How To Use Stories In SaaS Emails
Lyra picked up the piece of paper and started reading. What surprised her most however, was how she couldn’t stop.
It doesn’t matter what medium you are writing for, whether it’s an email, a LinkedIn post, a blog, or a novel, once you get past the headline (or title), the most important part is how the piece begins. Without a solid beginning, the reader may never get to the rest. In copywriting we call this the lead or the hook, in fiction writing it’s usually referred to as the opening, or simply the “first line.” Whatever you call it, this is your only chance to interest your reader in what you have to say, so nailing it is crucial.
The word “story” is thrown around internet marketing circles constantly and yet very few marketers actually understand how to use story effectively, which is to say, versatily. When it comes to email, the principles and practice of storytelling is grossly underused, and for SaaS emails, it is almost non-existent. However, the need for a good opening, or hook, in an email is just as important for SaaS companies as for any other. In fact, given the complexity and possible dryness that goes along with many SaaS products, a compelling lead may be even more important in this industry. And hands down the most compelling way to begin an email is with a story.
Why Use Story In Email?
Our brains love stories, they are how we experience and understand the world, our internal lives, and our relationships. Stories connect you and your reader in a universal human language. Also, stories don’t feel like sales, because they aren’t, so you hurdle over any objection in your audience to being “sold to.” Stories are collaborative, they feel like a conversation between the storyteller and the reader, which is exactly the feel you want to go for in email. Emails should not be sales billboards, they actually need to be conversations, and as every good networker and life-of-the-partier knows, the best way to start a conversation is with a good story.
What Makes A Good Story?
Most people will probably tell you that a story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. But not only is that not always true of a good story, that description does nothing to set a regular thesis paper (or sales pitch) apart from an actual story. The only, and most important principle of a story is that it sets the reader in a specific time and/or a place where something is happening. An example of a story set in time sounds like, “I was walking the other day…” and a simple example of a place is, “The street was wet.” When you put those two together, it most likely makes your story even more compelling, but you only really need one of them to signal to your reader, “Story Time!” Even a simple story, like one that is only a beginning, or just a scene, will hook your audience better than any other writing tactic out there.
But you can do so much more with story in your emails. Stories effortlessly communicate emotions and emotions are the currency of sales. So when you know what emotion you want your reader to feel, you can work backwards and tell a story that brings up that exact emotion. A good story begins with the action happening at the height of the emotion, the most compelling moment, and works along from there.
Good stories need to relate to something your reader cares about, so choose a story that speaks to the emotions your reader is likely to have, or a concern or fear, a hope or dream, or a firmly held belief.
How To Include A Story In SaaS Emails
I am a fan of taking generic SaaS sales emails, either from my clients or emails I find out in the wild, and re-working the opening hook into a story. I often do the same when I’m crafting a post for LinkedIn, meaning I write the post and make my point, and then I re-work the beginning into a story. This approach takes practice, but the general idea is to look at the existing opening, and figure out a way to say the same thing, with the same meaning, in the form of a small story, set in a place and/or a time. Doing it this way may not create the most emotionally compelling stories, but the approach will do a ton of good to ensure your reader keeps on reading.
The other approach I use often is to work backwards from the point I am trying to make with my sales message, and then find a story that illustrates that point. This could be a lesson you are trying to teach, a pain point you are trying to illustrate, an emotion you are trying to get your reader to feel, a belief you are trying to shift in your reader, or simply a feature or benefit of your product that you can use a story to show instead of tell the reader about it.
As I mentioned above, you always want to begin your story at the most compelling moment. One way to accomplish this is to write out the beginning to your story and then read over it to find the most compelling part. Delete everything that came before that compelling moment, and then re-work what you have left to try and make it even more emotionally charged.
Some Examples Of Story-Type SaaS Emails
Example 1: A re-worked SaaS Email from boring to story-compelling
Here was the previous opening line to a generic sales email for an influencer marketing software.
“Influencer marketing drives significant results for your direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand, but it can also deliver program management headaches and reporting anxiety.”
And here’s how I took that opening line and turned it into a story opening:
“She only slept two hours…
Alicia was combing through Instagram and checking her DMs every three minutes. She found a compatible-ish creator... but their followers were obviously faked. Another charged 5K up front…
Her influencer marketing program was imploding.
Then Alicia found [SaaS Company]”
Example 2: A Story Used to Illustrate A Pain Point
This is an email I wrote for a client who’s app helps HDD companies save time and money through organization. I used a story to illustrate what life was life without my client’s app.
“One stupidly hot day I show up on an HDD drill site.
I see a guy drop to his knee by the exit pit and flash a thumbs up sign.
But then suddenly he hurls something at the side of the pit, and grabs a fist full of mud to throw after it. “You a$$h*les brought the wrong thread adapter for this reamer!”
Example 3: A Story Used to Illustrate a Benefit
This is an email I re-wrote for a brand I was researching as part of an email breakdown article I wrote. This was a broadcast email featuring a case study success story with a e-commerce SMS marketing platform.
“Kayla from marketing was in disbelief at the numbers on her computer screen.
Sales had blown past Dolce Vita’s projected goals in just two days.
Kayla downloaded the report and sent it off to the team with the subject line, “SMS works!”
Storytelling isn’t marketing magic, because nothing is. I’m not saying that if you switch over all your emails leads to story-leads you will have 100% open rates. But I do know that story builds a human interest and a human connection, and that is what people crave when they open their laptop or their phones. Serving up a story is a great way to build trust in your brand voice, show your brand’s personality, and build a loyal following in your email audience. Stories have value in themselves, because a story, better than any other written form, communicates deep truths about what it feels like to be alive. And the more you use stories in your emails, the better you get at telling them. The better you get at telling stories, the closer you are to the success you crave. They are truly that powerful.
Hi! I’m Annie Aaroe, a b2b marketing strategist. To find out more about story-driven, conversion copy and strategy that’s tailored for tech and SaaS brands, visit my website, aaroewriting.com, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.