How to Combine Storytelling Strategies and Data to Produce Persuasive Marketing Content

 I need you to do me a quick favor…recite the quadratic formula please.

Oh, what’s that…you’re a business owner and that request has nothing to do with the digital/content marketing advice you’ve dropped by our blog to check out?

I understand that…but please, just for kicks, humor me and recite the quadratic formula. No cheating!

Oh, I see now.

You’re not a math person so, clearly, you don’t have the quadratic formula memorized as it’s just a bunch of letters and numbers.

I get it. I am not a math person either.

But, I can recite the quadratic formula any day any time without even really thinking about it…

x = -b +/- the square root quantity of b-squared minus 4ac all divided by 2 times a.

Easy peasy! Gasp! But, I’m not a math nerd…how is this possible?

Here’s the secret…

Knowing that mathematical thinking wasn’t my strength growing up, I had to find ways to compensate.

So, when it came to memorizing formulas and equations, I’d write songs to remember them.

Take the quadratic formula and recite it to the tune of the Notre Dame fight song, and instantly, it became ingrained in my brain.

I will go to my grave being able to cite the formula of general relativity, Pythagorean theorem, Euler’s equation, etc.

Boring sure, but man, it was so important when I was a high schooler.

Here’s where this becomes really important for you as a business owner, so listen up!

It turns out this secret I discovered as a school kid, desperate not to ruin my GPA thanks to a calculus class, is strategy that can be applied to modern day content marketing strategies–specifically when it comes to marrying statistical information (so important!) with storytelling content strategies (also important!).

Keep reading to discover why story/sing-song marketing strategies are effective…

And how you can combine data and narrative-based pieces of information to create persuasive marketing content your audience will remember for a lifetime.

Why Data and Storytelling Are Both Vital to Marketing Content                                              

First things first.  Let’s cover why it’s important to use both data and storytelling strategies in a piece of content.

Then, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how to do it correctly, so that you create persuasive and memorable content.

Simply put, data is important because it proves a point.

Without facts and statistics to back up your ideas, it’s hard to make a credible argument.

Example: I might tell my boss it’s important to spend $5,000 on a new email marketing strategy to increase our sales.

But where’s the reasoning behind it? Why not spend that money on social media advertising?

You see how “it will increase our sales” really isn’t that solid of an argument.

So, in order to get my boss to hop on the train with me, I might follow up my request with data that proves that every dollar spent on email marketing increases ROI by $50.00.

Pull a few stats, cite a few sources, and that’s a pretty convincing argument!

Now onto storytelling…

Storytelling, or using a narrative structure in marketing content, completely changes the way the brain processes information.

You see, when reading something like a PowerPoint presentation with boring data-filled bullet points, certain parts in the brain get activated. Scientists call these Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.

This data-filled information then hits the language processing parts in our brain where we decode words into meaning.

And that’s it. Nothing else happens.

But when this data is conveyed using a narrative structure, something amazing occurs!

When you use a storytelling technique, not only are the language processing parts in our brains activated, but any other area in our brains that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are, too.

Example: If someone tells us that using 20% less sugar while baking a cake doesn’t affect how sweet the cake is and makes it healthier, our sensory cortex lights up along with the parts of the brain that process language.

If it’s about motion, our motor cortex gets active. If it’s an emotion-driven story, our limbic system turns on, and so on and so forth.

The more pieces of the brain that are “lit up” and processing information, the easier we’re going to remember details.

This is the exact reason I was able to memorize complex formulas to the tune of a song during my school years. The part of my brain that processes musical and aural imaginary was engaged at the same time as the language processing part of my brain was at work.

Fun fact: This is the same  process that occurs when you  get a snippet of a song stuck in your head.

Clearly, data helps build credibility and prove a point, while storytelling helps the reader remember what was important about the data.

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for…how to combine data and storytelling to successfully create persuasive and memorable content!

Strategy #1 – Find a Compelling Narrative through Statistics

There is nothing worse than turning on the TV and seeing that Sarah Mclachlan ASPCA commercial.

Personally, I grab the remote, plug my ears, close my eyes, and try to change the channel–heaven forbid I have to watch even a few seconds of it.

Why? Because it’s sad, depressing, and miserable to watch–but it does its job.

I hate this commercial with a passion…not because I hate animals, but I because I love animals so much that the stats and narrative of this commercial work together to rip my heart into pieces every time I watch it.

Talk about telling a story with data to back it up that makes a person want to jump into action and help solve a problem!

That being said,using data and storytelling together doesn’t have to be depressing.

Let’s say you own a weight loss clinic.

You could easily use data to prove that obesity leads to increased risk for heart or stroke, in tandem with a success story from your patient who lost weight.

The point of the story: John Doe decreased his risk of a heart attack by 80% and increased his life expectancy by 20 years all because he lost 70 pounds, and you can do it too!

Simply tell a story of John’s grim past, transition into how he lost the weight with your methods, and you suddenly have a compelling story and data-driven content piece.

Now, that’s much more happy and uplifting!

Strategy #2 – Pull Stats and Facts That Are Relevant and Digestible for Your Audience


It’s very easy to do a Google search and find stats on just about any topic.

What’s not always easy is deciding what stats are appropriate for your audiences.

This is why you need to strategize your data-driven content, much in the same way you strategize writing a story for someone.

Think about this…you’d never read a Stephen King novel to a kindergartner. That type of material is too scary,adult-themed, and quite frankly, most of it would go right over a little one’s head.

Not to mention, your child’s newfound fear of sleeping alone will wreak havoc on your nights of peaceful sleep. No bueno.

Clearly a fairy tale story, like The Princess and the Pea, is much more appropriate.

The same rule goes for stats.

If you’re writing a content piece, targeted at stay-at-home moms or dads about why reusable grocery bags are important to protect the environment, you’re going to want to use stats to prove your point.

But using stats about how phthalates and plasticizers in plastic bags hurt the environment probably isn’t going to make much sense to your average joe audience.

And when cited data is confusing or irrelevant, your audience tends to tune it  out or forget it.

Instead, I’d pull stats that say something like “in 40 years 38% of the world is going to be covered in trash due to plastic bags that don’t decompose.”

Now this gets parents thinking about the future…their children…and what kind of world their offspring will be left with in the future.

Note how the stat is relevant and easily digestible, and connects to the audience.

Then, it’s easy to construct a narrative around what the future of the world will look like, and what problems our kids will face down the road, due to the use of plastic bags.

A content piece that illustrates the idea that our future generations will suffer due to our laziness when it comes to using recyclable bags– that’s something that would persuade me to pick up a few reusable grocery bags the next time I’m at the store.

Strategy #3 – Create Content Based on an Original Standpoint with the Data You’re Using

 The beautiful thing about data is that it can be used to tell a story about many different things.

Let’s say that you were handed a piece of data that said that 70% of senior dogs are never adopted from shelters.

At first glance, that’s a very sad statistic. But there’s another side to that story.

If 70% of senior dogs aren’t adopted, it at least means that 30% do find loving homes.

Clearly, the issue at hand is making a point that it’s a problem that so many old dogs never get adopted. And trust me, that’s a very important thing to talk about.

But it’s been done over and over again.

So, why not create an original standpoint and tell the narrative using the 30% statistic that talks about the senior dogs that do find a home.

This content could be filled with positive and uplifting stories of why senior dogs make the best companions…they have lower energy, they are already trained, they are great for cuddling, etc.

Instead of using data to tell a sad story, you’re using it to tell a happy, uplifting story that connects people to the concept that senior dogs make incredible pets.

With a positive light on how amazing senior dogs are, there’s a possibility more people would consider rescuing one.

That’s what I call persuasive and successful marketing content!

Using this method, you can also create content that…

  • Challenges biases based on stats (example: Global warming, is it really happening or are we just going through a natural heating and cooling cycle?)
  • Magnifies problems people are paying attention to, using statistics.
  • Positions yourself as an expert based on your own data collection.

It’s really that easy!


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