Do you ever feel like you’re swimming in data but don’t know what to do with it? You’re not alone. In today’s digitally empowered economy, every business has access to more data than they know what to do with. According to a recent forecast by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the amount of digital data created between 2021 and 2025 will be greater than twice the amount of data created since the advent of digital storage.
It’s easy enough to collect this data; the challenge is finding a way to use it effectively. But what if I told you that data could help you turn your business around and sell more products and services? How? By turning business data into engaging stories that are great for sales and marketing initiatives.
What are Stories?
A story is an account of a plot or storyline of imaginary, real people and events told for entertainment. From a business point of view, stories are an essential part of marketing and selling products or services. Stories help engage customers, create a connection with them, and make them more likely to buy what you’re selling.
In fact, studies have shown that when it comes to making decisions, humans are hard-wired to think in terms of stories. We love stories because they positively affect our brains. When listening to or experiencing a story, your brain releases a feel-good hormone known as dopamine. Dopamine makes you more attentive, retain more information, focus better, and be more motivated to take action. There is also a process known as neural coupling that makes you associate or feel like you are in the story. When reading or listening to a story, at least seven parts of your brain “light up” as opposed to only two when you’re simply processing facts.
This is why connecting data to anecdotes is an effective way for marketers to engage customers emotionally.
So, how do you go about turning your business data into stories that sell? It’s not as hard as you might think. If you follow these five easy steps, you’ll be able to turn your stats into compelling stories in no time at all.
Step 1: Review the Questions You Want to Answer
The first step on the path to turning business data into stories is to review the questions you want to answer with your data. It’s essential to know the questions you need answers to because that will guide your search for data points and influence what story you tell.
When turning business data into stories, there are two types of questions: product-focused and customer-focused. Product-focused questions have to do with features or specifications regarding the product or service you’re selling. These questions are about the details of your offering, such as what it does, how it works, why people should buy it over a competitor’s product, and at what price. Customer-focused questions have to do with understanding customer needs and preferences so that you can create better products that lead to happy sales experiences.
Examples of product-focused questions include:
- What are the benefits of our product over a competitor’s?
- How does it work?
- Do you need to know anything special to use it?
- Can we provide an instructional video or FAQ page for people who want more information about how this product works?
Examples of customer-focused questions include:
- What are our customers’ biggest concerns or needs that we can address with our product/service?
- How do people feel about using our product/service? Are they satisfied with it? Do they think it’s worth the price?
- Can we survey our customers to ask them about their experience with our product/service?
- Can we track customer behavior? For example, website visits or social media engagement to see what interests them most about our product/service?
One critical thing to note is that the path from your research to the story is frequently winding and rarely direct. Excellent research requires you to focus intently on the details that flesh out the story. Then, you must dig deeper and discover data that addresses the pain points you wish to address.
Step 2: Determine How the Data is Calculated
Once you know the questions you want to answer with your data, the next step is to determine how the data is calculated. This information will help you understand what story your data tells and how you can use it to inform your marketing efforts.
The way you calculate your data can significantly impact the story you tell with it, so it’s important to be aware of all the options available to you. For example, if you’re selling a product, you might track sales numbers over time or compare them against competitor sales numbers. If you’re trying to understand customer behavior, then website visits or social media engagement could be good metrics to track.
Once you know how your data is calculated, ask yourself these questions:
- What does this trend mean?
- How do I explain this data point in terms of the story I want to tell?
- What do I need to know more about so that I can include it in my story?
Step 3: Decide on the Data Points to Emphasize
Now that you understand how your data is calculated, it’s time to decide on the data points to emphasize in your story. Of course, not every data point is equally important, so you’ll want to focus on the ones that have the most significant impact on your story.
When deciding which data points to emphasize, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the most important thing I want people to know about my product/service?
- What trend do I see in my data?
- What do I need to prove with this data?
Once you’ve identified the key data points, organize them into a logical order that will help you tell your story.
Step 4: Organize Thematically
Now that you have all of your data organized, it’s time to start writing your story. But before you start, it’s important to remember that your data is only part of the picture. You also need to use your imagination and creativity to fill in the gaps with information that isn’t directly addressed by your data.
That means that your story won’t always follow a strict linear path, and you’ll often have to jump back and forth between data points to make your point.
When writing your story, try to organize it thematically so that it’s easy for readers to follow. This will help keep your story focused and on track. For example, let’s say you ran a survey of prospective buyers of your SaaS solution in a particular state, and you have a treasure trove of information that you want to use to tell a story. Instead of giving a word-for-word transcription of each subject’s comments throughout the survey, try to arrange your report around questions about which your target audience is concerned.
Step 5: Organize Your Story into a Friendly Format
The final step in turning your business data into stories that sell is to organize your story into a friendly format. This will make it easier for readers to understand and remember the key points you’re trying to make.
The brain performs better and retains more information when it is introduced visually. Consider including infographics, presentations, photos, charts, and videos in the final format. Unless you are naturally gifted with creativity, you may require assistance formatting your marketing materials. Infusing eye candy will also need considerably more than simply using desktop publishing software. Advanced data visualization tools exist to extract business data and create interesting marketing collaterals.
No matter which format you choose, be sure to keep your story clear and concise to ensure that readers stay engaged until the end.
From Stats to Stories
In business, data is king and the new oil. Turning data into stories is a process that all business managers should learn. It allows you to understand your business in greater depth and makes it easier for customers, employees, and investors to understand what you’re trying to do and ultimately outshine the competition. So, the next time you find yourself staring at a spreadsheet of data, don’t be intimidated. Remember that you can turn those stats into engaging stories with a little creativity.