Are B2B marketers starting to fall in love with data a little too much? Our access to statistically relevant trends and information that we can use for our own targeting goals as well as communicate to our audiences has increased exponentially in the last five years. While this has been a good thing for tracking the effectiveness of our own marketing efforts, it has been detrimental to how we actually deliver our message.
B2B marketers are increasingly relying on simply sharing data with their audiences, most often in the form of infographics, and have retreated from what they are best at: telling stories that their audience can emotionally invest in.
Simply put, in the well-intentioned journey to incorporate data into our marketing organizations, too many marketers have increased their investment in data-driven communications while not allowing their creative side to keep pace.
The most effective branding and marketing campaigns are ones that tell a story and share a message supported by data. Today, our love of data is leading many to skip the storytelling part altogether forgetting that human beings (your audience) love stories. In fact, stories have proven to be more memorable than statistics and more effective in getting people to open their wallets. After all, we hear statistics, but we feel stories.
It’s not enough to share facts; you have to add in a layer of storytelling if you want to truly influence behavior. When you combine data and storytelling, that’s when you get insights. And insights are what make people act.
Even the most data-driven organizations are beginning to recognize the value of storytelling. As Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian said, “The ability to take data — to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it — that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”
As much as you might be impressed by your data, you should always remember that few people outside your organization likely care. Your stat is just one of dozens or even hundreds of similar facts that will come across a person’s screen that day. But while our brains have been trained to filter out raw facts, they are uniquely tuned to seek out, listen to, and remember stories.
“When we read dry, factual arguments, we read with our dukes up. We are critical and skeptical,” wrote Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal. “But when we are absorbed in a story we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to leave us defenseless.”
The key is to be thoughtful with your data. First, use your customer data to understand your audience and the stories they want to hear. Once you know that, you can then begin to piece different pieces of data together to create insights you can use to tell the story you want to tell. Don’t go overboard; the more focused you make your story, the easier it will be for it to break through the noise and be memorable. Finally, you’ll want to be considerate about the language and visuals you use so you best present the story in an interesting way.
At the current pace of technology, data is quickly becoming a commodity. Every brand has more PowerPoints filled with stats than they know what to do with. The companies who win will be the ones that selectively use that data to inform and elevate the stories they tell. As the Hopi proverb goes, “Those who tell the stories rule the world.” Or at least the marketplace.