“I’ve got data. Now what?” Marketers the world over can relate to this sentiment. The volume of data is no longer an issue – we often have more of it than we can possibly process. The real challenge is bringing meaning to the numbers. In other words, how do you tell the story behind the data?

Some marketers may believe that crafting a story around data is unnecessary, that the metrics and facts stand on their own. But this assumption disregards the importance of emotion in decision-making, even in a business capacity. It also ignores that storytelling is an integral part of our cultures and humanity. In addition, research has shown that people struggle to remember statistics, but take action in response to stories.

Stories have the power to transport us to different times and places. They engage us, entertain us and inspire us. Data storytelling is no different.

What is data storytelling?

Researchers believe storytelling became part of our culture even before language was fully developed. It’s how we communicate information to our co-workers, friends and family. It drives the film, television, publishing and other entertainment industries. It’s an impressive tool, and essentially how humans connect with one another. As marketers, we are well-versed in the power of a good story.

In data analysis, effective storytelling is essential to making marketing data relevant and actionable. Yet standalone statistics, graphs and visualizations are not enough to communicate key insights and action points.

Once you have data, you have only solved part of the problem. What are you going to do with the data? How will you communicate the meaning behind the data? What story is the data trying to tell?

Data storytelling, which we will define as using data, visualizations and narrative to explain a phenomenon, is contingent upon two key factors: understanding the audience and using the appropriate techniques to convey a message. When these elements come together successfully, they have the power to influence audiences and drive change.

Where do you start with data storytelling?

When crafting a story with your data, the first question you should answer is: who is my audience? Marketing data is relevant to many different functions within an organization, but it must be framed in different ways for each audience for maximum impact.

Once you have established who your audience is – whether that might be the executive team, sales or other members of the marketing department or even individuals outside your organization – ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my audiences’ goals?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • What questions are they trying to answer?
  • What information will be most valuable to them based on their roles?
  • What are the next steps they should take based on the data?

The answers to these questions will help you better understand your audience and deliver the information that matters.

How can marketing dashboards help you succeed with data storytelling?

For marketers, better data stories start with better access to marketing data. Marketing dashboards can help.

Marketing dashboards are a specific category of marketing analytics software – purpose-built for the marketing department – that provide easy, on-demand access to analyze and optimize campaign and channel performance data as well as providing a clear view of marketing’s impact on revenue. Marketing dashboards also help eliminate marketers’ biggest data pain points, which often include tedious data integration tasks and endless spreadsheets, by delivering a solution that allows them to see a complete picture of what’s working and what’s not across every marketing tool, channel and tactic they use.

With a holistic and unified view of marketing data within a marketing dashboard solution, marketers can easily dig into the data that matters most to their audiences and craft truly compelling data stories.

Happy Marketing!