Here’s How to Captivate Readers With An Exciting Story Lead
Ever listen to the band KISS?
I’m not a huge fan myself. While I do listen to one or two classics on the regular, I could never really get into them. And before you ask, no I never painted my face white either.
But here’s the thing. It doesn’t really matter what you think of KISS, you have to agree they’re still one of the most entertaining acts in the business. They were never boring. Instead, they always entertained and captivated their audience. In other words, those four dudes knew how to put on a show.
Sadly, many marketers don’t know how to “put on a show”
They don’t know how to engage their audience (and keep them engaged). And so they write boring content. This is a serious problem, considering the #1 rule in marketing is “never be boring”. Otherwise your readers will stop reading. And poof! They’ll disappear, never to be seen again.
The lead needs to draw your reader into the copy
And just so we’re on the same page here, when I say “lead”, I’m talking about the first paragraph or two. It’s literally the first thing your prospect reads after the headline.
A story lead uses a story (duh!) to draw your ideal customer into the copy
The first few paragraphs tell a story, which then slip slides into the main sales argument. It’s a terrific choice for a lead because people are wired to respond to stories (if they’re told well). We just can’t help ourselves.
A story lead is different to other leads in a couple of ways
First of all, it’s entertaining because it’s telling a story. And entertaining means NOT boring. As already mentioned, people love stories and they’re a great way to grab attention. Second, a story is a roundabout or indirect way of leading your reader into the sales pitch. Instead of presenting an offer, or making a promise, (which is usually expected because it’s what a lot of sales copy does), a story is often unrelated to the product or service… at least in the beginning.
This arouses curiosity…
Because the reader is wondering where you’re going with the story. He or she is wondering how the story will end and what your point is. They may also wonder what the story has to do with the product or service.
You have to understand that there’s always an element of tension in any sales process. You want the prospect to buy (or to take the next step). But the prospect has her defences up and doesn’t want to be sold. A story gets around this problem by sneaking past your prospect’s defences and gently guiding her towards the sale.
OK then. So how do you actually write a great story lead?
Well, here are three points to remember:
First, it doesn’t need to be long. Often, brevity is your friend. Second, unless the story is about how your product or service was created (which can work as long as it’s exciting), it doesn’t necessarily have to relate to what you’re selling. Third, if it’s not related, then you need to smoothly connect back to the main sales argument of the letter. See how I did this in the story above about KISS?
Of course, you don’t ALWAYS have to use a story lead
You might be thinking, “eh… do I HAVE to use a story lead or can I do something else?”
Yes, there are other ways to start your marketing piece. These include highlighting a problem, making a strong promise, or helping your reader picture himself enjoying a clear benefit. Highlighting a problem is particularly effective because just as our brains are wired to respond to stories, they’re also wired to look out for problems. This is why mentioning a big problem in the headline and/or lead can work wonders for capturing your reader’s attention.
But storytelling is a skill worth developing anyway, because it’ll make your marketing content much more engaging and interesting.
Writing a story lead doesn’t have to be hard
But it does take practice. And it’s worth the effort because stories can captivate readers in a way that other leads can’t. They can guide your prospect into the sales copy with their defences down, since they want to know how the story ends and how it relates to your product.
Tell a good story, and your marketing will stand head and shoulders above the competition (even if it’s not as entertaining as a KISS concert).