Geoff Wolf, EVP Client Strategy

A tornado of data can be tamed to inform your storytelling and drive more sales for your brand. Follow the customer’s road, pull back the black curtain and leverage the magic of data-informed storytelling.

This kind of storytelling requires the storyline AND the details to be authentic and relevant to your audience. But this can be challenging, because sending the same content to all of your customers is no longer relevant. Instead, we must segment and target groups of customers to successfully compete in today’s world. This means different stories must be told to different segments. So, here are two steps for using data resources to attain clarity of those segments and tell a story that each will respond to:

#1 Bring all of your data into a single repository.

A single repository is essentially a data environment where queries can happen and tables of “like” data are built. Once the data from various shopping platforms and some general demographic information is brought together and organized, it can be tied to a single record. Actionable elements about the targeted segment, a purchase path or customer journey can now be mapped and understood.

Marketers are targeting segments such as books read, movies watched, products purchased and web browsing patterns, to name a few. The only way to get a clear view of your customer’s shopping journey is to have all the behavioral customer data tied to a single record identifier. This can happen in real time or on an occasional basis. Either way, anything less will be incomplete and increase the risk of misdirecting the storytellers.

As for the time, hassle and investment necessary to bring all of your data into a single repository, each is much less than it used to be. Make sure your assumptions are not 20 (or even 10!) years old. Having a single data warehouse is VERY doable now, and no doubt your competition is doing this as well.

#2 Build a customer journey to leverage when crafting a story that resonates with buyer behavior.

We don’t need the Wizard of Oz (aka someone from the creative team) to construct a visible customer journey these days, as our data sources can do this for us. Here’s an example:

Let’s say the people in a targeted group receive a direct mail piece, and then immediately search the web to learn more about their shopping need. We notice they use a specific device to browse the web. They click on a handful of search terms. We also know from other data sources that they are female, have small children, and shop at home after dinner.

The most important element of the purchase journey turns out to be the device they tend to purchase with, let’s say a tablet. We also know they like to buy things in the evening. The device and time of day make them feel most comfortable when shopping.

When this customer journey is used to inform the design team, they are then able to create content that works more successfully. In this example, they create a visual of a woman relaxing on her couch in the evening, tablet in hand, catalogs on the coffee table and her kids playing on the floor. The product she’s interested in is featured in the headline copy and even in the photo itself. Altogether, this is very powerful to those who tend to shop this way… and a great example of data informing storytelling.

We all spend time testing our catalog covers to get customers to open them, subject lines to increase email open rates, headlines to increase paid search clicks and landing pages for better conversion, to name a few common customer journey elements. Analysts are getting really good at making sense of data – and loads of it – to precisely target customers.

Here is where the Wizard comes in: Behind the black curtain, armed with all the data to tell the story, the Wizard crafts an emotive message that makes the customer feel something, and ultimately, moves them to purchase. It’s important to make sure the Wizard has all the information possible, because the more they can take in, the better they’ll be at serving up sales.

Now, let’s return to reality of a single repository of data. Please do not assume that this is mission impossible. The basic data necessary to build the customer journey and inform the storytelling Wizard is already happening for all brands. Exporting that data into a resource that can support a strong message does not need a Wizard to make it happen. Informing your storytelling is very doable, and it’s what makes the difference between mediocre growth and double-digit sales.

So wake up, Dorothy! Make sure you are taking advantage of how far technology has come. Inform the storytelling Wizards so that they can craft powerful stories to drive sales growth. Consumers, with the help of the internet and social media, have evolved to be extremely perceptive and intuitive. Your brand can take advantage of this reality and move the needle.

Interested in talking about how to tame your data to inform storytelling and drive more sales for your brand? Give me a call or shoot me a note at 913-236-8988 or

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