Statistics in Your Content – Make Sure They Stick

This post was written by John White on Wed, 12 Jan 2011 16:18:19 +0000
Posted Under: content marketing,persuasion,social media

How are you using statistics in your content? Sparingly, I hope. Your readers can remember only so many numbers at a time. Make sure they stick.

Happy Pi Day (to the 36th digit)!Industry colleague Renato Beninatto was improvising the answer to a question posed to him at a live presentation when he uttered the most memorable factoid I’ve ever heard:

Keep in mind that 72.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

I’ve repeated this “statistic” dozens of times since then, and audiences always take 3-4 seconds to digest it.

But, I know that they remember it.

Making statistics memorable

Michele Linn at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) pointed me to a solid block of statistics on their site the other day. I liked the way in which CMI had summarized and swept these all together in one place, and I plucked this one from the tree:

Large companies are spending 18% of their marketing budget on content and small companies are spending almost 40%, according to a study by Junta42.

I like these statistics, and I want my customers and prospects to remember them. Memorable statistics are persuasive statistics. But what’s the best way to make statistics memorable?

If you’re going to use statistics, make sure they’re statistics that your reader can’t forget.

  • Make them absurd. If your content and your audience will put up with it, make your point with absurd statistics, as Beninatto did above. For that matter, make them sarcastic, if you can get away with it:

Mr. Thompson has unfailingly predicted eight of the last four economic recessions.

  • Make them authoritative. Face it – most “authoritative sources” are virtual fire hoses of unmemorable statistics. If you can find a sufficiently conspicuous source and cite a single important statistic, you have a chance of making it stick. You need to be sure that your source does not overshadow your stat here, though. For example:

Two years into Barack Obama’s effort to use quit smoking, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs affirmed that the President has not had a cigarette in nine months. Obama has struggled with the habit for three decades, smoking as many as eight cigarettes a day.

  • Make them arresting. Arresting statistics catch readers off guard and force them to wrap their head around something astounding. It may be hard to come up with something that arresting in your industry, so use context to help:

69% of B2B marketers are not convinced that they’re using social media effectively.

This means that, of the 10 people in the elevator on your way to the office this morning, seven of them were thinking, “Today I’ve got to figure out how to get more traction for my company on Twitter and Facebook.”

A proof point needs to stay sharp

Keep using statistics in your content as proof points. They boost your persuasiveness and show that you’ve done your homework.

  • In blog posts, use them in the title and opening paragraph.
  • In white papers and long-format pieces, put them in a “Main Messages” table in the summary and repeat them in the conclusion.
  • In tweets, place them near the beginning.
  • In case studies and customer success stories, use them in pull quotes and callouts.

Just make sure they’re memorable.

How else do you use statistics in your content marketing?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Mykl Roventine

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