Many marketers don’t really think about the difference between data, insight and HELPFUL insight when strategizing research work. And it’s absolutely CRUCIAL when it comes to getting the ROI out of market research.
Data are just numbers or text. How many clicks? How many views? What’s an individual’s gender or age? What’s an organization’s revenue or industry? It’s information. We are swamped with data today, and it’s easier than ever to get and to track.
Insight is what analysis does to data. Has the proportion of men to women changed in the last year? Which of our hashtags gains the most views and shares? How have our customers’ views changed in the last few years? There are a million ways to analyze data, and we can easily get overwhelmed with analysis because it can seem like every possible angle might be important — and there can be a lot of angles. Hence what I call the Dusty Binder Syndrome: Pages and pages of crosstabs, charts and text explaining what analysis saw, and no real way to figure out which of it is important for our marketing efforts. So often research doesn’t get used precisely because the analysis of the data is overwhelming.
HELPFUL insight is what happens when the goals for using research are clearly defined at the beginning of a project and the research is designed specifically to serve those goals. In marketing, helpful insight comes from understanding some key things that can make marketing efforts more productive:
- How do customers and prospects feel about shopping in your category? Is it something they dread, something they see as just a job to be done, or something they’re really invested in? How have their past experiences shaped their expectations today? Answers to questions like these can help you better understand how to speak to and resonate with the people you’re trying to reach.
- Where are they getting information about products, services, and providers? Who do they trust? For marketers, these questions are critical because they can mean the difference between a robust platform-specific social media strategy, a new program to encourage word-of-mouth activity, or setting up a hotline for questions.
- How do they prioritize spending for your category? We’ve seen over and over in our research that household income typically doesn’t correspond to spending on certain categories, because it’s not really about how much people HAVE, it’s about how they prioritize their spending. We all know people with the same income level who spend very differently on shoes, or cars, or tech devices. That’s because they value those items differently.
- Do things like age and gender align with differences in the above? You might be surprised how often attitudes transcend demographics. If so, a demographic approach to your marketing efforts (e.g. women 25-49 who shop online) may be missing the boat when it comes to building true resonance with your audience in your content and messaging.
This is why custom research can be so powerful — because unlike “packaged” reports on industry, or working with research someone else has done, developing your own research goals from the beginning and working with a research partner who can design a study to meet those goals, can make a huge difference in the usability — and ROI — of research for your agency or your clients.