He was a successful engineer with a nagging problem. It didn’t bother anyone else, but it haunted him during his commute, in the shower, and when his golden retriever woke him up at 3 a.m. for a quick trip outside. He knew that a common process could be dramatically improved, and he had a hunch about what was involved. He just couldn’t pin it down. And then one day while he was mowing his lawn, the solution flashed through his brain. He left the mower sitting in the middle of the yard and went inside, where he began to sketch out an idea …
What was that idea? I have no clue. The story is completely fictional. But it drew you in, didn’t it? It grabbed your attention and whetted your appetite for the next point and the eventual resolution. So much so that I suspect you’re a bit annoyed with me right now for failing to deliver that resolution. Sorry about that.
I did it because it provides a very clear illustration of the value of putting information in the form of a story. The human brain enjoys stories. Long before the idea of the written word occurred to someone, people shared information by telling stories. As children, a good story was one of the few things that could get us to focus for any length of time.
Sure, you could tell your audience about what makes your products better or why your service is superior. They might read that. But if you cast that information in the form of a story, you connect with them on an entirely differently level. You’re entertaining them as you inform them — and stories are far more memorable than basic information.
There are two great ways to use this strategy. The first is the case study, in which you share a real-life example of how someone used your product or service to solve a problem or improve an activity. That makes it easier for the reader to understand what the product for service could do for her, and it provides an implicit endorsement from the company or individual being profiled. The second is what I did in this post: create a fictional example of a typical customer or user of what you offer. There’s nothing unethical about that, as long as you own up to the fact that it’s a fictional representation.
Stories connect. Stories sell. They’re amazing.