The Email Marketer’s Playbook for Storytelling

We’re sure we don’t have to point out that the inbox is a busy place.

Over 300 billion emails are estimated to have been sent and received every single day in 2020. A figure that is expected to rise to over 375 billion by 2025.

So, what can email marketers do to stand out from the crowd?

Well, they need to pique recipients’ interest. Offer something unique. Engage with their audience. Keep their them wanting more. Oh, and get that all-important click through.

Sounds like a lot, right?

Not necessarily.

Because storytelling can achieve all of the above, and more.

In this guide, we will take email marketers through what storytelling is, the benefits, and how they can achieve storytelling success in 10 simple steps.

For email marketers, better starts here.

What is storytelling?

Storytelling is an art that involves telling a story that engages, involves, excites, and persuades the readers.

It’s an approach that has been used in many different mediums and industries. From politics through to marketing. And with the latter, we have seen a sharp rise in the use of content for storytelling purposes.

Storytelling should incorporate useful information which reflects what a brand stands for. And not just a sales pitch wrapped up in fluffy language.

There are endless types of content available. Each involving slightly different processes. Whether it be a blog post, a report, a tweet, or a paid ad.

And all of these content types can be used to tell a story.

Email marketing offers the perfect bridge between long-form content and concise ads. It has the benefits of a blog post, without having to drive traffic. And marketers know exactly who they are sending to, and who is engaging.

Benefits of storytelling

If you’re still not convinced that storytelling is for you and your email campaigns, read on to hear the benefits.

Cuts through the noise

Consumers are bombarded with content every single day. Via email and every other marketing channel imaginable.

There are 7.5 million blog posts alone published each day.

Add to this, consumers are present on an increasing amount of devices, for an increasing amount of time. So it’s easy for them to be overwhelmed. And difficult for them to separate the good content from the bad.

Storytelling offers brands the opportunity to provide original, personalised content which is based on information that is relevant to the recipient.

And storytelling can trigger emotions such as empathy and joy, and offers content that is directly relatable.

More effective

Our brains love stories.

And that’s because we are social creatures who regularly engage and connect with others.

Stories offer a medium to transmit information to individuals and communities in a way that is immediately more engaging than displaying a set of facts.

And even better, stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and therefore are more likely to be remembered than other forms of information.

Lets your personality shine

When it comes to selling, there’s not much room for personality to shine through.

This could be your business message, company values, or simply the energy that you convey.

A story is an ideal opportunity to show a little personality. And this can be achieved through both copy and imagery. Whether you are telling the story of your business, of a product, of a customer, or something more abstract, your personality will shine through at every stage.

The language you use, your tone of voice, the images you choose, the messages you present. All convey who are as a business.

But of course, this means that storytelling should be well considered. So, when you are creating a story, ensure you stick to your brand guidelines and company values. And maintain consistency throughout all of your stories.

10 steps to storytelling in email

If you’re still reading, then we’re guessing you’re keen to get your storytelling strategies underway.

Follow our 10 steps to storytelling in email, and you’ll soon be on your way to better email campaigns.

Use data

Before you make any attempt at telling a story, get your data in order.

That’s because the best communications, stories or not, are data-led.

Data enables brands to take their storytelling to the next level. Because with a deeper understanding of what their audience is interested in, how they behave, and what drives them, they are able to craft stories that their audience can directly relate to.

Data enables you to build personas to help guide your stories, identify the topics that are of most interest, and personalise your stories for a one-to-one experience.

So if you haven’t already, combine your data sources into one singular, accessible place. One that enables you to gain a high-level view of your audience. As well as dig into the specifics for an even deeper understanding.

Segment your audience

Once you have your data in place, you can start to segment your audience into similar user groups to ensure they are receiving the stories that are most relevant to them.

Building personas is a great first step in this process. And will help you to build out relevant stories, and identify the segments in which to categories your recipients.

Once you have completed this, you could either create different stories or different variations of one story to send to each segment. Dependent on the wants, needs, and personalities of each persona.

Pique curiosity with your subject line

Now we can start getting creative.

No matter how great your story is, it’ll fall flat if you don’t engage with your audience at the very first step.

The subject line.

The ideal way to encourage recipients to engage with your story is to pique their curiosity. Curiosity triggers our desire to learn, which is an ideal mindset to be in for a story.

Using powerful words or posing a question are tried and tested ways to grab attention with your subject line. But if you’ve like more tips, head over to our subject line guide.

Subject lines

Subject line

Subject line

Incorporate striking visuals

Crafting a beautifully written story is essential when it comes to storytelling. But so are visuals.

Visuals ensure that your story is enticing to those who don’t engage as well with copy. As well as reinforcing your points and message throughout the story.

And, of course. They are simply eye-catching at the same time.

Consider your images carefully. You may want to include a striking banner image to set the scene immediately. And then pepper other images throughout to accompany the story.

Depending on the story you’re writing, this could be product photos, customer photos, or photos of your team.

You could even incorporate animated GIFS and videos, which are even more engaging than static images.

Striking Visual Email Example

Craft a compelling first sentence

You secured your email open, you’ve engaged the reader with your striking visuals. But how do you get them to read your story?

The power is in your very first sentence. It hooks in the reader and sets the tone for your story.

So spend a little time brainstorming a few variations of your opening line. You may even want to craft the rest of your story before you know what this is.

Either way, make sure it packs a punch.

Craft a compelling first sentence

Tell don’t sell

Marketers may be used to selling products in their emails. But that’s not what storytelling is all about.

In fact, selling comes secondary and is only the background to your story.

Instead, your story should be based on a message or value that your business wants to promote. This could be making customers happy, being more sustainable, or giving back to the community. Whatever your business believes in.

The goal of this story is to spark conversation, engagement, and a connection which will then encourage the recipient to shop with you. So, remember to tread softly. And hold back your sales team for the time being.

Tell don't sell


We’ve already talked about data using data to identify the stories your audience most want to hear.

However, data can also be utilised to add personalisation to your stories.

With the use of data combined with dynamic content, marketers can incorporate imagery, language, and products that are specific to the recipient. Making the story even more relatable.

This could include testimonials of social posts, imagery, promoted products, and currency. To name just a few.

The options are endless. So, identify which parts of your stories could benefit from a little personalisation. And put your data to work.


Tell your customers’ stories

92% of consumers trust peer reviews over traditional advertising.

That means that no matter how great your story is, if it doesn’t incorporate your customers, it may not be considered authentic.

Fortunately, social proof in the form of customer success stories, testimonials, and social posts can all help to earn the trust of your recipients.

So consider basing your stories around one of your customers, or at least incorporating quotes or testimonials to complete your story. The more about your customers you can include, the better, so consider images and their social media handles where possible too.

The Email Marketers Playbook for Storytelling

Don’t forget the CTA

It’s important to convey a message or value with your story. But it’s also important that recipients eventually take the action that you desire.

In this case, the CTA holds the power.

Firstly, don’t just jump in with an immediate, bold CTA. It’s important to transition to asking your recipient to take action.

For instance, this could be a subtle link within the story. And then be followed up later with a bolder CTA button.

The final CTA should be a simple, clear command that tells the reader exactly what you want them to do.

This could also be followed up with a brief explanation of what the recipient will get if they click through. To manage expectations and to encourage them into the next stage of the journey.

The Email Marketers Playbook for Storytelling

Create a series

Don’t feel that you have to cram all of your stories into one email.

The beauty of email marketing is you can get directly in front of engaged recipients, without the challenges of social media noise, or driving traffic to your website.

Make the most of this, and separate your story into a series of emails.

This will make each email more digestible. Build up anticipation for the next email in the series. And also increase the familiarity with your brand and story.

The Email Marketers Playbook for Storytelling The Email Marketers Playbook for Storytelling The Email Marketers Playbook for Storytelling

Do you want to improve your email campaigns?

At Pure360, our all-in-one AI email and web marketing platform, alongside our Customer Success Team, can help you with all aspects of email marketing.

From storytelling to email design, campaign automation to data integration.

Get in touch to find out how we can support you.

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