How to use before-after storytelling to increase website conversions

92% of consumers want you to tell more stories in your marketing. But most businesses struggle at it.

Learn the right way to tell captivating stories that connect with your customers and boost your conversions- featuring examples from Drift and Basecamp.

By Sumit Hegde

Who doesn't love a good rags-to-riches story?

A struggling underdog finds one single opportunity to rise and takes it—we're all rooting for them and it's exciting and you're on the edge of your seat wondering if they'll make it...and then, their life transforms.

Ah. I love that shiz.

Aladdin? Closest to an Indian prince as its ever come, I'll take it. Struggle → Genie → Victory!

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?
Poverty → Golden Ticket → Fortune!

The Pursuit of Happyness? I get that hustle, bro.
Homelessness → Internship → Multimillion-dollar Brokerage firm!

If you don't love a good, honest rags to riches tale, are you even an entrepreneur dude?

The point is: Storytelling is awesome. (the part where I link to a science resource to prove my point)

People have loved stories since the beginning of time in all places—and your marketing is no exception.

Stories evoke an emotional response from your visitors. They help them visualise what your product does. They create context for your product's existence. And most importantly, they make your brand unforgettable.

92% of consumers want you to tell stories in your advertising!

But let's take it one step further.

Let's tell the story of your customers' journeys....with them playing Will Smith from The Pursuit of Happyness.

Because your customers are the heroes of your stories.

Not your product, not your brand. YOUR CUSTOMERS.

Unless your product is all about them, why should they care?

Your product is just the sword that'll kill their enemies and make them win.

The purpose of your product is to make their lives better: that is why they buy it in the first place. To go from rags-to-riches.

Most businesses do not really use this amazing technique on their websites, despite its huge impact on sales.

This article will show you all you need to know about the Before/After storytelling technique and how to use it boost your conversions.

Here's all that you'll learn:

(Click to skip to the section)

  1. How to showcase the problem your product solves as a challenge your customers are facing
  2. The questions you need to ask yourself before framing the 'Before' section!
  3. How to introduce your customers to the amazing results of your product by showing how amazing their life will be afterwards
  4. The questions you need to ask yourself while designing the 'After' section
  5. The bonus benefits of using Before/After imagery on your website
  1. Connecting the dots from Before and After: Showing your customers how to reach their ideal life

Customers need to know why they should pay you when they're looking at your website, and through storytelling you can not only answer why, but also allow them to interact with your brand, emotionally.

Storytelling is crazy powerful: there's a few basic elements to every story that you need to get right if you want your customers to actually care.

Ready to know what exactly they are?

Without further delay, here's presenting:

The customer journey as an underdog's tale.


We've all been mapping customer journeys from the moment the customer learns of your product to the point they buy it.

But it all begins long before they know of you, and ends a lot after they've purchased the product.

Let me explain:

Step 1: Talk about the challenge that your visitors are facing.


Every journey begins with a challenge.

A problem.

An unexpected hurdle that must be crossed.

This is where you customer first realizes that team meetings are unproductive or that their SEO is sucky.

This is where they find out that their customer support is lousy or that they forgot to include Rajesh on their team vacay plans. (You don't need them, Rajesh).

They could realize this all by themselves, or you could provoke this 'oh dayum' moment.

You need to include the problem in your story-telling, on your website—because without the problem, the glorious finale doesn't hit that hard.

It's like those terrible before-after images for weight-loss programs and anti-aging creams.


Yep. These annoying ads...work?

The After really hits when you know how sunburnt she was Before.


If you saw me for the first time today, and I said, 'I can do a complete 50 pushups now—This personal trainer is really cool'. You'd be like, 'That's great!'

But if I showed you a video of myself pitifully failing to manage even one push-up and then told you the same fact, you'd be like:


It shows how bad it really was, before my personal trainer made it good.

Your customers need to know the impact of the problem on their business, to really see how your product can help.

They need to see where they are and their challenges, to understand where they could be, with your product.

The enemy needs to be been pointed out.


Your customers need to see that the enemy is destructive. The enemy....needs to die.

The enemy, here, of course, is the problem they're facing.

Like bad customer support that's destroying customer loyalty, causing high churn.

Or realllly long and boring meetings which are destroying productivity and killing valuable time.

But remember!

You have to talk about the impact the enemy is having on your customer's business—the destruction it is causing.

This shows your customer that they NEED to act, or be obliterated.

The impact is what makes the enemy the enemy.


Voldemort was a villain because he wanted to kill all muggles and muggle-borns. Tell your customers why bad customer support or long meetings are the villain!

There are a few ways to showcase the problem and its repercussions on your website: it could be through illustrations, headlines, photos, bullet points—whatever works for your customers best!

(I'll give you a few real examples from kickass companies later in the article—look out for them).

This is the rags part of the story and without it, it doesn't matter if Will Smith gets a cool job.

Talking about problem on your website/in your marketing allows for a connection. It shows that you understand your customer's challenge—and your product is here to solve it. It proves that your solution fits their problem.


The questions you need to ask yourself before framing the 'Before' section!


What does the customer care about?

Your storytelling could be the Harry Potter of the SaaS industry, but won't make a dent if your customers don't care about Voldemort's atrocities aka the problem.

Now remember, your customer is the hero.

This is their beginning.

They're invested in the beginning of this journey because they want to reach the amazing, successful end.



Steps 2: Show how their job/life would be if they solve the problem


Once the protagonist, your brave customer, has figured out the problem. The next step is to find a way to eradicate it.

They're hiring two extra customer support members. They're noting down meeting minutes into Google Keep.

They're on the hunt for the solution.

They're looking at your competitors.

They're probably looking at you.

So you actually come into the picture now—because you're not Frodo. You're Aragorn or Legolas. You're fantastic (and really good looking)...but you're just not the main character, sorry.

You're giving them the power to fight evil. You're coming along the way.

Now's the time to show off all the cool benefits of your product!

We've talked about how important the Before is....but now's the moment to talk about the After.

The 'After' shows your customers the better way to live and work, using your product. The promised land. This is what your customer buys your product for: the outcome.


A few websites that do a great job with this Before-After stuff are..

Pipefy: The Lean Process Management Platform!

The illustrations and the copy both stress that without lean processes, your business it a mess. With lean processes, you can collaborate better, move faster and control the results.

Tada!


But you needn't do side-by-side illustrations to make your point.

You can also do it the Basecamp way:


This part is all about the confusion and the panic that all businesses have a little bit of. It's about mismanagement.

And this...


This part is about the new and improved way of working that Basecamp allows. Less confusion, more order, less debate, more productivity.

It doesn't have to be as obvious (or as sales-y) as the gym advertisements or Botox treatments.

Your Before-After needs to work for your customers, so shape it to fit your business!


Update: Basecamp just stepped up and added a whole page talking about the Before and After of using their product, filled to the brim with customer reviews.

And they did NOT hold back.


I am LIVING for the shade they throw on Slack/Trello/Asana etc. All those logos with the nicknames! I am transported back to eighth grade debate team.

A very solid nail in the coffin:


The problem is now indisputable.

It's time to reveal the AFTER:

This potion-mix of social proof, problem-pointing, result-showing and competitor-bashing makes Basecamp a tough, unchallenged winner of the game.

If you didn't gasp even once while reading this page, you might want to get your lungs checked out.


The questions you need to ask yourself while designing the 'After' section

  1. What does your customer want? What is the end-goal that they want to achieve? What's their 'After'?
  2. What is preventing them from reaching their end-goal?
  3. What are their current solutions? Who is their their current sidekick/Aragorn?

Before-After storytelling can also give you bonus points because:

  • It calls out the old way of doing things.

    Take Drift for example: They focussed on all that was wrong with traditional marketing through forms and emails. They pointed fingers at it as the enemy.

    Drift talks about a tide of change that is happening in the industry—the way people interact has overturned, and messaging is in. This means that if you don't adapt, you die.

    The enemy? Check? The destruction that the enemy is wrecking? Check.
  • It positions you as the new, disruptive solution that is going to help customers transform.

    It throws the limelight on you as the tool that ushers them to the NEW age, away from old, worn out ways of working.

    It makes you a worthy sidekick, and an expert on the new way. It shows your customers why you're the right choice over competitors or older solutions!


But the journey is not done yet.

Step 3: Show them how to reach the happy ending


Your customers choose your product. They start using it. But the journey isn't over yet.

Your customers need guidance and support throughout their adaptation period, so they learn how to use your product to achieve the outcomes you have highlighted.

They've dropped their old way of working and stepped into new unknown territory—and they need to reach their base again.

Your customers are Sandra Bullock in Bird Box. They NEED to reach the safe community.

Your product needs to fit into their business, and it's your job to walk them through the course of discomfort—so that your product becomes an easy part of their operations.

This is the part where the customer actually becomes the conqueror and fulfils the destiny you wrote: and you have to make sure they do that!

Lastly, the journey is a circle—you might just be the next status quo.

The customer might just go out hunting for a newer solution that's more disruptive, more equipped. So keep innovating!

Questions for Step 3:

  1. Why are you better than their current solution, or other solutions in the market?
  2. How can you make sure your product fits into their business?

The End!


Now, if you did not get any of the references in this article: You need to take a break! Watch a movie for once, you workaholic!

But in all honesty, story-telling, combined with Before-After imagery works wonders—and it's a surprise why most businesses fail to use it.

It's worked great for Drift and Basecamp and every single company who has ever done it (right).

Your customers...I mean, heroes, are waiting!

Show them what they can achieve with your product!


Wanna improve your messaging? You could try my email course—which will not only help you tell a story that your customers connect to but also show you how create a website that's geared to convert your best customers!

I have a strong feeling that you'll find it super valuable.

By Sumit Hegde

I help SaaS businesses make more money by creating badass websites. And by badass I mean high-performing, flawlessly positioned and customer-centric.
Learn more about what I do
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