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It used to be so easy to get the attention of your target customers.

You’d have a new product or event to announce so you’d craft up an email campaign, send it to a list and watch the clicks and sales come rolling in.

But then it all changed. People’s attention span got shorter, and the number of marketing messages competing for their attention got bigger.

But what if you knew a way to truly capture and maintain your readers attention? In this post, we’ll show you how storytelling can increase your email click-through rate and give you a 3-part formula you can use to craft a great story for your next email campaign.

How stories can increase your email click-through rate

Telling stories works because it activates our brain in ways no other communication style can.

When we hear simple information-–like product specifications and features for instance—it activates the part of our brain responsible for processing language. All our brains are doing is taking in the words and figuring out what they mean.

When we hear stories however, our brain actually acts as if we are living them.

In one study at the University of Washington in St. Louis, researchers studied people’s brain activity while they read a story about a boy named Raymond.

What they found was that when Raymond picked up an object, the neurons responsible for hand movements in the participants’ brains fired. And when Raymond looked at what was around him, the neurons related to vision fired, too.

So by telling stories in your email campaigns as opposed to just listing features or specifications, you can help readers truly understand the pain your product solves, and increase their desire to purchase.

How to craft a great story in your email campaign

There are a number of frameworks for storytelling.

The Hero’s Journey is one of the most well-known story frameworks around today and is the foundation for Hollywood blockbusters like the Star Wars series.

However, creating a 12-part saga in an email campaign might be a bit much. For both you and your readers.

So we’ve simplified it down into a 3-part framework you can easily apply to your next email campaign:

Part 1: The world before

In the first part, your goal is to paint a picture of the reader’s world as it was.

For example:

It used to be so easy to reach and engage your target customers. There were few forms of media, and you could easily deliver your message to the masses.

Part 2: The drama

In the second part, the goal is to show the drama that created a shift in the reader’s world.

For example:

But then it all changed. Your competitors started sending more emails, posting more status updates and sending more tweets, and it became much harder to get your message heard through all the noise.

Part 3: The resolution

In the third and final part, the goal is to show them how your product can be a resolution to the drama and how their world can be good once again.

For example:

But by telling a great story in your email campaigns you can engage your target customers in a way nobody else is, helping you stand out above the noise and drive sales.

An example of storytelling in action

To show you how powerful storytelling can be, I used our drag and drop email builder to create a campaign for a product that helps solve the time zone problem for global teams.

Without storytelling

An email without storytelling

With storytelling

An email using storytelling

As you can see from the examples above, using storytelling helps to engage your audience in ways bullet points and product features cannot.

The storytelling method resonates with people’s real-life pain points and challenges, helping them to feel the problem the product solves and increasing their desire to purchase.

The key to creating an effective story

The key to creating an effective story in your email campaigns is knowing the pain points your product solves.

You may not work for a global team and you may not have felt the pain of scheduling across time zones, therefore you likely wouldn’t have connected with the story in the email above.

If you have felt that pain however, this story would’ve resonated with you much more and your desire to get your hands on the product would be higher.

If you can make your reader see themselves in your story and make them feel the pain point your product solves, then their motivation to click-through from your email campaign and purchase your product is going to be very high.

In conclusion

Regardless of whether your next campaign is promoting a new product, a new feature or even a new blog post, try incorporating a story to engage your readers and help them feel the pain points you are solving. You might just find it increases your click-through rate and drives sales for your business.

Your turn: How do you feel about the storytelling approach to writing email campaigns?

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  • Balint

    is this in any way different from the BAB formula that was on the blog 2-3 months ago?

  • Aaron Beashel

    Hey Balin

    You have a very keen eye!

    The storytelling framework is similar to the BAB formula from a previous post, but there are some structural differences in the way the story is being told.

    I think you’ll find a lot of these copywriting formulas have some similarities, as they are all designed to encourage you to present your product in the context of your customer’s pain points, as opposed to just focusing on features or product specifications.

    So regardless of which approach you use, as long as you achieve that I think you are going to create a great campaign.

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! Your feedback is genuinely appreciated.


  • Maria J

    Love this post, the example is excellent. If you are trying to figure out what resonates with your audience, I’d recommend A/B testing a few stories. Take it one step further and segment users by the stories that resonated with them.

  • Unit36

    A great blog post, Will definitely apply these story telling techniques to future emails! Thanks.

  • Marty Rogers

    This is brilliant – very creative and you can easily see why it’d increase email engagement and click-throughs to name but two important email metrics.

  • Aaron Beashel

    Thanks so much for the kind words everybody. I’m really glad to hear you got value out of this post and please do let me know how you go with testing and implementing the storytelling technique!

  • Email Marketing Solutions

    Lovely post, the example is really excellent. If you are trying to figure out what resonates with your audience, It should be recommended A/B testing a few stories. Take it one step further and segment users by the stories that resonated with them.

  • Jack Carpenter

    After conducting some fairly rigorous A/B testing over the last few years, I’ve definitely decided that the storytelling angle is the best approach. It injects some warmth and life into any subject and draws the users in – you’re almost talking to them on their level when you do so in a storytelling manner. I use this method of writing whenever I get the chance.

  • John Wooman

    We’re currently working on our new corporate site content and we’re massively behind the storytelling concept at present. It fits in with the whole UX journey angle so well and having just concluded a mammoth internal UX project, we’re keen to keep the storytelling angle at the forefront of our messaging.

  • Ben Altair

    I’m so impressed with the amount of value you pack into these. I’m looking to begin an email list and I’ll definitely consider cm! Take care ????

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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