3 Storytelling Tips for Conversion Rate Optimization

Written by Jeff Cole on August 18, 2017

Storytelling is the new buzzword in digital marketing. But although the use of storytelling might be new in this arena, storytelling itself is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The Ancient Greeks used it (think Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey). The Victorians used it (think Dickens). The Modernists used it (think James Joyce, although it might be a bit of a stretch to call what he did storytelling). The point is that there has always been power in a story.

The story can be one of triumph in which someone started at the bottom of the totem pole and worked their way up (this type of story is usually the most popular). Or it can be a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet. Or it can be a modern-day story which doesn’t necessarily have a conclusive ending.

All of these stories can be used in digital marketing, contrary to what you might think. Even tragedies can be moving enough to convert someone and make them into a customer. For example, a tragic story of what happened to an African girl living through a famine may prompt many people to donate money towards food in that country. And if that’s your aim, then you have achieved conversion rate optimization.

3D illustration of a conversion funnel with entry and exit, Business or Marketing concept of leads to sales ratio, horizontal image.

The idea of using storytelling for digital marketing is only just catching on. So if you want to get in on the trend, here are a few tips:

Don’t Force It

We’ve all heard forced stories. This happens on first dates, at the dinner table, and on websites too. You don’t need to make up a story in order to convert people into customers. In fact, this might be a sure way to turn them off.

A made-up story which is told without any sense of the craft behind storytelling is just not going to cut it. The characters will come off as uninteresting or worse, as braggarts. The action/plot is not going to hold the customer’s attention. Instead, it’s best to skip storytelling altogether.

But there are times when even made up stories are going to be very interesting to customers. This happens in everyday life all the time. We all read novels and watch movies and TV shows. And most of what we read/watch is made up. It didn’t really happen. Still, it manages to hold our attention.

How does the storyteller manage to do this? The whole idea is to tell the story just for the sake of telling a story and not to impress someone or to convert someone. Those are the best stories because they have no ulterior motive. So those are the types of stories you need to aim to tell on your website or social media pages.

Content and Form

There are basically two aspects of storytelling: content and form. Content refers to what the story is about. For example, you might choose to write about how you started your company.

Girl Boss is a show on Netflix which tells the story of how Sophia Amoruso started her online company, Nasty Gal. It’s a very interesting story about the ups and downs of starting the business, the characters she meets and the friends she makes along the way. It also talks about her relationships with her parents and how those played into starting her own company.

Of course, this is a long form story and you may not have the time or space to write so much about how your company was started. But if you can come up with some interesting characters, some whacky anecdotes and a few emotional ups and downs, then you have all the content that’s needed for your story.

At the same time, content is not the only thing that’s needed for your story. You also need a form. This refers to the way in which the story is presented to customers.

Your story can be presented in the form of writing. You could put it in the “About Us” section. Or you can have customer stories that you put in the “testimonials” section. Any stories which seem relevant to your company, your field or your product can be written about on your company blog.

Plus, you also have the option of making short videos. This is a different form in which you can present the same story. Consider In Style magazine, for example. They present short videos about the people or events they’re covering on their website. They make these videos interesting with questions and answers, often giving them the form of a story.

The whole point is that in order to tell a story, you’ve got to have both, content and form. The content has to be interesting and the form should be polished.

Convenience

No matter how great your story is, it’s not going to work out unless you have a direct call to action. The action which the customer should take needs to be clear to them.

For example, you can say at the end of your blog post, “Contact us for more information about (whatever the story was about).” Also, if you’re trying to sell the customer something, you can try having an e-commerce section of the website which accepts any form of payment.

A chat option is also helpful for the customer in case they have any further questions about your product or service. This way they can read the story, resolve any queries they might have about it there and then and proceed to buy the product or make an appointment for the service.

A story is just the beginning of the customer’s journey but it’s the part which “hooks” them and draws them in. And once they are hooked, all you need to do is make it convenient for them to buy the product or use the service.