Growth & Marketing

How to tell a damn good story in a blog post

by David Tendrich

The meeting… was a mess. Steve Langford, owner of one of the largest window cleaning companies in the Southeast, questioned every strategy we suggested, fought back on all constructive criticism, forced us to justify every thought.

One hour and a half in, we were exhausted, depleted, ready to give up.

And then, I did give up.

I stopped fighting his fight.

I looked him in the eyes and said, “Steve, we can sit here all day arguing theory. But here’s the deal: You reached out because you have a problem. What you’re doing now just isn’t working for you anymore, so you asked for help. Will you let us do that?”

He looked back at me, smiled. We had a deal.


Story is key in marketing, whether it’s via blogging or the copy on your and your clients’ websites.

It pulls readers in and speaks to their deepest parts in a way nothing else can. After all, isn’t what you read above such a more engaging, interesting approach to the subject of client negotiations than… well… just about anything else?

Imagine instead if I’d written: “In client negotiations, it’s important to not get caught up in arguing over small, “nitpicky” details. Bring the conversation back to why the client reached out to you in the first place. Keep their goals and challenges the subject of the conversation – not your methods and assumptions.”

That’s a great conclusion to my story. But without the story, content that’s purely instructional is flat and boring.

So let’s talk about story-telling, and how you can start producing blog content and content of all kinds that harnesses its amazing power.

how to tell a damn good story

Story 101

I’m going to take you back to 4th grade English class, the teacher with the glasses she kept pushing up her nose, the spitballs shot across the room when she turned her back.

You probably vaguely remember learning about “dramatic structure” – or the elements of story.

Let’s refresh. In marketing, that same structure comes into play.

  • Exposition

You set the scene. Reveal background information. In the story above, that was this part:

The meeting… was a mess. Steve Langford, owner of one of the largest window cleaning companies in the south east, questioned every strategy we suggested, fought back on all constructive criticism, forced us to justify every thought.

  • Rising Action

Events build up toward the tipping point or climax. The stage is set for a great revelation or action to take place.

One hour and a half in, we were exhausted, depleted, ready to give up.

And then, I did give up.

Can’t you just “feel” that something big is about to happen? That’s what the rising action does – it builds up to the climax.

  • Climax

The suspense rises until it hits the turning point – where it all comes crashing together and something big happens.

I stopped fighting his fight.

I looked him in the eyes and said, “Steve, we can sit here all day arguing theory. But here’s the deal: You reached out because you have a problem. What you’re doing now just isn’t working for you any more, so you asked for help. Will you let us do that?”

He looked back at me, smiled. We had a deal.

  • Falling Action

This is how the climax plays out. The conflict between the hero and the bad guy unravels. The hero either wins or loses.

Because my story above was so short, the climax and falling action were balled up into one. In this instance, the falling action is what I said to Steve, and how I “won.”

  • Resolution

Here, everything is wrapped up, into a neat bow, or perhaps not. The story above has an “implied” resolution – we got the deal and rode off into the sunset. But perhaps if I wanted to, I could add a more “formal” resolution, like:

Later, I’d regret that. He fought us tooth and nail through our entire relationship. But right then and there, I was happy. We needed the money, and we were eager to get to work.

Another way of looking at dramatic structure in marketing.

In marketing, self-proclaimed “gurus” have hijacked dramatic structure (which is thousands of years old) and called it many things.

You might have heard a term I often use myself: “The hero tale.”

This is the tale of a product or service and how its creator overcame challenges to create it and bring it to market.

For example, a personal trainer might reveal how she lost 200 pounds after trying everything, and failing.

A business consultant might reveal how he took his failing business to unheard of heights by throwing out the “rule book” and making his own way.

The hero tale has 3 parts which basically simplify dramatic structure:

  1. The problem (“So many of my entrepreneur friends and family members complained about web design companies – how unreliable they were, how bad they communicated, and how their work produced zero results.”)
  2. The solution (“I decided to solve this problem once and for all. I studied every book and course on marketing I could find. I snuck into design lectures at a local design school. I learned as much as I could about how to communicate effectively and reliably. Then, I took that newfound knowledge and started by helping my friends and family.”)
  3. Life post-solution (“They were shocked. They never knew how great it could feel to work with a designer who truly cares. Since then, I’ve helped dozens more businesses grow and flourish – and all with a smile. I get thank you letters nearly every week. They keep me going.”)

Applying this to blogging.

There’s a dead-simple way to start using this in blogging immediately. I even did it here in this post.

Can you spot it?

Don’t worry about scrolling up, I’ll just tell you – I started with a story. In fact, most of my blog posts do start with a story that takes advantage of dramatic structure / the hero tale.

My process is pretty simple:

  1. First, I decide on my topic.
  2. Then, I think back and figure out a real-life story that demonstrates my point.
  3. Then, after I’ve made all my points in the rest of the post, I go back and try to think of short little anecdotes that can help drive them home even more.

The formula looks like this, all the way through the content:

  • Story
  • Lesson
  • Story
  • Lesson

For example:

  • Story about how we negotiated with Steve Langford
  • Lesson about not getting caught up in theory.
  • Story about how we negotiated with Phil Maw
  • Lesson about how you can still land gigs when you don’t have a portfolio

And so on and so forth.

And that’s it.

Stories “show” the lesson you’re trying to teach – which is a heck of a lot more interesting that simply “telling” the lesson in an instructional way. Think of it like this: You earn the right to be instructional only after you’ve told a good story that demonstrates your point.

In addition, starting with a story breaks the ice, warms people up to your content, and keeps them hooked and engaged. Stories slip past our walls and radars and get right to our hearts.

They’re hard to resist.

So stop resisting them, just like I stopped resisting Steve.

Harness their power in every piece of marketing that you do.


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