Emotional impact is the direct result of strong storytelling – but you’re a marketer, not a writer!

Still, with a few strategies around narrative copywriting, you can craft a story that strikes a chord with your audience and compels them to convert. It’s time to put products and features aside and tap into the power of creative storytelling in your next email campaign. Then, you can put your marketing hat back on and monitor your email marketing dashboard for an uptick in open rates and click-through rates.

Identify your story.

Crafting emotion-provoking content is simple. You just need three simple components to create your story:

  • A character.
  • Something that happens to the character.
  • A result or conclusion.

Your story doesn’t have to be long. In fact, you could tell a story in one or two sentences. But it does need, at a minimum, the elements listed above. The story of how your business got started, an anecdote about home life that ties into business life, a conflict that a highly successful industry leader overcame – these are all great examples of stories that can draw in your email subscribers and keep them reading.

Tell the story the way you’d tell a friend.

Storytelling in email marketing is different than narrative in video, or the movies, or in a book. While other formats allow for plenty of character development, an email offers only limited time and space to get your message across.

The best way to tell a story in an email is to write it up as if you’re telling the story to a close friend. You may even tell the story aloud and transcribe it as you speak, to avoid it becoming too formal or stilted. If it reads too much like a textbook or like “marketing speak,” your readers will tune out.

Know, and align your content, with the basic emotions.

As complex as human behavior is, many scientists have determined that our feelings boil down into just a few fundamental emotions: happy, sad, scared, angry, disgusted, and surprised. (It’s no coincidence that when Facebook opened up post reactions to more than just “like,” these were the options they included).

As an email marketer, you can leverage any of these emotions to connect with your reader. Valuable content that educates a reader may create happiness or surprise, especially if it’s something mind-blowing that they’ve never heard or tried before.

When working with a negative emotion, position your business as the alleviator of that negative feeling. Let’s take fear, for example. Your target audience has critical issues that, if unresolved, will cause serious problems in their life – job loss, business failure, or loneliness, for example. These are all examples of very real fears, and your job is to paint a picture of how your product or service resolves that issue, ultimately relieving that fear.

The same goes for anger, sadness, or disgust. For instance, if your organization is involved in a humanitarian effort, you can use any of these emotions to inspire action on your reader’s part.

Segment your audiences to tell more compelling stories.

Think of a story that made you feel something so deeply you couldn’t help but take action. Maybe you made a change in your life as a result of it, or you shared that story with your friends.

Usually, a story will resonate the most when we can relate to its characters. With the personalization options available in modern email marketing, there’s no excuse not to handcraft your emails to speak directly to small groups of your readers – rather than broadly to all of them.

Instead of sending the same case study to one thousand prospects, divide those prospects up and send specific case studies to different groups based on their interests or personalities.

Start with “I.”

We know: the copywriting playbook always talks about using “you” language to draw the reader in. It’s a great piece of advice for web copy and other general marketing copy.

But your marketing emails are different. They’re direct messages from one human to another. And in the same way you wouldn’t saturate a letter to a long lost friend with presumptive “you” statements, you don’t have to do it in your emails, either.

Instead, try starting with “I:”

  • I’ve been wondering…
  • I haven’t seen you in a while!
  • I can’t believe this happened to me.
  • I was at the grocery store when…

“I” phrases work especially well in email subject lines to hook readers, lead into your story, and create an emotional response.

Use a strong visual component.

While words are powerful, visuals are instant. If you’re telling a customer story, feature a real image of that customer. If you’re sharing an anecdote from the other day at work, share an image or GIF to give the reader context. Images of people have been shown to create a strong emotional connection, so use these strategically in your marketing campaigns to help prospects see how you serve them.

A warning, though: keep your content mobile-friendly and your files small whenever possible. A slow-loading email, even when it’s finely crafted, won’t get read as often as a quicker one. One solution is to provide a descriptive link of an image and allow the reader to click it to view a picture-story on your blog. And instead of embedding video files, try placing a still frame image from the video with the playback symbol over it to encourage readers to click – where they’ll be directed to the actual video.