Storytelling is a powerful form of communication for driving action. It is an amazing weapon used in marketing, art and entertainment: a great story hooks people and engages them.
I am always amazed how some companies are great at telling stories to their audience and suck at using stories internally, within the organization. Internal communication is mostly based on reports, numbers, charts and most of the times the context is missing.
A data driven culture is not a culture of charts but a culture of data stories.
Make stories, not metrics
KPIs are defined as metrics that drive action, but can a metric really drive action? Now, put that metric in a short story and the landscape changes. Add a $ sign somewhere in the story and things will spring into action before you can shout: “Action!”.
You can always say: March revenue increase: 5% under estimate. That would be a KPI for many businesses, however it doesn’t drive action by itself. At best, it will drive questions. Why? What happened? You can always be one step ahead and present the metric as a story:
The revenue for March is 5% down from our estimate due to higher than usual abandonment from our recurring customers. A loyalty program will bring things back on track and together with the already implemented customers acquisition program get us an increase of 10.000$ above expectations.
Everybody will be able to relate to the above story. Not only that, but the story already gives hints where to start and what to look for. Sounds like a plan.
Want to test out the power of stories in your company? Check out this announcement from Quill on a tool they created just for that.
Metrics alone don’t drive action, stories do! #measure (Tweet this)
Google Analytics: a book of stories to be written
One of the main reasons I love Google Analytics is that it has a very powerful API which allows me to get any data out and add context to it.
Here is an example: Instead of exporting from Google Analytics product purchases from people that searched for certain keywords, I prefer to make a nice story that goes like this (data comes through the API):
People that searched using “smartphone” related keywords bought the following products [big list of products]. 30% of them are unrelated to “smartphones”.
Both the exported report and the story would present the same data, however I always experience more interest from people when I present a story and not a chart.
You can go one step further and build graphic stories (the effort is worth it if you are on a mission to switch to a data culture). Here is how such a story could work out:
Stories told by your visitors
Stories don’t need to come from you only. Your visitors are already telling you stories through encoded data deep in your analytics tool.
I love the story told by the search behavior of visitors vs the story of content on the website:
This is the story told by the content of the website:
Some things match, and some don’t, but we just got a glimpse of the discrepancy between what story we present to the world and what the world wants to hear from our website.
Stories as a lead generator
Storytelling is not a tool for internal communication or external marketing campaigns. It’s a way of communicating and I believe email marketers should embrace it more than anyone.
Most email subscription forms on the internet look like this:
The user is forced to invent the reason why he should offer his email address. If he can’t come up with a good reason in less than 2 seconds, it’s a lost lead.
On the other hand, a form like the one from upworthy.com serves the story to the user, making it much easier:
They go one step further and add a little of engagement to the story as well. The user becomes a character in the story. The moment he clicks on “I Agree” he gets engaged.
We are about to start testing a similar implementation with PadiAct and we can’t wait to see the impact on subscription rate optimization. I promise to share the results on this blog in the near future.
Let’s tell more stories
Some of the best blogs/products/services out there got where they are today thanks to great storytelling. Call to actions, unique selling propositions, design, copywriting become truly valuable when part of a flowing story. Each chapter of the story becomes a step in the conversion funnel.
Telling stories is not always easy, but I am sure that it comes much more natural to any of us when compared to creating reports, working with metrics and applying optimization techniques we read about in books or blogs.
Storytelling is part of the human nature and it’s an underused asset. Time to change that!
Do you use storytelling both inside your company as well as in your marketing campaigns?