 and that’s what you’re worried about?” I replied, signaling to the bartender to bring us another round of drinks.
Nancy and I were here working on a new marketing campaign for be.mydo, and by the end of each day we were usually too exhausted to go out for dinner. Instead, we would meet up with the rest of the team at the Amigo Room in the evenings to hang out and finish up anything we were still working on.
“… seriously, though, I can’t figure out why I’m not booking any clients. I post all the time on my blog and social media but it doesn’t do any good. I feel like I’m just wasting my time!”
I heard Sarah’s voice and looked up just as she and Holly walked in. Sarah was one of our photographers in Palm Springs, with a gift for creating images that lured you into the moment and made you part of the story.
As I slid over to make room for them at the table I saw that Sarah had her laptop with her. “Pull up your website and let me take a look,” I told her. She did, and handed me her laptop just as the bartender brought over our drinks.
I clicked on her blog and started reading, “I had so much fun shooting Piper’s session today! The weather was perfect, and she looked absolutely stunning. I can’t wait for her to see her pictures!”
I stifled a groan as I scrolled through the next few posts - each one as forgettable as the one before - before heading back to the home page.
Clicking through the rest of her site I tried to get a feel for the user experience, but it was all I could do to keep my eyes from glazing over. I shut the laptop and handed it back to Sarah.
“There's nothing wrong with your site, Sarah. The problem is your content - it’s BORING.”
News flash: Content is more than ‘king’ when it comes to your business, it’s the Holy Grail.
If your copy isn’t interesting - if it doesn’t grab your reader’s attention and hold on tight - then you’re going to have about as much luck converting them into paying clients as you would convincing Ross that he and Rachel were not on a break.
So how do you do that? You use storytelling.
Sarah’s copy on her blog tells her readers absolutely nothing about the experience with her, and gives them zero context in which to imagine themselves inside the story.
Whether they know Piper or not, they couldn’t care less how ‘stunning’ or ‘beautiful’ she is. They want to see what she looks like as if they were standing next to Sarah, looking at her with their own eyes.
If your reader doesn’t have any context where they can imagine themselves inside the story, then they aren’t going to think about anything at all. They won’t be even remotely interested.
All they know is that they weren’t there, and they’re annoyed that you wasted their time.
But what if we took Sarah’s copy and rewrote it like this:
“I live next door to a delightful woman whose garden looks like a Van Gogh painting brought to life. So when I discovered Piper’s obsession with sunflowers I reached out to my neighbor for help in finding the perfect location.
She did not disappoint. When I arrived at the destination that afternoon I was greeted by a field full of sunflowers bursting with color. Piper pulled up with her mom a few minutes later in a Honda Element, and after disappearing into her backseat for a moment she emerged from the car with no fewer than 10 long, flowy Free People dresses in her arms.
I hung the dresses on my portable garment rack and selected one that would show off the beautiful contrast between her dark hair and creamy skin. After finishing her look with a pair of nude sandals and a petite silver necklace, I handed her the dress and she disappeared into the back of her vehicle to change.
While Piper was getting ready I walked around to get a feel for the lighting, texture, colors, and landscape. The field was tucked behind a row of trees along one of the back roads I take when I’m in a hurry to get to the airport, and I wondered how many times I had driven by here without even noticing it.
I paused for a moment, closing my eyes as I took a deep breath. All at once I could smell the warmth of the 5:00 sun, the fragrance of the wildflowers blooming at the edge of the field, and the salt of the ocean that seemed much closer than the 15 miles that separated us.
Suddenly a shriek pierced the air and I spun around to see Piper drop her shoes and take off running, her shrieks turning to giggles as she tried to escape from a bee that was chasing her. As her mom realized what was happening she began swatting furiously at the air with both hands and took off in the other direction, abandoning Piper for the safety of the car.
I had brought my camera to my eye the moment I turned around, documenting the entire story as it unfolded in front of me. And having already set my camera for the lighting conditions that afternoon I was now free to focus on more important things.
Like whether or not Piper was about to take a nose dive into the pond she was running towards."
If you were a potential client checking out Sarah’s site, which copy would you rather read?
Which version puts you inside the story and has you smiling to yourself as you imagine your own reaction to the bee?
Are you running towards the late day sun or away from it?
It’s a tough pill to swallow but you need to face reality: if you fail to use storytelling in your marketing then you’re going to bore your readers.
A bored reader will check out, and they aren’t likely to return.
Sort of like when Ned Stark left Winterfell in Game of Thrones; the circumstances may be different, but the end result is the same (minus the beheading, that is).
Remember, you have to use storytelling in a way that grabs your reader’s attention and puts them in the middle of the story itself. They need to experience the story as if they were there, and it takes practice to get it right.
We'd love to hear what challenges you face with your content as a creative entrepreneur, so head on over to the Unconventional Creative Facebook Group and let us know what you're struggling with.