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The Most Powerful Marketing Tool

The Most Powerful Marketing Tool

By Pat Flynn on

The most powerful marketing tool is a story.

I’ve recently started to reread one of my all-time favorite books, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, and in it there’s an entire section dedicated to the power of storytelling and how it gets people to pay closer attention to what you have to say. (Full Disclosure – I make a commission if you buy the book through this link.)

If you think about it, it’s absolutely true. We’re so much more in tune when someone is telling us a story, as opposed to when someone is just “talking at us”, or lecturing. All of my favorite professors from college were ones that were masters of storytelling.

Stories are powerful, and when combined with marketing, the results can be out of this world.

Subway Jared


Do you know who “Subway Jared” is? Chances are, you probably do.

Jared was just a guy who was grossly overweight but lost 245 pounds after going on a strict diet composed of Subway sandwiches. He’s recently become a nationwide hero and celebrity because his story resonates with a lot of people.

Subway was quick to get him on board as a spokesperson for their brand.


Because they know just how powerful his story is. He’s even a part of their navigation menu on their website, as you can see in the adjacent screenshot.

Online Adwords Campaigns

I’ve noticed a certain trend lately in the pay per click affiliate marketing world. Instead of marketers simply putting an affiliate link into their adwords ads, they are linking over to a site that looks like a blog instead, which have the affiliate links embedded within the posts.

Many traditional marketers would think that this is a huge mistake because we’re in fact adding another step to the entire process. And, as we all should know – the more steps that a customer has to take in order to get through the checkout process, the less chance there is of completing the sale.

Well, it seems like these blogs are cashing, and here’s why:

All the blogs tell a story.

For weight training, we’re seeing stories of Jimmy and Alex who talk about how hours in the gym just wasn’t working for them, and how they finally got their abs chiseled after taking these super supplements or special drink mix, and they have the pictures to prove it.

For teeth whitening (which I know you’ve seen ads for online), the ads click through to blogs that talk about “my mom’s 5 minute teeth whitening trick”.

The products are different, but the idea is the same: stories sell.

People We Know

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, tells stories all of the time. His book is filled with passages of him doing things like racing motorcycles in Europe, skiing in the Andes, scuba diving in Panama, and dancing Tango in Buenos Aires, just to name a few of the awesome things he’s done. It reflects the kind of lifestyle he lives, which goes along with his methods for living such a lifestyle, which he graciously outlines for us in his book.

I mean – one of the first sections in the introduction of his book reads in bold letters: My Story and Why You Need This Book.

Again – stories sell.

The big bloggers have their stories too.

I remember Darren Rowse from saying  that when he started, he had not yet monetized it. It was only after his wife told him that he had 6 months to make it profitable or else he’d have to dump it that he started to really get serious with blogging.

Yaro Starak from started blogging back in the 90s about a geeky card game called Magic The Gathering (which I’ll admit that I played too when I was in middle school). That’s where he learned the ins and outs of blogging which he has since taken to a whole new level as he teaches others how to succeed online with blogging and entrepreneurship.

And Then There’s Me

I’m sure that you would agree that a lot of the rapid growth and success on this blog happened because of my story:

Guy gets laid off.

Guy starts an internet business.

Guy makes even more and works much less.

Even on my LEED exam prep blog, I share a story about how I studied for the exam myself, struggled because of the lack of resources, and decided to create my own, which I now keep updated for new test takers a year and a half after I passed the exam.

I think it gives me an edge over my competitors who are only known by their company name, and not the person or any stories behind it.

Do You NEED A Story In Order to Succeed?

I don’t think you need a story in order to succeed, but I can tell you from experience that it absolutely helps. It’s no wonder why I’ve been asked to do more than a dozen interviews since the beginning of the year.

In my opinion, every blog or internet business should somehow incorporate a story. If not for the inspiration and creation of the business or blog, then at least in some of the blog posts that you write, or in case studies and testimonials from your customers.

On this blog, I’ve written a number of “story posts” which have proven to be some of my top articles on the blog. I could have just presented the lessons without the story, but the story makes what I have to say a lot more meaningful:

So how do you get stories?

Well, you should never make them up. People can read right through fake stories, and it’s always good practice to be totally honest online.

Here are two things you can do:

  1. Keep your eyes and ears open. Life is already full of stories that are just waiting to be shared, it’s just your job to make sure we realize they’re happening.
  2. Put yourself in situations to get a good story. That’s right! Make the awesome stories happen for yourself. This might mean stepping out of your comfort zone, or taking that leap of faith, but hey – that’s how we get ahead.

Open BookShare One of Your Stories

If you have a website that has a great story to it, or have written a blog post that uses the power of storytelling, please feel free to share and put a link (that’s one link) in the comments below along with a brief summary of your story to go along with it. If it’s a good story, hopefully you can get some clicks over to your blog from some of the other readers.

I look forward to reading what you have to say!

As always, thank you for your support and contribution to the ongoing conversation. Cheers!


p.s. To reiterate, I really recommend reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die if you have the chance. Let me know how you like it!

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