We have a problem. We are being inundated with facts, data, reports, and charts. In the digital age, instead of reams of paper piled high on a desk, we have megabytes being stored on a hard drive or in the cloud. The hope is these deeply stored megabytes will give us the analyses and insights needed to make the next leap over competitors.
The dilemma faced by decision-makers and strategists today is the more data is collected and aggregated, the harder it is becoming to make sense of data. The more arduous the task becomes of connecting the proverbial dots in data.
Big Data Cannot Tell Stories
Like many people, we relish in good stories. Unfortunately, data analysis and Big Data can fall short in telling a robust story of buyers and customers. Making the task more of a Rubik’s cube game of identifying insights. And, such efforts create a dependency on algorithms versus insightful thinking.
This is not to discount the value or contributions of data. They tell us plenty about what. Data can give us the ability to peer into what customers or prospects are buying or are interested in. Data can tell us at the surface level, the mechanics of how buyers go about making their purchases. Helping us to understand historical behavior and how we may be able to extrapolate providing more of what in the future.
In many situations, data can be the starting point. Data can be the starting point for a much deeper analysis, which help us to understand the true unfolding story of our customers and buyers. Deeper analysis, through stories, helps us get a deeper understanding of data as well as to connect the dots of different sets of data.
Recently, working with a service and support platform provider, the data showed a shift was happening in what customers preferred. They were shifting from a hosted premise environments to cloud-based environments. The missing component was the storyline on the mechanics of how they were doing this and more importantly why this became important to them.
In this case, the data was the starting point. The organization needed to find out the unfolding story as well as the context of why this story is unfolding as it is. Faced with critical strategic decisions for the future, executives needed to understand the stories and the situations causing this shift.
Where Stories Live
Stories exist in the world of customers and buyers. Hearing stories allows a framework for forming hypotheses and gathering insights. How do you go about getting these stories? Stories are gathered though qualitative buyer insights research. Using observation and in-depth buyer interviews.
In the case mentioned above, many of the important insightful stories were found far beyond the traditional buying process through the use of qualitative buyer research. If the organization had resorted to traditional win/loss analysis, only talking to recent wins or losses, they would have missed powerful stories, which tell the tale and journey of buyers making this shift. Traditional profiling sales data analysis related to buying criteria shined little light on the powerful why motivators unfolding in the marketplace.
The Rigors Of Analysis
For strategic decision-making, stories allow for a more in-depth analysis of both the data and the realities of the marketplace. Making executive decision-making holistic and more conducive to shaping future strategies. Data and in-depth qualitative buyer research, together, bring a rigorous process to understanding the storyline of your customers.
What is often missing when working with data alone is the behavioral story behind the data. The human story itself is missing and cannot be comprehended from data alone. We cannot understand fully what they struggle with, how they think, and why things matter to them with just data.
Understanding The Story Of Buyers
To truly understand buyers today, it takes understanding their storyline. This process involves the right use of buyer insights research. There needs to be a focus on understanding the critical situations, scenarios, and mental models of buyers. The use of buyer personas, as the characters in the storyline, help the story be told and understood.
As in the case of the organization mentioned above, they discovered a new unfolding story. A story data alone or conventional sales-centric and supplier-centric intelligence gathering would have not revealed. Helping them to reshape their go-to-market strategies, product development direction, and marketing strategies. Setting a course for renewed growth.
Are you understanding the story of your buyers and knowing which course to take into the future?