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10 min read

Data-driven storytelling that actually resonates

Membership content | Metrics & OKRs | storytelling

This article was taken from a presentation for the Product Marketing Summit, San Francisco 2019 when Eugenia was the Product Marketing Manager, Monetization at Trello. She is now the Product Marketing Manager, Monetization - Video at Instagram. Catch up on all presentations with our OnDemand feature.

Data might sound like a dull topic, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be! Especially when that data tells a compelling story. We’re not just talking about stats and graphs on a screen now, we’re talking about key metrics that can establish a clear trajectory for success.

The aim of this article is to show you how that can be done, but first, a little breakdown of our agenda:

  • About me
  • Specific, personalized, actionable
  • Let’s talk about messaging
  • Data within your internal teams
  • Data and customers

About me

I'm a Product Marketing Manager at Trello, supporting B2B products. My main aim is to focus on how businesses can use Trello to achieve results. Before that, I was a PMM for various major corporations.

Very early on, I was particularly interested in the data. Right from the get-go, I really saw the data as the most compelling argument for why you should run certain campaigns.

This really translated to my role at Tumblr where I actually worked on the ad operation side. This was particularly focused on the metrics. The truth is, I’m a nerd. 🤓 I love data and metrics, and hopefully in this article, I can make you as passionate about the subject as I am!

Specific, personalized, actionable

First things first, I want you to get your head around this acronym: SPA. You want to make sure that your data is specific, personalized, and actionable. This is how you transform your data from some figures on a screen to something that’s actually meaningful, driving data driven storytelling that resonates.

But what does it mean? Let’s break it down here. 👇

Make it specific

This means that you really can't be too broad. You have to make sure that the data and the research you do is relevant to your audience. For example, when it came time to prepare for this article, I didn’t focus on marketing managers, I focused specifically on product marketers.

Did you know that there are 7.7 million product marketing managers out there? I certainly didn’t.

An upclose image of metrics and stats on a computer screen.

Make it personalized

Not everyone has the same pain points and concerns when it comes to the product. Someone in the C-suite might be more concerned with broader organizational concerns, e.g, overall revenue stream, whereas someone in customer success might be looking more at CRM-type metrics, like conversion rate/churn rate.

Remember that data is a golden opportunity to persuade and influence people, but if you’re presenting the wrong metrics, you might as well have nothing at all. You have to know what to do with the data you have.

Make it actionable

The most important thing of all: is your data actionable?

When they look at this stat, do people get excited? Do they see a path for the future in that data? Do they want to learn more when they see that data? Data and metrics aren’t just about where we are with our business now. Do they point the way to the future? What mistakes and oversights do they tell us that we should be avoiding?  

What if I told you that the average American consumes 34 gigabytes of data daily? What would you do with that information in terms of your marketing strategy? How would you position the distribution channel?  

The key purpose of this acronym is that it can power all functions of your PMM role. I've used these metrics to really inform our key messaging and positioning when it comes to all of our products. We need to use it when working closely with the product team and other internal teams to have a strong product development strategy.

Let’s talk about messaging

This is a part that people don’t pay attention to enough. As product marketers, it's our job to be the advocate for the customer, both internally for the company and making sure that the customer is finding your message. The way that you can accomplish this is to focus on three different areas in terms of research and data.

Sometimes with data and data driven storytelling, it can be pretty easy to get overwhelmed. It can be really difficult to even know where to start. So, let’s filter out all the noise.

How does the product succeed?

Use that framework to filter out the sources that you're getting. Look at your NPS score, for example, what story does that tell you about whether or not your product is succeeding?

To get more specific about this, look at your customer reviews to find out what really makes your customers tick. Here, you’re getting more into qualitative data over quantitative data.

Both are of equal importance, but if you want to put your finger on the story that your data is telling, qualitative is going to allow you to highlight specific concerns.

But that information isn’t doing anything unless you share that information. When I say share, I don’t just mean share it with your product team, make it a central part of your product messaging. Make it an integral part of your story.

An image of a book with fairylights bright in the centre of the book.

Keep your friends close, but keep your competitors closer

I'm obsessed with competitive intelligence. This is a product marketing muscle that isn't normally flexed enough. This doesn’t necessarily mean imitating your competitor, although there’s nothing to say you can’t learn from what your competitors are doing and integrate it into your own playbook.  

What’s more important though is learning from how your competitors are going wrong. This is how you’ll really differentiate yourself. By knowing what your competitors are doing, you can find an opening in the market to see if you can really make yourself even more unique.

Don’t ignore market intelligence

Things happen so quickly that you don't want to be caught flat-footed. If you stay on top of your data and research, you can almost anticipate and work with a product team so that you know exactly what to do when things are changing.

One of the things that many people struggle with is having that access to data from internal data teams. Luckily, there are a bunch of organizations that do a lot of free research to help get a really good snapshot of what's happening in your industry for your customers.

That really helps inform how you can position your product and market.

Data within your internal teams

We’re going to look now at how your data can really be a key part of your ongoing strategy. It’s something that you can use to empower your teams to have the right knowledge in crucial situations. Here, we’ll dig into the different components of this. 👇

Keep your data fresh

Every month I set myself a Google calendar invite for an hour. I set up the Google Alerts of things that I want to keep track of. That time is completely reserved for research and key data points.

It really defeats the whole point of metrics if you’re not keeping track of it. The whole point of it is to stay up to date on what’s working and not. If you don’t do this, you can’t plan for the future.

Make it accessible to everyone

We want to get everyone aligned with your metrics. It’s hard to keep your teams motivated if nobody can see the broader goals. This is why Google Docs can be such a brilliant tool. It opens up an opportunity not only for everyone to have access to the key metrics that matter, but also for everyone to contribute to your ongoing progress.

We’re only human, and there’ll always be oversights. But if more people are involved in the tracking process, you have less of a chance of overlooking key details.

What makes your product special and unique?

Think about four to five key trends that you want to own and create. Define what these things are, but also make sure that you're staying on top of them to make sure that things change.

With product, in particular, knowing the data and knowing the market intelligence can help leverage your position within the company, especially when you want to get a seat at the table with the product team.

It's your job to let the product team know what's happening. What are the external factors that you need to think about when creating a roadmap?

Lots of green and pink open umbrellas.

Don’t get overwhelmed with data

Take control of the data and identify what really matters. That's how you’re going to be able to tell a good story with a product.

If you commit to keeping your research updated and know specifically what data you want to present in your pitch, that’s how you’re really going to prove yourself an asset. That's how you are going to be a vital piece of your company’s narrative.

My goal is always to make the product manager feel like they can't make a decision in the room without me.

You have a unique opportunity to really be an advocate for your customers. That’s the real advantage of keeping track of the data. It’s not just about showing how smart you are, it allows you to stay on top of customer needs and desires.

Leverage customer data to strategize and build a roadmap

Data on customer satisfaction is not just a nice-to-have, it should be an essential part of your strategy going forward. Did you introduce a certain feature that’s correlated with a sudden down-turn in your conversion rate? Has your churn rate suddenly sky-rocketed? Why?

There won’t always be a sure correlation between this quantitative information and the products/ features that you’re rolling out. That’s when it’s time to really look at the qualitative data and determine whether the customer pain points are really tied in with something you’re doing wrong.

After this, you can really get a clear sight of what needs to change in the future. You’re building something that looks like a narrative. Something that not only gives a clear sense of where we are in the present but also gives a clear sense of where we should be headed in the future.

An image of a piece of sky, we are looking up at it through a spiralled tube.

Get aligned

What's really important to remember is you have to be able to defend whatever initiative or process that you’re implementing. Data and metrics provide essential documentation for this. To not allow your team to have access to the metrics that are driving us is to leave them severely disarmed when dealing with certain objections.  

This is particularly important for your sales team who are going to need to know how to handle objections during key pitches.

Own the narrative

I think we can all agree that the PMM role looks across different companies, but one thing is for certain, we can shape and own the external product narrative.

When it comes to working with the product team, it's super important that anything they're building into their roadmap fits into that external narrative.

If it doesn't fit, then you have the market knowledge and insights to really pivot in the right direction. That’s really the utility of data. You’re not just searching blindly in the dark. The data can really shine a light in the right direction.

An silhouette of a man on a mountain at night, with a bright flash covering his face.

Data and customers

This next section will really hone in on how your data can be a vital tool not just for your internal team, but in how you communicate information to your customers. Arm yourself with the metrics that matter. Let’s break it down 🔨

Use your data to communicate

Your data is going to provide a key insight into what your customers really care about, and as such, it’s absolutely essential that your sales team are familiar with the key data and can really use them to address customer pain points.  

It's about enabling them to make a pitch that really resonates with customers. Data can empower the whole team!

Be ultra-specific with data

Is it possible to have too much data? When communicating with customers, it might be. The truth is, no potential or existing customer wants to be staring at 20 slides worth of a sales pitch.

Hone in on what the primary concerns of customers are going to be and use that to refine your pitch. Make it concise and impactful.

The best stories are those that have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Don’t ever lose sight of that.

An image of a woman looking frustrated at her laptop.

To wrap up: data is really hard

There’s no getting around it, it’s always going to be hard.  But always aim to make it an integral part of the product narrative. That's really your north star as a PMM. You should make that pledge to really commit to a real and ongoing data collection practice.

It's really important to stay on top of what's happening in your market and competitors and what customers are saying about your product.

With that foundation of data, you're able to leverage it both internally with your product team and other internal teams, and externally to make sure that your sales pitches are as efficient as possible.

Want to learn more?

Taught by Elliott Rayner, Storytelling expert, and Chief Marketing Officer at ARION, our Storytelling Certified: Masters course has been designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to understand the science behind telling a story that sells.

By the end of this course, you'll be able to confidently:

📚 Construct an actionable storytelling framework

📚 Structure your product story like a pro

📚 Connect better with your customers through an authentic product story

📚 Communicate to your audience with confidence and passion

📚 Use your purpose to ensure your story remains consistent

📚 Have an impactful change on your product’s story and success

So, what are you waiting for? Enroll today 👇

Storytelling Certified | Masters
Understand the science behind telling a story that sells. Master the art of story-selling.

Written by:

Eugenia Alfonzo

Eugenia Alfonzo

Eugenia is the Product Marketing Manager, Monetization - Video at Instagram

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Data-driven storytelling that actually resonates