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Why Story is Not Appropriate for Every Email

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Picture this: Toronto, 2021. We're sunken in a velvet sofa surrounded by fresh flowers. Over coffee and 70% cocoa dark chocolate, we're chatting all things copy and marketing. Enjoy!

I'm Laura

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Are you using stories in the right way in your emails?

I mainly write sales emails in my work, and the reason I love writing them is the creative freedom they provide. 

While I don’t believe that story should be a part of every email, I think it’s helpful and a great way to persuade readers in a few cases.

This blog post will explain three instances when a story works well in email marketing and, more importantly, when to avoid it. 

  1. Newsletter Emails

Newsletter emails are a great place to use story because, let’s face it, often it can be hard to come up with consistent content to talk to your subscribers about. 

When you share the story in this type of email, it entertains, which is valuable in itself. It lets the reader get to know you or your company a bit better. You can offer behind-the-scenes looks into product development, team meetings, funny incidents at work, or a story that you know your reader can relate to. 

Whenever you incorporate a story into your email, always start with a hook, as I did in this blog post. Think about what it is about the story that someone would find interesting, even if they have nothing to concrete to gain by reading through the entire email. 

Want to test out your hooks? See how they rank here on sendcheckit.com (not an affiliate link). It’s also great for email subject lines and headlines.

2. Nurture Sequence Emails 

This is one of the most appropriate places to incorporate your stories in email because people are new to your work. 

It makes sense to tell a story about how you came to do the work you do or develop the product you have because people want to know what drives you, your values, and why you think your work is important.

Still, it’s vital to think about the golden ticket of all good copy: what’s in it for the audience. 

This doesn’t have to mean they walk away with three tips to do X better or marvel at how it was the best story they’ve ever heard!

What it does need to do is give them a reason to stick around — whether it’s establishing your credentials or communicating that you understand how it feels to be in their shoes, it needs to connect. 

3. Sales Emails

Story can be a great way to sell your product or service. The key to pulling it all together is a segue or a bridge phrase. 

Whenever you put the story in an email, always think about how each line gets the reader to the next point. Don’t just put in filler sentences. Think about why you include each detail and the purpose of every sentence. It should all build up to a relevant point: what you’re selling. 

Here’s an example of a story in an email. The goal is to get the audience to try out a subscription service for free for a limited time with the common theme of exploring new opportunities.

START — 

Ten years ago, I uploaded two short videos to Facebook about copywriting. 

I didn’t think much about it until a few months later, when I opened up my spam filter and saw hundreds of notifications. 

When I opened my profile, I that nearly 5,000 people had viewed my video! 

I was shocked. 

I decided to experiment by posting a few more videos, and pretty soon, I was getting more comments than I could reply to.

And you want to know something else? 

I created a new revenue stream in my business (group teaching) based on the demand for these videos. 

The point of my story?

Sometimes you need to experience something to understand its potential. You need to try it out and see if it just may be the thing that transforms you or your business in some way. 

My Facebook experience inspired me to invite you to preview [PROGRAM].

END —

This story works in this sense because there is a common theme and a direct correlation to experimenting with something new and discovering the potential. 

Then, it makes sense that I invite them into a preview of a new program by giving them free access.

WARNING: Don’t do this!

You may’ve noticed that storytelling is all the rage in email marketing these days. As a professional copywriter with a lot of experience in sales and marketing, I need to tell you that it doesn’t have a place in every email.

Every story you incorporate into your emails must meet these criteria:

  • be relevant to what you’re selling. Don’t reach far and wide to find a segue or common thread. The story should be a natural transition into your point.
  • strategic and intelligent. Here’s the truth: customers are savvy, and they don’t want to be misled. They get annoyed if you bring them along on a storyline and then pivot to selling a product that has absolutely nothing to do with the story. Want proof: try it out and then look at your open to click-thru ratio (not pretty!). The goal is always to build trust with your people.
  • concise and about them, not you. Yes, your stories will primarily be made up of your experiences, but you need a way to call them back into the story with specific phrases like “how about you, first name?” or “has this ever happened to you.”

So, you may be looking for the moral of the story. Here it is: storytelling is a great way to connect with your audience and sell, but it should be used strategically and sparingly to be effective.

Want more copy pro tips on email marketing? Check out this post — How to Write Emails That Get Read

Have a question? Comment below and I’ll get back to you.

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I've worked with entrepreneurs and corporate brands to sell their offers and communicate their value for over 15 years.

When you hire me, you benefit from my experience working with the the best marketing minds in the game (Tom Ford, Christian Louboutin, Michael Kors), because I've learned all I know from working with them.

If you're looking for a seasoned copywriter to capture your voice and the attention of your audience, you've discovered the numbers-obsessed, detail-possessed copywriter you need.

Hi, I'm Laura.
Your new trusted copywriter & marketing strategist.

Former luxury goods pr director, mama, coffee-obsessed lover of the longread

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