You are 72% more likely to keep reading a blog post when the author uses a data point in the first sentence. That’s because sharing numbers makes it sound like you looked at studies related to your topic. And using those statistics in marketing content makes the information you share seem reliable so people find value in it.
But more often than not, marketing writers do a quick web search to find a statistic. Their quick web search takes them to a blog post where the author uses a statistic but doesn’t say where the stat came from. It seems legit enough, so they grab the stat to use in their blog post.
Our dear marketers have the best of intentions. But these wearers of many hats are usually short on time.
Who knows, they may just pull a number out of thin air and hope nobody looks into it.
(seriously, don’t cite the 72% stat I just gave you)
Always Check the Numbers
As someone who’s been proofreading and editing marketing things other people write for almost 15 years, I can tell you that I always double check the statistics authors use.
That’s because the statistics aren’t adding any real value to the piece unless the numbers are reliable and include context around them.
How to Use Statistics in Marketing Content
I’m not knocking using statistics in marketing content at all. I think it’s super important to research what you’re writing about so you can focus on collective knowledge rather than just your own thoughts. And using numbers does catch the attention of your audience and give you an authoritative voice.
But, there’s a right way to do it. And the wrong way.
The Right Way to Use Statistics in Marketing Content
Let’s get you on the right track so you can use statistics in your marketing content and sound like a boss.
The best way to use statistics is to provide context around the numbers. Then, the reader can understand what the numbers mean to them and truly find value in your content.
Here’s an example of a GOOD use of a stat
“According to a 2022 survey conducted by Content Marketing Institute, 47% of content marketers said they will hire or contract with content producers (writers, designers, photographers, videographers) in 2023.”
Original source that tells you how they came up with the stat
The source we cited here is linked to the original. And the original source includes all the information we need to know to accurately interpret the statistics within the full study. We know it was a 2022 survey from CMI, and the author even provided the survey’s definition of content producers.
After clicking on the link, we find out that On24 sponsored the survey as part of the B2B Content Marketing Report. And the source includes demographic and methodological information on the last slide of the PDF.
Add Context for your Statistics
There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for providing context about stats to your readers unless your company or organization has defined those rules.
Your company may have well-defined writing style guidelines you can refer to, and I encourage you to follow them. But if your company doesn’t have that worked out already, then you can follow these simple guidelines and share with your teammates. (consistency is awesome!)
Elements that add context to statistics
- A link to the original source, and check that the link is working
- Tip: Use a website plugin to check for broken links if you have a lot of content with linked statistics and resources.
- A date to indicate the age of the statistic
- The name of the source
Who is Your Audience?
You know your audience better than we do. That should guide what information to include with your statistics. Give your audience the information they need to understand why that statistic is important to them.
Things to consider when determining if a source is reliable
On the surface, a statistic may seem reliable when it actually isn’t. The main questions to ask yourself about the statistic are:
- What organization collected the information? Look for studies that were conducted by impartial organizations like universities, industry associations like the CMO Council, and research consulting companies like McKinsey and Forrester.
- When did they collect it? The study may be old. This is an especially important factor to consider when using statistics related to technology and economics.
- How did they collect it? Look for what methodology was used to collect the data. If it was a survey, look for the sample size or geographic area from which the data was collected. These factors can have a big impact on the reliability of the data points and how the data relates to your message.
- And why did they collect it? The source may be a study funded by a special interest group that structured the study or presented the results in a misleading way.
|Tip for our Salesforce ecosystem readers
There’s a searchable Salesforce Stat Library to make it easier to find statistics from Salesforce annual reports. It includes specific stats about industry trends for people working in sales, marketing, service, IT, manufacturing, human resources, financial services, and public and nonprofit sectors.
The Wrong Way to Use Stats in Marketing
For illustrative purposes, we’ll review the WRONG way to use data points in marketing content.
Here’s a bad example:
“You are 35% more likely to close a deal if you follow up on a lead within 48 hours.”
So what’s wrong with that statement?
The author did not cite their source for the 35% statistic. And because of that, the reader has no idea what that statistic is based on. The study may have been completed in an industry that isn’t relevant to the reader. Or maybe the study is 15 years old, and we all know that sales processes have changed in that time.
Here’s another example:
“When text in a call to action button is changed from second-person viewpoint to first-person viewpoint, clicks improve by 90%. (www.hypothetical-source-link.com)”
The example doesn’t say where that number came from, but it includes a link to the source (www.hypothetical-source-link.com). So, you click it and find that the www.hypothetical-source-link.com article includes the original source for the 90% stat. But of course, there’s no link to click.
So, you turn to Google. A search of the stat and the original source takes us to a 2013 Unbounce blog post. The blog post author wrote the post in reference to an A/B testing case study from a consulting client, but it doesn’t provide demographic info or sample details.
The statistic becomes less powerful and when you add context to it:
“According to a 2013 Unbounce client case study, changing text in a call to action button from second-person viewpoint to first-person viewpoint improves clicks by 90%.”
The original example sounds like a generalizable statement. But in reality, the number came from a single test that happened a decade ago. That’s why although the source provided an accurate number in their post, using the statistic in this case isn’t adding value for the reader.
(Hi Unbounce – we mean no disrespect and hope our link boosts your SEO😊)
What Do You Do When You Can’t Find Reliable or Original Sources
Nobody is forcing you to use that stat. And if they are, then send them a link to this blog post so you can educate them.
The best way to approach the use of stats in your marketing is to lean into information you CAN rely on. And if you don’t have that information, figure out what processes you can put in place to gather reliable information you can use down the road.
You could build a process to survey your clients before and after engaging with your company, and optimize your reporting dashboards to track the results of your efforts over time. Or, maybe your company could benefit from using a subscription service like Statista to get access to original sources.
Do you have cool stats about your audience that you can share?
Maybe it’s time to start collecting data about your audience and community. Lucky for you, there are lots of tools you can use to collect data about your audience.
Read these blog posts about a few of our favorites:
- Net Promoter Score Surveys in Account Engagement (Pardot)
- Salesforce Surveys
- Salesforce Marketing Reporting Tools
- Account Engagement Reporting Tools
- Google Analytics 4 Guide for Marketers on Salesforce
Stats Are Better When You Add Context
Hopefully this post shines a light on using statistics in marketing content. Despite the best efforts of marketers everywhere, it’s one of those things that I see people get wrong more often than not.
But, you can get it right every time when you provide context to your statistics. Give the reader details like where the information is coming from, how and why it was collected, and what the date was when it was originally gathered or published. Then they can fully understand what the numbers mean to them.
What are your thoughts on using statistics in marketing content? Any fun horror stories to share? Tell us about it in the comments section.