Data-driven Storytelling

Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist, is a man after my own heart—a data geek who loves storytelling. ran an interesting profile of him by Carmine Gallo a couple of weeks ago that’s worth fighting through the ridiculous variety of intrusive ads to read, in which he defines his unique role at the search giant: “My job is to change the way Googlers tell stories. Storytelling is a powerful way to get our clients to think differently.”

Kaushik calls his storytelling framework CARE-DO-IMPACT which focuses on presenting data in a compelling, relevant, and actionable manner, using a critical “out-of-sight”—a big, transformative idea that will radically alter a customer’s perspective—and explaining how it can impact their future success.

“In the first two to three minutes I want people to lean in, literally to lean forward in their chairs,” says Kaushik.

For example, when Kaushik speaks to major retailers, he explains that in 2011, 5% of in-store purchases were influenced by digital (search, videos, or interacting with brands on digital platforms). In 2016, a full 70% of in-store purchases are influenced by what consumers have found on digital platforms and mobile devices. “That is mind-blowing,” says Kaushik. “It’s a huge “out-of-sight” for both large retailers and mom-and-pop stores because, if people shop online and transact in the store, it fundamentally changes the way you should run your business.”

Kaushik’s “out-of-sight” storytelling angle may seem like semantics and buzzwords, but it’s supported by a clearly defined process which measures results at each step, ensuring its overall effectiveness.

Kaushik suggests that a full 50% of the presentation be spent on helping the client or customer understand what they should do with the information. This step requires account leads to understand the clients’ business in a remarkably deep way.

“Our approach is to show you, This is how Google fits in to your business strategy. But for that to happen, we need to know every nuance of your business.”

Over the years, I’ve worked with salespeople across a variety of industries and the best ones were always those who combined deep knowledge of our markets and products or services (backed by actual data) with an innate ability to identify their client’s or (prospect’s) real needs. They didn’t rely on fancy media kits or elaborate PowerPoint decks, nor discounts or hefty expense accounts—all valid tactical tools to be used, or not, as each situation calls for—and personal relationships were just the icing on the cake they got to have and eat, too because they instinctively grasped Kaushik’s underlying concept: understand a client’s needs and challenges better than they do themselves, and then help them understand how to achieve their goals.

Call it data-driven storytelling, consultative selling, or whatever buzzwords are in vogue next week, but if you’re still doing transactional selling from a laundry list of products, you’re slowly going out of business.

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