Telling Lies For Fun & Profit

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Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable telling our story.

And other times we just don’t have a story to tell.

But fear not, friends — we can still capture the persuasive punch of a good story.

How?

We lie.

Now, before you get the wrong idea and go tattling on me to Kevin … I’m not peddling some Machiavellian advice.

In fact, you don’t actually have to fabricate the lie yourself.

Just borrow it from professional liars – i.e., paid storytellers.

The STORY

Hi, I’m Harry. Until a few weeks ago, I was an orphan stuck living under the stairs in my aunt and uncle’s house. I spent most of my mornings picking off spiders from my body (they live under the stairs, too).

And the rest of my day was spent dodging my bruiser cousin and his gang of wannabe hoods.
Because even though my “family” gave me shelter (grudgingly) they avoided me like the plague. They noticed something about me that was different … I was a freak.
But then one day a mysterious letter arrived carried by an owl … addressed to me.
When I finally read the letter, I discovered who I was:

A wizard!

I could do magic – and I was invited to the most prestigious wizarding school in my land.
Once there, I finally found my place in life. Suddenly I was surrounded by fast friends and learning to use my gifts to battle a mysterious evil.
The day I straddled my first broomstick and zoomed into the sky is the happiest I’ve ever felt.
All my life I knew there was something special in me … and now I get to share it with the world.

Sound familiar?

‘Tis none other than the saga of Harry Potter, fitted neatly into the 60 Second Sales Hook formula.

This story has made one British lady a nice fat stack of dough and inspired an entire generation to be readers.

J.K. Rowling. Paid very handsomely for her “lies.” No wonder she’s smiling.

J.K. Rowling. Paid very handsomely for her “lies.” No wonder she’s smiling.

How did she (and other best-sellers) do it?

Fiction is the ultimate virtual reality machine. Books, movies, video games and other stories immerse us in a world we experience as though it were real.

Stories communicate so well because they bring the audience into the message. It’s no longer “me the seller and you the buyer” but “we” experiencing the story together.

And popular fiction stories have a large store of built-in trust and affection that we can tap.

How to Use a Popular Story in Your Pitch

Take the Harry Potter story. This is a tale of a young man who has been bullied and shunned his whole life … even though he knew there was something special about him … until one day he receives a message that shows him his purpose.

Most of us have felt different, and many of us continue to search for a greater purpose in life.

This need has birthed a huge industry: The $11 billion self-help market.

Imagine you want to put a slice of those billions into your bank account and help a lot of people at the same time.

You become a life coach who helps people discover their calling.

You meet with your first prospect, a young woman in her late 20s who’s desperately looking for her purpose in life.

Do you start with a thorough explanation of how you can help her?

Only if you want to bore her away from you.

Instead, you tell her the story of Harry Potter.

You sprinkle the story with the details that matter – the feelings of loneliness, frustration … the hunch that something special lurked inside, just waiting to be discovered … the hope ignited by the letter that revealed the hero’s true destiny … and finally, joy at finding teachers who unlocked that magical destiny.

If you’ve picked the right story (and you could use any number of similar stories, including factual ones like Helen Keller’s journey), your prospect will come alive with feelings of hope and excitement.

Do I really have magic inside me? Can I discover it? Shine brightly in the world?

And then you fuse the power of these emotions with your offer.

You tell your prospect that she is about to embark on a discovery of her true purpose.

And you can guide her to discover that purpose and make it real.

You show her how. Maybe by telling your own story of discovery, or one of your clients. (Stories can be used everywhere.)

Stories like Harry Potter have a mountain of good-will and love built into them. You can tap into that source and bypass the typical stiffness and reserve that a sales pitch might activate.

So here’s a little homework assignment to make this strategy work for you. (I promise it’ll be fun.)

First: Get your hands on some tasty fiction that could relate to your theme. Novel, trashy paperback (I’m looking at you, 50 Shades of Grey), graphic novel, movie, video game, music – hell, even a comedy special will do. (I hear some people like that kind of thing;)

Next: Indulge yourself. Get lost in the fictional world.

Last: Pull out a theme that relates to your business. This is easier than you might think.

Soon you’ll start to see usable messages in every story you see and hear. Make a note of ‘em … scribble it down on Evernote or do it classy in a moleskin notebook.

And you’ll have a great sales tool to whip out the next time you meet with a client, send an email, or write a sales page.

The MORAL

You don’t always have to wrack your brains and pilfer your memories for a great, compelling story — sometimes you just need to pick up a book.

Stay Tuned For Next Week …

In which I turn to a police sketch artist to challenge an ancient claim

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Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry is a direct response copywriter who specializes in telling stories. You can contact Scott and learn more about using the power of stories in marketing at marketingwithstory.com.
Showing 5 comments
  • Scott A Dennison
    Reply

    Very cool approach Scott. I tell stories in my posts all the time, but they’re based on my adventures. A decent example was this one: http://scottadennison.com/like-dracula/

    Since I don’t read as much fiction as I should, I’ve missed those hooks, so will have to re-double my efforts to sell with story. Thanks for the inspiration…

    • Scott McKinstry
      Reply

      Thanks, Scott. I enjoyed the Dracula blood sucking angle in your post — I could feel the razor sharp fangs closing in on my neck. Nice analogy with money drainers in biz.

  • Ross O'Lochlainn
    Reply

    “Never let facts get in the way of a good story!” – My Dad’s favorite saying.

    • Scott McKinstry
      Reply

      An Irish man would know … 😉

      • Ross O'Lochlainn
        Reply

        “Embellishments”, he calls them 😀

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