Data or Insight?

As marketers we are inundated with offers to explore the latest and greatest data analysis tool.  Each of these tools is designed to analyze and synthesize our customers “actions” throughout the customer journey and provide us with a clear understanding of the path to saying yes to our products and services.  They emphasize their ability to create “insight” into your customers and consumers so that you can increase your efficiencies and effectiveness with your marketing programs.

  • The data visualization packages from Tableau will “connect and visualize your data” and “transform them to actionable insights.” 
  • Marketo uses data analytics to help you “understand your customer journey and measure key performance metrics across each stage” and “inform your overall marketing strategy.”
  • SaS imbeds “predictive marketing analytics engenders a deeper customer understanding” with their Customer Intelligence 360 package.

These programs and many others are truly great tools and applications to help organizations develop a smart understanding of their marketplace.  They give organizations the knowledge to change things that happened in the past so that they don’t happen again.  But what about from today moving forward?  None of these programs actually provide you with the insight into the reasons why your customer behaves they way they do.

Having “insight” or “insightfulness” into your customer does not mean having data to support your decisions but to have data turned into meaning and understanding to inspire the evolution of your marketing strategy.  Having insight means tapping into the creativity of your team to invent the tactics that you will use to attract and keep customers in your funnel and move them forward in the funnel because you have a fresh understanding of their needs, wants and beliefs as it pertains to your product or service. 

What these programs can’t tell you is how the data reflects your context.  That is, what are you trying to accomplish or understand about your customer.  Context is not just about engagement, nurturing leads and closing business.  There are two different types of context that we need to develop insights:

  1. Your Business Context:  What your business goal is.  For example:  Expand the business in to a new region, grow a certain segment or launch a new product.  The business context is not to simply “close more business, increase revenue and profits.”  That is the goal of EVERY BUSINESS, not just yours. 
  2. The Customer Context:  What do you want to know about your customer.  For example:  What will it take to get a customer to “switch” from their current provider, or, what do customers feel ‘value’ means.  The customer context is not about getting them to “buy” our products and services.  The customer context is designed and defined to elicit new learning and do something with that learning.

To get the data to reflect the context it has to be analyzed and synthesized alongside other pieces of data.  We have a tendency to eliminate or ignore data that doesn’t fit our needs.  When we include this data into our analysis, we start to create a new picture of our customers in both the moment and moving forward.  Insight IS NOT data. 

Insight is a profound understanding of the behavior (what the customer did, their actions) and the motivation behind those behaviors (the why, the driver for the observed behaviors). 

The “what” is the need, want or belief that your customer cannot tell you directly if you asked them.  The “what” is a goal-oriented behavior—that is—what they are doing in the moment to achieve something else.

The “why”, customer motivations and reasons--are deeply rooted comparisons, contrasts and combinations of data and understanding by your team.  Your customer cannot tell you why they behave the way they do because if they did, they will orient their response based on what they think we want to hear.  Their true needs, wants and beliefs are contained deep within themselves and often they don’t know why they behave the way they do. 

3-Fold Process to truly understand your customer:

  1. Gather all the data you have and decide what else you wish you knew and go find it!  Use qualitative, quantitative, primary and secondary techniques…don’t filter out any of it.
  2. Create suppositions about customers based on the data that you have by creatively exploring, synthesizing and analyzing the data within the contexts that you have outlined.  By doing so, we begin to highlight customer behaviors as they interact with our products and services. 
  3. Further combine, contrast and compare these initial suppositions until we can pull together patterns that illuminate both behaviors (the what) and we can derive the motivations (the why) for those behaviors.