It doesn’t matter how impressive your results are, or how impeccable your process.
Stakeholders question your numbers. They devalue your analysis. They’re being courted away by “all-flash-no-substance” vendors.
And while it might not seem like it, you may be complicit in the situation.
You’ve convinced yourself that your clients only care about the bottom line and don’t have any patience for “stories.”
The truth is, you just never learned how to use storytelling to elevate your ongoing management and reporting.
That changes now.
Why Use Storytelling in Data-Driven Marketing?
Everyone likes to tell you that storytelling matters. But then to importance of stories, they just show you examples of highly-produced commercials and short films.
The problem is, this doesn’t exactly translate to your industry, deliverable format, or client expectations.
After all, we’re dealing with Switzerland Phone Number sessions and clicks — not adapting a screenplay for Pixar.
So let’s use a very foundational definition of story from film director Mark W. Travis:
“The telling of an event… in such a way that the listener experiences or learns something just by the fact that he heard the story.”
In other words, a story teaches you or makes you feel something.
Within that framework, these are both stories:
- “You’re fired.”
- “You just won $10,000.”
These statements are missing a three-act structure and overt plot. You’d get banned from telling bedtime stories if this is all you came up with.
But they meet our working definition of “story” for client management purposes.
Can you include traditional literary elements like exposition, conflict, and pacing in your storytelling? Of course.
But you can do a lot of good for your clients, and in turn, your career, just by sticking to the basics outlined here.
Clients Need Story to Recognize Your Value
If a story makes your audience feel something, then the lack of a story means they feel nothing.
At first, that might seem like the goal of working with data.
Cold, hard, emotionless, objective facts. No fluff or bias; just impartial numbers.
But it turns out that emotion, not its absence, actually drives decision and action.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio famously treated patients with frontal lobe damage. He discovered that when people were unable to experience emotion, they became “uninvolved spectators in their own lives,” incapable of making decisions.
The article How Emotion Shapes Decision Making summarizes Damasio’s experiences with his patient named Elliott: