How One Man’s Story Revolutionized an Industry

“We want people to say, ‘That’s a hell of a product’ instead of, ‘That’s a hell of an ad.'” – Leo Burnett

On September 24, 2006, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art did something quite unusual. It added a bright yellow vacuum cleaner to its permanent collection.

It wasn’t long before eight other museums followed suit.

Now, I doubt any of them need to worry about a Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible-style heist of the vacuum cleaners. But, you might wonder, why all the fuss?

You see, the man who invented this vacuum cleaner has turned the entire industry on its head, leaving his competitors choking in his dust.

You may know who I’m talking about. His name is James Dyson, and his vacuum is known as the Dyson.

James Dyson is quite good at not only inventing products but also selling them. In fact, his company has sold over $6 billion worth of products worldwide.

He’s done that by not only creating a better product, but also by telling a very compelling story. And anyone in the business of selling (and if you’re in a business, you’re in the business of selling) can learn a lot from his sales technique.

The next time you see a Dyson commercial, take a few minutes to watch it. You’ll be drawn into the story of how Dyson noticed that the air filter in his company’s spray-finishing room was constantly clogging with powder particles (just like a vacuum cleaner bag clogs with dust). So he built an industrial cyclone tower, which removed the powder particles by exerting a centrifugal force greater than 100,000 times that of gravity.

Then it hit him. Could the same principle work in a vacuum cleaner? Five years and 5,127 prototypes later, the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner was created.

By the time you’re done watching the ad, you’ll be tempted to give a Dyson a try … even if you’re not shopping for a new vacuum cleaner. You wouldn’t be alone. More than 20 million Dyson vacuum cleaners have been sold. They are sold in 42 countries and are market leaders in the U.S., Western Europe, and Australia.

What James Dyson knows is that selling a convincing story is one of the most important elements of making a sale.

Now, don’t get me wrong. When I say “convincing,” I don’t mean making up a story to elicit a response. That seldom works. What I’m talking about is telling the truth.

Of course, not all true stories are compelling. That’s why you have to focus on the part of the story that draws the most emotional reaction from your audience.

To demonstrate what I mean, let’s go back to James Dyson’s story.

Instead of following in the style of conventional vacuum cleaner ads that focused solely on the product, he decided people might like to hear the story of how he invented the cyclone technology.

Throughout the story, James empathizes with his audience by sharing their frustrations and concerns. You feel as if this man understands what you go through. And he does. That’s what motivated him to invent the Dyson.

No hype. No exaggerated claims. Yet enough of a promise to make you take notice.

He adds a dose of credibility by branding the vacuum under his name. In essence, he’s telling his audience, “I believe in this product so much, I’m willing to put my personal reputation on the line.”

Before Dyson, ads like this had never been done. Before Dyson, a vacuum like this had never existed. But the two, together, have completely revolutionized the vacuum cleaner industry.

I can’t promise you can completely turn your industry upside-down. But I can tell you that telling a compelling story will dramatically increase your sales.

What’s your story? Maybe it’s how your product or service helped a customer in some dramatic way. Maybe it’s the recognition your product draws whenever someone uses it. Or maybe it’s the passion you have for what you do.

Spend some time today thinking about how you can connect with your prospects in a way that’s personal and memorable … that’s compelling and persuasive.

[Ed. Note: Each month in Monthly Copywriting Genius, Sandy Franks spotlights the strategies top copywriters use to make millions of dollars in sales. Learn 60+ ways to improve customer response to your direct-mail efforts with Michael Masterson’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.