When it comes to marketing your product or service, the goal is simple:

You’re trying to sell something to somebody in exchange for money, time, support, or some other commodity.

In today’s highly digital and visual world, we often focus on the snazzy looking website, the GIF that’ll get a few laughs, and the video that’s sure to go viral.

All of these components are key, of course, but perhaps one of the most important factors to focus on as you look to market your business is the writing.

Writing (or copywriting, when it comes to marketing) can be one of your most effective methods to eliciting emotions from your audiences. That’s key, as study after study show that when we appeal to emotions (sadness, happiness, frustration), consumers are more likely to convert.

But despite most marketers and business owners knowing this, it seems as though we’ve lost our way.

Let’s find it again, shall we?

Understanding the Structure of the “Story”

The greatest stories of all time – from novels to movies – all share certain similarities. As author Kurt Vonnegut puts it:

Somebody gets into trouble; gets out if again. People love that story, never get tired of it.

From Moby Dick to Scandal, you can see how right-on Vonnegut was. But this type of structure can – and should – be a part of your marketing copy as well.

Let’s break down Vonnegut’s quote into the four areas that make up a typical story:

  • The problem: More specifically there’s an overarching problem that impacts the world in which our characters exist. Think of it as the “globally shared problem.”
  • The protagonist: You need a protagonist, however, you don’t need a protagonist who can solve problems in an instant. You need a conflicted protagonist who struggles through obstacles and setbacks.
  • The conflict: The protagonist needs a clear and specific conflict, some type of problem that we as the readers fear he may not overcome.
  • The transformation: All those struggles by the protagonist need to happen for a reason. The transformation is that reason. The protagonist and, perhaps, the world, should be better off by the end of the story.

If your goal is to turn your copywriting into a larger piece of your brand’s story, we highly recommend you focus on these four elements above. Not sure if your writing will be part of a larger story? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does your campaign have a subject the audience can root for?
  2. What’s the threat that’ll get your audience riled up?
  3. Where does the transformation happen?

Nonprofits can employ this type of storytelling often. For example, the ASPCA could use it as such:

  • Protagonist: The sheltered animals
  • Threats/Conflict: Overcrowding, neglect, and euthanasia
  • Problem: There’s not enough room to house all the abandoned/homeless animals out there
  • Transformation: It’s up to the viewer/reader to make the transformation. Make that call, donate etc. and you can save these animals

Using this type of storytelling for your landing pages

The storytelling represented above is ideal for a campaign landing page. But unlike Moby Dick, your landing page isn’t going to ramble on for thousands of pages. You have to be able to include all of a story’s main elements within a relatively confined amount of space.

That’s why it’s vital that you focus on a one-liner atop your landing page to conjure emotions from the get-go.

We can’t help but turn to a well-known novel such as Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Here’s the first line:

“Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.”

How can you not be hooked from that line? You have so many questions running in your mind that you need to have answered, such as:

  • Who is Tyler?
  • Who is this person speaking?
  • Why do you have to die to enjoy eternal life?

While you likely may not want to create such a bleak story for your campaign, we think you get the picture: Write a one-liner that creates immediate and vivid questions in your readers’ minds.

One other note: by the end of Fight Club you’ll have answers to every single question that arises from Palahniuk’s first line.

Do the same with your landing page. Don’t let down your readers. We strongly suggest you get someone else to read your copy and to have them tell you the types of questions that run through their mind after reading the early parts of your copy.

Keep these questions in mind. It’s your obligation as the writer to answer these questions by the time the reader gets to the end of the landing page.

Do this, and you might not have the next great American novel, but you will have a landing page that sparks intrigue and conversions.