That’s because most web designers and web design agencies focus on creating great looking, beautiful websites.
Yes, that is very important, BUT, how many of them really focus on the words?
Not very many at all… they probably pass that responsibility back to you.
The truth is words sell things – pretty websites don’t.
So if you race off and get started on your next website, you might very well end up with a great looking site, but then crickets when you launch it to the world.
9 times out of 10 it’s the messaging that’s wrong, not your service or your product.
So what is that one thing you must do before you design your website?
And how do you do that?
You use the power of storytelling to organise information. It’s that simple.
Just think about the last time you were in a group situation with your friends and someone started telling a story.
You immediately paid attention, right?
That’s because storytelling is the oldest mechanism for synchronizing the listeners brain and cutting out noise.
And we can utilise this by creating a story for your business, following a very simple framework.
The secret weapon to having a successful website that converts visitors into customers is story and this simple formula has 8 simple steps – which we’ll take you through in this article.
We’ve even created a free worksheet you can grab as a downloadable PDF too, so you can get started on crafting your own story today.
But first, how do you organise your story and make sure you place your customer at the centre of it?
Here’s a top-down look at the formula for “story”:
Think about some of your favourite films/movies – they all follow this formula and for good reason. To keep your attention.
So how does this framework apply to your business and your website copy?
Let’s be clear on one thing.
The customer is the hero in your story. Not your business.
So many businesses get this wrong and you’ll see it play out in the copy on their websites where they’ll talk about:
This is all noise because it doesn’t directly identify a problem that the customer wants to solve – it’s talking about themselves, not about their customer.
Once we identify:
We need to ask
The catalyst for any story is that the hero wants something, so unless we identify that something, your customer won’t be hooked and feel invited into the story we are telling.
Imagine your customer is a hitchhiker at the side of the road, you pull over and the one burning question on his mind is “where is this car going”…
You roll down the window and start telling him about your mission statement or how your grandfather built this car with his bare hands, or your awesome 80’s mix tape…
This customer doesn’t care. He just wanted to know where you are going so he can get there.
Treat every person hitting your website like the hitchhiker – make it obvious where you are going to take them.
Companies tend to sell solutions to ‘external’ problems, but people buy solutions to ‘internal’ problems…
In its purest form a story starts with a character who lives in harmony and stability. Then something happens; a bomb goes off, someone is kidnapped or a disaster strikes.
The hero then sets out on a journey to return to their once peaceful life.
Customers are attracted to your business for the same reasons heroes get pulled into stories.
They want to solve problems that for some reason have disrupted their life in a small or big way.
If you sell lawn care products your customers are coming to you because they’re embarrassed about the state of their lawn, or they don’t have time to do the work themselves.
If it’s your website you’re looking to overhaul, then it’s probably due to a lack of enquiries. Or it might be to provide your customers with a smoother experience when they do business with you online.
People look to solve problems in three key areas:
But most companies focus on trying to solve external problems for their customers, when really customers are much more motivated to resolve their inner frustrations.
Your website is actually a really good example of this.
If you’ve decided you need a new website, your external problem might be that it looks dated and could do with looking more modern.
But in actual fact your internal frustration (your main motivator) is that it’s not generating enough (or any) business for you and also perhaps it’s difficult to update and sapping loads of your time.
The internal problem is the real motivator for why you need a new website and you need to find the internal motivation for your customers.
Customers aren’t looking for another hero, they are looking for a guide.
If heroes could solve their own problems then they would never get into trouble in the first place.
That’s why storytellers throughout the centuries have devised another character that helps the hero win.
A great example of this in film is in The King’s Speech, where George VI struggles with a stutter as Britain is heading into a war where the British people are looking to their leader for confidence and direction.
Desperate, King George solicits the help of Lionel Logue who gives the King a plan and coaches him to competency and ultimately helps transform him into a powerful orator.
It’s not an accident that guides show up in nearly every single film you watch, and it’s true that human beings are looking for a guide (or guides) to help them bring success into their lives.
Every human wakes up each morning and sees themselves as a protagonist with the world revolving around their hopes, dreams and desires.
Your potential customers are the same – they are the centre of their world.
If your business positions itself as another hero, you’re actually competing with them.
But, if you position yourself as their guide, they’ll look to you as an authority and a trusted partner to help them get where they want to go.
On your website you need to express empathy with your customers’ current struggles. People trust people that understand them and they trust brands that understand them too.
Once you’ve empathised with their situation, you need to express authority in the form of testimonials, case studies, and any awards you’ve won.
As long as these are framed in such a way to illustrate the help and success you’ve provided to others, it’s important to include these elements on your website.
At this point we’ve identified what your customer wants, identified three levels of problems they’re facing and positioned ourselves as their guide.
Our customer is engaged in our story but they still won’t take action.
Because we haven’t laid out a simple plan for them to take action.
Imagine your customer standing in front of a river that they need to cross. We need to lay out a few simple stepping stones they can use to cross successfully.
A process plan describes the process (or steps) a customer needs to take to buy our product or buy our service.
For example if you sell an expensive service your process plan might be:
This process plan takes the confusion out of the customer journey because you’re mapping out what they need to do in order to move things forward.
If your process is a little more complicated than the 3 steps above, try and distill it into no more than 6 steps for simplicity.
Agreement plans help customers overcome the fears they have when it comes to doing business with you.
As a web design company our agreement plan looks like this:
For your business this could be a list of promises your business makes to your customers and it’s really important to display these on your website too.
Process and Agreement plans help generate trust and offer customers peace of mind, increasing the likelihood that they’ll choose your business.
Customers don’t take action unless they are asked to do so.
In films characters don’t take action on their own.
Imagine if there was a film about a guy who decided to run a marathon. Then one day he wakes up, looks in the mirror and decides “today I’ll run a marathon”.
The audience would lose interest pretty quickly wouldn’t they?
There needs to be a reason.
For example; that reason could be that he is passionate about his local football team who just happen to be in crisis financially and are about to close down. So rather than settle for that, he decides to run the marathon to raise money to keep the team going and keep everyone in their jobs.
On our websites we need to create a “call to action” for our customers, and you’d be surprised how many businesses forget about this on their websites, OR hide it away on some forgotten page. OR don’t even feel comfortable asking for something.
The best way to do this and not seem pushy is to offer two forms of call to action:
If you sell high value services, this might be to schedule a call.
If you sell products, it’s going to be “Buy Now”.
The idea is to make it crystal clear on your website what you want your customer to do next. If they’re truly ready to buy or work with you, they’ll take action.
This is for customers who aren’t quite ready yet and need some persuading.
A good transitional call to action can be a downloadable PDF. Something with less commitment, but something that helps reinforce your brand as the guide.
For example, if you’re in financial services and you specialise in pensions, it could be a short PDF guide entitled; “5 Steps To Easily Increase Your Pension Pot In The Next 5 Years”.
This demonstrates your authority and the customer can make contact with you in their own time.
The most important thing is that we need to ask the customer to take action and map out what that looks like in clear, simple steps.
Every human being is trying to avoid failure.
Stories live and die on a single question: what is at stake here?
If nothing can be gained or lost, then interest evaporates.
Will the hero disarm the bomb, will they rescue their kidnapped daughter in time?
It’s the same in business; if there’s nothing at stake, if I don’t buy your product or use your services then I won’t buy or get in touch.
The key here is to think about what negative consequences you are helping your customers avoid.
Here are a couple of examples of what these fictitious businesses help customers avoid:
You can start to see how including these ideas in your story helps to give it a sense of urgency.
Don’t go overboard with these negative consequences though.
Typically three consequences will be plenty and you can brainstorm this in our downloadable worksheet.
Finally you need to tell people on your website how your business can change their lives and transform their circumstances.
You need to create a vision, a utopia, to paint that dream picture.
The three main ways storytellers end a story is by allowing the hero to:
If our business can promise a resolution that associates with one of these powerful desires, then our message will be enticing.
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.
Everyone wants status, which is evidenced by the amount of “coming of age” films there are out there.
Think about all those underdogs who find success and then become popular and ultimately find happiness.
If your brand can offer status and improve the perception of your customer or their business then you’re onto a winner.
With a website redesign this dream scenario could be attracting those ‘high-end’, ‘luxury’ businesses you’ve been dying to work with but have always missed out on working with.
When two people or two things come together it provides completeness.
Again many films end this way with two characters finding love and living happily ever after.
Here are a few ways businesses can offer external help for customers who are looking to become more complete or whole:
How can a business offer customers a sense of self-realisation and acceptance you might ask?
Here are a few ways:
If we don’t tell people where we are going to take them, then they won’t follow so you need to make it clear.
Right now your head might be spinning with ideas on how you can use this story framework to clarify your marketing message so your next website will be a home run.
Don’t worry though – we’ve created a simple worksheet you can download below and print out to get crystal clear on everything.
Use the free worksheet in conjunction with this post so you can start mapping out your own business story.
The amazing part?
Once you’re done you can use this worksheet over and over when writing other marketing material for your business, like:
At authenticstyle taking our customers through this process is something that comes as standard with every project we work on.
It ensures that your new website is a resounding success.
What’s even better is that it doesn’t add any cost to your website project either, it’s just our go-to first step when we get started on your project.
So if you want to create your website a better way, you can:
There you have it.
That’s how to use storytelling to create a solid marketing strategy for your website.
We’re sure that taking the time to go through this simple process will ensure your new website doesn’t just look beautiful, but also gets results too.