Email Marketing Featured Marketing

Storytelling in Email

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Marketers are always on the lookout for the best ways to reach consumers and keep them engaged with their brand. One way in which they’re able to do this is by using storytelling in their email marketing campaigns.

Email marketing has proven to be a successful digital marketing strategy for years. It involves sending emails to prospective buyers and customers with the goal of converting prospective buyers to customers, and converting existing customers (such as one-time purchasers) to loyal fans.

Studies have found that 81% of small businesses still rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel, while 80% rely on email for customer retention.

Given how popular email marketing has become in recent years, it can be challenging to stay ahead of competitors to gain and retain the attention of customers.

Storytelling allows marketers to engage customers with content that goes beyond product descriptions and sales pitches, so that they’re able to promote their brand in a manner that emotionally resonates with customers. The main mantra that drives storytelling in email marketing is “tell, don’t sell”.

Why you should use storytelling in your emails

Reading a story allows you to glimpse into the lives and minds of different characters as they overcome conflict. This can create an emotional bond between the reader and the characters of the story. 

Similarly, storytelling in emails creates an emotional bond between brands and customers. Customers are more likely to make purchases when they are driven by emotions, such as being moved by a particular brand’s story.

Stories can be a great way to educate your customers about your company’s philosophy and vision. They allow you to distinguish your brand from competitors in a manner that doesn’t directly focus on the products themselves.

How to tell engaging stories in emails

In order to tell engaging stories in emails, it’s important to learn what the components of a good story are. Stories generally contain three main components: characters, conflict, and resolution. 

Characters in a story function as a link between readers and the story. Readers will often put themselves in the character’s shoes as they progress through experiences. This leads to readers forming an emotional bond with the characters they’re reading about.

In email marketing, the characters of your story can be the brand, its products, or the people who worked to create them. 

In storytelling, conflicts function as experiences that characters undergo during their day-to-day lives or as they work towards a particular goal. Conflicts can be important in stories as readers tend to form stronger emotional bonds to characters by reading about them overcoming adversity.

In email marketing, conflicts can include difficulties and challenges faced during the creation of a brand or in the development of a particular product. 

Stories then end with a resolution as a way of wrapping things up after the character has overcome their experience or ordeal. In email marketing, a resolution can include a call-to-action for customers to follow. Such as showing them how they could benefit from using a product or telling readers about the brand’s future vision.

Storytelling styles in email

There are an infinite number of ways you can tell a story to maintain the attention of readers. Stories can typically be categorized as linear or non-linear narratives.

Linear storytelling

Linear storytelling is incredibly popular due to the ease with which readers are able to follow along with its content. They follow straightforward sequences of events being told or narrated in the order in which they have occurred.

Most of these stories generally aren’t interactive, as the writer usually provides all the content at once in the email. Linear storytelling can be useful for company origin stories or for dictating the journey taken to create or formulate a particular product.

Some forms of linear storytelling exist where readers can interact with content, so that they’re able to choose which content they’d like to read. An example of interactive linear storytelling could include an email in which marketers are detailing a linear story about the formulation of a product. 

This email could contain links and images that direct readers to parts of the company website where they could learn more about a particular feature of a product. Readers would have to interact with these links and images to read the whole “story”.

Interactive linear storytelling is a great way to deliver your story to a wider audience. People who may not be as interested in your brand or product can choose to read a brief story that gets the point across.

While people with a keener interest in your brand or product can choose to read more detailed sections that discuss your product’s features via links in the email that direct to the brand website. 

Non-linear storytelling

Non-linear storytelling involves creating a story that is told out of order to stoke interest or anticipation. In email marketing this could include talking about a product and the benefits it provides, before discussing the initial need for such a product in the first place.

These kinds of stories are also typically interactive, with the goal of having audiences better engage with the story’s content. This allows them to focus on portions of your story that interest them, instead of forcing them to read the whole thing. These include a call-to-action that often directs readers to the brand’s website.

Types of stories

Now that we’ve looked at story structures, let’s look at the various kinds of topics email marketers write stories about in their emails.

Company origin stories

These stories are incredibly common, and are often used to acquaint readers with the brand. The main characters in these stories usually include the founder and other leaders within the company. 

Such stories usually outline the sequence of events that led to the creation of the brand and its products. They often close out with a list of the brand’s achievements, and their vision for the future of the company.

Brand culture stories

These stories provide a behind-the-scenes look at the company and its structure. They go over the work that goes into creating their products, and talk about the employees that work to make it happen. 

They often include the brand’s values and how they tie in with the company’s structure.  

Interviews

These interviews focus on the people who founded the company or work for the company. They can provide an in-depth look at the human-component of the creation and production processes without directly discussing the specifics of the products themselves. 

It’s also a good way to remind readers that actual people just like them are responsible for creating the products they enjoy.

You can easily find email template examples for each of these story types online, if you’d like to become more familiar with them.

The future importance of storytelling in emails

As you can see, there are no limits to the kinds of stories you can tell in your email campaigns. As email marketing continues gaining traction as an important marketing strategy, marketers are going to have to find increasingly unique ways to tell stories in order to grab the attention of readers.

The future of digital marketing may very well depend on writers with attractive prose and the ability to weave stories that draw readers in.

About the author

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Kevin George

Kevin George is the head of marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing email design & coding companies. Email Uplers specializes in crafting email newsletter design templates, PSD to HTML email conversion , and free responsive email templates. Kevin loves gadgets, bikes & jazz, and he breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on the Email Uplers blog.