August 16, 2018

How to tell better product stories

We’re continuing our tour of the four types of story today, looking at product stories.

A product story is the most direct type of story you can tell. People expect you to tell stories about your products. The upside is these are comfortable, non-threatening stories to tell that show off your expertise.

The downside is a product story will only be of interest to someone close to buying. If your world consists of people who wouldn’t know what to do on your sales page, throwing product stories at them is a waste of time.

The bigger downside is that a product story doesn’t expose the real you, and rarely builds trust. Which is why product stories are only truly effective once trust has already been established.

Like with all types of story, there are good and bad product stories. The bad product stories that come to mind are the food stories various supermarkets produce.

See for example Nobody dashing down Tesco’s burger aisle is impressed or inspired by ‘Dee’s Finger’s Crossed Paprika Burgers’. If you glance down that page each story is sickeningly perfect. I don’t believe a single one is authentic.

A good customer story should pull you into the story in some way; whether that’s directly or because you associate with the story somehow. The best example I can think of is the J Peterman clothing website. Have a browse around, and spend some time reading the product descriptions. Notice how each description tells a story (albeit often a hypothetical one) and tries to draw you in.

Product stories are especially important on sales pages, selling emails and in Google AdWords ads. One of the ways to increase click through rate on AdWords is to tell product stories that involve the searcher. I can almost guarantee that none of your competitors are doing that.

Product stories don’t have to be short: you can tell longer stories too. Claude Hopkins was using direct mail to tell the story of Shlitz beer in the early 1900’s.

What I’d put to you is the audience of today is WAY more inundated with marketing than in Hopkins’ day. If you’re going to tell a longer product story, make sure you include setbacks, blow-ups and other drama.

Your customers want to hear about the disasters you’ve overcome, not how wonderful you are.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.