Marketing Story Telling: How to Acquire Customers in Three Acts

Close your eyes. Imagine you’re in second grade again. It’s story time, and the teacher asks your class to sit in a circle around her chair.

You walk as quickly as possible (there’s no running indoors!) and plop down cross-legged on the brown carpet. You know you are about to be transported somewhere new: outer space, a pirate ship ... maybe a magical forest. As the pages turn, you forget you’re in a classroom. You lose yourself in the story—all of a sudden, you’re discovering new planets, winning sword fights and swinging from vines.

How great does that sound?

It’s no wonder we loved story time back then.

Even as adults, we are captivated by the power of a good story. That’s a valuable piece of information for marketers who are in the business of capturing buyers’ attention and can use marketing storytelling in their inbound marketing efforts.

When you stumble upon a good story, it will: move you deeply, make you squirm, wake you up, make you want to share it with your best friend, make you want to rally to the cause & once in a great while, make you want to buy.

—Neil White, President & CEO, BBDOProximity

Storytelling in marketing is a powerful yet immensely underutilized tactic. Take The LEGO Movie, which Marcus Sheridan once called “the most effective 90-minute commercial for a ‘toy’ we’ve ever seen.”

As a marketer, don’t you think it’s time you caught up?

Most Effective 90 min Commercial
Incorporating Story Telling into Marketing

Lead generation and marketing automation should tell a complete story through a series of interactions that extend throughout the buyer's journey. When you tell your story through a series of emails, your message captivates buyers more and annoys them less. Storytelling in marketing helps humanize your brand,  which is especially important for enterprise-grade companies.

Think of lead generation and marketing automation campaigns as three-act narratives that guide visitors through your story. If you fail to captivate your audience at any point, you could lose their attention forever. A good story is well-told, compelling and inspiring, resonating with your audience where they are.

How do you make sure your story moves the reader (or listener or viewer!) from 'once upon a time' to 'happily ever after'?

When successful, a good marketing story will:

  • Make your marketing message exciting and energize your campaigns
  • Engage with your audience and establish relationships with potential customers
  • Humanize your brand, creating an emotional connection to your products and services
  • Educate your audience without overwhelming your buyers

Storytelling in marketing offers an opportunity to show how your product or service will affect buyers' lives. It’s your chance to lead your target audience on a fantastic journey with one simple destination: conversion.

A note about the journey:

Your hero should inspire your target buyer, but here’s the secret: the “hero” is your customer. As the Copyblogger points out, “The hero of the story is the one who is transformed as the story progresses, from an ordinary person into someone extraordinary,”—all thanks to your product or service, of course.

The task of storytelling marketing may seem overwhelming since marketers don’t traditionally focus their efforts on narratival approach. But there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success.

Here, we look at marketing your message in three acts.
Act 1: Attract Your Audience

No matter what topic, product or industry you’re writing about, there are stories to tell. Nonprofits have been using this tactic for years: When people see images of abandoned kittens with matted fur and sad eyes, they’re more compelled to donate. Why? Because their emotions have been activated.

If you want potential customers to remember you, don’t push products. It’s a proven fact the human brain is better at remembering emotional stimuli; use this information to your advantage. Stories are universal and can bridge the divide, which is why storytelling marketing works so well at the top of funnel as a lead generating tool. Tell readers a story that makes them want to further engage with your business.

Emotion doesn’t have to mean tapping into feelings of sympathy or guilt. You can do a lot with positive emotions like enjoyment, pride or even inspiration. We can see this concept come to life in the joint food donation initiative between Cal State Fullerton and Aramark. At its core, the video leaves viewers inspired by the efforts to minimize food insecurity on campus—a sentiment that is reflected in students donating meals to support their fellow classmates.


If you’re having trouble finding stories to tell about your product or service, dig beyond product features and concentrate on emotional appeals. What benefits will your customers experience if they choose to purchase from you? Be compelling. Use simple, vivid details to “show” instead of “tell” the story.

Custom case solutions provider Cases By Source took this approach in a this vs. that resource. "Pulling back the curtain on what's possible with packaging," the interactive webpage compares a fully customized packaging solution with a runner-up stock solution.

Seeing the two options next to each other paints a picture of just how much more a branded packaging solution stands out while telling the story from the end user's perspective to bring this point home. Without telling readers to raise the bar on their product packaging design, the business is showing potential customers it's possible and that it matters in the long run.


The idea behind good inbound content marketing is not to sell yourself with every deliverable, but to give readers, listeners or viewers reasons to keep coming back, so that you are trusted when the time comes for a contact to become a lead and a lead to become a sales opportunity.

Marketing Storytelling: A Landscape Designer Example

While local home and garden shows happen every year, Green Impressions wanted to provide homeowners with a virtual event.


The virtual home and garden show resource tells as much of a story through its content as it does through its visuals. Highlighting the latest in landscape design trends, the virtual show features examples from Green Impressions' landscape design portfolio to tell the story of how these elements can come to life in a backyard. It's inspiration in the most convenient way possible.

Covering trends as simple as color to larger-scale amenities, the resource truly offers up something for everyone. Homeowners can start to envision the potential of their new outdoor space and are more ready than ever before to transform their landscape.


Act 2: Show Buyers the Solution to their Problems

Now that you have leads, what are you doing with them? All of those names, emails and zip codes are a treasure trove of valuable data. This is where marketing automation comes into play.

Marketing automation is an automated way to develop leads into marketing and sales qualified leads. It enables your company to deliver the right content to the right people at exactly the right time.

Once again, storytelling in marketing is a great opportunity to start building relationships with your new leads. Start by sending a series of emails that offer additional educational content for their specific issues. These emails will provide the exposition needed to introduce your solution—even if the leads aren’t ready to become customers just yet. Use stories to tie your solution into the narrative and escort your leads through the sales funnel until they come out at the bottom—this time, as customers.

The breakdown of your collected leads:

  • 25% are ready to buy now
  • 25% are unqualified
  • 50% are qualified but not ready to buy quite yet
  • That 50% is the group we’re interested in: Studies show that, even though they’re not sales ready at the moment, they’ll likely buy from you or your competitors in the future.

Here’s where your marketing storytelling can have a serious impact. By keeping the 50% engaged, you can inspire them to become your customers. Storytelling can be the fuel that drives your leads through the sales funnel as they search for the most efficient solutions to their problems. 

When you’re marketing to the 50% who aren’t sales ready, the biggest mistake you can make is to send them overly salesy content. You’re on their radar because they’ve grown interested in the story you’re telling; they don’t want to be jolted back to reality yet! If you can’t make your product a natural part of the marketing story, don’t do it at all.

Incorporating your product into the story naturally, though, is easier than you may think. For example, RapidAI, which empowers clinicians with artificial intelligence to help diagnose and treat stroke and aneurysm patients, came out with a work-life balance guide for neuro specialists.

The story starts by laying the groundwork for just how pervasive of a problem physician burnout is and the reasons behind it. As the story continues, the plot evolves to showcase how new technology is helping to alleviate this burnout. Only once the “story” reaches a natural point does the brand mention its product.

The reader walks away with a better understanding of the technology and how the organization’s solutions can truly improve clinician workflows and the quality of healthcare.


By continuing the storytelling journey you started at the top of the sales funnel, you help potential buyers understand their problems and how to solve them. But the most important part to talk about is always the outcome—how someone’s life, work or emotional reality will improve once her problems are solved.

To make the biggest impact with regard to the outcome, weave the following into your marketing story:

  • Frustrations and worries people face while attempting to solve their problems
  • Data & facts that help exemplify your solution—humans remember facts and statistics better when they are presented in story form
  • Intangible effects and ultimate worth of your product or service
Tying your solution to the problem lends credibility to your brand, and showcasing how your solution changed the lives of your characters helps your readers get to the finish line—and become customers—faster.

Marketing Storytelling: Early Child Care & Education Example

Horizon Education Centers believes their  teachers can make a difference in the lives of studentsand have fun doing it. So why not showcase this as part of their recruitment?


Take Horizon teacher Gloria Chavalia, for example. The excitement and appreciation Gloria receives from the children in her class continues to inspire her passion for working with kids. In her own words: "Those are the things that really make me want to go to work every single day." Horizon Flora Chavalia

Then there's Horizon teacher Cheyenne Yarber. Knowing that a lot of children may not have male figures in their lives, Cheyenne wanted to be a positive influence in that sense and help the children along. "I had a great role model with my father and my grandfather," he said. "I try to mirror that with the students I work with."

By sharing such authentic stories of teacher experiences, Horizon portrays the genuine passion of its staff and the benefits that come with being a Horizon teacherall without coming off as boasting.Horizon2-1


Act 3: Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

The right time to talk overtly about your product is during the third act of your story. Tie together all the messages that came before—show your character’s problem has been solved, and encourage your audience to get that same outcome.

This is where you nudge marketing qualified leads to engage in a bottom-funnel offer, such as contacting a sales rep or requesting a free demo.

Even on a bottom-of-the-funnel landing page, Kuno Creative is committed to telling a story with content. On this particular page, we show that we understand the reader’s marketing goals: We identify them by name, offer solutions and paint a picture of a clear journey that can lead to a positive outcome.

Leave your leads wanting more, but don’t forget to tell them where to find it. Make your call to action quick and simple with strong action verbs. Make it clear that taking the next step will help solve their problem.

Call to Action - Happy Ending

The Bottom Line

Storytelling in marketing helps potential buyers connect with your brand on an entirely new level. With the right marketing automation and analytics tools, you can monitor what’s working (and what’s not) at every stage of the sales funnel. If you listen carefully enough, your buyers may actually tell you the stories they want to hear.

If you want to capture that 50% of not-quite-sales-ready leads in your funnel, storytelling-infused marketing can be a powerful tactic. By using high-quality, emotionally relevant storytelling techniques, you can guide your leads from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom—where they can live, happily ever after.

The End
Marketing Story Telling: How to Acquire Customers in Three Acts