Telling Stories Increases Sales

David Ogilvy

When you think about selling stuff on your website, or making money from your blog, do you ever find yourself saying: I know, I’ll tell stories! That will increase my sales!

Well, here’s the thing: David Ogilvy was one of the first big advertising guys to prove that storytelling (a full page worth of small-font text) sold extremely well.

When we think of story-based advertising, we often think of those mile-long internet sales letters, or slick ads in niche-market magazines.

But these next two real-life examples show the unmatched power of storytelling even in difficult arenas like art and flea market sales. The great thing about these two examples is they show clearly how the revenue increase did NOT result from discounting, price-matching, adding new features, pairing with a free bonus, adding scarcity (only available this weekend!), or any other typical sales technique.

Nope. The massive increase in revenues was attributable to one thing only: Storytelling.

In this first example, Chris Tyrell tells a story about an artist who tested storytelling as a sales technique:

“The artist I interviewed conducted an experiment by offering the same artwork (an etching) for sale on two different websites. She provided two dramatically different stories about the piece on each site: one story was extremely poignant while the other was mundane. The piece with the compelling emotional story attached to it sold for almost double the price of the same piece that was described in cool, unemotional and technical terms.”

Chris goes on to provide other examples and the one that struck me the most was an Ebay experiment, where a group took items purchased at thrift stores and flea markets and then put them up for sale on Ebay… with a good story attached.

What they discovered was that $128 worth of second-hand purchases netted them $3600 on Ebay – simply by attaching a story to each piece. Here’s an example of what they did…

The took this wooden animal figure, purchased for 75 cents at a thrift store:


When they listed it along with this story on Ebay, it sold for $108.50!! Here’s the story they posted along with the photos of the wood figurine:

So Brandon was going to Cabo for spring break and I saved up all my tip money for a year to chip in for the rental car to go with him.

But then at my last cleaning Dr. Jones said if I didn’t get my wisdom teeth pulled out right away my incisors were going to overlap, and I might never get my dream job as a television news journalist like Katie Couric.

“When was the last time you ate?” Dr. Jones wanted to know.

And I was all, “At my shift just now at Señora Mexicana.”

“That’s okay!” he yelled. “We can use a local!”

I tried to say no but Mom was all, “It’s much better this way, sweetie,” because I could recover during the break and not miss any classes. “Besides, Novocain is cheaper than anesthesia!”

Plus, I don’t think she’s ever liked Brandon.

I couldn’t even reach him in time to tell him what was going on. I could only reach my best friend Kara, who was still at her shift at Señora Mexicana.

Kara was like, “Oh, don’t worry, hon, I’ll find Brandon and take care of everything.” Which made me feel a little better.

And then the next thing I knew this nurse was jabbing needles into my gums and I heard this crunching sound and even though Dr. Jones said it wouldn’t hurt, it hurt a lot!

And then Mom was going, “Don’t worry, sweetie, you can do Cabo next year” as she helped me out to the minivan.

But the whole time I was lying on the couch in front of the TV, trying not to get dry sockets, Brandon never called. He never once called, or even texted.

The funny thing was, neither did Kara.

And then when he finally did show up, he was all, “I thought of you every minute, babe!”

And then he gave me this authentic wooden cow, or snake, or whatever it is. Real Mexican villagers carved it, he said.

ebay2But if so they must know Kara, because it looks exactly like her.

Especially the empty space where its heart should be.

Because it turns out Brandon found someone to take my place in the rental car.

Not to mention in his bed at the hotel room.

But I had a lot of time to think about it while I was waiting for the swelling to go down, and I decided it’s okay. I’m going to go back to school, and back to Señora Mexicana. I’m going to save up all my tip money.

Only not to go to Cabo. To go to New York City. To get an internship with Katie Couric, or some other empowering woman who knows the pain of betrayal and getting all your wisdom teeth pulled out with just Novocain.

And someday when I am anchoring my own half-hour national news show, Brandon and Kara will turn on their TV and see me and go:

“Wow. I used to know that girl.”

* * *

I must say, they also made sure that the photos of each object were good ones – presentation helps!

So how can you work more storytelling into your business, products, or service?

Maybe you haven’t monetized your blog yet, and you’re worried about being able to sell anything. Maybe you don’t even like selling! Or maybe you think you’re a ‘bad salesperson’. Those are actually GOOD things! Because people hate being sold to. But they LOVE hearing stories.

So many people are hesitant to tell their personal stories – either thinking they’re not that interesting, not wanting to boast, or simply not feeling comfortable sharing their private details. So if you can’t tell your own stories, find other ones to tell. Or tell a story about something you read or heard about. As long as it’s interesting, or moving, that’s all you need.

In Listen To Your Freedom, we have an entire Module on telling your stories. I make it super easy for you and you can either write or audio record your stories. These stories then form the basis for your website pages, your product listings, and your service offerings. Sound like fun? You bet it is!

By | 2015-01-16T19:39:49+00:00 January 16th, 2015|Be Brilliant|2 Comments

About the Author:

Jini Patel Thompson has been doing business online since 1995, when she launched one of the first dating websites on the Internet. Her online health store (that her husband Ian runs) has been serving customers in over 80 different countries since 2002. Jini loves sharing real-life info on how to launch your own biz, or grow your existing business - using fun, integrity and FLOW.


  1. Colleen Pace January 23, 2017 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Well, this first lesson lifts my spirits, because I am a consummate story teller, and extremely transparent.

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