Storytelling: what is it, and how to use it in your emails?

Micheli , Invited guest @ Mailrelay

Storytelling is becoming a popular concept.

Everyone is talking about differentiation, about how it is necessary to stand out in a world where everyone seems to offer the same solutions.

A resource that is often mentioned to differentiate and stand out is precisely the protagonist of today’s post: Storytelling; in a brief description, it is the art of storytelling.

We will start from this point, but don’t be alarmed; we don’t want this to be just another post on the subject.

We will go deeper into the subject more precisely – because the stories used in marketing campaigns are not the same as the stories that a 7-year-old child would want to hear. So let’s talk about how to apply this type of technique in your marketing strategy.

Let’s get started.

What, in fact, is storytelling?

“Storytelling is the art of telling stories. This is a precise but very vague explanation.”

Telling stories to make the reader empathize with us and end up converting” is more specific and equally appropriate for the marketing world in which we find ourselves.

Storytelling applied to email marketing is a resource to convince the reader – your potential customer – to empathize with someone – the protagonist of  the story, so that they will end up interested in the story:

  • They will identify with the story
  • They will remember the brand
  • They may also reply to your email
  • Click on a link

All these steps will guide the reader to the most relevant final goal: the sale. The conversion.

You tell stories so that, sooner or later, your reader will buy what you sell. The end.

How to integrate storytelling into your email strategy

Ok, storytelling made your reader happy.

Next step: how to start making the most of this technique in your marketing strategy?

Here are the ABCs – literally, the ABCs.

#A. Tell me who you are, and I’ll tell you what to write about.

The first thing to do is look inward and see if your company will do well with storytelling in newsletters.

If you are a funeral home, it doesn’t make much sense to tell stories of everyday life, especially since you probably wouldn’t even have a database. You would be one of those companies that nobody wants to know about for obvious reasons.

If you sell legal consulting services, you have a lot of material that you can use in interesting stories for your readers – provided you always respect confidentiality at all times, of course.

If you are a personal brand, you have a lifetime of experiences to use in your strategy.

In the end, what matters is that the reader humanizes your brand; so even if you are not a personal brand, but a “serious” company, storytelling will eliminate the barrier of impersonality that prevents conversions from being completed.

Needless to say, the internal appearance of your company will also determine who is your buyer persona.

Another element to keep in mind when it comes to storytelling: Who will you be telling your stories to?

# B. Think about the objectives you want to achieve

Once you are clear about the material you have and who you will tell about it, you need to consider the goals you want to achieve.

In fact, you can set the goals in advance; it doesn’t matter.

  • Do you want the reader to click the link in one of the emails and buy a €900 product from you?
  • Do you want them to click and schedule a consulting session?
  • Do you want them to reply to your email?
  • To ask for a quote?
  • To remember you and buy from you in the near future?

There are goals to annoy them. Think about what you want to achieve by “annoying” your subscribers because if you overdo it, the consequences will be felt soon enough.

#C. Let’s plan ahead

So now all you have to do is plan. You already have several positive points in your favor:

Stories and other anecdotes

The target buyer persona that you want to convert

The types of conversions you are looking for

Now you need to take all this, put it in the blender, and create a storytelling strategy for your newsletters that will be sustainable over time.

  • When will you send emails? Daily? Weekly? Once a month?
  • Will you create emails with calls to action? If so, will you use links with text or buttons?
  • Will they all be sales stories, just stories, very commercial, or will there be a combination?

Just as you undoubtedly already use an editorial calendar for your blog or social media, create one for your newsletter and go for it.

Tips for applying storytelling techniques to your emails

Let’s now look at some useful tips for creating unique stories.

The email subject line is the gateway

When you send a mass mailing campaign to a list of subscribers, they will see a subject line and the sender’s name in their inbox.

Very brief.

Here you have to be very careful because you have to beat ten or twelve other competitors – or more; it all depends on how often your subscribers cleanout their inbox and delete unread emails.

Creativity, starting points, data, hints that what comes next is interesting. The goal here is not to sell products but to get the reader to open the email.

That is the only mission.

How would you “sell” a story in a few words?

How would you “sell” a story in a few words?

Creativity plays an important role here, as it can save you a lot of time.

Otherwise, you will have to invest in creating other topics:

  1. The day the company lost 2,500 euros without knowing it.
  2. My current partner turned me down 4 times before saying yes
  3. When a happy ending had a disastrous beginning

Don’t you wish you could read the email behind these titles? you certainly do, you probably are even wishing that the second one was real to see what the author of the email did to succeed in convincing their partner to change their mind after several unsuccessful attempts.

Talk to the reader about relevant facts at the beginning of the email: every story begins with a where, when, or who.

Start your story by putting the reader in a situation so that they know the starting point.

Where, when, who… anything serves to situate the reader so that they want to keep reading:

  • It was a cold winter day in 2017 when…
  • 2017, Madrid. I didn’t have a penny in my pocket…
  • My friend Marta told me a few things about.
  • The other day I was in the dentist’s office when …
  • On Tuesday, a man dressed in pink came into the office …

A good beginning, which motivates the reader to continue reading, gives you every chance for the receiver to remain engaged.

Explain the situation, if possible, through an everyday experience: it should be believable.

The story should be brief because we are creating an email, and the content can’t be long or it won’t be read on mobile devices; it must be/look real.

If you tell lies, it will be evident that it is a lie, and you will lose credibility. In that case, you are looking for zero empathy before you make the conversion.

If you talk about your trip to the Bahamas on Tuesday and Friday, you send an email saying that you are a good friend of Messi… This kind of message will sound very strange and will affect the way your subscribers perceive you.


Unbelievable, even if it is real.

It would be much better to use everyday situations, which happen to everyone, and it is much easier for people to identify with them:

That day when the boss fell asleep during a team meeting.

The dinner at the company when Marcos, from sales, disappeared for two hours, and people were still waiting to find out what he was doing.

When you came into the office with wet shoes on and left the whole office all dirty.

Something has to happen that causes a change in the main character

At some point in the story you tell, something has to happen that connects in some way with the goal of the email if you are trying to seek a direct conversion.

This “something” is what brings the email to life, the reason why the recipient reads it, and at the same time what will generate the conversion.

If you just want to boost your brand image, you can say this “something” and not put a call to action at the end.

If you aim to get the reader to do something – click a link or button, reply, forward the email, ETC. this “something” will be the trigger that pushes them in that direction.

Let’s say you want to send an email and use storytelling to exemplify a situation of a customer that appealed to your services to contest an unfair fine; because he was not even in town on the day the infraction was registered.

You can tell the story in all kinds of detail and include a call to action at the end of the email like this:

“If, like Karen, this has happened to you, you’d better seek legal help to solve this problem”, with a link that will direct the reader to the page of the legal service you are promoting.

Finding that link is tricky the first few times, but practice makes perfect.

Can a late rent payment be related to selling a pair of sneakers? “Run faster than when I paid the rent last February.”

Does the fact that your cell phone has broken down fit well with requesting a quote for a tailored suit? “We can’t do anything to fix your device, but we can offer you a suit with anti-fall pockets so that it won’t happen again with the new smartphone you buy.

In other words: train and be flexible with your connections.

Take advantage of postscripts.

When we don’t feel like reading, we tend to turn our eyes to the postscript, where we find relevant, entertaining, or summarized information.

Make the most of it.

When you are applying storytelling to your emails, use this part of the message to point something out, solve something pending during the writing, warn about what is coming next, or repeat the call to action.

Anything is possible, as this is the least formal part of the email:

P.S.: I dipped my phone in rice, and there was no way to dry it. Goodbye iPhone.

P.S.: In the end, the boss woke up and pretended it was nothing as if none of us had noticed.

P.S.: The landlord complained, but that was it because, in March, I paid everything I owed.

You can even include multiple postscripts in the same email:

P.S.1: In the end, the tax department left us alone, but it cost blood, sweat, and tears.

P.S.2: It is better to hire a specialized consultant, to avoid more unpleasant surprises in the future.

P.S.3: If you want our help, remember: We are here.

Inspiration comes from your daily life, away from the computer.

And where do ideas come from? How can you tell stories for weeks on end without running out of resources?

The premise is still not to invent anything, don’t forget.

To get ideas, you can write down every day 2-3 things that you saw, or that happened to you:

  • News you read
  • Something a friend said to you
  • Something that happened at the office
  • A sporting event
  • A TV show Something you saw in the gym

You can get inspiration from any everyday situation. The final recommendation is that every day, at the end of the day, you take 2 minutes of your time to write down those simple events or ideas that can be turned into a story for your emails.

If your contactless credit card didn’t work when you were in a hurry, that is enough for an email; if you left the supermarket extremely frustrated because the system had been down for half an hour, add the event to the list, and then talk about it on another day, tell them about what happened and add that the website maintenance service you offer never stops working.

Storytelling and email marketing: time to put this strategy into action

Well, you already have the basics to start with: you need a strategy, think about who you are and who your buyer is, what you will talk about, and what must be included in any message.

In other words, the theory is already there; you just need to put it into practice.

Start collecting ideas. Buy a small notebook or create a note on your cell phone to which you can add daily events that could be inspiring.

And start writing without fear. Let it flow, and little by little, you will do better. The important thing is that you realize that there is a real person behind these stories.

After a while, as if by magic, you will surprise yourself by thinking, “this could be interesting for an email,” which means that storytelling will become part of your everyday life.

Translated by Micheli.

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