How To Write A Story That Sells Like Magic

Email Storytelling Works, And It Can Be Like Magic For Your List…

But Not In the Way You’d Expect

Are you convinced that telling stories in your emails sells products… but you struggle to start writing? 

Have you seen metrics that prove story-based emails increase open rates (and more)… but you can’t figure out how to go from story to sale?

Maybe you understand that telling good stories is the key to making a connection with your audience… but you get stuck on which stories to tell?

I’ve been telling stories in emails for years and I’ve learned that sometimes to make a story work for your email audience, you have to give up control and trust what happens next. 

Telling a story that sells… 

Turns out it’s a lot like my last family vacation. Last winter I had the idea for a more low-key summer vacation than usual; one that didn’t take us too far away from home, gave us plenty of down time, and didn’t cost too much money. In the spring I began researching houses in our nearby Adirondack park. I entered half a dozen search criteria into the AirBnB website until I found the perfect spot. 

The house I picked was even closer to home than I’d expected. This meant we could make trips back and forth for supplies and invite friends up to stay or even just for the day. The house had trundle beds tucked away in every room, a screened in gazebo and open deck overlooking the lake (where I saw myself drinking in every morning along with my coffee), and a small dock with two kayaks for quiet chats and bathing suit-less lake play. I imagined a week without responsibility or even timetables.

My idea seemed perfect.

When you get a story idea to use in your email marketing it feels much the same as my vacation idea. You may be laughing with co-workers, solving a problem for a customer, or using your own product in your personal life, and you think, “If only my customers could see this!” Sometimes you get the perfect story idea when you’re out walking the dog or while you’re reading the news or even in the middle of the night. At this first stage you think, “This story is going to be perfect.”

Next comes the planning stage. Once I’d reserved my perfect lake house, I set up automations to close my business for that week and made sure the kid’s requested the time off at their summer jobs. Finally, when the weekend came I filled suitcases, boxes, and bags with food, board games, personal items and even my guitar which I hadn’t played more than a dozen times since my children were born a decade and a half ago.

The picture in my head was clear now

I knew which friends were joining and when. I knew the exact address for the house and looked on google maps at the distance between the back deck and edge of the lake. I’d looked up the driving distance for nearby diners, stores and a drive-in movie theater. I even had room in the car for our portable volleyball net, two more pairs of sandals and a spot for both dogs to lie down and enjoy their pup cup from the Starbucks drive-through. My husband, step-son and his girlfriend were only about a half an hour behind. It was all about to begin.

Planning to write something happens differently for everyone. You might set up your desk with ice cold water or hot tea, turn on or off some music, shut the door or head to a coffee shop, open a blank document on your computer, or pull out a brand new yellow pad of paper. As you make your space ready to start writing, you can feel the story brimming. You can feel the fullness of what you’re about to give to your audience. You are ready to begin.

Then reality hits.

When the third car arrived at the lake house unloading my son’s best friend and his mom, suddenly the hallway between the main room and the kitchen seemed awfully narrow for a houseful of ten. The wifi wasn’t working and we had to stand in the driveway to get a cell signal. The gazebo was a rustic dream, but the tiny, scrubby beach on our lakefront sent my son straight back up to the house saying, “well… I am spoiled about lakes…” We stood at the end of the tiny dock and watched twenty pontoon boats motor by in ten minutes, each one stirring up brown water as they avoided the lily pad garden and muck at the far side of the lake. And when I say the far side… I mean about fifty feet away. The house sat on the stretch of lake that was fast becoming a narrow, winding river outlet. 

When evening came everyone sat around the fire pit while I squatted, blowing at embers below a stack of firewood that refused to burn. We roasted our hot dogs by burning newspaper and cereal boxes. We ate cold marshmallows over hard chocolate and graham crackers, and no one asked for s’more. When I stood in the driveway with my phone in the air and looked at the weather report. It was a forecast of rain for days. 

I lay in bed that night and my body ached from how many times I’d squatted to blow on that damn useless fire. The feeling of excitement slammed up against reality and exposed my fear and dread in its wake. After months of anticipation, I was suddenly scared that it wasn’t going to be a good trip, that I’d never be able to relax for fear that my family would be disappointed in the trip, and in me. 

The same thing can happen when you sit down to write.

The blank page laughs at you, or worse, calls out insults, You think, “I can’t do this.” Do I even know how to write a story? You can’t decide how it begins, and suddenly you can’t remember what you thought would be interesting to anyone in your audience. You worry you made a miscalculation, that whatever you end up writing is going to upset the readers, not entice them. You realize a bad email could hurt your business. Now you feel you’ve wasted every second you spent getting yourself ready to write this email. The pit in your stomach grows from twinge to knot. How will you ever write an email that connects with your audience and shows them something they want to be a part of? When you force yourself to put down a few words, it all feels even worse. You begin to play with the font in the word “hello” and drag a picture into the email builder on your ESP, hoping that something might inspire you with the words you need. Words that will sound even slightly like the idea you held so roundly and perfectly in your head.

But that’s when you have to “give-in” to the writing process. You have to push yourself over the edge and just start writing whatever comes to mind, or even just write without thinking much at all. You need to let the words be their own ideas, almost out of your control. You need to give in to the writing and release your inner critic, just like I had to release my vacation worries. Though I was sure the week was ruined, I told myself I had to let go of the stress, let go of trying to control the outcomes. And almost immediately the trip started to take its very own shape around me… and turned into more than I could have ever imagined.

The next morning my husband spontaneously cooked biscuits for everyone. In mid-afternoon he marinated chicken with a mix he concocted from only Mrs. Dash, some condiment packets and a couple kinds of pepper. In the afternoon I made the short trip back to our house to grab baking supplies and a few odds and ends people were asking for. On my way back to the lake house my husband texted me to pick up a dozen ears of fresh corn at the nearby country store. We tossed the corn on the grill next to the chicken while my daughter busied herself in the kitchen baking brownies for a crowd.

We all ended the evening stuffed with summer chicken and buttery corn, sitting around the table in the lake-side gazebo playing Scattergories and then Taboo. We ate the entire tray of warm gooey brownies while the girls beat the boys, round after hilarious round. We teased each other incessantly, and succeeded at Taboo by making references to things that had happened to us so far on the trip. Our family-friend group that was outnumbered by moody, solitary, teenagers played together laughing under the dim lights and sounds of the Adirondack woods until it was almost midnight. Then we moved up to the house and broke off into smaller groups where we continued talking and laughing until the day was tomorrow. It was the perfect night of friends and family and nature, better than anything I had thought of, or hoped for, or could have ever planned. Laying in bed when it was all over my husband simply said,

“That was pretty good, wasn’t it?” 

There was magic waiting in my vacation once I let it make its own way. It’s very much the same with writing. If you let go (and there are two ways you can do this, and I’ll share the second one at the end of this article) and let the writing process do its thing, miracles start to happen. Things emerge out of the story, out of the process of writing, like opportunities, laughter, and synergy. And through the power of stories you can make that connection to your audience that is so important for the longevity of your business. 

But even more than just telling a good story and making that connection, through the process of writing you can uncover how your story follows the journey of your sales message. Just like my vacation story connected to the problems you face when trying to write your emails, you will find stories that connect to the struggles your email audience is facing. And then you will naturally be able to turn from the story into describing what you offer. Just like I’m about to do at the end of this article (when I explain how to get the same results by trusting the writing process to someone else’s hands). The process itself will make magic happen for your business.  

Or perhaps your story will follow the entire arc, like my family vacation story did, and communicate with emotion both: the problems your customers are facing, and what it looks and feels like when your company or product solves their problems. You can use stories to tell your customers why you are special, how well you understand them, and why your company is the only choice for what they seek. If you trust the writing process, either in your own hands, or by hiring a copywriter and email strategist like me to write your emails for you, your emails will tell stories, make magic, and drive sales. 

And it will feel like the most natural thing, like you couldn’t have planned it any better.


Hi! I’m Annie Aaroe, a b2b email marketing strategist. To find out more about story-driven, conversion email copy and strategy that’s tailored for e-com apps and SaaS brands, visit my website, aaroewriting.com, or shoot me an email at annie@aaroewriting.com.

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