Many business owners see storytelling and data as polar opposites. One seems “fuzzy,” emotional, and imprecise; the other seems hard, clear, and exact. However, when it comes to business growth, storytelling and data are two sides of the same coin. They both lead to business success.
The best and most successful companies in the world understand this fact and are using storytelling and data to beat out competition and convert more customers.
By investing in these two areas, you have the opportunity to do the same.
The Importance of Storytelling
During the 2014 Super Bowl, Budweiser purchased a 60-second commercial spot that cost them more than $4 million. The game was a blowout and the commercial didn’t air until near the end of the game. How did that work out for them?
Amazingly well. The commercial scored top honors in two separate polls for being the most popular among viewers. The YouTube video of the spot has well over 58 million views as of August 2015, and the commercial was ranked as the second most effective commercial of the 2014 Super Bowl.
How did a commercial for beer inspire that kind of response? It worked because of the power of storytelling. Companies have the power to stand out and connect emotionally to their consumers by telling a story, whether it’s the story of the brand, a story of success, or a story involving a cute puppy and a beautiful horse.
Great storytelling doesn’t happen by accident. Like all great content creation, a great story requires a solid plan. You need to know your audience, how your idea ties into existing content, and what resources you have available to produce it. Obviously, Budweiser has a lot of money and staff resources to put into their projects. But that isn’t the key element – the key element is your high-impact story idea.
When you have a compelling story created according to a great plan, you get magic. When you affect the way someone feels, you affect the way they act. Creating an emotional connection with your customers can lead them to do things they’d normally guard against, like spending money on your products. By helping them connect emotionally with your brand and your story, you build the “trust and like” factor that’s so key to people being willing to do business with you.
The Impact of Data
Stories do a great job of touching the consumer’s heart. However, in order to implement stories properly, you need a lot of data as well. Beyond that, data is essential for the behind-the-scenes operation – making sure you target the right customers in the right ways.
When you’re building a story, data tells you a lot about how to make it effective - even how to help it go viral. Data shows that our stories need to be remarkable – something out of the ordinary – in order to gain someone’s attention. There needs to be something useful, valuable, or emotional in our content. Once you start to get some sharing, you’ll get a lot more, because data shows that people are more likely to share something if others are doing so as well. When you have access to this kind of data, you can craft a story and share it in ways that really impact your audience and lead to massive business growth.
Using data and storytelling together can also help you implement much needed changes within your business. Presenting dry facts without a story behind them won’t gain many supporters at your company. Creating a persuasive story about what the data means and what changes you can make to take advantage of the opportunity will do far more to bring stakeholders on board with your project.
Uber is one example of a company using data behind-the-scenes in really effective ways that are leading to immense business growth. The cab-alternative startup is using big data to streamline and optimize their business. Through thorough analysis, Uber’s data shows them where customers are likely to want to go, allowing them to staff effectively. Uber also uses data to predict when demand is likely to be highest and to adjust their prices accordingly. These higher prices also encourage more Uber drivers to work during busier periods, making the company’s model more effective.
Putting It All Together
Given the examples above, it’s clear that data and stories work together. However, bringing them together in an effective way requires some extra effort on the part of your company.
Step #1 – Identify your company’s story
If you look at popular folklore stories and fairy tales, you’ll see that many of them share similar themes. There’s the underdog hero, going to battle against a major enemy in exchange for a valued reward. In the same way that Mario goes up against Bowser to rescue Princess Peach (and David defeats Goliath to defend his people), your company is a hero that goes up against a major challenge (say, poor website performance) to bring about a desired reward (in this case, SEO success).
This isn’t the only story structure out there, but it’s a powerful one. Use these existing frameworks to define your company’s story and crystallize it so that it’s as clear – and as inspirational – as a children’s story.
Step #2 – Use data to determine your story’s effectiveness
Once you’ve identified your story, work it into your company’s online and offline marketing presence in a number of ways. Any sales or landing pages you maintain, for example, should include elements that suggest your story. Your tagline, USP, print marketing materials and blog posts are other areas that are ripe for integration with your story’s themes.
But once you’ve deployed your story, use data to determine whether your chosen narrative is resonating with your customers and driving real business results. Split testing is a powerful tool for this purpose, though you can look to other metrics like social shares and average time on page to see whether your stories are sticking.
Step #3 – Hone your story as needed
Marketing collateral that’s been imbued with story-style messaging should, naturally, perform more effectively than dry copy. However, that doesn’t guarantee that integrating your story into your marketing materials will instantly lead to better results.
Ideally, your story should speak to your customers’ biggest pain points – especially if you’re using the “hero” narrative to promote a major “reward” of using your product. But what happens if you’ve chosen the wrong pain point to base your story on? Your data will uncover areas where your story is falling flat, but it’s up to you to hone your story over time to make it as effective as possible.
When you use stories, you touch the heart of your customer. You build relationships, build trust, and encourage action that would have been impossible otherwise. However, data makes sure that you implement your stories effectively, in addition to making sure your marketing is targeted to the right audience at the right time. Rather than seeing data and storytelling as opposites, see them as the two essential elements of a great marketing strategy.
How do you use data and storytelling in your business? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below:
This article was written by Sujan Patel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.