With so many people using email, why aren’t you getting the open rates you want? Simply put, it is because you aren’t using story-driven emails.

While the above quote doesn’t directly discuss emails or your email strategy, the idea still holds because email content is marketing material. And the key piece to take away from this quote is that people remember stories 22 times more than facts and figures.

Your email strategy is an essential part of your overall marketing strategy because, as Campaign Monitor says, about half the world’s population uses email. The more engaged your email audience, the better chance you have of engaging new clients for your business.

 

Why isn’t your current email strategy working?

Story-driven emails are still relatively new as a marketing tool, at least in the formal sense. Your current email strategy may not contain storytelling as one of the critical components, and therefore, your readers aren’t opening the emails because they aren’t engaging with them. The subject line doesn’t always grab their attention, and the content is boring, the same as everyone else’s.

Imagine the difference between being handed a heavy textbook full of technical information that would take a person knowledgeable in that field to understand versus being given an autobiography. Which one would interest you more?

Most likely, the autobiography. Why? Because it would be an exciting story to read and something that might help you gain insight into yourself and the person telling the story. You would stay engaged as you read it because you could feel a connection to the writer somehow. Not as likely with the textbook.

In developing email content, business tends to do the textbook route which is what others do. That doesn’t always work, as you may be finding out.

What is a story-driven email?

A story-driven email tells a story in the email content. That content may have one of several focuses to deliver the story. Here are some examples:

  • Success story – in this type of email, your readers might share the success stories of their journey or what they found inspiring.
  • ‘Reason why’ stories – these stories might talk about anniversaries or why things happened and why that is important.
  • Origin stories – if you segment your new email subscribers, this is a way to engage with them by explaining your organization’s origin and what you do.
  • Interviews – these stories showcase someone else’s knowledge or journey. These are focused on not selling anything but engaging with the person being interviewed.
  • Behind-the-scenes – these stories tell how something came to be. This format might explain how a particular event came to be, who created it, what happens to make it happen each year, for example.

Anya Brui covers these ideas with examples in her blog post that goes deeper into storytelling in general and not only for email marketing.

How do story-driven emails engage readers?

From your own experience, you likely know that when you read an engaging book, you want to continue reading it; you don’t want to put it down. Those types of books or stories grab your attention in a way that has you emotionally connected to either the person who wrote the book or the characters in the book. That is exactly what you are looking to create as you change your email strategy to being story-driven.

The first thing that will engage your readers more is a “curiosity-driven” subject line. If you write a subject line that has the reader wanting to find out more, they are more likely to open the email to read further. You have piqued their curiosity.

When emails share something personal about you, your recent past, what you have been doing, this creates a connection and is what people are looking for when reading an email. Think of it as if you are writing a letter to a good friend. Wouldn’t you tell them about your recent holiday or that you ran the half marathon for the first time and felt okay?

That personal touch creates a different sort of emotional bond that readers look for. If you open your email with this piece of personal material, it has the reader connected and more likely to continue reading.

Your email then has to tell a story. Keep it long enough to convey a message, but short enough that the reader won’t get bored. And consider what it is you want as the outcome of the recipient reading your email. This ‘Call To Action’ can help you decide what relevant story to tell in the body of your email.

The whole point of writing a story-driven email is to have readers want to open it and read it more than they would any standard email. If you are engaging your readers well through storytelling, you will see an increase in open email rates.

 

Why does storytelling make a difference with open rates?

The one big thing that people crave today, especially since the COVID pandemic hit and changed how ordinary life looks, is connection. Even as babies and small children, we want hugs and to be touched so we feel a part of something connected to our family and others in our community.

Then above all else, as people grow older, they seek to be understood. To feel that someone understands them, especially in times of struggle and pain, makes a powerful connection. Storytelling makes a difference because it helps create that much-wanted connection.

Storytelling connects with readers at an emotional level and helps them to feel a part of something bigger, a group that understands them and their struggles through shared experience. When emails are not story-based, they miss this human connection level.

Non-story emails tend to be factual and often unemotional—the exact opposite of storytelling emails. Storytelling emails connect emotionally with the reader. That is what makes them more readable and more shared, even.

Some marketers talk about storytelling emails as creating a memorable brand experience for the reader. If your readers read many emails today and the one they remembered the most was yours because of the story you told, wouldn’t that be valuable?