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Cutting-Edge Web

Once Upon a Time: How to Tell an Email Story that Inspires Your Tribe to Click and Buy

Photo by condesign

Let me ask you a question. How many email lists are you signed up for? 10? 20? 50 or more?

And how many of these do you actually open and read on a regular basis? 2-3?

What makes you open emails from one person and not another?

Is it the quality of information? Or how that person makes you feel? Or what that person awakens and inspires in you? 

Brendon Burchard taught me that there are 4 levels of teaching content: the theoretical, the tactical, the transformational (which shows how your teaching can change someone’s life) and the transcendent (which lifts people up and connects them to their meaning and purpose in the world).

The vast majority of business owners and trainers stop at the tactical. These are the emails that go unopened in your inbox, because the human soul is not tactical. We make decisions by emotion, are motivated by emotion, are set into motion by emotion. Few truly great actions stem from logic.

Photo by Yoori Koo

When you elevate your content, teaching and marketing to speak to someone’s emotion, you create a space for connection and transformation. You allow someone to see a new possibility for their lives, to see beyond what’s stopping them.

Plato said “the human soul is composed of reason, will and desire”. The best marketing stories and the best email stories speak straight to the human soul on all three levels and embrace the core emotions that drive us.

These are the emails you open week after week. These are the people you follow year after year, and the people you end up buying from: the storytellers and the dreamweavers who excite you first, then deliver their lessons once you’re engaged and inspired.

Like the magician who tells a story to distract you from what’s really going on or that third grade teacher that made learning fun, you get to be that inspirational voice that dazzles your tribe into taking that next step.

So how do you weave storytelling into your emails to skyrocket open rates, clickthrough rates, sales and engagement?

You do it through telling a story that taps into the thoughts, emotions and experiences that your tribe already has in one area of their lives. THEN connecting this story to something you want them to learn or take action on. When done correctly, this transfers the emotion from one area to another, allowing someone to connect with an idea that might other seem cold, impersonal or boring. It allows your tribe to get excited about what they’re learning, to click through right then and there and read more.

The sole purpose of a marketing email is get your tribe to open it and clickthrough to the action you really want them to take – whether that’s reading a post, signing up for a webinar, filling out a survey, or buying from you.

We’re faced with hundreds of choices and thousands of marketing messages every single day so it takes an extraordinary voice to stand out and make us take action. Even if that action is as simple as an open or a click.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of business owners take their tribe’s attention for granted. They don’t put the time and consideration in to truly inspire and light the way for others to follow.

Let me give you 3 recent case studies of email stories I’ve sent that have dramatically outperformed the average in the internet marketing world to show you just how powerful this ancient technique is. I’m even giving you the word for word copy.


CASE STUDY #1: How gelato can fix your website (true story)

This email connects the simple story of an experience I had buying gelato straight from the man who made it to what a good website needs to do to capture the attention of visitors.

The subject line “How gelato can fix your website (true story)” evoked curiosity and prompted a 24% open rate. Keep in mind that most internet marketers have open rates under 20% and many under 15%. One of the best ways to get high opens rates is to make people curious about what’s inside.

Notice that this subject line also creates what’s called an “open loop”. In other words, people open the email and start reading looking to discover “How gelato can fix their website”.

That open loop allows me to keep people engaged in the story all the way through to the punch line and call to action at the end.

And it worked! A full 44% of the people who opened this email clicked through. That’s a 10% average clickthrough rate, well over twice the average across industries.

Check it out for yourself and ask, “Would I click on this link?”



I just got back from Whole Foods with two pints of 100% nut-based gelato that I had no intention of buying.

At $11.99 a pint, it’s definitely a luxury item that I didn’t need.

So what convinced me to spend $25 on gelato?

No, it wasn’t a craving for something sweet.

The chef and creator of Genuto Gelato was dishing up samples. And he didn’t just hand me a spoonful and send me on my merry way… he took the time to tell me about his gelato as if he were sharing it for the first time.

He relished in all the details and gave me a lesson about how most nut milk products on the market hardly contained any nuts and how his product was different. He even taught me how to read the labels.

It’s true, his gelato was delicious. And healthy. But that’s not why I bought. I bought because of him.

I bought because he took the time to make a connection with me, to share his passions and to teach me something I didn’t know.

And that, my friend, is what your website needs to do.

It’s not about the technology, it’s about connection.

That’s why I wanted to share with you the 3 things that all the best business websites do to turn that causal visitor into a raving fan and client….

Blue skies,


CASE STUDY #2: (Part 3/3) The Missing Link Is ______

Now this next example used the story of trying to help my boyfriend plan his business and marketing calendar, while he resisted every step of the way. Then shows the transformation he had in his business despite his original resistance.

One of the best forms of storytelling in businesses is using success stories that show your tribe how someone just like them – with the same struggles and challenges – was able to break through and achieve a result that they want.

That’s exactly what I did in this email and it worked.  While the clickthrough rate wasn’t as high as case study #1 – 32% of people who opened the email clicked through or 7% of my total list (still well over the average) – what was really interesting about this email is that I got a half dozen consultation requests in the days that followed. And most of those people mentioned the story of Murray. They said, when I read that story, I really wanted you to walk me through this strategic planning process.  In other words, this simple story turned readers into clients by inspiring them with Murray’s transformation.



Have you ever had someone ask you for your advice, and then…

… proceed to RESIST everything you had to say?

Well, last November I was sitting in a café in Oakland with my boyfriend Murray.

We were sipping Mexican hot chocolates and peering into his Macbook.

Our mission: come up with a strategic plan for his business in 2013.

The only problem was that I was the one coming up with the plan and he was doing everything he could to wiggle out of committing to ANYTHING.

Murray is one of those brilliant guys who loves freedom so much that he resists anything that might tie him down. (Relate?)

It’s not that he’s lazy…

Each morning, he wakes up and dives right into his work, often spending 10 or 12 hours in front of his computer.

He moves mountains…

But it doesn’t always get him where he wants to go because he’s working without a clearly defined focus or direction. (Still relate?)

Well, this year he decided to do things differently and he asked for my support.

We made it through Don’s strategic planning worksheet (Part 1 of this New Years series) and Mynders’ business decision making model (Part 2 of this series) without breaking up and then we got to Part 3.

Now that he knew what his priorities were, it was time to put them into a marketing calendar and wrap some promotional initiatives around them.

Oh boy.

Did you say calendar?

When Murray and I first got together he used to gloat over showing me his calendar – it was full of blank white boxes.

And then tease me about mine, which was booked wall-to-wall with appointments.

As if to say, what are you doing with all your time?

So now the tables were turned and it was his turn to put some ink to that calendar…

And something unexpected happened

He started to really see his year snap into focus and get excited about what he was doing and know what the next steps were….

Flash-forward two months and it’s like I’m living with a new man.

He wakes up each morning and looks at his calendar, then chooses to focus his time on the biggest priority in his business.

He’s now more organized than I am… lol

This is the third article in my New Years series and I wanted to walk you through the process of creating a marketing and promotional calendar:

The thing is, the two most important factors in your business success are how you spend your time and where you direct your focus.

99% of business owners give away their time and focus to the squeeky wheel, the urgent but unimportant things that have to get done but don’t necessarily get you to where you want .

It’s time to take your year back and direct your energy on what matters to you.

==> This one exercise in creating a marketing and promotional calendar will make the difference between having a business stuck in neutral or driving your success forward.

To owning your time (and success),


CASE STUDY #3: [M2M] Would 1-on-1 time with me be valuable?

This last email was sent to just 60 students in my Message to Money program. The call to action was super specific – schedule a call with me to discuss coaching together – so just 7% of my students clicked the link. But that 7% turned into $21999. Not bad for a simple email sent to 60 people?

So what did I do to get this result? Well, I used a popular fable that already everyone knows and loves to reveal a powerful business lesson and invite my students to go deeper with me.

Not your average “sign up for coaching with me” email, right?



Do you know the story of the tortoise and the hare?

Of course you do.

What some don’t know is that it’s actually a very powerful business fable in disguise.

Let me quickly remind you of the punch line:


The race starts…

And the Hare darts almost out of sight at once.

But because he’s an arrogant little Hare, he stops for a nap.

While the Tortoise continues to plod on and on.

By the time the Hare awakes from his nap, he’s too late.

He’s just in time to watch the Tortoise cross the winning line.

Says the Tortoise: “Plodding wins the race, SUCKA.”

(I’m pretty sure that’s how it went)

Personally, I’m a Hare.

I like to dash and dart, hither and thither.

But today I’m rethinking the wisdom being passed to us by the Tortoise.

I just got off the phone with my business coach.

He introduced me to the concept “turtle logic,” and reminded me that if I move straight ahead at a relaxed pace, I’ll get there faster.

That really stuck with me.

As a Hare, I’ve realized that running all over the place, bouncing from thing to thing, just stresses me out and doesn’t get me to where I want to go.

At this point in my life, I want to create a workflow that’s sustainable and fulfilling.

And the secret to adopting the tao of the turtle (aka: way of the turtle) is simple:

Once you identify your top priorities and the strategies you need to get there, then all you have to do is slowly and steadily put one foot in front of the other until you arrive.

Well — easier said than done — I know.

I’ve never been able to achieve the tao of the turtle on my own.

That’s why I’ve regularly asked for the help of others who’ve traveled this path before me.

That’s why each year I invest over $20K+ on coaches, consultants and training to give me the perspective I need to identify those strategies and priorities and to keep me on track.

And that perspective has allowed me to attract thousands of followers and build a multiple 6-figure business in just over 18 months.

Starting from scratch.

I wonder if you’re ready and willing to accept my help?

If you’re ready to travel this path too?

If you’re ready to start seeing your business with more clarity?

If you’re ready to have a breakthrough year through building a breakthrough business, then I invite you to coach with me one-on-one.

I’ve opened 5 spots to work with me privately this year and I’m making this available at the most affordable pricepoint I’ve ever offered.

The investment is just $X per quarter or $X for a full year.

This gets you:

– 90-minutes EACH MONTH of my undivided attention working on your biggest business challenges and opportunities

– weekly emails with me

– one “emergency” call each quarter

Note that this is ONLY available to Message to Money graduates (people like YOU) because I know you’re committed to your success.

If my ongoing support and guidance would be of value to you, then I invite you to schedule a 20-minute discovery session with me to get you started:

I looking forward to working with you!

To your best year ever,

P.S. I’m serious about 5 slots. I only have the bandwidth to work that closely with a handful of you, so I encourage you to reserve your time today.


I hope these case studies will inspire you to do email differently. We all need a little more love and light in our inbox. And I can tell you from experience that stories work.

Your tribe is ready and waiting for the real YOU to step forward and connect with them.

If you’re ready to uncover the powerful stories hidden inside of you, then click here to register a spot in our free live training on Monday, February 18 at 5pm pst / 8pm est:

Now go out there and Live Your Message!


Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Shanthi

    Namaste Marisa! I love it. I am amazed at how attention grabbing your writing is and how talented you are. I am proud of calling you my coach. You are such an inspiration.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks so much Shanthi! And I’m proud to call you my student!

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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