Marketing has become more analytical than ever. We have at our disposal an incredible amount of measurement tools to evaluate the success, profitability and ROI of our efforts.

But those metrics can be a slippery slope. It’s really easy to focus so much on the metrics, that you forget the creative. Focus so much on identifying the opportunity gaps, that your strategy for approaching customers in that gap is an afterthought.

I was reminded of this the other day when Jon Rimmerman from Garagiste was talking about storytelling. Jon started Garagiste to sell wine to his friends. His business? He sends emails talking about wine. If you want some, you reply with how many you want.

You can’t buy wine on his Web site. His emails do not feature photos of the wine bottles. His emails tell stories about the wine – where it came from, its history, and not just how it tastes but what it’s like to taste it.

Jon says the last thing on his mind when he writes his emails (which nearly 100,000 customers receive every weekday) is selling. Instead, he wants to tell a story. He wants to help the stressed-out executive take five minutes to relax and take a mental journey with him to Italy, or France, or Spain every day.

In the process, Jon sells a LOT of wine. A little less than $30 million a year worth, largely from telling stories.

Storytelling as an effective marketing tool is everywhere. Trader Joe’s is another excellent example. While their competitors flood the market with full-color newspaper inserts that feature nothing more than photos and prices, Trader Joe’s publishes the Fearless Flyer. Here’s their own description of what it is:

The Fearless Flyer has been likened to a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine. We’re not sure who said that, but we think they pretty much got it right. The Fearless Flyer is kind of like a newsletter, a catalog and a bit of a comic book all at the same time. It’s our chance to give you loads of interesting (hopefully) information about our products. And along the way, we like to toss in some witty (we try) tidbits and even a few old-fashioned cartoons.

Trader Joe’s has created an intensely loyal following, with a unique set of products and unique marketing that focuses almost entirely on storytelling. It’s different, evokes the customer’s imagination, and it’s effective.

All of us can do a better job telling stories – stories about our products, our brands, our customers. Math and analytics tee up the opportunity. To convert, you have to start talking, and what you say is as important as how you say it.