To Win Someone To Your Cause, You Must First Reach Their Heart

Steve Jobs once said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller …” Abraham Lincoln also said, “In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.” 

Several years ago I wrote an article expressing the belief that generating emotional responses through storytelling is more critical in Baby Boomer markets than in younger ones because older minds depend more on emotions (gut feelings, a.k.a. intuition) in forming perceptions, thoughts, and decisions than younger minds do. 

As we age, we tend to experience an increase in right-brain participation in our mental functions. The right brain is as different from the left brain in how it sees and makes sense of life as you and I think. It would seem then that increased activity in the right brain in later life would result in changes in world views, values and what people expect from life. It also appears likely that a different style of communications is needed to connect with the right brain than the style that best connects with the left brain.



So the lesson in all of this is that as the Baby Boomer brain moves to the right, the marketer must also do so in how he or she develops communications for Baby Boomer markets. The emotional, intuitive right brain is less interested in details than in the total picture. The left brain sees things in terms of categories; the right brain in terms of relationships. Moreover, of course, the stronger the emotional responses generated by a message, the greater attention the message is likely to get.

The right-brain bias of Baby Boomers also increases their responsiveness to messages conveyed through stories as opposed to expository or neutral statements. Stories do a better job of emotionally engaging Baby Boomer minds. In fact, Baby Boomers are more likely than younger consumers to ignore a message that only describes a product with little or no effect. Stories are captivating, and the oldest form of passing on knowledge because they make messages easier to communicate.

A while back a content marketer, Ben Hollom, wrote in Thinking Less Like a Marketer, And More like a Storyteller, “Providing quality, relevant, engaging content on a regular basis allows you to build relationships as you interact, inform, and influence your customers and prospects.” When attempting to connect with Baby Boomers, a storytelling approach is particularly effective.

When Baby Boomers click on stories that catch their attention, you can build trust by not assaulting your audience with sales messages that drive visitors directly to your website. However, too often marketers easily return to their comfort zone, thinking like a traditional marketer. Unfortunately, we lose everything that’s so compelling about stories (content marketing), by just regurgitating traditional marketing through new ‘cooler’ channels!

So What’s a Marketer to Do?

According to Hollom, a captivating brand story should have four acts:

  1. Set the scene, what’s the background, who’s this article for, how can they expect to benefit from reading it?
  2. What’s the challenge, issue, pain point or a headache the reader may be experiencing? This acknowledgment shows both empathy and knowledge, which in turn build trust. 
  3. Offer a solution. Don’t jump straight into your pitch about how your product or service is the answer to all woes!
  4. Remember always have a call to action — the ultimate goal of marketing is to inspire to think, feel, or act

Ways to Improve Your Storytelling Skills

  • Consider existing content. Don’t overlook the archive of content you may have already built up over the years. It can be updated and repurposed. 
  • Be precise in what you are asking readers to do and why it is relevant to their lives.
  • Outline exact steps to be taken and show readers how they can recognize the reward.
  • Don’t invent a story. Boomers often recognize authenticity. The reason why you started your business, why you have developed products and services, and why you do are all stories to which people can relate.
  • Don’t make your stories one-liners. However, a six-word story “For sale, baby shoes, never used” attributed to Earnest Hemingway, reflects the potential of telling a story in a few words. Also, a testimonial that delves into a customer’s personal life and challenges and chronicles how an employee solved the problem will stick with readers.
  • Make stories personal. Use real people wherever possible – customers or employees.
  • Focus on the needs of the ‘audience’ not what you want to tell them.
  • Be a healer, not a huckster. 

Finally, remember the primary rule of good storytelling — it must have a beginning, middle, and an end.

3 comments about "To Win Someone To Your Cause, You Must First Reach Their Heart".
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  1. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, June 27, 2017 at 9:01 a.m.

    Jim:  Very useful and focused piece.  The apparent "art" or "skill" is crafting a good but brief story addressing consumer pain points.  I would add the import of message testing whenever possible.

  2. Jim Gilmartin from Coming of Age, June 27, 2017 at 9:31 a.m.

    Thanks, Jim. Point well made. My thoughts aren't designed to replace but to suppliment the "Gold Standards" of productive marketing.

  3. michael ayer from RIGINAIR, July 19, 2017 at 5:08 p.m.

    Storytelling in sales and biz dev is the key to standing out among a crowd of "salespeople," that inundate business people today.  I say unplug the Powerpoint and tell me a story.

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