A typical story starts at the beginning, builds up to a crescendo, and wows you at the end with a great conclusion. The most successful marketing content, however, follows a different path, according to recent Gartner research.

Stories sell

Unlike the classic story telling method, good marketing copy begins with the end, “wow-ing” the reader with a hook that peaks interest. This means starting with the best business outcomes or results, and then exploring the methods behind it.

In addition, the Gartner study states buyers are “three times more likely to buy when the provider’s value proposition is quantified”, and that “when asked to rank the marketing activities that influence them most, buyers named customer references first.” Integrating third party, independent observations also help to solidify the message.

Using this information, we can craft an easy and highly-effective article outline to use for personal branding purposes in blog posts, expert articles, brochures, sell sheets, website and landing pages.

Content outline

  1. Customer reference (ie: “‘I increased performance by 46% using this system,’ said Customer X.”)
  2. Successful result or finding (ie: “On average, customers increased performance between 40%-63% when using the ABC system.”)
  3. How did this result come about? (ie: “We set out to determine how to increase performance. We wanted to answer the following question…”)
  4. The story behind the trial, test or experiment. (ie: “To answer that question, we set up shop at 5 different locations. In some instances, we experienced result A. In others, we experienced result, B. But in all locations, we experienced result C, and that’s when we realized we were onto something.”)
  5. Third party observation and/or statistic. (ie: “‘Commonly, people move forward with A or with B,’ said Third Party Expert. ‘But the C result comes from testing, knowing your audience and truly understanding what they need.”)
  6. Additional Customer X quote, or new Customer Y quote. (“‘I, too, had a similar positive experience,’ said Customer Y.”)
  7. Conclusion that restates the successful result or finding. (“Since integrating result C into our methodology, all of our customers have experienced increased performance in some form, and some have hit off-the-chart results.”
  8. Call-to-Action. (“Contact us to find out more about how you can experience similar results.”)

The Gartner study references screenwriting coach Robert McKee, who said, “Stories are how we remember; we tend to forget lists and bullet points.”

So, instead of the laboring over the standard “benefits” list, imagine a James Bond movie playing in your head while you’re writing. There’s a great action sequence intro that motivates you to want to see what happens next. The opening credits role, and we see how that action sequence came about. After that, and from the edge of our seats, we’re taken to real time to watch current events move into the future.

Using this outline and marketing-story telling technique will make your value proposition more memorable than the traditional informational piece. And hey–there’s no harm in adding a metal-mouthed henchman or a few sharks with laser beams in there, too…