I’d never really thought about my learning style until I had to write about it for a client. As it turns out, I am a visual learner; I learn best by seeing.
This makes total sense because if I want to fix something around the house, I just find a video and do what it shows me to do. But I had never really thought about how I could take my visual learning preference and use it to help me be a better solopreneur. That is, until I read Elizabeth Clarke’s new book, How to Win With Your Data Visualizations: The 5 Part Guide For Junior Analysts to Create Effective Data Visualizations and Engaging Data Stories.
To be clear, I am not a junior analyst, nor do I want to be. However, as a writer, I am always interested in learning how to tell a better story. This book just happens to focus on telling that story with data visualizations versus words. What value does this have to offer solopreneurs? That’s the question I posed to Clarke directly. Here’s what she said.
Data Visualization for Solopreneurs
“One of the most essential things when owning a small business is monitoring growth,” says Clarke. That’s why she recommends that solopreneurs keep line graphs and bar charts during the course of day-to-day operations.
“These graphs do a great job visibly monitoring sales, traffic, or any valuable metric to your business,” Clarke adds. “Monitoring your performance over a period of time is the best way to find your high times, low times, and the overall trajectory for your business. These graphs make it easy to do so.”
Even creating these charts quarterly offers some benefits. “Having visual data throughout the year is a great way to learn more about the business and the best times to ramp up advertising for scaling,” says Clarke. “There’s a lot of hidden information in a business’s data. For example, monitoring your conversion rate—if you’re a product-based business—helps you find areas where you can improve your landing pages, product descriptions, etc., to help convert better.”
Maximizing “The Sandwich Approach”
In the book, Clarke recommends using “the sandwich approach” to help captivate audiences with your data visualizations. This could be beneficial to solopreneurs who are trying to explain their data to someone else, such as a potential client who wants to know the results you can provide.
The sandwich approach involves providing insight about the problem, followed by data to back up the point, followed by more insight into the solution. For example, imagine that a client comes to you for help because they aren’t experiencing the growth they want. During the course of your conversation, you uncover this information:
- The company’s data growth will be 300% higher in 2022 than in 2018
- Data collection spending is expected to reach $50,000 in 2021
- 2% of the company’s data is being analyzed
- 27% of the data projects have been labeled as “successful”
- 61% percent of its executives admit that we have a long way to go to use company data properly
If following Clarke’s recommended approach, your response would look something like this:
- “Your data is growing rapidly, but the fact of the matter is that you are not using it effectively.” (Insight)
- “Your data growth will be 300% higher in 2022 compared to 2018, reaching an estimated spend of $50,000 this year. This being said, only 2% of your data is being analyzed, and that which is being analyzed is not necessarily helping your organization: Only 27% of your data projects have been labeled as “successful” while 61% percent of your executives admit that you have a long way to go in using company data properly.” (Data)
- “Even though your data is growing, figuring out how to use it effectively will help you have the cutting edge in your industry.” (Insight)
“Structuring your insights this way helps the audience to better understand what they need to know,” says Clarke. “The clarity of this method is far superior compared to a list of information. Hence, ‘sandwiching’ the data between two insights so the data has an introduction and conclusion instead of an open end.”
What If You’re Not Particularly Good at Creating Impressive Data Charts?
“Keep it simple,” says Clarke. “Most people aren’t experts in SQL, Tableau, or any other data-intensive software, nor even know what they are. Making a simple chart with Excel or Canva is fine for solopreneurs.” The main point is that you’re able to visually see the data and understand what it tells you.
“Integrating data visualizations into your business, no matter the size, is essential to keeping consistent growth and finding areas for improvement,” stresses Clarke. “The driving force behind my book was to create a simple process for anyone to understand how to develop and present data visualizations–even if you’re only presenting them to yourself.”