Tell the story of your data: Transform insights into a compelling story

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Posted Jul 13, 2022
Trevor Brown

Richard Kearny, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, in his book, On Stories, said, “Telling stories is as basic to human beings as eating. More so, in fact, for while food makes us live, stories are what make our lives worth living.” 

From the beginning, humans have been recording and sharing stories. To this day, stories in various forms are regularly shared and consumed by people worldwide. A good tale can inspire us to take action more than any statistical report. Today, we’re going to dive into consumer insights storytelling and why you should be using it to make your market research more impactful.

Something is missing in your market research reports

Let’s say you’re a parent trying to teach your child to always look both ways before crossing streets. If you approach these teaching moments by listing off a series of data points and statistics showing how much safer you are by taking this precaution, they probably won’t even hear you. And it’s not just kids, all humans are quite adept at tuning out information that doesn’t connect to them or attract their attention.

This tendency is why so few research  reports are memorable. They’re soon forgotten because the author somehow failed to connect with the audience. Most reports tend to drop vast amounts of data onto the audience with little organization—no flow to the ideas and no practical connections. Even if the report shares insights, you’re still left with little more than a collection of facts—just a book of trivia about your target market. 

It’s important to remember that the true goal of market research is to illuminate the meaning behind these learnings, and leverage them to promote more accurate business decisions. It’s time to go beyond simply presenting the research results—we need to become storytellers for our data. We need to explain what the numbers tell us about real people and their experiences.

Your research tells a story

Let’s talk about storytelling. Yes, market research is about data collection—but it’s also about storytelling. Every piece of data tells a story if you’re willing to look hard enough. And often, that story can organize the complex situations your data represents and bring humanity to your audiences—taking numbers out of the theoretical world and bringing them into the human world. 

Science also supports the power of stories in communication. The patterns that occur in a story cause specific responses in the brain. There’s even evidence that specific stories can release particular chemicals within the brain that impact our emotional state. The response to stories can be both psychological and physiological. These responses really show how strong the connection between a storyteller and a listener is.  

Market research is all about human feelings, experiences, and behaviors—these are the building blocks of great stories! 

So let’s tell a story

To do market research storytelling, you need to first understand what your story’s about—the primary focus. It should be the foundation of your study that the entire story is built around. In the end, the primary focus of a well-written story is what your audience will remember. 

Your story should follow a chain of events with a beginning, middle, and end. This traditional, chronological storytelling pattern is really familiar—your audience will recognize what you’re doing. Next we just need drama and conflict. In the case of market research, which ideas, criteria, or alternatives are in conflict with each other? How does this conflict resolve? That’s the lesson. Tie that back to the primary focus, and you’ve got yourself a classic story. Sound familiar? We keep coming back to it for one simple reason—it works. 

5 practical tips for building your insights story

We’ve just gone through a lot of theory. Now that we know how storytelling works and why matters. Here are our five practical tips for building your insights story:

1) Select a strong primary focus

It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking journalism—you just need a meaningful primary focus. It’s all about making an impact on the audience instead of just sharing a thought. If your story is too subtle or too complex, you may quickly lose them. In the same vein, if your conclusions seem too far from your original premise, your story won’t work. Find the major truth and inspire your audience by telling the true story of your data. 

2) Don’t get sidetracked

Market research can be quite complex. As you explore your data, you may find that you have uncovered several strong stories. We recommend you just focus on one. Getting sidetracked poses one of the more significant risks when telling your story. It makes it incredibly difficult for your audience to follow your stories and blunts the thrust of your account. Instead, focus on the single story you want to tell and make the most of it. 

3) Know your audience

A story will always be stronger if it truly hits home. Fortunately, you know what your stakeholders are looking for. This puts you in a unique position to design your story to specifically touch on the questions and concerns that made them invest in this research. By ensuring that your story stays tied to what is already on their minds, you’ll create an even stronger bond with them, making your conclusions that much more powerful. 

4) Aim for an action

Ideally, your story is crafted to inspire some kind of action. As market researchers, we don’t want people to read our reports and enjoy the story but just move on. The goal is to inspire change. That means that whatever action the data recommends should be driving the story. In other words, it should be clear after your audience has heard the story what their next steps should be. 

5) Start thinking about emotions

A good story is an emotional story. When looking at your research, identify where the emotional points are. Where is the drama or the conflict in this data? The end goal of an insights story is to forge a connection to the numbers. To do that, you as the researcher need to intimately understand your data and craft your story around those points of drama or conflict. 

Ready to start?

In the end, your insights story starts with understanding your data. You can’t craft your story unless you also understand what the data tells you. At aytm, we offer a robust platform that helps you design all kinds of research tests, reach out to any audience, and analyze the results. We even have built-in tools that help you tell powerful stories that bring the voice of the consumer to the decision making table. If that sounds like something you’d be interested, head over and  sign up with aytm today! Happy storytelling!

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