Modern marketing isn't just about emotional appeals or flashy visuals, especially when it comes to selling products and services to B2B customers. More than ever, effective, efficient marketing is about data-driven points and arguments.
That said, dry or numbers-based marketing can also turn away your potential customers. The solution? Data-driven storytelling is arguably the best type of B2B marketing content you can leverage. Let's take a closer look at what data-driven storytelling is and how to leverage it for maximum marketing success.
What is data-driven storytelling?
Data-driven storytelling put simply, is story-oriented marketing that uses data points to back up or prove its assertions.
Without data-led insights, a "standard" marketing advertisement or pitch might go something like this:
- You introduce a problem for your target audience. For example, if you sell B2B project management software to help manage freelance writers, freelance graphic designers, and other professionals, you might demonstrate a scenario where a project manager has trouble juggling all those individuals and their deadlines.
- Then you introduce your brand's solution (such as high-quality, comprehensive B2B project management software.)
- You then demonstrate the satisfaction of your target audience via compelling customer success stories.
In the above sequence, you tell a basic story that hypothetically resonates with the viewer/reader. However, there is no real data to back it up.
With data-driven storytelling, you use hard numbers collected by your brand or other organizations to make your claims more important or "true." For instance, in the above example, you might:
- Use a statistic gathered by your organization showing that poor project management leads to a certain percentage of increased expenses.
- Use numbers to show how poorly-managed freelancers cost your business X dollars per year.
- Use data gathered by your organization to show how your B2B project management software can provide savings of X dollars.
- Prove that your project management software leads to an X percentage increase in efficiency.
- And more
Data-driven storytelling doesn’t replace stories or emotional elements with numbers. It uses numbers to enhance the overall marketing message’s effectiveness.
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Why is data-driven storytelling valuable for marketing?
Data-driven storytelling enhances the impact of your marketing campaign and how it resonates with your audiences. But why? Simply put, customers in all industries — including B2B or business-to-business customers, like fellow sales reps or department heads for companies — want authenticity from their brands. They don’t want to be swayed by pure emotional appeals, nor do they want to be flashily advertised to.
They want to be convinced through reason and logic that your solution is the best. It’s hard to get more authentic than data!
The right data proves that your brand is valuable or can back up your more emotional assertions, such as the importance of your products or services. Furthermore, data-driven storytelling can provide something that pure emotional storytelling can't: insights into the real world.
When leveraged properly, data points can tell your customers something they may not have known (or at least known fully) about their industry or needs. Percentages, data points, and customer testimonials can all combine to present a fully-formed argument for why a customer should purchase something from your brand.
Bottom line: data-driven storytelling can be extremely powerful when in the right hands.
Example of data-driven storytelling in action
One of the most effective examples of data-driven storytelling comes from the tax and accounting software company Intuit. This company gathered data-rich statistics on its customer's spending habits to guide the marketing strategy for its TurboTax product.
On the Intuit blog, the company used that purchase data to capture audience attention and share key, surprising information: an infographic that compared the financial habits of the Millennial generation to those of the Gen X generation. What they found was that even though Millennials don't have as much debt as Gen X spenders, Millennials are much more worried about debt overall and are less likely to give debit cards to kids.
That kind of insight wasn’t readily apparent to anyone in the industry. By showcasing it, Intuit leveraged the power of data-driven storytelling to create a narrative and to prove its own value as a data-backed organization.
How to leverage your data for marketing effectiveness
So how can you replicate the success seen by Intuit and other companies that use data to make business decisions? In fact, there are many ways in which you can leverage data for marketing effectiveness and results.
1. Analyze internal data
For starters, always try to analyze internal data that your organization collects personally. First-party data is data from your audience or customers directly, while third-party data is collected by another source or entity.
While you can use data from third-party sources, especially trusted websites like Statista or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, first-party data that your brand gathers from its customers or industry analytics is more valuable because:
- You can analyze and confirm its integrity or truthfulness yourself.
- Your customers may not have easy access to the data. Therefore, any insights you provide are more valuable by nature of not being attainable anywhere else.
The more internal data you gather, the better you can use that data for your marketing campaigns. Depending on the size of your organization, you may already have a wealth of data about your customers, purchase trends, industry trends, and much more.
And remember, third-party cookies are on the way out and won’t be usable by the end of this year. Obtain as much third-party data as you can before we enter a cookieless world.
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2. Consider what the data says about people or industries
As you gather and analyze the data, don’t just look for raw number trends. Instead, analyze the data and consider what it says about demographics or industry trends. You’re specifically looking for narratives you can leverage in your marketing campaigns and messages to B2B spenders.
For example, if your internal data says that you sell most of your products in the latter half of the year, consider what this means about your consumers. Do they have more money during the latter half of the year, so they are more in the mood to spend? Or are they trying to buy more tools to make the most of their limited budgets, so those budgets don’t get downgraded in the next year? This kind of analysis will help guide the growth of an organization through data-driven decision-making.
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3. Use graphics for easier understanding
No matter what data you gather and analyze, be sure to present it in your marketing materials using graphics, such as pie charts, bar graphs, and so on. The easier it is for your consumers to visually grasp what you say, the better.
Your audience doesn't want to spend hours sifting through your data packets or long paragraphs breaking down the numbers. They want to be given data-driven information in digestible chunks. It may be worth hiring a skilled graphic designer specifically for this purpose or investing in an easy-to-use content platform.
4. Look for trends and counterintuitive data points
Lastly, always look for relevant trends in your industry and counterintuitive or interesting data points. Counterintuitive data, or data that has presented unexpected results and clashes with what your team expected, capture attention much more quickly since they lead to conclusions or information that your audience may not already know.
Therefore, try to sift through your data when creating data-driven storytelling materials that support contradictions against some of the most common beliefs, such as the value of your products, what customers really want, etc.
Ultimately, data-driven storytelling is the best focus for your B2B marketing campaigns. The right data-driven storytelling can make irrefutable points to your target audience, convincing them of your brand’s reliability. At the same time, good data-driven storytelling connects your brand’s services or solutions to your customers' needs. Start using data-driven storytelling in your B2B marketing today.