The stats story
By Randy Mitchell
“Here’s a crazy idea…why don’t we make the stats into the story?”
That was how the whole movement started. Some strategic visionary decided that B2B marketing statistics were compelling enough to be the focus of entire campaigns.
At the time, this thinking must have seemed like heresy. B2B marketers firmly believed that the findings were there to support the story, not replace it. Successful B2B campaigns focused on weighty matters such as prospect pain points, industry regulations, sustainability, customer feedback and product differentiation.
Using marketing statistics as the entire basis for communications was simply not a viable strategy. Until it worked. In fact, the approach kicked stats.
The “stats story” formula was basic but arresting. Find hot, new industry data points, usually via search. Then, shape the messaging to imply, “get these facts or get left behind.”
See if any of these stats story statements sounds familiar:
“85% of brands must improve this”
“5 findings that will disrupt your market this year”
“30% more website traffic with this hack”
“7 social numbers that will astound you”
Those are all B2B stats stories. In essence, the marketing statistics became the strategy and the creative.
Seemingly overnight, the stats story approach was everywhere. Hubspot preached it, clients demanded it and agencies scrambled to grab the hot new finding first and leverage it. And it worked simply because of the fear factor: Product managers, C-Suite leaders and business owners were terrified to miss out on the latest transformative marketing data.
B2B marketers had to adjust rapidly to this new reality. Suddenly, a compelling statistic became the basis for blog articles, social posts and entire lead generation campaigns. Headlines without numbers were considered “fluff.” Great conceptual ideas were discarded in favor of “10 facts every plant manager needs to know.”
But the new approach also had major pitfalls.
B2B competitors would inadvertently use the same marketing statistic in an attempt to differentiate themselves.
Some B2C brands latched onto the wave but couldn’t translate the stat story approach effectively for a retail consumer mindset.
Worst of all, marketing statistics that had no relevance were pushed forward simply because the numbers looked good.
Over time, the stats story mentality has slowly started to recede. Make no mistake, it still drives response and shapes some strategies. But prospects simply became overloaded by the false promises and sense of impending doom. When every other email offered “5 can’t-miss findings” or “10 must-know revelations,” those stats stories turned into white noise.
In the end, a very curious thing has happened. For many B2B brands, marketing statistics have reverted to their natural role. They’re back to being vital support pillars that help validate the positioning, but they’re not the entire story.
This is welcome news for weary creatives. However, if you happen to be a researcher, strategist or statistician, it’s also a very good development.
The demise of the stats story means that people will start taking your meaningful statistics seriously again. They’re not propaganda to generate response. Instead, they’re the insightful foundation that great ideas are based on. And that type of stats story is always worth telling.