Blog The BusinessOnline B2B MarketING Blog
June 27, 2017

Aligning Data Analytics and Storytelling for Business Leaders

by Alexis Demeo
Categories: Analytics, B2B Marketing, Big Data, Data-Driven Marketing, Industry Leaders

In a data-driven world, optimizing data processing to drive and measure business initiatives remains as important as ever. Companies invest vast resources to improve data analytics for this very purpose. For those companies that do implement data analytics to drive business decisions, 2/3 of companies reported a revenue growth of at least 15% from these strategies per a report by EY and Forbes Insights, Data & Advanced Analytics: High Stakes, High Rewards.

Yet despite this need for analytics driven business decisions, the CMO Survey reports that only 31.6% of companies use marketing analytics before making a business decision. One-third of the companies that do not consider marketing analytics cited, “the lack of processes or tools to measures success through analytics” as the biggest factor in not leveraging data for business decisions.

Moormon, C. (2017, February 28). Figure 1. Company Use of Marketing Analytics [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://cmosurvey.org/marketing-analytics/cmo-survey-marketers-to-spend-on-analytics-use-remains-elusive/

 

Moormon, C. (2017, February 28). Figure 2. What Factors Prevent Your Company Using More Marketing Analytics? [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://cmosurvey.org/marketing-analytics/cmo-survey-marketers-to-spend-on-analytics-use-remains-elusive/

In examining why marketing analytics does not play more of a role in decision making, business professionals must address what might cause the disconnect for businesses to not adopt the necessary processes or tools. Analytics for a technical audience differs vastly from reports provided to executive business leaders, who often present findings through a story. And, with all the challenges businesses face with leveraging data to provide insightful information, one can lose the story along the way. For executive business leaders, this poses a new challenge–does the company’s analytics address the ultimate story you want to tell your stakeholders? With all the investment in making sense of company data, does the final sales and marketing metrics ultimately help drive better business decisions?

As data professionals find new and creative ways to process massive amounts of data and determine the best means of producing meaningful KPI’s through reporting, keeping in mind the organization’s story can fall on the wayside or outside the scope of work. It becomes all-too-easy to allow the technical specifications of data processing to drive data analytics projects. But as with the age-old data processing principle, garbage in, garbage out, forgetting to address the ultimate story your business wants to tell can leave the final data report to executive business leaders missing the critical perspective needed to help them effectively drive better business decisions and make sense of how the final KPI’s portray a cohesive story.

Storytelling for executive business leaders stands as an effective strategy for reporting KPI’s to stakeholders. A recent study by Quantified Communications that analyzed written and spoken communication of 700 presentations found that those presentations driven by stories ended up 35% more persuasive and 21% more memorable than all other presentations. An article by Business Insider discovered that, “some of the most popular TED Talks are 65 percent narrative”, which further emphasizes the importance of storytelling.

Within a business organization, executive business leaders face many responsibilities with limited time to drill down into the detailed numbers to infer complex conclusions to then relay this story to stakeholders. Thus, the critical foundation of analytics efforts must provide reports that summarize information of what sales and marketing efforts yield desirable results, and the positioning of this summary of information remains the heart of the company’s performance story for executive business leaders.

To do this, data professionals must better understand the KPIs that drive business and business processes within their organization. By truly understanding the business requirements for their organization’s leaders and in considering what the end-story of their efforts will produce, data professionals can allow their efforts to be truly targeted towards the company’s business objectives.

Realigning Data Analytics for Storytelling

As with any good story, one must begin with a vision. For data processing, this includes identifying what story your organization wants to tell and what vision the executive business leaders will share with stakeholders based on the final KPIs. Most good data professionals can frame, execute, and produce KPI’s of aggregate and detail views for whatever data granularity necessary. But if executive business leaders do not have the time or resources to draw conclusions to present the insights necessary for a compelling story, all the time and resources within the organization to produce these final KPIs can feel like a wasted endeavor.

By realigning data analytics towards storytelling, data professionals can allow that final story executive business leaders will share lead the vision for configuring data systems based on specific business objectives. In doing so, executive business leaders can better drive answers to critical questions the organization wants to answer for stakeholders.

An important story organizations want to tell focuses on what efforts drive desired business objective(s). For B2B marketing, this means what marketing channels influence the company’s objectives, whether it is sales (revenue), brand awareness (reach), a larger consumer base (lead generation), or any other business objective(s). With marketing channel attribution for B2B in mind, the new challenge for data professionals becomes understanding the business requirements of these data systems and how to process and display data into information that can best explain this story.

While best practices preach CRM systems to implement the necessary lead stages with appropriate logic demonstrative of the sales funnel, often these data systems do not initially contain these values. Thus, data professionals will apply business logic during data processing to capture this information. But without an understanding of the end story of marketing channel attribution for the company, this business logic may not be implemented initially or correctly—a lost opportunity that may require restructuring of existing systems to accommodate at a later point. If this logic was considered in the first place through true understanding of business requirements and the end story, the additional resources to restructure an existing system could be avoided.

With this story in mind, data professionals can work backwards to engineer data processing to produce the final summarization of information for executive business leaders. Through this realigning of data analytics for storytelling, data professionals can ensure that data processing funnels down to the final story that executive business leaders will tell. To do this, data professionals can ask:

  • What is the final story that the end report(s) will show?
  • What system requirements are needed to produce the end report(s)?
  • What data systems provide the data needed to produce the end report(s)?
  • How can these data systems be integrated to produce the holistic end report(s) of all variables in the story?
  • Are all the variables in the story represented in the data?
  • Will any new derived variables need to be created based on business logic?
  • How can initial assumptions on the data be validated? Are there specific professionals that can clarify or confirm business requirements on the data?

In framing and organizing data analytics around this process, data professionals can create a data system that ultimately saves reporting time through producing faster results focused on a cohesive story.

For example, a B2B software company wanted to determine the value of their marketing channels, and so BusinessOnline focused on telling the story of marketing channel attribution. For B2B marketing, displaying a lead sales funnel by marketing channel influence easily portrays the customer buying journey into a cohesive and digestible visualization that executive business leaders can easily draw conclusions.

By displaying the lead sales funnel as a waterfall that attributes each lead to every completed stage in the customer buying journey, executive business leaders can easily discern overall conversion rates and lead quality by channel.

From there, the story continues into the opportunity stage in the funnel (sales accepted leads > sales qualified lead > closed won) to look at specific opportunities and the influence and value marketing channels have on revenue:

In this example, the B2B software company’s CRM did not contain all the applicable information and business logic necessary to draw these conclusions, and required full integration of variables from numerous data systems. It was through a focus on the end story of marketing attribution that the final reporting data system could capture the level of detail and information necessary for these results. Without that consideration, efforts might have focused solely on CRM, and the holistic view of all marketing channel influence would be lost or require extensive reconfiguration to obtain.

Implementing effective data reporting systems that produce actionable deliverables for executive business leaders requires considerable time and resources. Allowing your company’s data to tell a story that executive business leaders can use involves mindfulness of that story and a thorough understanding of the role data plays in portraying that story. It is through this alignment of data processing with storytelling that a cohesive data reporting system can be developed to benefit both data professionals in preventing perpetual data reconfiguration from a lack of true understanding of business requirements, as well as the executive business leaders that rely on the metrics produced to drive better business decisions.

To learn more, download our full whitepaper, “Aligning Data Analytics and Storytelling for Business Leaders“.

References:
Moorman, C. (2017, February 28). CMO SURVEY: Marketers to Spend on Analytics; Use Remains Elusive. Retrieved from https://cmosurvey.org/marketing-analytics/cmo-survey-marketers-to-spend-on-analytics-use-remains-elusive/

Advanced Analytics High Stakes, High Rewards. (2017, February). Forbes Insights. Retrieved from https://insights.forbes.com/advanced-analytics-high-stakes-high-rewards/?alild=88748382

Gallo, C. (2017, March 25). An analytics of 700 presentations revealed that adopting one speaking skill can make you more persuasive. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/an-analysis-of-700-presentations-revealed-that-adopting-one-speaking-skill-can-make-you-more-persuasive-2017-3?IR=T

Weber, S. (2017, April 4). Infographic: 10 Statistics You Need to Know to Give a Great Presentation. Retrieved from http://www.quantifiedcommunications.com/blog/10-stats-communication-infographic