Does Your Marketing Copy Create a Compelling Story?

When I was working toward my MFA in Fiction, I was assigned a book by Jon Franklin called Writing for Story. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for literary journalism, Franklin illustrates to readers how to take the facts and, by applying literary techniques, turn those facts into a compelling story that people want to read.

I keep this book in my office to remind myself how important story is in marketing copy. After all, it’s the story you tell in your marketing copy that peaks interest and keeps prospects reading. It’s the story you tell that creates the connection between prospects and your company. It’s your marketing copy that turns prospects into customers.

So, how do you create a story, express it in your marketing materials, and do so in the most effective way?

1) Complication

In Writing for Story, Franklin begins with the premise that for a story to have value it must have complication and this complication must be significant to the human condition.

The same applies to your marketing materials. You must not only present a complication to prospects, but also tie it to their state of mind, situation, and desires. They’ve come to your website or blog, or they are reading your brochure or sales letter because they believe you have something that will fulfill a need they have.

It’s not enough to identify the complication as a lack of clients. I bet if you polled 50 of the most successful business owners, they’d tell you they want more clients.

You have to take it a step further and really mine for that sweet spot. What is it about not having clients that keeps your prospects up at night? What do your prospects really, really want? Yes, they might want clients, but why? Do they desire to live the lifestyle they want or to provide for their family because they want to retire before seventy?

Once you know this, you can take the basic complication and create a compelling story around it.

2) Resolution

Franklin reminds his readers that “complications without resolutions are worse than useless.” If you present a complication to your prospects and manage to tap into their desire for more, the resolution you provide is what will get them to act.

Stories without resolutions are not read, and, if they are, no one remembers them. In literature, we remember most books for their endings, a resolution to a complication. The same can be applied to your marketing materials—if you don’t offer a resolution, prospects will move on to your competition.

Continuing with the example above, if the complication is a lack of clients and the reason your prospects want more clients is so they can live the lifestyle they desire, your resolution is offering them a solution to solve their problem, whatever that may look like. Whatever you come up with, you must make sure your marketing copy shows prospects how you will solve their problems.

Also, if you want people to talk about your brand and your current clients to refer you, you must offer a resolution that solves their complication.

3) Character

Franklin writes that character is “the most important element of the story, and the one on which all else depends.” Your brand is the central character in your company story. Developing a brand story around complication and resolution allows prospects to feel a sense of belonging, as if they are part of it.

It’s crucial you allow your company personality to shine throughout all your marketing materials. Putting on your superserious business hat when writing your marketing materials is the quickest way to turn away prospects. Do you blame them? Who wants to be bored to tears with industry jargon and overindulgence of accolades?

When you share your company’s personality and celebrate your brand story in all you do, clients and prospects feel privileged to gain an insight into who you are and why you do what you do. And your brand story is what gets people talking about your brand and keeps clients coming back.

Your prospects and clients are as much of the story as your brand. Without them, you wouldn’t exist. Try to avoid company-centric copy and focusing too much on the features of your product / service. Following the advice above on setting up complication and resolution instantly makes your prospect part of the story.


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