Storytelling. That is a word used frequently in David Meerman Scott’s excellent book The New Rules of Marketing and PR. His view is that sales and marketing should be focused more on telling stories. Specifically problem-to-solution stories. The goal being two-fold: Firstly to convey your product or solutions value proposition and secondly to open an engagement with customers on their challenges, and paint the picture of a better tomorrow.
Stories are powerful. Many argue we are wired to be drawn to stories. And yet sales and marketing too often fail at the task. They still apply, as Meerman Scott puts it, the ‘old rules of sales and marketing’. That is discussions centred on products and features.
In this blog post I wanted to share with you a very powerful story. A story which weaves data, both 2D and 3D LiDAR, together to solve a problem. Note, this story was constructed by a member of the WhyofThere staff.
Story Preparation ..
Before we dive in; one observation. When it comes to storytelling, too often we see marketing turning to product teams, or journalists hired as content writers. In our view this is a fundamental mistake. A prerequisite for great story-writing is a core understanding of, in this case, the value of location-based data. By value we mean how that data can provide insight or business outcomes. Ask yourself this question: would a soccer team hire, as a player or member of the coaching staff, somebody who does not understand soccer? Talented writers, who have a geospatial background, are hard people to find, but worth their weight in gold. Note, these are the people we hire at WhyofThere.
No great story comes out of thin air: They start with an idea; followed by much careful research. At the end of this post we will share an image of the data story.
First, the journey taken to get there.
Let’s step back. As we have mentioned, for sales and marketing, stories are centred on problems-to-solutions. That solution is the product or service a company is selling. For this story the what or solution was:
An easy to use web-based dashboard which allows users to visualize multidimensional data: 2D, 3D and real-time.
In terms of the how, or uniqueness of the solution. At that time:
This was the only open source configurable dashboard on the market which could consume and display multi-dimensional location-based data in a single interface.
But critical to storytelling is the why or purpose. The what and how are useful, but its the why which connects you to your audience. In this case the why was centred on improving road safety. This gets at the heart of the value proposition. This story was about how new technology can help engineers reduce serious injuries and deaths on our roads due to collisions. That is potentially a very compelling story.
But who were the stories’ target audience?
In the US one of the main priorities of the many State Department’s of Transportation is safety. Safety engineers are tasked with improving safety. A critical part of preparing this story was to understand this target audience. Considerable effort was put into researching the work of safety engineers. Time was spent onsite understanding safety engineers world; their workflows and challenges.
What was discovered was fascinating, and provided the stories blueprint.
Collision data is collected by the police: location, type of collision, injuries etc. All crash related data is noted down on paper while on site. Back in the office that data is then digitally stored in a database. This and other related data is then shared with safety engineers. Data collected by the police gives engineers an understanding of the where and the what of collisions. Next comes the critical phase: understanding the why. This is called diagnostics.
Diagnostics is an inexact science. It is a process of understanding the cause of a collision, and applying so-called treatments or fixes for the problem. That might be adding a roundabout, widening the road etc. Safety engineers shared that diagnostics was a very challenging process often involving multiple trips to the location of the collision.
Providing an easier way for safety engineers to move from the where and the what of collisions to the why was the story which needed telling.
The Story ..
With an understanding of the safety engineers workflows and having validated a significant challenge, our staff member then began to explore a solution to this problem, using the configurable multi-dimensional dashboard.
The where and the what collision question could be answered using a 2D map which showed the location and specifics of all collisions. Heatmaps were used to quickly show the most problematic locations. Widgets were configured which showed trends: time-slider, collision type summaries etc.
A sense of place is important when considering the why question. That is the reason safety engineers often visit crash sites. Thanks to technology advances, notably LiDAR, it is now possible to construct a 3D digital version of a collision site. Engineers can now explore crash sites from their office, avoiding the need for site visits. Those factors which might have caused the collision such as vegetation obstructions, broken guardrails etc. can be assessed. LiDAR not only provides a digital reality view, it also provides the ability to accurately measure distances and areas.
2D and 3D data views were integrated in the dashboard. Allowing engineers to switch between views.
Though not a focus of safety engineers, but potentially very useful for other audiences: police, insurance etc. is LiDAR of actual collisions. Vehicle crashes were added.
Below are base images of the data story told. Videos were also created, all taking slightly different angles, and narrated by different storytellers. The stories told are both, powerful and compelling. They connect those challenged with a hugely important problem (the customer), with a potential path to a solution (your product).
An initial version of this story was constructed by our colleague, before he joined us. Below is one version of that story:
Need to tell an amazing story with data to help share your value proposition. Contact us.