Selling With Stories

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Let me tell you a quick story...

Back in 1997 I was really struggling to sell my ebook about how to sell your house yourself.

Driving traffic was a daily struggle.

Customer service was a nightmare.

Taking online credit card payments was almost impossible.

Side Note: We processed all the orders through my aunt’s craft store at the Williamsburg Pottery because we couldn’t get an online merchant account. ClickBank and other online sales processors hadn’t even been invented yet.

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My office in the spare room in our trailer with the leaky roof. 1997.

Way back then (in 1997), we had plenty of obstacles to overcome just to make a single sale of a simple ebook. People didn’t trust ecommerce. They didn’t understand the concept of getting a downloadable file (vs. a real book in the mail). As far as I remember, PDF hadn’t even been invented yet (I sold the actual Microsoft WORD document of my ebook – anyone could have ripped me off).

But despite all those hurdles, we made pretty good sales – just not enough of them!

And, to make matters worse, there was always a problem looming over my head like a swollen summer storm cloud.

My problem was that I had no real clue how to write good sales copy. I did NOT know how to put words on paper (or web pages) that could predictably suck people in, make them read, and get them to click the “Buy” link. Because of this handicap, my sales were stagnant AND, worse, I didn’t launch more products because I didn’t know how I would sell them.

Then, in February 2001, that all changed forever.

I attended (and spoke) at a conference in Boulder, Colorado. One of the speakers talked about sales copywriting. The #1 nugget I got from his talk was to start your sales copy out with a story in order to draw in readers and engage them. He didn’t go into much detail about HOW to write the story – or even what the story should be about. BUT he planted a seed that found fertile ground in my mind… and I took that idea and ran with it.

When I got home from that conference, I revised my website and turned it into a one-page, long-form sales letter that started with the most compelling a story I could write at the time (my story skills were a bit under-developed). By the way, my team and I now refer to that specific story pattern I stumbled upon as my “Real-World Desperation” pattern.

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The little white house we bought because of increased ebook sales by using stories in sales copy...

Within a very short period of time, those changes to the website meant my wife and I sold enough ebooks each month to cover a house payment, 2 car payments, and the electric bill. (I’ll admit it! As a previously failed mail-order entrepreneur, having people finally start sending me significant amounts of money through the Internet was pretty dang cool!)

After that, I was like a man on fire (with stories). I came out with my next product and used a story about how I’d come to create the product because I was tired of seeing people getting ripped off by other mortgage brokers. (My “Mad as Hell” pattern.)

Then I created a sales story about how a company needed to train typists and turned to an Idaho farm boy for answers. That farm boy created a course to teach non-typists how to touch-type in only 2 weeks. (My “Hidden Genius” pattern.)

After that, I just kept writing stories to create sales copy that worked as well or better than anything else I’d ever tried before (or since). In fact, looking back, I was able to isolate more than 5 different story patterns that I used subconsciously at first, and then on purpose later on in my career. (I even gave each pattern a cool name to use internally within our team).

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The new house sales copy paid for...

But do you want to know what the funny thing is about those stories?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had stumbled upon a formula that works for creating sales copy that anyone, regardless of their experience level, could use right out of the box. I’d accidentally found the secret sauce everyone could use that would immediately produce results in sales.

Yep. That’s right.

In fact, I found that once you have a good “core story” to pull people in, all you need to create the rest of your sales message is to answer a few basic questions, including:

  • What do you offer and how does it help them? (Usually a summary / overview + 6-12 product bullets.)
  • Why they should listen to you? (Usually your background credibility or a story about why you’re qualified.)
  • Why should they believe you? (Usually some 3rd party credibility – either testimonials, quotes, or statistics that back up your product claims.)
  • Why should they buy now? (Usually includes some bonuses or scarcity.)
  • What’s the guarantee? (Usually a money-back or performance guarantee.)
  • How do they buy it / make a purchase? (Click Here, Instant Download, etc.)
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Jim teaching eager students on the "high seas" of a recent Jim Boat cruise...

I also realized that if your story is engaging enough, the rest of your sales message can basically suck and you’ll still make a lot more sales than you would any other way with your current skill level. In other words, if you can come up with a good story and provide basic information for people by answering those questions above, you can make sales with little or no copywriting ability. (Lord knows I proved that with my crappy copy early on).

So what’s the bottom line with all of this? Simple! Start using more stories in your sales copy and your results will improve. Unless you’re an expert who already writes copy like a seasoned pro, you should start seeing a significant increase in your sales copy’s effectiveness almost immediately. (I know I sure did!)

And, if you’d like to discover the 5 proven story patterns I isolated – along with all the other tips, tricks, and tactics I’ve picked up over the last decade for using stories in sales copy – then check out this BRAND NEW 2-webinar set I’m getting ready to do LIVE. Selling With Stories: How to Captivate, Motivate, and Convert with Simple Stories Anyone Can Create“.

I guarantee it will instantly improve your ability to get more readers and make more sales – no matter what type of product or service you sell! Click Here Now to start making your own sales copy stories!

8 Comments

  • Carolyn

    March 30, 2012

    This is so weird Jim. I was thinking about the beginning of my hair color guide ebook just last night and decided that I needed to talk more about the benefits of coloring your hair instead of the copy I’ve got there now. (I already list my credentials, etc.)

    You really hit the nail on the head from an early start. Thanks for getting my mind out of the frozen mode, and into the action mode.

    Thanks for being so honest and so real Jim. Its the #1 reason I know I can always count on your advice!

    Best wishes!

  • Maurice

    March 30, 2012

    Jim

    I think this really will be the secret sauce that gets things moving for me.

    I’m currently writing a series of books (for Amazon Kindle) in the dating niche and my description (After reading this post) is PANTS!

    Thinking about it, there really is power in a story and all the great speakers of our time and past, use stories to sell their message or products.

    Will add stories to my description and copy and look forward to a bump in sales.

    By the way and don’t know if you have this in the works but I would like you to do a course in marketing books on Kindle

    Keep em coming!

    Many thanks
    Maurice

    • Jim Edwards

      March 30, 2012

      Hi Maurice,

      I’m glad this inspired you!

      We do have a LOT of information and hands-on advice about Kindle at http://7dayebook.com AND we do have something NEW in the works on ebook marketing that will get announced within the next week or so.

      But bottom line: stories work and they work VERY well in a LOT of different circumstances.

      Cheers,

      Jim

  • Jim Edwards

    March 30, 2012

    Hi Carolyn,

    Excellent… let us know how you do with that ebook!

    How about a story about WHY you came to write the ebook? What did you hope to accomplish or who did you hope to help with it?

    That’s a good basis for a story too… especially if the story helps your potential readers get in sync with your mindset and how it can help them.

    Jim

  • Robert Schwarztrauber

    March 30, 2012

    Great article Jim!

    You’re so right. Whenever I’ve added stories to my sales letters, profits go up. My biggest challenge is still getting traffic to the letters! Thanks for all the great info you share. ~Bob~

    • Jim Edwards

      March 30, 2012

      Hi Bob,

      Excellent… when it comes to traffic, think Buy, Borrow, Build. Isolate the method and test each one individually (traffic method). It’s a giant sorting process.

      Jim

  • lyn

    April 3, 2012

    Can you explain your Buy, Borrow, Build process for driving traffic to you site, please? I ALWAYS open your emails, Jim. You have great, common sense tips for what works. I appreciate that you share your advice so freely.

    Lyn
    Seattle

    • Jim Edwards

      April 23, 2012

      Lyn,

      I’ll be doing that in a new course shortly :-)

      Jim