Don’t Explain. Tell Your Story.

Explaining makes lousy marketing.

Try to think of your ideal reader as a child. Have you ever met a child who preferred an explanation over a story?

Explaining makes for lousy marketing.

Dan Heath, Fast Company

Writing for a Child

As a marketing manager, have you ever thought of your ideal reader as a child?

We learn not to talk down to prospects, and we scold our marketing communications writers when they use terms that are too simple. But there’s an argument (which I’m about to make) for thinking of the ideal reader of our marketing pieces as a child. In short,

  • They both like pictures.
  • Neither one has much time to give you, so you have to take full advantage of a short attention span.
  • Explanations bore both of them, but tell them a story and they’ll follow you anywhere.

Can you build a marcom credo around these points, and get your writers to follow it?

Mind you, this is not the same thing as treating your customers like children. If you underestimate their intelligence or their collective ability to wreak havoc with your company’s sales figures and reputation, you are treating them like children, and you’ll regret it.

Explanation or Story?

So, to return to the Dan Heath quote, telling a good story about your product or service is better than explaining it, particularly if it’s a short story that gets to the point quickly. Content like case studies, blog posts, podcasts and video can do this effectively when it’s well written, and even better when you think of your ideal reader as a child.

There are times, usually late in the sales cycle, at which you need to explain rather than to tell a story, and content like white papers, technical articles and application notes is better suited to this.

photocredit: Patrishe


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”

2 thoughts on “Don’t Explain. Tell Your Story.

  1. Great point. The exact same argument can be made for giving speeches and presentations. Your audience – whether reading your document or listening to your speech – would much rather read/hear stories than endless theoretical explanations.

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