How Storytelling Fuels Reporting Your Shoppers Can Get Excited About

How Storytelling Fuels Reporting Your Clients Can Get Excited About

You’re topic to scrutiny and even skepticism as a data-driven marketer.

It doesn’t matter how spectacular your outcomes are, or how impeccable your course of.

Stakeholders query your numbers. They devalue your evaluation. They’re being courted away by “all-flash-no-substance” distributors.

And whereas it may not appear to be it, you might be complicit within the state of affairs.

You’ve satisfied your self that your shoppers solely care concerning the backside line and don’t have any persistence for “tales.”

The reality is, you simply by no means realized the way to use storytelling to raise your ongoing administration and reporting.

That adjustments now.

Why Use Storytelling in Information-Pushed Advertising?

Everybody likes to let you know that storytelling issues. However then as an instance the significance of tales, they only present you examples of highly-produced commercials and quick movies.

The issue is, this doesn’t precisely translate to your trade, deliverable format, or consumer expectations.

In spite of everything, we’re coping with classes and clicks — not adapting a screenplay for Pixar.


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So let’s use a really foundational definition of story from movie director Mark W. Travis:

“The telling of an occasion… in such a manner that the listener experiences or learns one thing simply by the truth that he heard the story.”

In different phrases, a narrative teaches you or makes you’re feeling one thing.

A story makes you feel something.

Inside that framework, these are each tales:

  • “You’re fired.”
  • “You simply gained $10,000.”

These statements are lacking a three-act construction and overt plot. You’d get banned from telling bedtime tales if that is all you got here up with.


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However they meet our working definition of “story” for consumer administration functions.

Are you able to embrace conventional literary parts like exposition, battle, and pacing in your storytelling? In fact.

However you are able to do quite a lot of good on your shoppers, and in flip, your profession, simply by sticking to the fundamentals outlined right here.

Shoppers Want Story to Acknowledge Your Worth

If a narrative makes your viewers really feel one thing, then the shortage of a narrative means they really feel nothing.

At first, which may appear to be the aim of working with information.

Chilly, exhausting, impassive, goal details. No fluff or bias; simply neutral numbers.

Nevertheless it seems that emotion, not its absence, really drives resolution and motion.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio famously handled sufferers with frontal lobe harm. He found that when folks had been unable to expertise emotion, they turned “uninvolved spectators in their very own lives,” incapable of constructing selections.

The article How Emotion Shapes Decision Making summarizes Damasio’s experiences together with his affected person named Elliott:

Even small selections had been fraught with limitless deliberation: making an appointment took half-hour, selecting the place to eat lunch took all afternoon, even deciding which shade pen to make use of to fill out workplace types was a chore. Seems Elliott’s lack of emotion paralyzed his decision-making.

Decisions require emotion.

“Emotion” and “motivation” share the Latin root phrase “mot,” that means “transfer.” They’re motion phrases.

Your shoppers have to really feel sufficiently motivated to beat each inertia and obstacles earlier than they may:


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  • Implement your suggestions.
  • Prioritize content material growth.
  • Approve useful resource and finances requests.
  • Comply with aim changes and motion plans.

Writer and management coach Dr. Paul Homoly put it this way:

“In the event you’re not telling tales, likelihood is you’re not connecting along with your listeners on the intestine stage, which makes them much less more likely to get and decide to your imaginative and prescient. Consequently, your worth as an professional is diminished.”

How one can Carry Emotion to Shopper Tales

Earlier than getting ready a consumer electronic mail, report, or any deliverable, ask your self this query:

“How ought to my consumer really feel in response to this?”

Hopefully not “detached” or “confused.” (And no, “knowledgeable” is just not an emotion.)

However maybe they’ll really feel:

  • Upset {that a} competitor is outspending us.
  • Optimistic that we bounced again from a nasty month.
  • Inspired that the brand new technique is working.
  • Anxious that we’re slipping within the rankings.


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Not each replace will lead to your consumer feeling “ecstatic… that we’re with the world’s finest company.”

And that’s okay. The truth is, unfavourable feelings could be a highly effective method to drive wanted motion. (Extra on that later.)

As soon as you recognize what your story you’re telling, you may work to inform it much more successfully.

Make Your Viewers (Not Your Information Set) Your Story’s Protagonist

A narrative’s protagonist is “the lens by means of which your readers see every part.”

In our earlier instance, “you’re fired” is a narrative.

Nevertheless, “Bob is fired” is just not.

That’s as a result of we don’t know Bob.

Perhaps he was an embezzler who had it coming.

Perhaps he was horrible at his job and created a poisonous office.

We don’t have the context to really feel any explicit manner over Bob’s firing.

However dropping our personal job is totally different. We intrinsically know ourselves, our motives, and the way the lack of earnings will impression our lives. We are able to shortly faucet a deep properly of emotion with out further exposition.


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Your viewers will naturally be utilizing their very own expertise because the lens by means of which they view the info you’re presenting, so focus the story on them.

Your audience is the protagonist.

How one can Use Protagonists in Your Deliverables

Your protagonist has an exterior aim (slay the dragon, hit $100 million in income), and an inner cause their aim issues to them.

Most of your consumer deliverables will give attention to “what” they need, with the “why” remaining under the floor.


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In different phrases, what they need is to hit their goals, and your story simply wants to inform the way it’s going for them.

Modify Dashboards to Deal with Your Protagonist’s Targets

In case your reporting doesn’t default to highlighting consumer KPIs (key efficiency indicators), you’ll have to make some modifications to carry out the story.

Let’s say your consumer has a goal of driving $75,000 income monthly.

Your out-of-the-box Google Data Studio reporting template doesn’t inform the story of whether or not the income aim was hit:

Rolling comparison charts.

Add a income scorecard and with just a few small changes, and also you’ve received a KPI-first story that your consumer can simply interpret:

Charts with revenue and scorecard callouts.

On this up to date report:


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  • The KPI (income) is prominently within the first place with a easy rearrangement of charts.
  • Scorecards give “massive image” mixture efficiency information.
  • Bullet charts present the connection between the goal and precise.
  • Mounted month-over-month information solutions measurement questions higher than rolling comparability charts.

It’s not Shakespeare, but it surely’s a a lot better story than randomly ordered charts with none efficiency abstract.

Bonus tip: I prefer to “have fun” hitting massive milestones with callouts and acknowledgments (gifs, photos, animations).

It’s an grownup equal of getting a scratch-n-sniff sticker on a faculty paper. Even when it’s foolish, that further consideration simply makes you’re feeling good.

Celebrate milestones.

Expose Your Enemies

Most good tales even have an antagonist – an opposing power that causes bother for the protagonist.


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Some widespread antagonists in data-driven marketing:

  • Rivals. These apparent antagonists are straightforward to villainize and rally towards.
  • Damaged monitoring. Fallacious or lacking information acts as a foil towards a real accounting of efficiency.
  • Dangerous UX. Complicated types, gradual load time, and tough navigation can hold prospects caught, which retains KPIs from being met.
  • Exterior traits and forces. Present occasions which are unrelated to your advertising can nonetheless have a big impact in your advertising.

In your work, you might be tempted to disregard or “edit out” any antagonists.

It’s straightforward to wish to hold issues constructive, and to guard your shoppers from worrying concerning the battles you’re preventing on their behalf.

In spite of everything, they employed you in order that their stress would go down, not up.

Villains Reveal Heroes

Antagonists could be highly effective instruments to maintain shoppers engaged and even win buy-in.

While you don’t have an recognized enemy, your viewers is left to imagine the outcomes you’re getting may have occurred simply as simply with out your involvement.

By explaining the challenges you’re going through, you draw your viewers in and assist them respect the dragons you’re slaying for them.

And after they perceive the urgency of the issue and the way it’s retaining them from their objectives, they’re much more more likely to approve any assets wanted to win the battle.

Expose your antagonists.

In the event you’re nonetheless not satisfied that villains and threats belong in consumer communications, let’s have a look at the science behind it.


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Due to what’s often known as attentional bias, we’re all wired to concentrate to perceived threat — and to usually ignore the established order.

We additionally reply to successful and dropping otherwise. Losses are twice as powerful in comparison with equal good points.

When your shoppers face the specter of a loss if no motion is taken towards the antagonist, they’re in a extremely motivated state to behave and, if vital, change course.

How one can Use Antagonists in Your Deliverables

In case your consumer’s objectives aren’t being met, what’s retaining them from getting what they need?

Take the time to establish and identify the antagonist. Assist your consumer perceive what’s inflicting the setback, and what assets (if any) are wanted to beat it.

“Exterior Power” Instance: Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic served as an opposing power to companies from nearly each trade.

Right here’s an instance of how we informed that story for one in all our shoppers:

Charts showing trend for search volume correlates with click volume due to Covid.

Regardless that everybody understands that the pandemic impacts companies, the mechanics of it may possibly nonetheless appear murky.


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Right here, we used a Google Tendencies chart exhibiting the dip in whole search quantity. This helped make clear that there weren’t inner or systemic issues with the campaigns.

“Inner Power” Instance: Dangerous UX for Cell

On this instance, a consumer’s personal web site was retaining them from extra income. Over time, extra of their viewers was utilizing cellular to entry the location, however the consumer hadn’t invested in mobile-first optimizations that might make it simpler to purchase from them.

This report part helped illustrate the hidden value of inertia, and what it will take to reverse course.

Charts illustrating need for mobile-first optimizations.

Transparency about antagonists — precise market circumstances, threats, and challenges — can drive actual enchancment. If not examined, nothing adjustments.


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Give Your Viewers Context to Perceive the Story

A narrative can solely make you’re feeling one thing when you perceive what it’s about.

I may recap a primary season episode of This Is Us to my pal Could by telling her (spoiler):

“Randall discovered Rebecca knew about William.”

She’d know precisely what occurred. She’d really feel anticipation and pressure from simply these phrases.

However my husband James, who doesn’t observe the present, would stare blankly at my recap.

As a substitute of the single-sentence recap, I would carry him in control by saying:

“Randall spent his life making an attempt to find the place he’s from. He simply discovered that his adoptive mom had recognized his organic father his total life, and stored them from assembly.”

The story I’m retelling didn’t change. However once I add the backstory and character relationships, I’ve given James sufficient context to know why I’m an emotional wreck.

You’ll be able to develop into a greater storyteller simply by selecting which particulars to incorporate or omit to match your viewers’s expertise.

Context drives understanding.

“Quarterly earnings are up 0.5%” could possibly be a champagne-popping story to a world advertising workforce that’s been working for months to hit that concentrate on.


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In the meantime, at a special firm, conversions could possibly be up 900%. However the brand new digital supervisor doesn’t know what “conversions” means and is embarrassed to ask. He says “Thanks for letting me know,” and adjustments the topic.

How one can Add Context to your Story

Begin by asking:

“How can I make this data simpler for my viewers to know and interpret?”

You’ll have to know who your viewers is to know the way a lot context so as to add, but it surely’s exhausting to overdo it.

Higher to outline “bounce charge” for somebody who already is aware of, than for somebody to learn a whole report with out greedy what “bounce charge” means.

E-mail Instance: Present Context for Information Factors 

This electronic mail snippet offers the details of final month’s efficiency, however Janet has no context for the way to interpret or analyze the data:

Text of an email without bold, color or context.

We are able to make it a greater story by including some visible distinction (shade, bolding), spelling out acronyms, and together with an evidence concerning the month’s efficiency:

Text of an email using bold, color.

Now Janet is aware of that she will be able to be ok with August leads, however she’ll have to take care of the very fact a competitor is driving up promoting prices.


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Even Extra Methods for Together with Context

On the subject of bettering your reporting for higher comprehension, you’ve received many instruments in your toolbox.

Data visualization and knowledge design have develop into their very own disciplines, with many assets for the way to current information in a compelling manner.

Listed here are only a few methods to place into follow:

  • Begin with the large image. Use government summaries and the inverted pyramid. Reply the “5 W’s” (who, what, the place, when, why) earlier than drilling into particulars. Lead with KPIs.
  • Use preattentive attributes. Coloration, kind, form, and measurement can create patterns and distinction which are shortly processed by the mind for quicker comprehension.
  • Use microcopy. Present hints, explanations, and definitions within the small supporting textual content.


Storytelling could appear to be the area of massive manufacturers and animations.

However you may carry story and objective to your communications with some easy steps:

  1. Tease out the emotion from the info –How ought to my consumer really feel in response to this?
  2. Make your viewers the protagonist – Who’s my viewers and what do they wish to obtain?
  3. Title and expose opposing forces – What’s stopping them from getting what they need?
  4. Add context – How can I make this simpler to know and interpret?


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When you understand how to optimize your work for emotion, you get better comprehension, extra buy-in, and a virtuous cycle of higher outcomes.

Extra Sources:

Picture Credit

Screenshots and art work by creator,  April 2021

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