Monday, March 25, 2013

Selling with numbers

The adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words," perfectly describes the goal of visualization.  Pictures are able to convey complex concepts in a single glance.  The main reason behind this is framing.

Lots of companies use numbers to sell their products, but they often forget the most important part, the frame.  When you tell me how much time or money you will save me, or how many more visitors and sales I'll get, you fail to give me a frame of reference.  Is 20% more sales directly related to my business? your average achievement, or compared to using another similar marketing firm?

When we use numbers in sales, there is a purpose.  Generally, the number is impressive because of its size, and you are trying to use the unstated comparison to make a statement.  This works great if your audience is familiar with the frame of reference.  Otherwise, your numbers can send the wrong message.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers spend $41.9 million on their defense.  That seems like a lot, unless you are familiar with what other NFL teams spend on their defense, or what the Buccaneers spend on offense ($75.8 million).  Without the correct frame of reference, $41.9 million seems high.  In reference to their offense, it doesn't seem high enough.  

The Guardian uses a number of visual aids to provide the frame of reference for their interactive breakdown of how NFL teams spend on their players.

NFL Salaries by Team and Position

The size of the dots represent the relative amount that the team spends on each position, and the chart on the left shows how their spending stacks up to the league.  Here's the link to the full interactive experience.

Do you frame your numbers?