Web Marketing Today

Converting Prospects with Storytelling

Connecting with others is the power of storytelling. If artfully crafted, the words engage people and weave visual and emotional connections.

Stories can help increase traffic and conversions on a website. Using an fMRI scanner, which detects brain activity by monitoring blood flow — more activity, more blood — studies show that when people read stories, their brains light up with activity. In a study at Princeton University, when one person was read to and the other listened, the brain activity increased for both. The connectedness that people experience with stories enables them to focus and better understand your concepts, products or services.

Emotional Connection

When a story conveys desires, the listener will feel those desires. If the story is one of fear, the recipient will feel fear.

Take this example from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which uses patient stories to convey its work, and thereby encourage donations and partnerships.

Aidan is a blur of motion. One moment he’s standing at the giant chalkboard in his playroom, drawing circles and squares with chalk.

The next minute he’s crouched down in front of his train table, lining up train cars. And then he’s out the backdoor with his older brother, racing toward the swing set.

Aidan’s parents delight in their youngest son’s zest for life. For a while, they worried about what his future might hold.

In early 2010, Aidan seemed to stop developing as quickly as his siblings. His parents had difficulty understanding him and his balance was off. That June, Aidan was found to suffer from neurofibromatosis, a disorder that causes tumors to grow on the nerves.

Aidan’s parents barely had time to process that news when, six months later, scans revealed a tumor growing in Aidan’s right optic nerve. He was immediately sent to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where further tests revealed a second tumor in Aidan’s left optic nerve…

— From St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Patient of the Month story



St. Jude Patient Story

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s patient of the month article.


At the end of the story, St. Jude’s places buttons for “Become a Partner in Hope,” “Email This Article,” and “Print.” It could also include social sharing buttons, though its main focus is partnerships. This is the business objective of the page. St. Jude needs people to connect to take the next step toward conversion.


St Jude Partner

St. Jude includes a Partner in Hope solicitation button at end of patient story.

Clarity Aids Connectedness

The Princeton study also revealed that the more the listener understood the story, the greater the connectedness.

When selling a service, it’s often hard for prospective customers to know if they need to buy your service or advice. One way around this is to tell a story in the form of a case study.

For example, consider Suite 1000, a North Carolina answering service that uses case studies to reach its targeted customers: healthcare and insurance professionals, attorneys, and home contractors. Its case study below is about a home remodeler who was having trouble juggling all of his calls, workloads and interruptions.

Answering Service Case Study

Answering service uses case studies to show how they can help customers.

The case study begins with a summary, and then proceeds to the customer “pain points,” the solution, and the results. The summary at the top allows prospects to see if the story pertains to them. By the end of the case study, the result shows that Suite 1000 can solve the contractor’s phone problems.

Social Validation

Testimonials are also an excellent storytelling device, especially when coupled with images.

First Republic Bank in New York uses stories in many of its radio commercials. One storytelling aspect on its website is a testimonial, where an executive, pictured in front of a statue in Columbus Circle in New York City, states “I’ve been banking with First Republic for several years now and they keep getting better.” The testimonial includes his name and title.

First Republic Bank Testimonial

First Republic testimonial featuring person and quote.

The testimonials not only convey a happy customer, but by including the picture and the role of the individual, they provide the context that these individuals are wealthy. With this information, a prospect can decide whether to contact this bank, which is the first step in converting to a new customer.

Kathleen Fealy
Kathleen Fealy
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