Inception Technique: How to Sell With Story-Driven Emails

Email marketing is such a powerful channel for infopreneurs.

It’s like a direct line into your reader’s world, the last intimate online space where your message is (basically) guaranteed to arrive in front of them, without having to pay through the nose to get it there.

But there’s a mistake I see most infopreneurs making with email, and it’s costing them big time:

Their emails sound like everybody else in their market.

Consciously or unconsciously, many infopreneurs copy what the “big names” in their niche are doing. They consume their content, internalize their voice, and even swipe their copy outright while passing it off as their own.

Any of this sound familiar? Listen, I’m not here to swipe-shame anybody… certain messages absolutely do lend themselves to templates. But for some emails — like one-off sales emails, or emails at the very beginning of an autoresponder — you’re much, much better off creating something original each time.

Today I’m going to show you a process to help you to write persuasive, original emails when it counts that sound like YOU, and no one else.

Now, before I dive in, I want to give credit where credit is due: The core of this technique I learned from my friend Chris Orzechowski. Chris is an amazing email copywriter, so props to him for teaching this powerful method.

Step 1: The Problem

Sales copywriting is about solving problems. Your prospect wants something they don’t have: money, skills, subscribers, leads, confidence, etc, etc… and you’re selling them on a solution to going to help them get it.

So the first step to writing effective emails is to pinpoint the problem you’re solving for. Here’s an example from a recent project I worked on: The client was selling a course teaching highschool students how to learn faster and improve their memory, so they can get better grades.

What’s the effective problem in this case? It’s not poor memory, or slow learning… it’s bad grades. It’s the problem the reader cares about solving, even though it may actually a symptom.

Simple enough, right? Once you’re clear on the problem you’re solving for, move to Step 2.

Step 2: The Ideal State

The next step is to list out the longer-term effects the solution will have in the reader’s life.

Once they’ve overcome the problem, what will things look like? What new skills or assets will they possess? Will it be more money, more respect, more love, more health, more free time, more opportunities?

Going back to my recent client, I would ask, “what do better grades allow high school and college students to experience?” Answer: Less stress, less anxiety, more free time, acceptance to better colleges and degree programs, and long-term career success, etc.

These kinds of big, transformative benefits are absolutely key to writing high-impact sales copy. The only problem is, your reader probably isn’t ready to buy into the vision just yet… which leads us to Step 3.

Step 3: Objections

Even if your reader’s dying to make a change, they may not believe you can help them change.

Going back to my previous example, an objection we kept hearing was: “I don’t think I’m capable of taking on another class. I’m already struggling, and this just seems like more work.”

Like all of us, your reader has limiting beliefs, stories they tell themselves about why courses like yours won’t work for them. Some objections crop up for practically every time: “it’s too expensive,” “it’s too difficult,” or “I don’t have time,” for example.

Other objections are more specific to your offers, and take more detective work to find out. As always, your best bet is to hop on Zoom with existing customers, and get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Once you’ve identified 5–7 objections that keep coming up, it’s time to move on to Step 4.

Step 4: Empowering Beliefs

In this step, you identify empowering beliefs that oppose the objections. These are the new beliefs allow the reader to imagine that their ideal state is possible.

Again, the main objection I had to overcome was: “I don’t think I’m capable of taking on another class. I’m already struggling in school, and this just seems like more work.”

In this case, some empowering beliefs I identified included:

  • “I’m smart and capable enough to successfully complete the course”
  • “The course isn’t like another class (it’s easier)”
  • “The course will not add to my work load”

Step 5: Installing the New Belief

A lot of marketers start their emails by making an argument, trying to beat the reader into submission with features, benefits, and urgency. But this is a mistake. If you start arguing for your offer too early, you’re only going to raise the reader’s defenses and make them even more skeptical.

Much better to bypass their defenses and change their beliefs instead. And the way you change beliefs is through storytelling. You use an example, anecdote, or illustration that demonstrates and teaches the new belief, without referencing your offer at all.

Going back to my recent client, I needed to persuade readers that the course wasn’t like another college course, and they could succeed with it, no matter how much they were struggling in class.

To illustrate this, I used the course creator’s origin story. Here was a guy who was not just an underachieving student growing up, he had literal brain damage that prevented him from retaining information. He was coming from a much worse place than 99% of his readers.

But after learning a number of unorthodox techniques, he was able to turn things around and become a successful student. With this story the subtext is clear: if this guy was able to learn and excel with these techniques, anyone can.

Origins stories are just one example. You can use personal stories, customer success stories (always a good option), parables, historical examples, whatever you like. As long as it introduces the new belief in a way that isn’t overly obvious/preachy, that’s what you’re looking for.

Pick the right story for the job, and the new belief will be “implanted” into the reader’s mind, and they’ll be far more receptive to your offer.

Copywriter and marketing consultant.

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