So, What’s The Story?




Don’t Sell ’em. Tell ’em!

Okay, here’s a story:

Once Upon A Time in the mid-90s, Larry Page and Sergei Brin were two young IT developers looking to make a name for themselves.

One day they invented a new search engine, which they affectionately nicknamed “BackRub,” because their invention checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site.

Realizing the vast amount of information one could obtain from the world wide web, they agreed that BackRub just wasn’t big enough.

So they searched and searched until they found a word that meant the number 1 followed by 100 zeros: googol

But they had mistakenly misspelled it as google.

Happily they realized this misspelled word (google with an “le”) was a brand new word they could own!

So on September 15, 1997 Google became both the search engine and the company’s registered name.

And that’s the story behind the commonly used verb we all use everyday, as in: “Can’t find it? Just Google it!”

And they all lived happily ever — with billions and billions of dollars!!

So what’s the point of this story?

We love stories! In fact, I’ll bet once you knew where this story was going, you were compelled to read it to the end just to confirm it was the story of how Google got its name.

Starting at a young age, we are “hard-wired” to be persuaded by stories.

Remember The Little Train That Could? Or The Ugly Duckling? Or The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Or any of Aesop’s many other fables?

Well, all of these stories had one main thing in common — they delivered an important message within the tale: “Don’t give up. Don’t always believe what others say. Don’t make up lies.”

Compelling stories like these not only entertain, they can also educate and motivate. That’s why telling stories can be quite useful when it comes to marketing.

When someone says “I’m going to tell you a story”, our ears perk up and we focus our attention on the tale. Grabbing attention is probably the hardest part of marketing, yet a simple story can cut through the clutter and make the product stand out.

Compelling stories don’t have to just be delivered through words, they can be told visually as well. 

For instance, look at the photo at the top of this page. Why does the girl wear antlers? Why is she out reading in the woods? What is she reading? Who is she?

Sometimes all it takes is the right image to tell the story and compel your customer. This goes for video as well.

When a consumer has a problem or sees an obstacle, a good story is a sure way to grab attention.

If you tell a story – especially a story highlighting a problem your prospect is experiencing — you’ve got his or her attention. If your story concludes with an ending that happily solves the problem, you’ve got a motivated buyer!

But the story doesn’t always have to resolve the issue. It can simply compel.

Several years ago I created a radio campaign for Harley-Davidson Motor Clothes that moved a ton of product. Each radio ad featured the product placed in a compelling story that never once tried to sell the listening audience. Instead, it seduced them.

Click the shield below to listen to a brief montage of the 3 Harley-Davidson radio spots.

The moral of today’s story is “Behind every product or service, there is a story that can be told. But it’s up to the seller to tell it.”

So if you are trying to come up with an idea on how to motivate someone to buy your product or service, just remember:

Don’t sell ‘em a pitch. Tell ‘em a story!

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  1. Penny Hodge

    Ben, you had me at “once upon a time.” Great article and a great example of the point you are trying to get across. I think I’ll give story telling a try and see what happens.

    Looking forward to more great ideas from you!

  2. BenCrain (Post author)

    Hi Penny! Thanks so much for taking the time to check out my latest blog, and for leaving a comment. I’ve been writing ad copy for quite some time and the Storytelling angle has always been one of my favorite tactics. Hope it helps you as well. As promised, I have sent you links to my 2 free ebooks via your Facebook messenger. If you have any problems accessing them please do not hesitate to let me know. Have a great day!

  3. Martin Roch

    Hi Ben, That is an awesome post. You have a talent for writing interesting content. I will definitely try to incorporate what I learned into my own blog posts, sales pages etc.
    Keep up the good work – I look forward to learning more from you.

    1. BenCrain (Post author)

      Thanks Martin. I’m so glad you liked my post! I look forward to seeing your stories in some of your upcoming blog posts. Cheers!

  4. Paul Haylett

    Hi Ben,

    Fantastic post, and so true. The best ads
    and sales pages, are the ones that tell a
    story first.

    I think, looking at some internet marketers
    sales pages, they seem to have forgotten the
    true, raw power of a story, as a way of “warming”
    the clients up to buy the product on offer.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    Stay Awesome,


    1. BenCrain (Post author)

      Hi Paul. Thank you so much for the great comment! I totally agree. It amazes me to see the amount of atrocious internet sales pages that are out there, trying to lure in customers. Of course there are tons of terrible billboards, radio and TV ads as well. I’m sure they’re pulling in enough customers to justify their usefulness. But I still believe the ones that are well thought out and seduce the customer (as opposed to screaming at them) can do just as well. They also tend to elevate the brand more in the consumer’s mind. And that usually means more return sales and more profit! Cheers my friend!

  5. Bruce Maccabee

    Nice blog/story.

    When I present a lecture or when I am interviewed on some subject such as UFOs I often begin with a story that connects me in some way with the subject of the lecture. This tends to “lock in” the attention of the audience and once “locked in” the audience stays attentive.

  6. BenCrain (Post author)

    Greetings Bruce. Happy to hear you liked my post! I too have used the storytelling angle to set up a speech, lecture or client presentation. It’s a great way to break the ice, get attention and drive home your point. Thanks for the great comment. Cheers!

  7. Randy Smith

    Hey Ben,
    I couldn’t agree more re the importance of story telling.
    And if anyone thinks back into history, it’s easy to see why we’re hard wired to listen to stories.

    As you said ‘Once upon a time…’
    The bulk of the population would not have been able to read & write, so for the hundreds/thousands of years prior to schools & books etc. – Story telling would be the only way to ‘Teach’ and teach valuable lessons required by the listeners to live their lives.

    Whether to teach them about the times of year to plant and sow, or teach them the value of never giving up, or simply to pass on news from other parts of the country, it would be the traveling story teller who passed on this vital information.

    So is it any wonder we all sit up and take notice when we hear those 4 special words. Once upon a time. Did you hear about. Let me tell you. Gather round, listen up.

    Whatever 4 words are used – Attention is the first reaction. Exactly what every copywriter/salesman/marketer needs to begin their proposal 😉


    1. BenCrain (Post author)

      Other attention-getting story openings that come to mind would be “In the beginning…”, “Did ya hear the one about the…”, or everybody’s favorite “A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

      Thanks for the great comment Randy. Cheers!


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