One morning I woke up, and I realized I just couldn't do it anymore.
I was done.
It was going to be extremely difficult. But I knew it was true.
No, I'm not talking about a relationship (I'm very happily married). I'm talking about the way I worked with clients, specifically, local business owners.
I just couldn't keep producing simple, generic, boring marketing anymore.
I really wanted to help them, and I knew we could do better. So I reached out to a few of my clients that I was pretty close with. I wanted to have a heart to heart.
I asked them one question: “why do you do what you do?”
I was absolutely amazed by their answers. They started telling me things, personal things, about why they get up in the morning. They went into detail about how it felt to help their clients and customers.
And then it hit me.
I realized that their story was what set them apart from the hundreds of other insurance agents, business coaches and interior decorators.
People needed to hear their story.
So I sat them down in front of a camera, and asked them the same question. And you know what happened?
Their prospects identified with the passion and inspiration driving that business. That's when I knew.
And to prove it to you, I found a brilliant post from the folks at Contently that scientifically proves it.
Here are three reasons that stories sell:
Holding your attention
Storytellers appeal to basic human drives or vulnerabilities to grip your attention from the first moment and make you feel things like fear, curiosity, or both.
Jeremy Adam Smith uses an example from a very short story, often (incorrectly) attributed to Ernest Hemingway, to look at the role of fear:
“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
Two seconds into reading, your heart sinks. According to Smith, this line triggers our natural negativity bias and activates the fear and despair we’d feel if our own child died.
When we focus on what might hurt us, our bodies release cortisol, which sharpens attention and boosts strength and speed. Cortisol initially helped humans escape physical threats, but when triggered by stories, it pushes us to imagine how we would deal with the situation we’re reading.
In other words, it engages us.
Triggering empathy and understanding
Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson wanted to understand more about what the brain really responded to when hearing stories.
When we remember, dream, or have ideas, specific neuronal patterns play out in our brains. Hasson conducted an experiment in which he measured a woman’s brain activity with fMRI while she told a personal story.
Then he played the woman’s story to five people while monitoring their brain activity.
Surprisingly, the emotional regions of the listeners’ brains were also activated at the same time and in similar patterns to the speaker’s brain.
Not surprisingly, the study showed that the stronger the similarity between brain patterns, the deeper the understanding between the teller and the audience.
While Hasson’s experiment implied that empathetic listeners would be more likely to take action, Dr. Paul Zak’s studies proved it.
Oxytocin is a neurochemical that signals safety to the brain. It’s produced when we feel trust or are shown kindness. Crucially, it motivates cooperation by enhancing our ability to experience other people’s emotions.
Zak showed test subjects a film about a two-year-old boy named Ben with a deadly brain tumor. Ben’s father narrates the film, explaining how hard it is to be joyful around his son, considering the circumstances. Ultimately, however, he finds the strength to be happy around his son.
Nearly all of the people who watched Ben’s story in Zak’s lab were rapt. They released more oxytocin and donated a portion of their earnings from the experiment to a charity for Ben’s cause.
Amazingly, when Zak showed viewers a boring version of the film, the audience tuned out, did not release additional oxytocin, and donated less money.