On March 31, 2021, Matt Bailey shared his advice for communicating digital marketing analytics insights with storytelling techniques. Matt, the founder and President of SiteLogic Marketing, is a Digital Marketing Instructor for the Direct Marketing Association in New York City and an instructor for the OMCP (Online Marketing Certified Professional) Program. He is the author of "Internet Marketing: An Hour A Day," "Wired To Be Wowed," and "Teach An Old Dog New Tricks." Matt is a member of Simplilearn's Digital Marketing Faculty.

So, let’s get started with our first effective technique for digital marketing analytics i.e., communication problem.

The Communication Problem

Matt cited a Gartner CIO report that says 72% of marketers track revenue, but only 25% are "confident" in their reporting ability. Reporting isn't just presenting data: it's communicating the ideas that are contained in the data.

Often, reports take the form of tables copied and pasted from spreadsheets. Technically, these may have all of the data that the audience needs to know, but they present it in a form that the audience can't readily understand. Cut and paste reports don't provide insight.

Other times, the presenter takes the time to reformat the data into charts and graphs that make it easier to understand and that make comparisons and trends more apparent. However, these reports often only present the top-of-funnel, tactical information about operations. Such reports are not value-focused, and they don't reveal the most important insights about results.

What is the Question?

Matt introduced Hillburn's Law of Data Intentionality, which maps intentionality in two dimensions: intentionality of data collection and intentionality of data presentation. 

As shown in the figure, high intentionality of data collection with low intentionality of data presentation is found in data tables from research studies: carefully selected data in table form. 

High intentionality of presentation with low intentionality of collection is found in graphic representations of raw data. High intentionality in both dimensions provides a well-structured and understandable presentation of cultivated data, presenting the insightful highlights from the most important data.


Figure 1

A presentation based on high intentionality of both data collection and data presentation can help tell a compelling story about the business results that matter, as shown in figure 2. This example helps the audience zero in on the cases that have the greatest potential for high returns in cost and good outcomes.


Figure 2

Engage the Entire Brain

The left brain processes words and data to understand the logical and practical aspects of the world. The right brain processes images and stories, and it can do so holistically. The saying is, "a picture is worth a thousand words," but neuroscientists have found that a person can understand a picture 60,000 times faster than words. The same is true of stories: they help us find and remember meaning much quicker than stacks of facts and columns of data.

Use a Storytelling Structure

Storytelling structure is one of the important techniques helpful in improving  digital marketing analytics.

To take advantage of the brain's ability to process stories, you should use a storytelling structure in reporting your status or findings. The storytelling structure has three main components:

  • Character
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

To use character, assign your target audience segments character names that are clear and descriptive of the traits you use to segment them. In one example, Matt discussed customer behaviors and demands of a CRM platform. In the data story, two segments were given the character names "Bodybuilder" and "Mother." 

Bodybuilders are concerned with the power of the platform's features, while Mothers are concerned with service. When the company changed its content to target and adapt to these different characters, its sales increased 400%, and engagement increased 2,000%.

To incorporate the conflict component into your story, consider the conflicts your audience deals with. What prevents their success? What obstacles do they face? How does the conflict affect them?

Finally, think of the results you provide as a resolution to the conflict. What do these results mean to the audience? How do they affect or change them? What do they enable your audience to do or achieve?

Design for Speedy Discovery

How you present your story visually impacts how well and how quickly your audience understands it. Some of the design factors to keep in mind are:

Color and Contrast. Colors have particular meanings, some of which are culturally determined. An example is the red-amber-green of traffic lights in many countries. Your choice of color can convey meaning and direct attention. Similarly, contrast assists in understanding by drawing attention to specific points and highlighting differences.

Speed. How you choose to present data visually can significantly impact how quickly the viewer can grasp the data. In the example in Figure 3, the critical information is trends over time for five factors. The bar chart forces the viewer to look at each factor separately; the spiderweb chart lets the viewer see the changes in all five factors at once.


Figure 3

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Clarity. People don't read – they scan. In studies of reading patterns, subjects usually read only the first two words in headlines and ignored introductory sections. To ensure clarity, use big, short headlines. Use bold, italics, and underline for emphasis. Be careful in your choice and consistency of typeface, as well as your use of color and font size. Finally, use white space in your designs to direct the audience's attention to what's important. In presentations, sans serif fonts are best for headlines and quotations; serif fonts enhance readability in paragraphs where the serifs help pull the eye from one letter to the next.

Evaluation. As you prepare your presentation, ask yourself:

  • Am I answering The Question?
  • Does the overall presentation assist the purpose?
  • Does comparable data complement or clutter?

Insight – Action – Impact

Next comes the important technique of digital marketing analytics: insight-action-impact.

The purpose of a report or presentation is to tell a three-part story:

  • What do you observe? What did you learn from the data?
  • What is the correlation? What action should be taken?
  • What will this change? What is the financial impact of action or inaction?

How you tell this story and to what level of detail depends on which stakeholders you want to persuade in a particular presentation. It's vital to know your audience and appeal to their priorities.

Figure 4 shows a continuum from data to insights – action – impact, based on the role of the audience members. Data analysts, directors, and campaign owners want more data because they are comfortable analyzing it and understanding causal factors. On the other end of the spectrum, CMOs, CFOs, and CEOs want non-technical, jargon-free explanations and recommendations that go directly to insights, actions, and impact.


Figure 4

Matt provided an example of an analysis of a company's ecommerce conversion rates by device type. He showed how the marketing analytics data formed the foundation for telling a story about how improving the user experience on the mobile platform could let the company recoup $2.5 million in lost sales. The report clearly presents the insight, action options, and impact and makes it easy for the executive audience to choose a course of action.

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That was all about digital marketing analytics.

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