Marketing’s purpose is to inform and influence potential customers, to give those customers specific, low-risk, easy-to-take actions resulting in movement toward the next step in the buying process. Stories move people and are one of the primary tools marketers can use to bring potential customers closer. And everyone loves a good story.

Numbers can tell stories, too. And scientists typically love numbers. A story tied to a really meaningful metric or an interesting or eye-opening set of data that leads to a story – these are the bread and butter of life science marketing. There are countless bits of data floating around the lab, published in white papers, etc. What we, as marketers need to do, is dig a little to find the story in the numbers that are already there – to uncover the nuggets and add a little polish.

The nugget that led to this post was in an article about Tony Gwynn, “Mr. Padre” and the greatest hitter since Ted Williams, who died too young yesterday after a battle with cancer. In reading some of the obituaries and remembrances, I was struck by one of the many gaudy statistics from Gwynn’s baseball career. It wasn’t the number itself, it was the way that the author, Jayson Stark, presented the number. Stark dug into the facts (outside of a laboratory, does any other endeavor collect more data than baseball?) to tell a brief, but compelling story:

“Finally, what does it mean to have piled up a .338 batting average over a 20-year career, over 9,288 at-bats? It means Tony Gwynn would have had to go 0-for-his-next-1,183 to get his average to fall under .300 (and even then, it would have “plummeted” to a mere .29997). We kid you not.”

To underscore the point Stark makes, everyday players typically average around 600 at bats in a season. So it would take almost two full seasons of Tony Gwynn playing everyday and going completely hitless to drop his lifetime batting average under .300. That’s remarkable.

And it’s those little numbers, pulled out of a long string of other data collected over a season or a lifetime or through one assay, that when polished and presented effectively, can tell the kind of story to move a potential customer one step closer.