An Award for Contemptible Online Copywriting

Discover how to incorporate storytelling into your online copywriting and SEO blogging

“I’m a direct response copywriter,” he complained, “I don’t write fiction, I write sales letters.”

My friend Martin (not his real name) objected to using storytelling in his online copywriting.

“It won’t work,” he insisted. “Our customers won’t like it. They want to hear benefits and features, not fairy tales.”

But as in all conflicts, the presenting issue wasn’t the real issue.

Martin’s real issue was fear of failure. He didn’t want to try storytelling because it was unfamiliar to him. The idea of trying to write stories to capture customer interest and sell products took him out of his “comfort zone.”

But Martin changed his mind when I showed him a few simple examples of storytelling that were easy to craft and resulted in great conversions.

Here’s one:


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Dear friend and fellow gardener,

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re working in your yard and a car stops. A woman you don’t recognize gets out and flashes you a big smile. Then she introduces herself and you realize that she’s just like you — a fellow flower gardener.

That’s what happened to me. It was “tulip time” at our house — the middle of May — and I was totally absorbed in admiring my spring flowers when I was startled out of my trance.

Imagine my surprise when she said, “I just had to tell you how much I enjoy your beautiful spring flowers.”

Frankly, it was very gratifying — almost better than winning a flower show — because her compliment was so heartfelt and sincere.

I’d never succeeded with spring bulbs before, until I learned the gardening secrets from some of the world’s foremost bulb experts.

Have you spent lots of time and money planting bulbs…hoping for a gorgeous spring garden filled with vibrant blossoms…and then watched them barely grow into what you expected?

I have, and believe me, it’s truly a let-down.

Just when you’re excited about the first glimmer of spring…the birds are starting to sing…and you’re expecting those first spring flowers to burst into bloom with an explosion of vibrant colors…

Then, with a sinking feeling, you realize there are no flowers, just foliage. You wonder what happened, and vow that next year will be different.

When I first started growing spring flowers from bulbs, they either never came up or produced only short-lived blossoms that lasted only a few weeks. It was frustrating…heart-breaking…and expensive.

Finally, I decided that I had to do something to prevent another bulb planting session from being a waste of time and money. I wanted a colorful, thriving spring garden that I could be proud of.

At the end of winter, it’s what I look forward to most of all. And I refused to waste any more money on bulbs that wouldn’t grow or were hardly worth the trouble.


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Could you use storytelling to engage and motivate your potential customer?

Telling stories in your online copywriting isn’t difficult. You simply need to visualize your target customer, then write some remarks you imagine she would make if she were totally gratified by your product or service. How would she tell your story?

Don’t try to think it through to the conclusion and don’t be too analytical. Follow the story wherever it leads you. Just let it flow out and don’t stop writing to edit until you can vicariously feel the customer’s gratification.

This is a “right brain” exercise. Simply keep writing and go with the flow. You’ll know instinctively when to stop and polish your story.

What’s most gratifying about being a flower gardener? Admiring your flowers? Yes. And experiencing the admiration of others — even strangers. Yes. How does your product help your customer experience these gratifications?

Online copywriting with storytelling isn’t difficult. Any respectable copywriter can close the sale with storytelling. Consider this:

A few years ago, one of the Ig Noble Prizes was awarded to the “Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria…for creating and then using email to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of characters…each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them.”

The award was a joke, of course, but it makes a point. If crooks and amateur copywriters from Nigeria could bilk thousands of gullible people by writing contemptible, deceitful stories, surely you can persuade your customers using storytelling for ethical sales promotion.

By the way, Martin has joined the ranks of enthusiastic storytellers and is enjoying exceptional online copywriting success. What about you?


What’s been your experience with storytelling as an element of online copywriting?  Please add your comments to the website version of this blog post.


Peter A. Schaible is Mequoda’s Chief Copywriter. For more of his unique perspective on copywriting, you can subscribe to his complimentary series on Targeting Your Prospective Customer by Type: How to Position Your Brand to Trigger an Emotional Response, available at SunDanceNewMedia. No obligation. No upsell.


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