Customer Testimonials Are Not Effective Storytelling

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Worst Practices  |  writing  |  copywriting  |  Marketing  |  Best Practices

shutterstock_126631127Marketers are ineffective when they use the classic "customer testimonial" format and pop that onto their blog or make it into a video. "Here’s our product. It is great. Here are customers who say it is great. Now buy some of our product."

This just doesn't hold people's attention.

How interesting would a book or movie be were it to have this plot?:
Boy meets girl.
They fall in love.
They get married.

That's what most people do with their business writing.

Effective storytelling

The best stories drip with conflict. They have a hero and sometimes a villain. There is a story arc. As a writing teacher once told me: "Writing without conflict is propaganda."

Movies and novels have these elements – the best open with conflict in the first scene, on the first page, or even the first paragraph.

Usually, it's one character in conflict with others (Batman against the bad guys).

Sometimes it's a character in conflict with themselves ("I really shouldn't go into this bar, but...").

You too can be an effective storyteller

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about telling stories that people will want to pay attention to rather than propaganda they will ignore.

- Instead of "creating copy", think about sitting around a campfire with friends and explaining a little about your work to them. How would you say it? How would you hold your friends' interest? Write that down.

- Who or what is the "bad guy" in your market? Is it the big, famous company that everybody does business with but nobody really likes? Is there some silly government regulation that holds buyers back? How can you weave those into a story with conflict?

- What is the status quo? Use that as the bad guy in your story.

Want more?

Several years ago I wrote a free ebook Gaijin Male Model: A Case Study in Conflict-Driven Business Writing.

If you’ve got a few minutes and want to dig deeper into using conflict in your own writing, this is a good place to start. No registration required.


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