How many times have you heard, “We didn’t learn anything new,” after conducting a primary research project?
To be effective, insight managers must move from merely supplying data to interpreting it – distilling insights about consumers’ attitudes, needs and behavior, then using this insight for strategy and growth.
- Push thinking beyond what seems reasonable. Customer insight for upstream marketing must clear a very high hurdle – it must be deep, proprietary and actionable. In our consulting work, we begin many of our engagements with a question: What do you know about your important customers that your competitors don’t know?
- Mine existing insights data. The amount of marketing research that exists today in many organizations is staggering. In others, it’s almost non-existent. Before launching insights gathering, it’s useful to confirm what is known and where gaps exist. Typically, the information is spread out across the organization. The first step is compiling what exists, then assessing it, organizing it and making it readily available.
- Take a windshield vs. rear-view mirror perspective. It may be an overused corporate cliché, but there’s merit to the quote popularized by hockey great Wayne Gretzky, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” The lesson is to be forward-thinking in uncovering growth opportunities. No one can predict the future. With the right insight-gathering techniques, though, there are ways to uncover unmet needs. In-depth interviews, observation, and ethnographic research are great tools for uncovering deep insight. The key is to focus on the “why”. Why do consumers behave in a certain way? Replacing the “rearview mirror” with a “windshield” view requires projective techniques.
- Focus on benefits sought vs. product attributes. “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.” This quote, by Theodore Levitt, American economics and business professor, speaks to the idea of focusing on customer benefits vs. product attributes. In his landmark Harvard Business Review article, “Marketing Myopia”, Levitt urged companies to define their industries broader than they typically might. He argued, for example, the railroad industry found itself in trouble because industry leaders assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. They were product-oriented instead of customer insight-oriented. Product attributes come and go. Consumer benefits are more enduring.
- Consider problems, solutions and jobs to be done. In developing new products, consider the compromises customers need to make across the value chain. Then, define new product concepts to solve those problems. Of course, sometimes, it’s less about problems than opportunities. The terms “pain points” and “gain points” are sometimes used to recognize this problem/opportunity dynamic. A common way to solve for friction points is using the jobs-to-be-done approach, made popular by Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen. Under this method, a job-to-be-done is not a product, service, or a specific solution, it’s the customer’s higher purpose. Understanding the “job” for which customers find themselves “hiring” a product or service, products can be better tailored to what customers are looking to achieve.
Find these business strategy tips helpful? EquiBrand’s Managing Partner, Tim Koelzer, has a book coming out entitled Upstream Marketing, to be published in 2018. Contact us today to be on of the first to receive an advanced copy.