Story over tactics: Lessons from Rand Fishkin at the Inbound Conference 2018

Rand Fishkin speaking about the importance of story at the Hubspot Inbound Conference 2018

Seeing some of the speakers at the Hubspot Conference was one of those times that we wished we were overseas. Perhaps another year when we don’t have big book projects due we’ll be able to head along!

One of the biggest highlights from the conference (or what we’ve seen of it since) was Rand Fishkin’s presentation on ‘7 lessons that would have made me (and will make you) a better entrepreneur’. Our favourite part? Lesson number two: Story > Tactics.


Becoming accessible with stories

Traditional copywriting advice suggests you should talk benefits over features. But Rand highlighted something that’s even more effective – storytelling.

We’ve known this for a long time (and no doubt you’ve heard us say it!) however there’s something exciting about hearing some of the other great minds in the game singing from our song sheet. The reality is simple; you can have all the facts in the world and highlight all the benefits you want – but until you tell a story, you won’t really engage with people.

That’s because stories build memories far better than features or benefits. A story helps you build an emotional connection with people, and makes you accessible to your customers, your prospective customers, your team, and the business world at large.

Especially (but not only!) for companies in competitive fields or those with something completely new to the market, stories make all the difference.


So, what’s involved in a story?

Take a peep inside some of the titles on your bookcase. You’ll find the ingredients there are all the same… Settings and characters. Tension and conflict. Climax. Resolution. New normal. These are the elements that make up a great story.

As a business – whether you provide a product or service – you are the solution that comes in at the climax and creates a resolution which builds a new, better normal. It’s that simple. This handy diagram puts it in just the right way for all you visual folk too…

The key aspects that make up a great story


How can you turn something that simple into a great story?

We’ve got our own takes, which you’ll see highlighted already throughout our blog, so for now I’ll stick to Rand’s four key points to crafting your story:

  1. Start with the most emotionally resonant problem you solve – if you can make the problem in your story trigger a negative emotion, and make the resolution trigger a positive emotion, that will be hugely effective.


  1. Centre the story on individuals, not groups (make your customer the hero). Emma, the founder of Baby Sleep Consultant and one of our fabulous clients, was struggling to create more than just sales-y content, until we got her excited about creating individual stories of mums who couldn’t get their kids to sleep. We started creating monthly case studies showing how, with the help of a consultant, each mum got their challenging child into great habits, and the results were instantaneous – with bookings made from the very first email.


  1. Tell the story in a way that triggers your own emotions – that gets you fired up or choked up. Get passionate about it. You’ll have to tell that story again and again so if it resonates with you, that will come across.


  1. Practice the story over and over, with different variations – learning which styles and bits resonate the most. You’ll quickly discover what people connect with and may well be able to iterate and improve the story – or stories – you’re telling for even better results.

Put another way, the formula can be summed up in this diagram…

How to approach telling a story as a business

Check out the rest of Rand’s presentation here – and book a call with us if you’re ready to start telling your stories.