WHAT DAVE FROM THE PUB CAN TEACH YOU ABOUT STORYTELLING
Dave’s the pub regular. You could saunter in any night of the week and he'll be there in the corner with a pint of John Smith's and a well-read Racing Post.
Everyone knows Dave. He’s an affable chap, but you have to take him with a pinch of salt. A lot of what he says is bullshit.
What he says isn’t that important, though. It’s how he says it. Dave can tell a yarn. He’s a proper storyteller. He knows this, of course, and talks so loudly -- each word summoned up from the depths of his beer-filled belly -- you can’t help but listen in.
Dave is an expert on everything from foreign trips to foreign policy, sports to soaps. And everyone from Fleet Street to Sesame Street is his mate, even if he’s never met them.
His tales are so convincing that you’ll often question your own judgement, even when you know he’s wrong.
We all know a Dave, right?
You can learn a lot from the man. Not about bullshitting (never try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, they’ll see through it eventually). No, what Dave can teach you is how to tell a story.
To show you what I mean I’ve broken down one of Dave’s tales.
The Attention Grabber
‘Ey, ‘ere’s one for ya. Listen to this...’*
*Translation: Excuse me. Here’s a story you might like.
With that opening line, Dave's got your attention. You came to the pub for a quiet pint, but you’ve been asked to listen to a story. You’ll oblige, at least for the opening gambit.
The most famous content marketing statistic of all is this:
8 out of 10 people will the read headline, but only 2 out of 10 people will read the rest.
Unfortunately, you can’t shout over to someone when you’re writing online, but the premise is the same: you’ve got to hook people immediately. Make them listen to you. This all starts with the headline.
Nathan from CoSchedule wrote a great post on creating catchy titles. Check that out.
Back to the story…
The Bold Statement
You heard of that Usain Bolt, the runner? I beat him in a race.
Really? The fastest man EVER lost to 25st chap who counts the motion of pint-to-mouth as exercise. It’s classic Dave. But he’s just pulled off another element of a great blog post. He’s hooked you in with an audacious statement.
According to a study by Microsoft, we have an attention span of eight seconds -- one second less than a goldfish (oh, how we mocked those goldfish).
The headline captures attention, but not for long. It needs to lead into a strong opening paragraph -- something that commands attention and convinces people to read on.
A bold intro is crucial.
Michael Pollock has some great ideas on how to open with a bang, here.
Here’s Dave again…
Sell The Benefits
I was out in town the other day, and noticed my trainers were looking a bit worse for wear. Scruffy, you know, worn at the heel and all stained with mud.
Anyway, I’d won a few quid on the gee-gees , so I thought: “While I’m here, I’m gonna buy a new pair.”
As it happened I was walking past a sports shop at that very moment, so I popped in and said to the girl: “see those blue trainers in the window, the ones with the air bubbles and white laces… gimme a pair in a size nine.”
The second I slipped 'em on I knew they were for me. Ouuff, the comfort! It was like walking on air...perfect for my wide feet as well. And I’ll tell ya this: they went lovely with a pair of jeans.
Nice work, Dave, old son. He’s accomplished one of the fundamental tips of good writing: sell the benefits. He’s covered everything you want from a pair of trainers: fashion and comfort.
Features tell, benefits sell.
That’s not to say features aren’t important -- split decisions are often based on fat laces and air bubbles. But what people really want to know is how something can solve a problem.
Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout talks in-depth about benefits and features here.
Carry on, Dave…
I walked out of the shop with the trainers on... told the girl to throw the old ones in the bin.
Anyway, I’m walking along minding my own business, a bit smug in my new footwear, when who should walk past but Usain Bolt with his entourage. Apparently, he’s in town for a bit of TV work.
He walks right past me and looks at my trainers. Doesn’t say anything, just looks. Well, that gives me an idea.
"Oi, Usain. Fancy a race, winner buys the beers?"
"Alright then," he says.
"Nice trainers. Let’s see what they’ve got. Where are we racing to?"
"To the lamppost at the top of the High Street," I say.
"Marks. Set. Go."
I’m off, and I’m fast anyway, but I’m extra sharp today in my new trainers. I’m glancing back and I’m past Primark and the pound shop before he’s even reached the butchers.
Smashed it! He comes in the pub a few minutes later, chucks a five pound at me and says: "Enjoy your drink, champ". Then he's off to take care of his business.
Aye, it was a good day.
I'm telling ya, ya definitely need a pair of these trainers. Get ‘em now, while they're still on sale.
Dave’s just delivered a case study/review and a call to action, explaining the quality of the trainers and hitting us with a time-sensitive offer: buy the trainers soon, before the price goes up.
Case studies and reviews help build trust and show what your products or services can do. They’re a great way to turn readers into customers.
HubSpot’s guide on how to write a compelling case study is a good one.
Once you’ve successfully lead a reader through a story, you need to close with a solid call-to-action. This needs to be clear and convincing. Give them a reason to act upon your offer.
Great stories make for great blog posts and landing pages. They help build audiences and sell products.
Dave told me that.
Channel your inner Dave and tell the stories your audience wants to hear.