1 Rule for All Non-Marketers: Tell Stories

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Many writers bemoan having to market their books. They protest, “I just like to write books; I don’t know anything about marketing.”

Well, I have good news for you. To be a successful marketer, you need to know only one thing: Tell the potential buyer a story. You’re good at that, right?

Jeff Bullas, online marketing guru, explains the concept this way:

Modern information consumers want more than just data. People of this generation are used to getting accessible news, ideas, information, and knowledge; they know the tricks and cannot stand importunate marketing. The more promotional lines they see in a text, the faster they stop reading it. That is why storytelling is a great idea for any marketing campaign.

Here’s why story really is the perfect marketing tool:

  • Stories engage us. We want to know how the story ends.

I’m a real sucker for story–even a bad one. My husband could tell in the first few minutes of a film if it was going to be worth watching. I, meanwhile, would get caught up in the story and wouldn’t be ready to abandon the movie at the beginning. “Maybe it will get better,” I would coax.

Yeah, well, they never did. At the end, I would concede, “That wasn’t worth watching, was it?”

Yes, husbands with a wife who loves story must endure evenings of repeatedly bad decisions.

  • Stories are memorable.

Tell me a fact, and unless it’s a stunner, I’ll forget. Tell me a story, and I’ll be able to recall most of the elements of that story, not just the overarching plot.

Pennsylvania University did research involving physicians that showed doctors understand and remember information about using anesthetics better if this information is offered in the form of a story about a patient Frank.

  • The goal of any marketing: to sell. By using story as your key marketing devise, you focus on making the story engaging and lace it with reasons to buy.

    One of my favorite storytelling commercials is Kia’s electric car ad entitled, “Hero’s Journey.” You can watch the ad here.

    Only glimpses of Melissa driving her Kia from each rescuing the globe adventure to the next give a hint what the ad is about. The last lines of the ad “sell.” And the tagline: #SmarterWay.

  • Stories add emotion—even to a dry topic.

SolidWorks offers a service that’s focused on individuals who need to figure out how much material they must purchase for a construction project. The company decided to jazz up their product by demonstrating in a blog post how much material  you would need to board up your door in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Where storytelling as ad copy began.

In 2011, the Nissan marketers realized that spreading press releases and standard advertising as broadly as possible did not help to establish a connection with their target audience. So the company created its own content laboratory.

Nissan hired former journalists who started to look for stories and data inside the brand. They searched for material that would be attractive to people and social media. Since they were natural-born storytellers, their noses instinctively sniffed out what would make for an interesting saga.

Now almost all the big international companies have such laboratories. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Apple, Cisco, American Express, etc., use stories as the basis of their content campaigns.

What this means for you.

Lucky you, stories are inherent in what you produce. Here are a few examples of what your readers want to know:

  • Where did the idea for your book come from?
  • How did you do your research?
  • What obstacles did you face as you wrote?
  • How did your Cinderella story of finding an agent/a publisher unfold?
  • What kinds of letter/emails do you receive from readers?
  • And the best of all: What are you working on next?

See how easy that was? At least one story lies within those questions…and so many other questions remain.

So get to work, you marketer, you. Tell us how you could use story to market your book. What venues could you use–Instagrams, Facebook Live, public appearances?


Marketing made easy–really. Click to tweet.

The one thing you need to know to be a successful marketer of your book. Click to tweet.