Why Stories Sell

In Blog by Lucy4 Comments

Using storytelling in marketing

In our house bedtime goes like this

“Can I have five stories?”

“No darling, why don’t you choose two books”

“But can I have five?”

“No, choose two books and then I’ll do you a made-up story….”

Then we get the usual can I have a drink… I need to do a wee… and all those other distraction tactics of bedtime…

But once we get round to our made up story, it generally goes something like this:

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Elsie….

Elsie (my daughter) is always the hero in the story,

Then she’ll request for certain characters to be in the story, someone to play the evil villain.

So we have a witch, a naughty lady, a monster and a crocodile. Sometimes they’re all in the story!

And we create a story where Elsie is going about her everyday life and is confronted with some kind of problem to overcome, usually in the guise of an evil villain.

Why Stories Sell

She figures out a way to overcome it (often with the guidance of Mummy or Daddy), the problem goes away and we all live happily ever after.

She loves a story.

And so do our brains.

We are conditioned to love a story, to communicate through stories, to make sense of the world though stories. And we’ve been doing it for thousands of years.

You tell your little ones a story every night but have you ever really thought about why you do that? And what it means?

It ends up conditioning us to consume and understand things in a certain way. In an easy to follow predictable pattern. Our brains find it easy to listen to stories and to learn from them. And the format of a story also makes it easy for us to remember it.


The fact is, the more simple and predictable the communication is, the easier it is for our brain to digest and remember it.

Which is why the structure of stories work so well for us.

Our brains respond to that story pattern. They want to go on the journey with you and overcome that problem to a successful conclusion.

We like to close the story loop and find our happy ending.

Whether it’s they all lived happily ever after… or they overcame adversity to avoid disaster.

We like to have a satisfactory ending.


I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’m such a fan of a happy ending that I went to see Titanic, hoping that Hollywood had changed the ending as I didn’t want Jack to die!!

I know it’s ridiculous, but it just goes to show how compelled the brain is to close that story loop in a satisfactory way.


I always remember the time when I took my little brother to the cinema to see Lord of the Rings when it first came out, back in 2001.

To be honest, I wasn’t that bothered about Lord of the Rings, I’d not even read the book, but my brother is a die hard Star Wars fan and absolutely loves stuff like Lord of the Rings and these days, Game of Thrones.

For those of you who don’t know Lord of the Rings, basically (to cut a LONG story short) there is an evil magic ring that corrupts people’s souls and needs to be destroyed.. And it can only be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom by our hero, Frodo.

There are lots of characters in it, bad and good, and many challenges to overcome on the way.

So, we’re at the cinema, watching Lord of the Rings. I’m starting to feel like I’m going to need to get up for a wee- it’s that long.

We’ve been through so much with the characters in this film, and finally it looks like we’re going to get somewhere.

Frodo and his friend Sam, who have both just had a near escape from death,  reach the top of the mountain and see Mount Doom in the distance.  The end is in sight…. At last

So I turned to my brother and joked – hahah! THE END. Can you imagine if they ended it right now…

And just as I said it, they did!

And my brother and I look at each other and go:




Out loud. In the cinema. In front of everyone! Because they stopped the bloody story before it had finished!


It’s just SO ANNOYING.

They didn’t close the story loop. I felt cheated.

They’d gone to all the trouble to engage my brain in the story, but they didn’t finish it.

And our brains don’t like that. And we certainly don’t like having to wait another year or two for someone to solve this problem!


What we like is an easy to follow path, that doesn’t hurt our brains and ends with a satisfactory conclusion.

So if your marketing stories set an easy path for a customer to follow, if they can see themselves as the person with this problem to overcome, and they see their happy ending in sight…

It’s simple.

Hands up who’s ever cried at a movie?

That’s the other great thing stories do- They connect emotionally with the audience.

We get involved with the characters, we empathise with them and relate to how they feel, they inspire us..

And that’s what you need to do in business too – connect emotionally with the audience.


People don’t buy WHAT you do they buy how you make them feel.

It’s a very basic analogy, but it comes to me because we are in the process of moving house.

When you’re moving house you search for houses with a tick list of features. For example:

  • Four bedrooms
  • Garden
  • Big kitchen
  • Real fire
  • Near a good school

So first you look at all the houses that meet that criteria. And there might be several.

You decide to go and look at a few that meet this tick box criteria.

But which one do you choose?

You choose the one that FEELS RIGHT.

People make their buying decisions with the emotional part of the brain once they’ve weighed up the practicalities.

Emotions really matter in buying decisions.


Stories are a great tool to get emotion into your marketing

It makes sense for us to use stories to communicate because we know they work.

So why not make them work for your business?


In our marketing stories, noise is the enemy.

We need to find a way to engage our customers, and keep their attention. We need to cut through the noise with our messages so that people stop the scroll to listen, engage, connect with us and ideally, become customers.

why stories sell - stop scrolling

Science shows us that Stories engage our brains enough to cut out the noise. They compel people to listen.

That’s why Stories sell.


In business there are generally three types of story you use:

your personal story, your business story and your customer’s story.

Personal Story

A personal story is often about a moment in your life that changed you. Or an inspiring story about something you had to overcome to get where you are today.  It helps people get to know you, what drives you, your values, where you’ve come from. Why you do what you do. It helps build the know, like and trust factor that we talk about in marketing.

Your personal stories help people buy into you. And “people buy people”.

I always remember Ella Woodwards story, from Deliciously Ella, she ate herself well after having a rare illness that seemingly had no cure. She became a gluten free, sugar-free vegan and it changed her life. And it inspired her to set up her business.

Business Story

A business story- is more about the story of your business.

How you saw a gap in the market or a need that wasn’t fulfilled.

You saw a problem and created a business to help fix it.

It’s also about your purpose, your why, the reason your business exists and why we should care.

If people buy-into your philosophy and values they are much more likely to become your customer.

If you can start a movement that makes people want to join your mission and be part of your story -you’re onto a winner.

Mums Enterprise are a great example of this. They’re creating a movement in the Mum Economy. They are facilitating, supporting and becoming a driving force for Mums who are looking for flexible work, help getting back to work, or who are looking to start up a business. And they have thousands of Mums on board as part of their story, supporting their mission.

Customer stories

Customer Stories are marketing magic. When people are umming and ahhing over whether to buy something they often read reviews or testimonials to help them decide.

I’ve made nearly all my recent holiday decisions not just based on the marketing materials from the hotel or resort, but from Trip Advisor.

So having great testimonials and reviews are fab, because it’s your customer’s words, not yours.

However, you can still create great customer stories to work in your marketing. To attract those customers in the first place.

And interestingly they follow the pattern of most great movies.

A person (or customer)  has a challenge to overcome. They either need something or have a problem that needs solving. (Your customer is always the hero of the story)

Along comes a guide who can help them overcome this (Think Gandalf or Yoda)

You show the customer there’s a solution to this problem and the path to take that pain away.

You explain to them how it will feel when they’ve solved the problem – you show them what the happy ending could look like.

Inspired by this they take action.

They buy what you do.

And we all live happily ever after.



That’s why stories are powerful for selling.

  • They’re familiar and easy to follow
  • We want to listen to what happens next.
  • We want the problem to be resolved.
  • We want to feel that delight and relief knowing that we’ll get our resolution.
  • We want to buy our happy ending.

When we talk about the problems our customers face, and they see themselves in the story, they are compelled to listen.

When we connect with them on an emotional and practical level, they begin see you as the guide to the solution.


Be a guiding light



They’ll picture themselves in their happy ending, and will be compelled to listen to you,

and inclined to buy what you do.

So my advice here is

Don’t leave your “precious” customers frustrated at the top of the Mountain still searching for a way to Mount Doom to solve their problem.


Engage them with a simple story,

Show them their happy ending

and it will help you close the sale.


Lucy Griffin-Stiff - Starting Conversations

You can find  me on twitter @startingconv on facebook Starting Conversations and in The Business Owners Conversation club

I’m Lucy Griffin-Stiff, The Communications Expert for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs who want to become the OBVIOUS CHOICE to their ideal clients.

If you’re great at what you do, but a bit rubbish at talking about it, I help you find the words, messages and hidden stories that make you the obvious choice to your ideal clients. Giving you the clarity to market your business with confidence.

If you’d like to find out more about how I can help you, you can book a call via my website.


4 Comments on “Why Stories Sell”

  1. I feel frustrated when the story doesn’t end and you are left hanging, but that is a novelist’s ploy to get you to buy the next in the series and leave you hanging. Love the blog!

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