5 storytelling triggers that spur your readers to take action
How do you write content that encourages engagement? Contributor Jennifer Spencer shares five tips to keep in mind when creating a story for your readers.
Every day, countless numbers of potential customers are walking away from buying, clicking, opting in and so on because the content creator wasted an attempt to win over their minds.
When you miss an opportunity to capture someone’s mind with your content, chances are, turning that new viewer into a return visitor are slim to none — much less trying to get them to buy something. We are creatures chained to psychological triggers. Marketing is a mind game.
So how do you win at marketing? You win at marketing by capturing someone’s mind. How is this done? The simplest way is through the use of storytelling.
I’m going to show you five things you should always remember in order to write actionable content every time.
1. Explain why
Explaining why something is what it is or does what it does appeals to the mind. Psychological studies have noted we are always looking for answers to different questions.
So this poses the question for you: What does your audience want to know about? Storytelling is a great way to perform this action because when you pose an intriguing question about a pain point in your title, you’re reeling them in, since they automatically want to know the answer to the question. We enjoy being puzzled, but we also enjoy learning.
The brain finds pleasure in looking at things that confuse it. It wants to figure it out. That’s why article titles with Who, What, When, Where and Why in them draw people in. They want to know!
I’ve read a lot of articles in my day, and I’ve felt shortchanged at times when I left empty-handed. The story didn’t wrap up, it was confusing, or it missed the point. But mainly because it didn’t answer my question.
Make sure your article covers your main points. Also, be sure that it answers the question you posed at the beginning of the article. This is crucial, because when you answer the question, you have an opportunity to encourage the reader to perform some type of action on your content.
2. Emotion is a big seller
When you tell a story, you activate different senses in your reader’s mind. Sight, sound and smell — these take a step forward when your story leaps off the page at people. In psychology, emotion is often defined as a “complex state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence thought and behavior.”
Bingo. What you want your reader to do depends on what your content does to the reader. So, essentially, it’s up to you to determine the action they take on your content, because your audience will perform based on the emotional qualities your story brings.
The James-Lange theory suggests that emotions occur as a direct result of reactions. So, how do we create emotion in our story? Remember the classic movie, “The Princess Bride?”
[blockquote] Inigo Montoya: “You seem like a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.” The Man in Black: “You seem like a decent fellow. I hate to die.” [/blockquote]
Right now, your mind is going through some of your favorite scenes from “The Princess Bride.” That’s OK. I’ll give you a minute… This is called RECALL.
Recall is directly affected by the main emotional trigger in our brain. Recall stores everything we know about anything and is a powerful motivator.
So, let me talk in generalities here: Perhaps you have a business online, and you know you could make it better. But for some reason, you’re stuck. You’re not making headway like other people around you. You’re doing all the right things — well, at least, you’re trying to. You’re definitely doing the best you can. But there’s one thing missing, and you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Sound familiar? It’s OK. Building an online brand is tough sometimes. But when you create content that speaks to people, you begin to activate their recall.
You understood what I was just talking about. You’ve been there, and there’s a good chance that while you were reading the above sentence, you began to have anxiety and to be nervous because you know you’re doing the best you know how with your business.
Relevancy is the key. Relevancy means recall. Recall means action. Recall remembers the hard times; it remembers your goals in life and the desires you have to get there.
When you create perfect recall in your audience, you build trust because you have just shown them a scenario they can relate to. You’ve been there. You know about them. You are them.
Emotional recall is a powerful motivator, and when you include this in your storytelling, you capture not only the mind of your reader, but the heart as well.
3. Make it simple
Remember K.I.S.S.? Keep It Simple, Stupid. Kinda rude, but you get the point. Nobel prize-winning author Daniel Kahneman says a general law of least effort can apply to your readers. Why? Because we converge on the easiest method to achieve our goals.
Stephen Covey wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People,” and it became an immediate bestseller — partly because everyone wants to be successful, and no one will buy a book that says it takes 100 habits to be successful. Seven sounds simpler.
Write an easy-to-follow story so your audience can see where you’re going with it. Show them the best and quickest possible way to achieve something, and watch the story create action after action.
If you want to get someone to opt in through your content, share a simple solution, perhaps an e-book that will offer some answers. Once they are subscribed, then you have the opportunity to teach them even more later. But focus on the simplicity of the solution right away.
4. Create anticipation
Wouldn’t it be great to have someone so wrapped up in what you were saying that you just knew they were only waiting for the green light to do something for you? That’s the psychological trigger called anticipation.
Scientific studies show that happy people anticipate positive events in their future, and the stimulation of dopamine in their brain shows what happens when they experience those things. How do you create anticipation in your storytelling? Create a relevant article that allows people to agree with what you’re telling them.
You have to build a bridge between your experience and their need which allows relevancy to be able to walk across and meet the reader. What is a common bond you have with your reader? See what I did there? Relevancy = recall = action.
Secondly, you should have an environment that also agrees with the positive dopamine running to the brain. You can do this by using positive and warm colors throughout your site. Working together, although your readers may not be aware of this effect, it helps them feel the anticipation needed to create a certain action through your storytelling.
5. Use the Information Gap Theory
George Loewenstein came up with the Information Gap Theory, which pinpoints the effects of curiosity in the brain. To ensure your reader stays glued to your story, you should have the effects of curiosity bouncing around in their brain somewhere.
Curiosity gives them a reason to keep reading. Loewenstein said in the study, “People feel a gap between what they know and what they want to know.” When they find something that bridges that gap, they will immediately take action on whatever that “thing” is.
Curiosity is the mind-state that is triggered when people feel there is a gap between what they know and what they want to know. So how do you inspire curiosity? Ask questions!
I’m reminded of something my dad said to me one day. (He was a master salesman.) He explained that a great salesman doesn’t “tell” about the product, but will ask questions to the potential customer. If you were talking to a potential client, you might ask:
“What would you do if I had something to make more sales for your business on social media?”
Questions are the key to building curiosity. Be creative in your headlines as well! As mentioned above, anything posing a question will spark a reader’s interest and bring them to your content.
One great way to understand which questions to ask is to research your audience:
- What do they want?
- What are they trying to achieve?
- What are their goals?
A great content writer will also go the extra mile and dig into social accounts and blog posts to get more familiar with the person. It’s all for curiosity’s sake.
With these tips I have just shown you, you will be able to create a better, more actionable story for your readers. Do me a favor and begin applying some of these principles to the article you are working on right now.
People come to your content because you attracted them, but will they leave satisfied? That will be determined when you put these psychological triggers to work for your content. Have a great storytelling tip for the rest of us? I would love to hear about some of your successes! Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or our LinkedIn Group.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.