Faced with a proliferation of customer data, how do we truly get hold of good customer insights? No process is perfect, sure, but when it comes to truly understanding your audiences – as individual customers as well as group – these seven steps are a great place to start.
1. Start afresh
No matter how well you know a category, start from scratch. Refreshing your desk research could uncover all sorts of interesting nuggets that may then help you on a path to new and brilliant insights. I find that company reports are often one of the best resources in seeing what opportunities and threats lie in a category. What’s more, these are written in a way that really helps give a more long-term context, which is great for adding depth to your perspective.
2. Setting a hypothesis and filling in the gaps
From solid desk research, the next step is to devise a hypothesis to test. The best way to form a good hypothesis is to involve your stakeholders, as this will not only encourage them to buy in from the start, but it will also engage them in your research.
3. Don’t confirm your own bias
Whether you are forming a hypothesis or writing a research questionnaire, check that you are not unwittingly contributing to your own confirmation bias. This is a cognitive bias based on our tendency to look for information that confirms our hypotheses, beliefs or biases. For example, a person might believe that women are better drivers than men, so are involved in fewer accidents. They might then unknowingly seek out information that confirms this belief and interpret data to support this idea. It’s nothing to be worried about, but you will need to make a conscious effort to put your confirmation bias to one side.
4. Find the gaps and understand the consequences
Get together with your stakeholders and break the task down into what is known and what is unknown. Ask them what they think the gaps are and what filling them would do, as well as what decisions this would help with.
When you present back the final results of your study, be sure to include a dialogue on the discussion and ask if your study would influence decision-making.
There is a tendency among stakeholders to say ‘we knew that already’, so it might be worth reminding them that before your presentation they had some assumptions and hypothesis, but no concrete proof.
5. Get stuck in and leave the office
Often the most meaningful insights come from customers themselves, so it’s a good idea to talk to users and rejecters of a brand to see what impacts their choices. If you’re researching a product you’ve never used, then use it to see what the ordering process is like, if your customer service expectations are met, and so forth. Try out competitors’ products and see how they compare to those of your client. See how the products look in situ and get a feel for how consumers go about making purchases.
6. Tell a story and paint a picture
When collecting or generating new information, think about how you will present this to stakeholders, making sure you have a variety of formats such as video clips, interviews or photographs. These will be key to bringing customers’ imaginations to life. To stay emotionally connected with your audience, make sure descriptions of different customer types are compelling enough for each person to think it is someone they know.
Arrange your information in a way that has a clear story. Start by stating the obvious and going through what your audience knows, before uncovering your findings.
7. Make clear recommendations
Always end with recommendations or further discussion points. Good insights are not just descriptive – they should also give clear guidance on which actions to take, and how stakeholders can use this information.
It takes a lot of energy to get hold of fascinating customer insights. The key is to leave enough time to pull all the information together in a way that educates and resonates with your audience and is memorable.
Taj Samson is Head of Insight at Arena Media