How to use storytelling to improve your email marketing

Email marketing is the type of tactic that can take many forms. And we’re likely all very familiar with the various types of emails used in professional communications.

There’s the upbeat welcome message, where the sender thanks the receiver for signing up and makes that initial contact to get a professional relationship going.

And we can’t forget those thank you messages, which express gratitude to members, customers, and subscribers for a special occasion—or just because.

Even sales emails—which primarily exist to, well, drive sales—are versatile tools used across almost all industries. But emails don’t always have to be so centrally focused. In fact, they can have exposition, development, and a thrilling conclusion.

If this sounds more like a story than a professional communication, that’s because that’s the idea. We view business emails (either B2B or B2C) as so professional—and they are. But this doesn’t mean that storytelling can’t play a valuable role. In fact, storytelling can be a great tool for improving your email marketing.

What do content creators mean by “storytelling?”

There are many different types of content out there, each with unique creation processes. Content creators could be putting together anything from whitepapers with thousands of words to pay-per-click ads with a couple sentences.

What do these have in common? Both can be used to tell a story.

Email marketing usually falls somewhere between longform content with a lot of details and simple ads that are purposefully made to be concise. It should come as no surprise that storytelling is an option to consider here as well. To get on the right track, let’s examine exactly what storytelling is.

To get on the right track, let’s examine exactly what storytelling is.

Image from ReferralCandy

As we can see, telling a story isn’t just about providing longform content, or wrapping a pitch up in some creative language. Storytelling is about engaging your customer and providing them with useful information about what your brand stands for.

Great storytelling in an email encompasses everything—your email design, the content, and even the call to action.

There are a few key benefits to utilizing storytelling rather than simply being promotional or going with the standard email options. Consider the benefits of immersing your reader in an information piece that feels beneficial to them:

  • Connections: When people read a relatable story, they may feel more connected to the brand behind it. Storytelling is much more immersive than standard emails, meaning it comes off as more genuine and relatable. It also draws on the emotions, which very often inspires action.

  • Impactful: A good story keeps the listener hooked. It sets them up to learn something or receive some type of impactful conclusion. This exposition and development can make the same message much more memorable than it would’ve been if it was in the form of a standard email.

  • Holistic: The benefit of a great story is that it’s holistic in nature. Promotions are salesy, greetings are communicative, but stories have it all. They have a beginning that grabs attention, a middle that provides interesting details, and a conclusion that makes the reader glad they stuck around.

These are the qualities of a good storytelling-based marketing strategy. When you’re looking to improve your email marketing, knowing how to tell a good story can be very helpful.

Why does storytelling work in email marketing?

You can tell a story with nearly any type of marketing tactic. Why should email marketers be so concerned with storytelling as a primary strategy? For one, storytelling is a great way to talk about your brand, and brand marketing goes hand-in-hand with email.

Telling a brand story can increase the value of a good by up to 20 times.

There’s also an important distinction to draw when it comes to storytelling and ROI. If storytelling can increase the impact of a message and the value of a product, it can do the same for the potency of a strategy.

Now take that approach and apply it to the highest-performing tool for generating ROI. And of course, that tool is email.

Now take that approach and apply it to the highest-performing tool for generating ROI.

Image from Campaign Monitor

With email, you’re communicating to users where they typically prefer to get news and offers. When you surprise them by dropping smart storytelling into their inbox, you can set yourself up for success.

Starting a great story: beginning your storytelling efforts

When you’re looking to use storytelling in your marketing, having a great start is everything. We’ve already mentioned that one of the main benefits of storytelling in marketing is that it creates a more personal and emotional connection.

However, it’s also proven to be a great method for learning. Email marketing is often about conveying information first and foremost. Perhaps you’re raising awareness about a new deal, cause, or an upcoming event. Or perhaps you’re simply educating new subscribers about your brand. In any case, stories are a fantastic strategy for conveying knowledge.

People are often more receptive to learning when they don’t feel like they’re being taught. Especially in the marketing sphere, where readers may be skeptical about pitches and sales tactics, stories are great for appealing to open minds.

Let’s examine a few different scenarios and how to set up a storytelling email campaign.

Promote an event by promoting your story.

Let’s say a nonprofit is about to host an event to ask for donations. In some ways, this can be a tricky proposal to make in the right way. Except for those dedicated subscribers who are already involved with the brand, you may have a hard time asking for donations with no other information.

Instead, frame your efforts by telling your brand’s story—talk about how much you’ve done, how far you’ve come, and what all you’ve done to get where you are. This can make the person feel like they’re part of the story and the movement when they donate, rather than simply feeling like they’re sending money because an email asked them to.

Thank a subscriber by recapping their story.

Companies aren’t the only ones with stories, customers have them, too. When you’re looking to send out a thanks for someone who has been a loyal follower, made a recent purchase or donation, or achieved some other benchmark, why not recap their journey with your brand?

Talk about the first time they signed up for the mailing list, any major milestones during your time together, and any important event that has been significant in your professional relationship. It’s a great way to make people feel connected to your brand, and remind them they’re more than just a number.

Reach out to customers by citing previous success stories.

If you’re looking to convince potential readers of something, you should consider telling stories of previous customers. If those customers benefited from what you have to offer, and you have a testimonial from them, consider sharing it.

More than 90% of people trust their peers over traditional adverts. Customer success stories are a great way to make your brand feel more human. When you do this, you automatically inspire people to take their guard down.

These are a few of the main ways to integrate storytelling into a campaign—when you take this approach from the beginning, everything else falls into place. Learn how to tailor your design and approach around the story, and you’re golden.

Tools to use when crafting your storytelling emails.

Another benefit of using storytelling in email marketing is that there are so many tools at your disposal. Storytelling allows you to be more inspired, inventive, and artistic. You have less to worry about in terms of formalities, and thus more liberty to be creative.

When using storytelling in your marketing, don’t hold back on photo and video. Both are incredibly complimentary, are great for expressing emotions, and illustrating the dynamics of a good story.

You can also do a lot with personalization. People who listen to stories often try to relate to the characters—it’s the fun of immersion. When you personalize your emails and add storytelling to your approach, you get a perfect match.

When storytelling is done well, people will be more receptive to connect with your brand and hear what you have to say. And best of all, they’ll feel like they’re the focus. Remember, good marketing (not just email marketing) puts the customer at the center. Storytelling and personalization work together to achieve this seamlessly.

Wrap up

Storytelling isn’t just a great way to flex your creative muscles. It’s a great marketing strategy for your emails. Your campaigns will be improved by taking this approach. It also helps you reach your readers in a way that traditional emails never could.

Storytelling in marketing is:

  • A way to connect your subscribers to the brand

  • Great for helping to convey information in a gentle manner

  • A license to be creative with your emails

Marketing is about being inventive—when you invent a story, you invite your readers to become immersed in what you have to say. Combined with personalization, this is a valuable tool any marketer can use.

About the Author

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our

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