[Story Sells] Establish Authority by Copying This Novelist Trick
Can you establish credibility while lying your ass off?
Yep. Novelists and other storytellers do it all the time.
And when you tell true stories as a marketer, you can copy their technique to build trust.
(Bonus: when you pull from real life, you don’t have to work as hard as professional liars.)
Here’s what it’s all about:
One of the ways that storytellers ensnare you in their tale …
… is by convincing you that they know what they’re talking about. That they are a reliable authority.
Just like marketers must do.
Because even though they’re spinning lies, novelists still need to convince you that “you’re in good hands” with them.
And one of the ways they do this is by showcasing some slice of reality that is so true to the reader’s experience …
… that the reader instantly nods her head and says, “Yep, that’s just the way the world works.”
When you can get this kind of response from a reader, you’ve got them hooked. They will be prepared to listen to the rest of what you have to say.
Let’s see how one novelist does this (in a book I’ve never read).
The book is Midnight, Texas by Charlene Harris, of True Blood fame. Although I never read it, my wife did. And she felt compelled to remark on the following scene:
In the scene, a young guy brings a meal to a sick woman. Gallant guy that he is, he opens up a can of soup and heats it up for her.
Then the young man leaves her house with a little glow, feeling like he’d done her a solid.
But here’s where it gets interesting (and where Harris really sinks her author’s hook in) …
After the guy leaves, the sick lady trudges into the kitchen and discovers a mess. Bowls on the counter.
Gunk on the stove. The dirty pot in the sink without even water to soak it, so that the bits of soup have hardened into a scrub-resistant shell.
She has to clean it all up herself.
Now, the guy didn’t leave the mess it to be inconsiderate. After all, he’s a “good” character.
It’s just that he simply didn’t think of it. And that’s the key detail.
“Just like a guy” – particularly a young guy – to subconsciously assume that the dame does the dishes.
A detail like that leaves many readers smiling and nodding their heads thinking, “yep, that’s happened to me”.
Sure, it’s a stereotype, and sure, it doesn’t apply to everyone. But it rang true for my wife.
(I’ll pass over in relative silence what this implies about me.)
After that scene, my wife trusted the author to give an authentic picture of the world. She felt like she was in good hands.
So let’s call this an “Allstate Story”, after the tagline from the insurance company.
(In fact, the Allstate itself uses these kinds of details in their cheeky ads with the “Mayhem” character.
Like this commercial that shows the trance-inducing allure of digital dashboards in cars. Many of us have been there, fiddling with our song selection or trying to undo the shuffle option.)
Note that the scene that stuck in my wife’s mind wasn’t earth-shattering. It wasn’t filled with life-or-death conflict. It wasn’t even particularly important in moving the plot forward.
Yet it earned its place by establishing credibility for the author.
Likewise, you the marketer may want to tell an “Allstate Story” early on in your marketing. For example, on your “About” page. In a lead magnet. Or somewhere in a video sales letter.
This story doesn’t even have to be about your product or the prospect’s specific problem. It just has to earn its place by showing that you understand the special lives of your prospects.
The key is the right kind of detail: a detail that only someone who experienced that life would know.
For example, suppose you run a cat boarding service.
You could tell a story about scrambling to find a cat sitter at the last moment. That’d be fine and it would leverage storytelling to show the value of your service.
But you can also tell an Allstate Story that takes a different tack.
Here, you could tell a story about your own cat and how he trained you to get food on the floor at the right time. Maybe when you were tardy at chow time, old Mittens jumped into your lap and sunk his claws into your legs.
Or perhaps he doubled down on the drama and jerked into a full-body vomit dance, as cats will sometimes do when their stomachs are empty.
You know – disgusting (and bastardly) things that only fellow cat-owners know about.
When a cat lover reads that story, she’ll think to herself, this person actually knows about cats. Maybe I’ll give him a hearing.
The MORAL: Tell an Allstate Story with authentic detail to establish trust early on in your prospect’s mind.