How to share compelling data without boring people to death

Say you've just received your Net Promoter Score results, and they're good. They're really good. You tingle in excitement at the number of conversions your sales team will see, armed with the verdict, and how you and your marketing team will boogie down in celebration of your business's performance. You build a marketing campaign listing these facts and analysis, confident the data will impress potential customers.

It doesn't. Your campaign is one of the lowest-performing pieces of marketing content you've shared, even though it contained positive information about your audience, and you aren't getting any quality leads from that work. What gives? What's missing?

If you find that your marketing content is performing so low you can't even do the limbo beneath it, let me show you what's missing.

The story.

The quickest way to lose an audience is by rattling off a series of statistics. See, watch this:

  • 55% of B2B marketers say their organization doesn't have a clear vision of a successful content marketing plan.
  • 8% of B2B marketers call their content marketing plan "sophisticated," compared to 29% who deem themselves "adolescent."
  • 36% of B2B content marketers meet as a team weekly to talk strategy.

    Source: Content Marketing Institute

A list of figures is a snoozefest, right? You're likely to drop readers when you report data like the above.

The quickest way to engage an audience is by meeting them at a human level, having a conversation and revealing yourself -- in a PC, work-appropriate way. Share your connection to the story the data tells by putting it into narrative form. Here's another way you might share the information your survey gleaned:

"When our business began, our marketing team didn't have a clear editorial plan. I'm sure you can relate: Without an intelligible vision, we took a lot of time-wasting shots in the dark.
No more! We instituted weekly all-hands meetings to talk strategy and plan projects. Each person keeps a collaborative editorial plan at his or her desk to refer to throughout the week, keeping us all innovating toward the same place.
I'm in disbelief: My team's calling our marketing plan "sophisticated." Now we want to take what we've instituted internally to help your team learn new ways of communicating so you can take home big wins, too.”

Talking to your audience this way makes a reader feel you're speaking specifically to him or her, one to one, over a cup of coffee as you trade stories about building stronger businesses. We all share the human experience, and storytelling is more than a marketing technique. It's about the why: the why for your customers (why should they choose you?) and the why for your brand (why do you do what you do?).

Now, why is a narrative, customer value-oriented approach more successful?

Turns out, it's science.

According to the book Narrative and Social Control: Critical Perspectives: "Narratives are more effective than facts or statistics in generating belief among listeners who agree with the argument. The very linguistic features of stories that command attention and memory -- concrete, vivid descriptions and active voice, present tense verbs -- also compel emotional investment and lend the quality of persuasiveness to the speech act they constitute."

In a world of transmedia storytelling, you need to tell your story many times over, in a variety of places. Don't let it daunt you, because the formula is the same each time:

  1. What do I know? The facts, figures and statistics you’ve gathered.
  2. Who does it affect? Be specific: a two-person marketing team, Canadian greeting card company, fathers who drive SUVs, etc.
  3. How can they benefit? A shared editable online calendar, recycled paper product, backseat car organizer, etc.

Recognizing the problems your audience wants to solve and then offering tailored solutions is more effective than a feature list, and putting your analysis into narrative form takes us back to the communal oral storytelling tradition: with the teller and the listener connected one to one.

That bond you just created? There's your conversion.

You might also be interested in:

Need someone to help with your company's marketing creative, from blog post to email newsletter?

I'm glad to help.

Learn about my copywriting and email newsletter services.