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Humans are natural storytellers. We connect with each other and with ideas through the power and influence of stories. We find value in data, but communicating the bigger picture takes a commitment to narrative that can bring the numbers to life.

Think about how crucial dashboards and visualizations are in technology, communication, in education, and in marketing. An audience connects less with the individual data points and more with the overarching theme or patterns that emerge. That’s where the story, the narrative, matters.

As a partner, the question becomes how do you connect with customers? If they understand the product or service you provide, isn’t that enough to help them understand the value of the data? Not necessarily. Here’s a glimpse of what makes data-driven storytelling so powerful and how you can harness that skill to connect better with your own customers.

Why Do Stories Matter?

“If you really want to persuade someone who doesn’t wish to be persuaded, you should tell him a story.”

– Steven D. Levitt, Co-Author of Think Like a Freak

As technology provides greater access to information than ever before, it’s easy to get lost in the data. Finding the common thread between data points and building a message around why a trend matters or is likely to influence future outcomes is what builds a good data-driven story. As a new breed of journalists, economists, technologists, and marketers are uncovering large datasets and using them to build narratives, they are finding that such content performs better, attracts more links, and inevitably makes for more compelling points.

Nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone loves a good story. In their book Think Like a Freak, economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner actively bring interesting stories of data to life. To simply look at the numbers is not enough to illuminate the value of the information. It’s only when they were able to bring readers along for the ride that an important learning was communicated.

The Anatomy of a Good Story

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

– Robert McKee, Lecturer and Screenwriter

When it comes to turning data points into a powerful and relatable marketing story, it all comes down to the audience. Knowing who the audience is and what information they are looking for from the interaction is critical, otherwise, your well-crafted message will fall on deaf ears. Once you are confident that you can connect with your customers on their level, start exploring your data and your messaging.

Great data-driven storytelling makes insights both memorable and understandable. If your data or your technology is the “what,” the story is the “why.” It motivates the audience to take action and relies heavily on KPIs, trends, research, and other information to back up that call to action. To craft a good story, you need to think like an information designer. Set context, focus on the essentials, build a path that can be followed easily and logically, reinforce key points, and construct a foundation on shared understanding of the world as it currently exists.

Tips for Data-Driven Storytelling

When it comes time for you to create a new case study, a new marketing campaign, or anything that reaches out to your customers to solicit a reaction, think about how you can bring your data to life through storytelling.
Here are 4 tips to help you drive revenue, increase margins, and boost brand loyalty through data-driven storytelling.

1. Focus on the Metrics

Your reporting matters. Always look to marketing analytics and metrics to help connect the dots between what’s topical and what’s associated with your actual sales. That will tell you what resonates with your customers and what will help you tell a more compelling business story.

2. Look for Trends and Themes

Data provides the unique opportunity to share hot topics and relevant themes to provide a fresh perspective on your value to customers. Play to who your audience wants to be, what they are looking to learn more about. Stay future-focused in your marketing and meet them where they are most aspirational.

3. Use Visuals and Tables

When you are using data to tell a story, charts and graphics are almost a must. You need to present your findings in a quick and approachable way so that they support your call to action, but also don’t overwhelm your audience.

4. Bring in the Human Element

Narrative is what provides your audience with the context and the motivation to find meaning in your data. By bringing in emotion, history, problem-solving, pain points, or challenges overcome, you connect your audience to your message and help it resonate long after you are gone.

For more great tips on how to engage your customers through the power of storytelling, connect with other businesses just like you in our Microsoft Partner Community.