Several recent surveys have shown that many executives now consider improving the customer experience (CX) a higher priority than even product or price improvement. A corresponding trend that goes along with improving CX is a movement to gain new understanding into what customers are actually thinking and feeling. Turning these discoveries into value propositions that benefit customer and company is called insight.
Companies are investing more money, time and effort than ever in trying to generate insights.
Over 60% of our current clients have a formal program where they are teaching their customer contact personnel and marketers to find, recognize and monetize insights.
How To Tell If Your Definition of Insights is Too Complicated
In the process, many are unfortunately creating overly complex vocabulary, definitions and tools that are having the opposite effect; causing companies to miss insights that they could leverage.
If your company is actively seeking insights and disappointed in the number and/or quality of your program’s output, you are likely over-complicating things. The rest of this article explains how you can simplify and start producing the types of insights that lead to big wins in the marketplace.
First, Know the Difference Between Tactical and Strategic Insights
The fabulous amounts of customer data available to firms today provides a lot of what we would call tactical insights. We can quickly find out important things like the fact that sending emails on Friday afternoon yields lower response than sending them on Wednesday morning – or less useful things like the fact that we sell a lot of socks to guys named Kevin on the second Tuesday of every other month. These tactical insights at best can lead us to optimize execution.
Because these types of insights are so data-driven, we see firms applying an unreasonable data standard to a broader type that we call strategic insights. These are insights that often come from observations of customer behavior and actions that yield new and powerful learning. By definition, there isn’t a statistical basis for these observations. More and more often we see these observations get rejected as “non-insights” – and it’s a mistake!
A Decision-Maker Insight That Might Have Been Rejected
For example, if some respected members of a healthcare product salesforce identify a trend whereby medical buyers are taking a back seat to economic and business executive-minded buyers, is that an insight? We think it is. If you wait and try to collect the data on this, the competition may already have befriended and convinced these new types of buyers. This is not a made-up scenario – it’s happening all across our customer base.
A Medical Device Strategic Insight That Wasn’t “Statistically Significant”
Here’s another example: a wound-care client of ours created an incision-closing device that was like a glue-stick. For many reasons, it was not gaining adoption by surgeons. However, some marketers in the company happened to notice one surgeon using the glue-stick-like device on top of traditional sutures. He said he wanted some extra insurance that the incision stayed closed. Is that an insight, despite only one surgeon being observed doing this? It would not meet any standard of statistical significance. We still think it’s at least a potential insight.
It became a real insight when the company went on to profitably re-market the device as “insurance for when you really need an incision to stay closed.”
A Strategic Insight from an Ex-Smoker That Changed the Game
Finally, a smoking cessation pharmaceutical product was failing in the marketplace despite some obvious advantages over other similar pharma products. An employee who was a participant in a strategy session and an ex-smoker happened to mention that he had tried to quit smoking multiple times on his own, because it cost nothing to go “cold turkey.” Is this anecdotal observation an insight?
It is, because the company went on to do some further research on self-quitting and found that their real competitor was not other pharma-based smoking cessation products, but the act of trying to quit on one’s own. They re-cast their value proposition to highlight the benefits of their product over “cold-turkey” quitting on your own, and they are still running the commercials almost a decade later, because they work!
Don’t Set Unreasonable Initial Data Standards for Strategic Insights
The point is this: setting an unreasonable data standard for strategic insights overly-complicates an insight-generation program. By understanding the difference between strategic and tactical insights, you will stop rejecting ideas that could dramatically change the fortunes of your company.
Strategic insights come from observing customer behavior, asking the right strategic questions and using the right strategic tools, and gaining broad, cross-functional input when answering these strategic questions. They probably won’t come from analyzing the data you have, though this can be a great source of tactical insights.
Certainly, once a potentially insightful observation is made, data can be gathered to support whether the observation is indeed true. Our glue-stick makers surveyed doctors to see if they would actually use the product as “insurance.” Many of them said they would and did.
The Secret to Strategic Insights: Take Time to Observe Customers
But the lessons here are: 1) Don’t overcomplicate your strategic insights program by applying an unreasonable data standard and 2) take a break from analyzing data and go observe customers. More time out of the office, spent in the field observing buyers, is the counter-intuitive secret to gaining return on investment from a company’s insight generation program.