I know, I know…
You lie sleepless at night, wondering if you should write stories in your emails or not.
Right, okay, but I’ll deal with the question nevertheless and hope that you’ll gain some insights from it.
I don’t want you to trust me.
I LOVE to read stories in emails. And I love to write them.
So I’ll let another person talk, too, who has a different view on stories in emails. (Although we agree partially.)
And I’ll give you examples of a couple of marketers/copywriters who do really well with stories.
What is a story in an email?
A story in an email can be anything from a couple of lines to a whole page of story.
The definition of a story is… Oh, hang on.
There is not a definition. There are hundreds of definitions.
Some say that a story is a narrative, either true or fictitious, designed to interest, amuse or instruct the reader.
Some say a story is a narrative that has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Some say that a story must contain conflict to be a story.
In other words, this is not a story:
"Yesterday, I walked Nefnef to the park. It had just stopped raining and there was water outside, but we got over it thanks to the stepping stones. We saw two cats, so Nefnef was happy. And then we went back home."
That’s a narrative, true.
It has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
But where is the conflict?
Nowhere. Everything went smoothly.
So as for the entertaining element… it’s so, so.
How do you use stories in emails? What’s the point, assuming there is one?
Honestly? I think there are more than one reason why you should write stories in emails. (Oops, did I just say it again? Wait, don’t trust me on this.)
First, they are entertaining.
Second, they can sell, done right.
Stories mean showing people something in a way that much better explains it than telling it could ever do.
Telling: "Don’t brush or comb your hair when it’s wet."
"After dying my hair I wanted to blow dry it but the brush got stuck even before I got started. I was in the bathroom from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. trying to get it off the round brush and after two hours, I could finally do it. The problem now is I’m stuck with this bird nest on my head and I’m genuinely stressed.
"I really tried. I put conditioner, hair mask, hair serum on this all and it wont untangle. My roots still hurt. I lost a lot of hair that simple broke off. Nothing has helped… until now.
"I just let the hair dry by itself and then it was safe to untangle.
"Who could have known that hair was more fragile when wet? Surely, I didn’t. But I also learned a shortcut. From now on, I’ll simply use EASY UNTANGLE SPRAY (affiliate link) every time I dye my hair. That will save me from losing hair, having sore roots and spending hours in the bathroom."
Who uses stories in emails?
One of my favorite email marketers. John Bejakovic, does. Well, in some emails he does, that is.
When he’s selling dog related stuff like harnesses and safety chairs for cars, he uses stories. And that helps him sell an immense amount that he otherwise wouldn’t have sold.
People loved his emails AND bought.
Daniel Throssell often uses stories in his emails. Not ordinary stories, though. He mixes reality with fiction in a hilarious way.
While I love his story-based emails, I’m not a fan of his rant-and-make-fun-of-others emails. (I skim through those.)
But it’s a fact that he can outsell any other copywriter even with a smaller list.
Who rarely uses stories in emails and doesn’t recommend you use them?
Liz is an email marketer I have the deepest respect for.
She seems honest, open, never bragging and rather than telling people that she’s generous and ethical, she shows it with her acts. (I’ve found that people who tell others about their virtues often are the exact opposite.)
I asked her why she was against stories in emails, and I got a thorough reply, which I will share with you here with her permission.
Let’s hear it, Liz:
The idea of stories is very scary and overwhelming for most business owners. But a personal update feels much lighter and doable.
My job (in my mind anyway) is to just get people started with email. It really did change my life and help me come out of poverty. I want that for everyone. So if I can help people overcome their fear and just get going…wow! How awesome is that?
Storytelling is an art–something you have to be pretty freaking good at to work. But I stand by what I said; that it’s an advanced strategy and not needed to get started.
Inside the membership, I teach to write emails that
–show your people you are invested in them and in your business
–share in a relatable way
–help you stay top of mind (aka you’ve got to be consistent)
I’ve built 3 email lists this way. I teach that you should reserve storytelling for when you really have a good one….or when you want to sell something. Stories work great for selling.
But every week they aren’t necessary and especially if you’re not good at it…they can make people tune out and stop reading.
In a world where everyone is rushed and online fatigue as HIGH–reading a story in your inbox isn’t something everyone is doing. So if they’re reading yours, you’re good!
Anyway, what I meant about people tuning out–
The inbox is like a mailbox. There is mail you expect and save for later. Mail you expect and throw away. And then there’s the mail you get and wow! "I can’t wait to open this" type of feeling comes over you.
Like, if I were to send you a package. Or a handwritten thank you.
The inbox works the same. We save some emails for later when we need the link. We delete some immediately. And then there are some people that pop up and we’re like "OKAY YES. Let me stop everything and open this."
Let’s switch back to my package example.
If I were to send you a package…the first time you’d open it.
If I sent a very similar package next week…you’d open it.
But if I sent the same one the week after? You might put it on your desk for later.
Another week, another package. Yep. It’s going on the desk where maybe I get to it after the kids go to bed.
It’s the same in the inbox.
If I sent the same type of email over + over…I can predict what’s inside. And if there are more pressing things to do, I’ll wait til later (or never) to open it.
With email–we want to be familiar (oh I know Britt!), but NOT predictable. When we are predictable, we get people that begin to tune out ’cause they feel like they know what they’re going to see.
So vary your emails for best results. Send a story. Then a quick "hello." Then a sale. Then a friend’s link. Then your social media. Then another story. Then a longer story. Now a short email with a link to a blog post.
Thank you, Liz
She’s running a cool offer shortly. Her annual sale of Email Marketing Membership from March 20-24th. That’s where you can buy a year of EMM and get access to all her other products for free. It’s only $108, and you need to sign up for her waiting list. Otherwise, you cannot buy that offer.
You can sign up here: https://clq.cx/waitlist
Better do it now before you forget and miss the offer of the year.
But about stories in emails…
It turns out that we’re not disagreeing much after all.
I’ve always (always? nah, but for a long time) said that you should vary the length and the content of your emails.
Short, medium, long.
Story, facts, bullet points.
Selling, not selling, having fun.
One thing is certain, though: it’s best to edutain your subscribers.
Have a wonderful week.