How To Write Story-Based Emails (that sell stuff like crazy)

by John McIntyre

how to write story based emails

Story-based emails work great and once you know how to write them, it’s not actually that difficult.

Why write story-based emails?

Ever heard of a dude named Jesus?

The man told stories (parables, they used to call them).

So did Buddha.

Ditto for every great religious teacher.

Unsurprisingly, this is also why the best speakers tell stories while average speakers tell facts.

Go watch a TED talk or think back to DC BKK. The most compelling speakers are usually the speakers who tell the best stories.

The basic format is:

  1. Tell a story
  2. Make a point
  3. Rinse and repeat for duration of talk

Each “sub story” fits into an “overall story” (ie. the story arc).

6 months ago, I started writing story-based emails for my list. That was one of the best decisions I made all year (along with starting the podcast). It has built an incrediblely responsive list and totally blown me away with the results.

In 2013 (and 2014) information is cheap.

Crash courses can and do work, but when all you do is send people how-to information, you run the risk of appearing like everyone else, lowering the demand for your own product, and becoming another me-too marketer.

How-to information has its place in a content marketing strategy, but on it’s own, the picture is incomplete.

When it comes to email marketing (as with podcasting), people want to be entertained as much as they want to learn.

Question is:

What’s the best way to entertain a prospect?

The answer is simple: tell stories.

About what?

About anything and everything.

Your stories are what make you unique.

Your stories are what will make you stand out and build a special bond with your audience, whereby they feel like they know you. They end up buying from you because they like you (not just because they think your product will help them).

But story-telling is hard, right?


Here’s my framework – I call it the HIPS framework:

The H.I.P.S. Framework

Step 1 – Hook

First, get their attention with a subject line that promises to give them something in the email. Tease them. Get them hooked.

Step 2 – Interest

Second, you have to get them interested. Otherwise, why would they read the rest of your email?

Step 3 – Parable

Third, tell a story or just bumble on about something interesting. This sounds hard, but is actually quite easy. Imagine you’re in a bar and you’re sitting next to a prospect, having a drink. You’ve got something on your mind re. his problem. You say, “You’re never gonna believe what happened the other day…”. The prospect then has to know what you’re about to say.

Step 4 – Slide

Fourth, slide naturally into the pitch.

Example #1:

Hook – Abraham Lincoln’s guide to email marketing

Interest – Here is Abraham Lincoln’s guide to email marketing

Parable – A story about Abe’s countless failures before he became the president of the united states

Slide – If you want to shorten the learning curve to email marketing and avoid mistakes, get the McIntyre Method.

Example #2:

Hook: Email open rates don’t matter

Interest: Think open rates matter? Think again…

Parable: Story about how I met a big time guy who said open rates don’t matter

Slide – Want to know what does matter? Get the McIntyre Method.

Example #3:

(this is a non-sales example – to demonstrate that you can use this anytime you need someone to take an action)

Hook: The beez kneez of marketing

Interest: Empathy is the beez kneez of marketing

Parable: Here’s why surveys are perfect for developing empathy

Slide: Fill out my survey here and see a great survey in action, study the questions, etc

There are 2 things every example has in common:

One – it sells someone on taking an action (and only one action)

Two – it offers value, even if someone doesn’t take me up on my offer

For example, email 1 provides inspiration, email 2 and 3 provide a little how-to.

So while every email pushes the subscriber to take action, it also MUST offer some sort of value.

How to come up with ideas for stories

Nothing bad ever happens to an email marketer.

I once sent an email about how I almost got arrested here in Thailand.

Take the coffee cup on your desk right now. Tell a story about how that coffee cup wouldn’t exist without craftsmanship. Then talk about how your product helps people achieve true craftsmanship and give them a link where to buy it.

How to make this into an autoresponder

Easy – write 10+ emails like this and send every 1-3 days.

Randomize the style. So you have a rotating schedule of emails like this:

Email 1: Inspiration

Email 2: How to

Email 3: Case study

Email 4: Interview

Email 5: Resource


Keep people guessing on what they’ll receive at any given time.

Remember, you don’t have to sell something every email.. the point is to hold your subscriber’s attention so that when they’re ready to buy something, you’re the first person they think of.

Try this out today

Write a story-based email and send it to your list.

Get them to take action on something… whether it’s purchasing your product, signing up to your blog, checking out a good post you found, buying a book on Amazon, filling out a survey, calling you or whatever.

Just give it a try – it works.

Then post your results in the comments below.

Send a few emails like this, offering your product. See what happens. Give some value in the form of a story, then pitch them on something.

Interestingly, if you write a lot of story-based emails, you’ll become a better communicator… becoming the go-to guy or gal for great stories at parties.

One last idea:

Pick something random. Anything. Post it below and include a sentence about what your product is.

I’ll post a reply with how you could make your random topic sell your product.

Seriously. I love this stuff.

John, The Autoresponder Stories Guy

P.S. I created a 7-video training program called ‘How To Tell Stories That Sell Via Email’.

It’s available as an upsell to anyone who signs up to the McIntyre Method here –

So not only do you get my 4-step system for writing profitable autoresponders… you also get trained on how to write email stories that sell (a profitable combination).

Or if you not ready to spend money with me yet, sign up to my list below.

You’ll see how I use email stories to sell my own products (and you’ll get plenty of ideas that you can apply to your own business).

P.P.S. Before you can create powerful, RELEVANT email stories, you must understand what marketing truly ishow to really write sales copy and what copywriting is.

7 thoughts on “How To Write Story-Based Emails (that sell stuff like crazy)”

  1. 1st July 2016.
    07 : 30 pm
    A small home in Aspen Colorado
    Breeze – Mild

    A small business owner is sitting at her desk.

    Lost in her thoughts she opens her laptop. Looks at her to-do list.

    Clicks a folder on her desktop. Opens a long list of word documents.

    Selects a folder named as “inspiration”. Recently purchased.

    She signs in to her email client. Loads a new campaign for 343 people on her list.

    Sets them up to fire off tomorrow. 0800 hrs. Sharp.

    Opens the folder “Inspiration”. Right click, select all, copy.

    Opens her email client. Right click, paste. Does this 30 times.

    30 emails in total.

    Signs out.

    Looks at the clock. It’s 07 : 43.

    Took her 13 minutes to set up a whole month of marketing emails.

    She takes out her dog for a walk.

    She just did something in 13 minutes, which, most email marketers would do well to nail in 13 days.

    But she is smart and maybe lucky, for she uses the power of …..

    The mothership of addictive emails just landed in Arizona.

    Get a ringside view while you can.

    Go here

    • Hi Dr Nafri,

      Great email. You’ve definitely picked up the fundamentals of email copywriting here.

      However, there are a few things you could do to improve it:

      – Adding 30 emails in 13 minutes? No way. It would take me a few minutes PER EMAIL. 30 emails would take me hours. So if you’re writing the email to copywriters and entrepreneurs who’ve “been around the block”, they’re going to tune out in disbelief if you say “13 minutes”.
      – The “inspiration” folder. What is it? Why was it purchased? You need to explain this in more detail. Otherwise, it’s jarring to me as a read it, and instead of being hypnotised by your copy, I’m getting distracted.
      – The final “mothership of addictive emails” line doesn’t sit right with me. Sure, say it, but it doesn’t fully make sense in the way that you’ve used it.
      – “Get a ringside view while you can” is sort of an empty phrase. It would make more sense if you had used a “ringside” metaphor in this email, but you haven’t. So it seems out of place, and again, confuses me.

      Hope that helps!

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