Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into understanding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.
Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013, Forrester wrote an article suggesting that 2014 would be the year for market insights. Almost two years on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.
#1. Be precise in your objectives
Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired change in your target. For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive brand purchasers to buy your brand instead.
Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not, then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.
#2. Involve a wide range of experts
Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department . Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and understanding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.
Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or brand, including for example:
- R&D, who can bring understanding of available internal & external technical skills
- operations who can share current defects and development aspects
- sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
- marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
- customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
- finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met
The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team since it is their profession to understand people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company
#3. Review all available information & knowledge
All organisations have far more information than most employees realize, including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.
Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge. You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.
As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.
#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes
I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective.
Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the understanding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:
- go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you understand the decision-making process of your target customers.
- compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
- call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their brand’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
- role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one hand? If your product is used in certain demanding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?
Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your brand. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.
#5. Fill the gaps
Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into understanding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review. These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.
Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do as you had already clearly identified the need.
#6. Develop the insight
At this stage, you will certainly have a better understanding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team, which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.
You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.
These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.
From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in understanding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.
What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below; I would be happy to answer them for you.
This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity.