The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly Examples of Storytelling With Data and why Good Storytelling is Great Business

Storytelling conveys purpose and businesses with purpose are noticed and win the loyalty of consumers. So it’s not enough to have a product or service that solves a problem – your company needs to stand out.

The rate that businesses collect data today is phenomenal. You can now collect data on every aspect of your business and, in fact, your life.

Despite the surge of solutions, such as BI tools, dashboards, and spreadsheets over the recent decades, businesses still are unable to fully take advantage of the opportunities hidden in their data.

Dashboards and spreadsheets only tell you what is happening. But, they do not tell you why.

What’s the root cause of smart people using dumb graphs?  It’s actually simple. We aren’t naturally good at storytelling with data.

“In school, we learn a lot about language and math. On the language side, we learn how to put words together into sentences and into stories. With math, we learn to make sense of numbers.

But it’s rare that these two sides are paired: no one teaches us how to tell stories with numbers. Adding to the challenge, very few people feel naturally adept in this space.”

Source: Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, “Storytelling with data – a data visualization guide for business professionals”, Wiley, 2015

Exploratory vs. explanatory analysis

Many people tasked with creating presentations have forgotten, or never been taught to make the distinction between exploratory and explanatory analysis.

Exploratory analysis is what you do to understand the data and figure out what might be noteworthy or interesting to highlight to others.

When we do exploratory analysis, it’s like hunting for pearls in oysters.

We might have to open 100 oysters (test 100 different hypotheses or look at the data in 100 different ways) to find perhaps two pearls.

When we’re at the point of communicating our analysis to our audience, we really want to be in the explanatory space, meaning you have a specific thing you want to explain, a specific story you want to tell—probably about those two pearls.

Too often, people err and think it’s OK to show exploratory analysis (simply present the data, all 100 oysters) when they should be showing explanatory (taking the time to turn the data into information that can be consumed by an audience: the two pearls). It is an understandable mistake. After undertaking an entire analysis, it can be tempting to want to show your audience everything, as evidence of all of the work you did and the robustness of the analysis. Resist this urge. You are making your audience reopen all of the oysters!

Concentrate on the pearls, the information your audience needs to know.

Examples of exploratory data being used in an explanatory way

Importance of B2B Storytelling

In reality, successful B2B marketing strategies are not just about logic, technical processes, and facts. The world has come to realize that it’s about connecting with people on an emotional/psychological level.

According to research by Google in partnership with Motista and CEB, 50% of B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with your brand. It starts with your business’ goals, objectives, mission, and vision. If a B2B buyer sees that there’s a common ground, they identify with your brand, which creates a sense of trust.

Based on the same study, 71% of B2B buyers purchase when they see personal value in your business. Along with that, 68.8% of the B2B buyers surveyed are even willing to pay a higher price to do business with a brand they believe in.

But what does “personal value” mean in B2B marketing?

It’s the professional, social, and emotional benefits you experience in addition to the actual product.

Simply put, emotions elevate customer satisfaction and customer experience. Based on a study by The Good Relations Group, the honesty of the vendor plays a big part at 93%. Moreover, personal recommendations also drive purchase action at 91%.

Although these are not explicit emotions such as happiness or sadness, they are deeply rooted emotions that are powerful enough to influence decision making. At the end of the day, purchasing is a risk. You need to trust the seller that he/she is not taking advantage of you.

Further, positive emotions increase a customer’s loyalty, improving the chances of them becoming brand advocates. In an age where customer loyalty is everything, businesses should take every chance they get.

Data storytelling is about communicating your insights effectively, giving your data a voice.

Data Storytelling is not a new concept. Companies have been attempting it for many years now and have seen the success.

Here are some examples of how Spotify, Slack and Uber have all utilised the power of data storytelling to communicate with their customers.



In recent years, Spotify, a music app, has sent annual recap stories to their customers in the format of an email. These short stories pull interesting statistics for each user such as the number of minutes they’ve listened to music on their app. This is an engaging way of communicating the value of their service instead of simply sending them an invoice or simple thanks for using us.



Slack, a communications tool replacing the traditional and outdated train of emails, is utilising storytelling to create a different dialogue with customers each month at the time of invoicing.

In place of sending an email with the invoice top and centre, Slack sends a visual story communicating the key ways its customer has utilised their service. This high-impact dialogue is shifting the conversation with customers.



Like Spotify, Uber has used data storytelling to communicate annually with its customers.

In place of an annual recap email showing the total amount of money you have spent with Uber, they have shifted the conversation to show how much value the service has delivered to their riders. Showcasing personalised statistics of your experience with the app, you immediately can see how much impact they’ve made to your everyday life.

Source: blog – What is Data Storytelling?

Today, it’s difficult to find a successful brand that does not have a good story behind it. Stories provide meaning, create context and evoke a sense of purpose. Most humans are more receptive to stories than compared to facts or data as stories help us relate, empathise and remember. This is why more businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of storytelling.

Just as Storytelling is the success factor behind every Hollywood hit movie, it is often the one differentiator between super successful B2B Marketing Campaigns and ones that no-one remembers.  And just as everyone tends to respond better to visual imagery than text or dialogue only, a company’s ability to maximise the messaging effectiveness of their data using Storytelling will often determine whether they can convert the interest garnered from their marketing campaign, into new or repeat business.

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I’ve put together a Storytelling Marketing E-Book (pdf) to coincide with this post.

It’s free to anyone who downloads it before the end of January 2020. Just complete the form on the Free Resources page to access your free pdf file download.

Yours truly,
James (Jim) Spurway
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”

Do a Bezos – learn how to future proof your company by becoming customer-centric like Disney, Harley Davidson or Zappos.

Post summary:

  • The customer is firmly in the driving seat and with it comes to a required change in how you build and nurture relationships with potential and existing customers.
  • Companies that put the customer at the heart of their organization are experiencing an increase in customer lifetime value and a reduction in churn. By being customer-centric.
  • Becoming a truly customer-centric organization takes time, but you can start off all small. We share four best practices in becoming a customer-centric company.

A customer-centric way of doing business is a way that provides a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, enhance customer loyalty and improve business growth.

But, a customer-centric company is more than a company that offers good service.

Both Amazon and Zappos are prime examples of brands that are customer-centric and have spent years creating a culture around the customer and their needs. Their commitment to delivering customer value is genuine – In fact, Zappos is happy to fire employees if they do not fit within their customer-centric culture!

But, how important is being customer-centric?

The good news is that’s becoming very important!

Econsultancy recently asked what the most important characteristic is in order to establish a truly “digital-native” culture.

The answer to that question and leading the responses with 58% was to be customer-centric.

Yet, according to the CMO Councilonly 14% of marketers believe that customer-centricity is a hallmark of their companies.

Here’s the thing:

Executing a successful customer-centric strategy doesn’t happen overnight. You need to start somewhere. And in this case, it’s understanding the definition of what customer centricity is.

What does it mean to be customer-centric?

Customer centricity is not just about offering great customer service, it means offering a great experience from the awareness stage, through the purchasing process and finally through the post-purchase process. It’s a strategy that’s based on putting your customer first, and at the core of your business.

When you put your customer at the core of your business and combine it with Customer Relationship Management (CRM), you collect a wealth of data, which gives you a full 360 view of the customer. This can then be used to enhance the customer experience.

For example:

  • You can use customer data to understand buying behaviour, interests and engagement
  • You can identify opportunities to create products and services for your best customers
  • You can use customer lifetime value to segment customers based on top-spending customers

Not only does focusing on the customer make sound business sense, but research by Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that were not focused on the customer.

“Client-centricity is the most important factor in a successful business digitalization since client-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies not focused on the customer” – Deloitte, July 2017

The challenges of becoming a customer-centric organization

The power shift between brand and customer happened during the economic downturn. Customers became more selective in which brand they chose to spend their money with.

The winning brands were the ones who treated their customers with respect, offered great service, and built a relationship with them that still exists today.

During the recession, another game-changer took place – social media marketing and social selling exploded onto the scene and mobile became a major part of the customer journey. Customers can now compare products and services in real-time and across multiple devices, which has presented a huge challenge for many brands.

Research has found that companies are struggling with this change and are unable to become a customer-centric organization – with the biggest challenge not being able to share customer information across departments.

Most companies do not have all of the components in place to claim they are customer-centric, but the most important part to remember is this:

You need to start with your customers, not your products and focus on what your customers want to do.

By designing your company from the customer’s perspective, your organization will be focused on the customer’s needs.

Four Best Practices to becoming a Customer-Centric Company

By being customer-centric, you will want to anticipate customers’ needs and delight them with products and services they may not have thought of, but will immediately fall in love with (i.e. the Apple iPhone or iPad).

Thus, a customer-centric brand creates products, processes, policies and a culture that is designed to support customers with a great experience as they are working towards their goals.

The four best practices that stand out regarding customer-centricity are:

  1. Brands that are committed to customer-centricity are passionate, and truly believe the customer comes first. They believe that without the customer, they cannot succeed in business (which is true) and want to see the world through the customer’s eyes. Marketers inside customer-centric organizations understand what customers want and use customer data to capture customer insights and share this across the organization.
  2. Brands that are committed to customer centricity focus on what the customer wants and needs and develop products and services around that.
  3. Brands that are committed to customer centricity focus on building relationships designed to maximize the customer’s product and service experience.
  4. Brands that are committed to customer-centricity analyze, plan and implement a carefully formulated customer marketing strategy that focuses on creating and keeping profitable and loyal customers.

How to measure the success of a customer-centric company?

Not every organization will have the same customer metrics to measure customer-centricity. However, the three most important customer-centric metrics that should be carefully monitored are churn rate, Net Promoter Score and customer lifetime value (CLV).

  1. Churn rate

Acquiring new customers is becoming more difficult. Therefore, more companies are investing in keeping existing customers instead of trying to find new ones. Here’s why:

  • Acquiring new customers can cost up to 5x more than keeping existing customers
  • A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect on profits as cutting costs by 10%
  • On average, companies lose approx. 10% of its customer base each year (also known as customer churn)

Companies with a high retention rate grow faster.

The key to success is to understand why people leave, and why people remain customers.

To calculate the churn rate, measure the number of customers who left in the last 12 months divided by the average number of total customers (during the same period).

  1. Net Promoter Score

Are your customers happy? How do you measure customer happiness?

The answer is through NPS.

NPS or Net Promoter Score focuses on uncovering customer loyalty by asking only one, simple question:

Each time a customer responds to this question, the answer is then segmented based on predefined criteria:

  • Promoters (9-10): These people are in love with your product or service and are likely to refer you to potential buyers. The customers who rate you a 9 or 10 are repeat customers and will have a high customer lifetime value.
  • Passives (7-8): These people who rate you a 7 or 8 are content with being a customer of your business, but are the most likely to switch to a competitor should they find a new or better product.
  • Detractors (0-6): These people are not happy with your product or service and are likely to damage your brand reputation by sharing their negative experience with their friends, family and connections.

The more Promoters you have, the healthier your business. Simple, really?

And the fact that it’s simple to implement and measure makes the NPS a favourite with company boards and executive committees.

  1. Customer lifetime value (CLV)

For a customer-centric business, the most valuable “asset” is their customer base.

If you’re investing in long-term relationships, you can calculate the “health” of the relationship with customer lifetime value or CLV.

CLV measures the amount of revenue a customer contributes to your business for as long as they are a paying customer. It starts with their first purchase and ends when they stop doing business with you.

To calculate CLV, add up the total revenue you have earned and multiply that with the length of the business relationship. Then, deduct the initial cost of acquiring them.

For example, if a customer spends $1,000 annually, and the average “lifetime” of a customer is 10 years, then you multiply $1,000 by 10 years ($10,000). Now, subtract the cost of acquisition (in this case, we’ll estimate $1,000), and the CLV is $9,000.

Not bad, right?

Calculating CLV helps you understand why it makes sense to invest in keeping your customers.


The shift towards becoming a truly customer-centric organization is both complex and long but, do not be put off by this as even the smallest changes to policy and processes can have a significant benefit for both employee and your customer.

Being a customer-centric organization is the Holy Grail towards unlocking the true potential of customer value. Always put yourself in the shoes of the customer and minimize customer effort and maximize customer value.

Do you consider yourself a customer-centric organization?

If you want a second opinion I’ll give you 15 minutes of my time for free to conduct a quick Q&A session. I’ll follow that up with a one-page report including a Customer-Centricity Score (CCS).

Make a booking in my online calendar here.

If you’re looking to enhance your customer-centric capability, we have some exclusive offers for products that the likes of Amazon, and Zappos.

You are going to need to create more and better content that your customers want. The more value you offer them, the more they’ll feel like they have found a home. On the content marketing side, I use and recommend Semrush.

Once you have created some content, the easiest way to use that content is to have an App that curates and posts that material at different times, i.e. set it up once then let it run. I use and recommend Missinglettr.

Email Marketing will grow your business faster than any other marketing medium!  I use and recommend GetResponse.

If you’d like to be sent Monthly Marketing Trends and News Updates by email, complete the subscription form below and submit it, and you’ll be accepted into our Monthly Newsletter group. We’re giving away a FREE INFLUENCER MARKETING E-BOOK at the present time to everyone who joins our list.

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Yours truly,
James (Jim) Spurway
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”