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Let's start with a question. What's one recent article that made a big impact on you? For me, it was Nathan T. Baker's blog post, "My Content Only Went Viral After My World Collapsed," on Inbound.org. I remember sitting at my desk at work, blinking back tears, totally floored that someone had shared such a personal and heartbreaking story on a marketing forum.

The thing is, stories have power. If they're meaningful, they can touch something deep inside of us. We carry them long after we're done reading. They materialize at random moments, ghosts of another reality that's just one step sideways from the one we inhabit.

Our challenge as marketers, particularly on the B2B side, is that we live in a world powered by stats and facts instead of stories. Our prospects want hard data proving our products and services will be worth their investment. They're hungry for stats that point to broader industry trends. They want quantifiable ideas they can use to support their business objectives.

So it's no mystery that data visualization has taken off in a big way in the content marketing community, since people tend to be visual learners. But how does that mesh with storytelling?

I'll let you in on a little secret. The key to great data visualization isn't a pretty design or clever concept: it's a great story. And it's actually pretty easy to tell a compelling story backed by stats and facts.

Let's explore how to create a story-driven data visualization, step-by-step.

Step 1: Review your data set

When creating an infographic, the obvious place to start is your data set. Depending on what your data says, your story can go in various directions.

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image of Matt Wellschlager

Matt Wellschlager is VP of marketing at Ceros, provider of interactive-content creation software.

LinkedIn: Matthew Wellschlager