A major trend that has popped up in the email marketing world in the past few years is personalization. A way you personalize something is through storytelling. People enjoy stories — listening, reading, or watching narratives unfold before them. When a story is attached to a lesson, it is known to resonate in a person’s memory more. If you want your business’ message to stay with your audience, why not tell them a story in your email campaign.
With this rise, I got to thinking — how can an entire story be told in a compelling way, but also comply with email marketing best practices?
The simple answer? The Dramatic Structure.
In your middle school English class, your teacher probably drew this diagram on the chalkboard.
The diagram is the structure of every story, regardless of length, plot, or genre. There’s the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. So why not apply this model to your email marketing campaign?
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a small step back. Not every email in your campaign should be story-based, it’ll get exhausting to read and write. So, where should you insert storytelling?
- Testimonials. Take a client story and transform it into a cohesive story about their experience with your company.
- History. Take your company’s origin tale and use it to your advantage.
- Staff biographies. Tell your (brief) personal story or other staff members’ with fond memories. This will be a great opportunity to introduce your team to your leads.
But let’s focus on the email itself, shall we?
To follow best practice, these stories will be short and concise. To bring life into these smaller stories, I recommend using descriptive yet effective adjectives.
Every story has a protagonist or hero who leads the story through the dramatic structure. Take a sentence or two to introduce your protagonist whether it be you, your company, or an example of your client persona.
Example: “Meet X, a wonderful camper who has been a part of our camp family for 6 years and since his first summer, he has grown into an exceptional young adult who is a vital piece of our community. He was able to take the time to reflect on the past few years.”
Rising Actions and Climax
Since we have limited space in an email, I recommend combing the rising action and climax together. Since this isn’t a Shakespearean drama, an email story climax isn’t very necessary. But the “why should we care?” needs to be answered.
Example: “X was a little homesick during his first year at sleepaway camp, but thanks to his attentive bunk counselors and welcoming campers, he was able to overcome any obstacle to have an incredible summer. He was even a little sad to leave at the end of summer!”
At this point in the email, it’s time to wrap it up and begin to lead to the main point of the story. The inclusion of an interesting quote would be ideal and memorable for the reader.
Example: X recently reminisced about his first year at camp. “Going to summer camp 5 years ago was the best decision I ever made. While my first few days were rocky, I’m so glad I stuck with it because I wouldn’t have met my friends or the incredible counselors who have become great role models.”
This is the main point, the purpose of the email, and the transition to the call-to-action (CTA). Whether the intent of this email was to introduce a larger piece about the protagonist or to remove any concerns the client may have about your company — it’s time to bring it home.
Example: “X is one of the very few campers who has experienced homesickness in our camp, but our remarkable staff is trained to help transition first-time campers to camp pros. All your camper has to do is take the first step on our campus, and they’ll be immediately welcomed with open arms by our counselors. Meet our team to see the difference!”
You then link to the “Meet Our Team” webpage on your website, and you’ve officially conducted a well-thought-out story within your campaign.
While implementing a story within the limitations of an email format, it may seem overly complicated, but it is 100% possible by reverting back to the simple approach of the dramatic structure. When completed properly, telling a story within your email can be fun! Unleash your inner author and connect with your audience in the new year.