We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: as digital marketing professionals, we think data is sexy. For us, there’s something magical about diving head first into a suite full of analytics to uncover hidden trends linking the various components of an integrated marketing campaign. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face…

But before I get carried away, let’s get back to the point: data. When it comes to digital marketing, data is the driving force behind any successful campaign. To fully understand the inner workings of a client’s marketing initiatives, we as data-driven digital marketers must tear apart the available data, deciphering patterns and exposing any inconsistencies. Only then can a client’s integrated marketing initiatives be held truly accountable and an actual, quantifiable return on investment be determined. Like I said, a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, the people we report to don’t always share our data devotion. As pointed out in a Clickz article, the way data is typically portrayed within reports through percentages, graphs and charts can come across as cold. It doesn’t speak to others the way it speaks to someone who spent countless hours piecing it together. That’s why your reports should do more than portray data as pretty pictures in the form of colorful graphs – they should tell a story. So light the bonfire, grab the marshmellows and follow these three steps. It’s storytelling time.

Step 1 – Kick It Off By Setting the Scene: Just like any other story, you have to start by setting the scene. Create a framework for your story by providing the timeframe, channel and main characters.

Step 2 – Draw Them In with an Epic Struggle: Every good story has a hero who must conquer some roadblock before reaching the happy ending. In your plot, your marketing initiative (the hero) guides your customers (the main characters) toward a business goal or through a key challenge (roadblock), eventually revealing important insights into how customers engage with the business, what is working, and what can be improved (the happy ending).

Step 3 – Provide an Ending but Leave It Open for a Sequel: By the end, there should be no doubt in your audience’s mind what you learned from the story and what they should take away from it. Put it in stone by providing a summary of findings as well as a recommendation for next steps.

People tend to be visual learners, but sometimes helping connect the dots can go a long way. Humanize your data: giving it context by providing a story about the people behind the metrics will help you relay your findings in manageable way and better connect with your audience.

Image Source: xkcd.com