If you’re not telling your clients their story, someone else will.
Justin Hatch, entrepreneur and CEO of Reach Reporting has met with business owners desperate for an intuitive and straightforward way to understand their financial data. This pain point has created an opportunity for savvy financial professionals looking to improve their data storytelling skills and better compete in the changing landscape of accounting. Justin provides tips on how accountants can incorporate data storytelling into their business strategy to improve deliverables significantly impacting their clients.
Data, data, data—as the CEO of Reach Reporting, I hear that word used all the time. But data alone, if not understood, can’t improve your client’s results or differentiate your firm. What truly helps you and your client is what you do with that data that matters.
Data storytelling uniquely showcases your firm’s ability to provide actionable insight into your client’s data. Your ability to deliver insightful, unbiased data will improve your client’s ability to make better decisions and create effective strategies while boosting your firm’s financial authority in the industry.
Let’s look at how data storytelling can transform your firm into a vital resource for your clients, differentiate your firm, and increase referrals.
Here are the basics of data storytelling.
What Is Data Storytelling?
Data storytelling is more than data visualization, analytics, or a handful of stats sitting in a PowerPoint, spreadsheet, dashboard, or report.
The term ‘Data storytelling’ describes the entire process of gathering data, extracting insights, and communicating those insights effectively. Data storytelling is the combination of complex data and human communication. It’s a compelling narrative developed on accurate data, used to provide valuable information to your client, reveal exciting trends, and support positive decision-making for your client.
Financial Storytelling is a compelling narrative developed on accurate data, used to provide valuable information to your client, reveal exciting trends, and support positive decision-making for your client.
What does data storytelling require?
Good data storytelling isn’t just creating a fabulous spreadsheet with multiple tabs and a few charts. It requires several ingredients.
- A Plan: Know what story you want to tell.
- Good data: Ensuring the raw data gathered is accurate.
- Synthesis: Bringing your human mind to the table to gather insight.
- Narrative: Translating those data insights into a coherent story.
- Data visualization: Communicating data insights in a way that is easy to “see” the value.
- Energy: Be passionate about what you do. It comes across in your work.
How Do Accountants Use Data Storytelling?
For accountants, data storytelling is a vital way to set themselves apart from their competition by enhancing client touch-points like:
- Narrative Analysis
- Projection Analysis
- Audit and Reviews
How to Increase the Value of Financial Reports?
Data storytelling enhances an accountant’s ability to communicate financial insights more effectively. By incorporating data storytelling into your reporting strategy, you can improve the quality of your reports to have a more significant impact on your client while developing your firm as an essential part of their business.
Here’s how to improve the value of financial reports.
Provide meaning and value.
Technically, all content is data to the brain, but the highest-value content provides more than knowledge; it gives insight. This insight helps decision-making; therefore, it’s the most meaningful to your client.
Clients are clamoring for a firm that can bring their data to life and provide clarity and understanding. Gone are the days when it was ok to bombard clients with lifeless data that lacked context presented in complex spreadsheets.
By delivering otherwise complex data as data storytelling, firms can extract and communicate insight, expand possibilities and help businesses navigate the terrain of their industry.
Data storytelling has become essential for firms that want to increase their client base in today’s competitive accounting world.
Showcase your firm’s authority.
Most firms provide their clients with a complex, intimidating spreadsheet or an automated, restrictive boilerplate report that looks the same as the competition.
Showcase your firm’s abilities by presenting information that can help shed light on previously unexplored data, introduce interesting angles, or uncover trends that have gone unnoticed.
These reports are compelling, and business owners are hungry for easily understood data that help them drive their business forward.
Great reports will elevate your firm, expand your reach, and introduce you to new clients.
Make your reports essential.
Your client has lots of data—and if not directed, your clients will get lost out in the weeds.
In a world full of conjecture, businesses need context to cold, complex numbers to anchor their gut feelings to reality. By providing meaningful context to credible data, your clients are more inclined to trust you and be confident about their decisions.
By blending storytelling and data visualization, you appeal to your client’s analytical and emotional sides, effectively bringing their financial data to life while increasing their comprehension, retention, and appeal.
Visual data engages your clients and encourages them to get involved with their financial narrative. They are more inclined to explore the data, draw conclusions, and focus on the most relevant aspects of their business.
Finally, your clients will actively utilize and synthesize the data you have provided.
Data storytelling is the future of accounting.
Data storytelling may sound intimidating, but it is the way of the new accountant. There is talk of the accounting world being overrun by artificial intelligence (AI), making accountants obsolete. Though AI might have fantastic technical skills, it can not compete with the human element. AI can’t effectively translate all those data points into something meaningful to your client.
How will storytelling improve your firm?
A report that is easily understood is the quickest way to gain client loyalty. Your reports should focus their efforts on growing their business rather than leaving them more confused.
Show the value.
You may think your client’s data will tell you one story, but you may be surprised. You may find exciting outliers, unexpected trends, or a data point that disproves a company-held belief. Bringing clients’ data to life will increase the value of their data and your firm as well.
Good data alone does not make you essential. Data storytelling is only compelling when it provides value. Your deliverables should teach, give perspective, or inspire action. Your report should provide context and help clients synthesize the data story as effectively as possible. By doing this, you are providing a unique offering that other firms are currently not providing.
Firms are seeing that data storytelling is vital in presenting clients’ data in an easy-to-understand fashion. For this reason, firms are hiring designers or paying for apps to enhance their storytelling skills.
Providing a consumable report for your client is the most cost-effective and productive way to generate new leads. The recommendation of a client can be far more compelling than a banner advertisement or commercial.
Data storytelling will only become more prevalent in the accounting world, and the most innovative accounting firms will learn to master this medium.
Start experimenting now:
- Download a sample report
- Create a report
- Demo Reach Reporting’s data storytelling app
In the meantime, happy storytelling! If you need a little outside help in creating reports that differentiate your firm, follow Reach Reporting on LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.