How to tell whether you have a real customer insight or not

In the last few blogs we have been looking at different dimensions of the art of constructing a compelling insight narrative. Here, one of the key ingredients of success is making sure that your presentation is premised on a genuine insight – not just a mildly interesting observation about customer behaviour. Many insight narratives fail because they do not have a strong core unifying idea – insight. They do not have a genuine and authentic insight at the heart of the storyline.

An insight needs to tell us about people’s motivations and likely action

There are many different definitions of insight, but some would argue that a true insight needs to have two critical dimensions:

  • A psychological dimension: it needs to describe what is inside the customer’s mind – their causal motivations, attitudes, beliefs and feelings.
  • A behavioural dimension: it needs to describe what is observable – what the customer is or is not doing as a result of these causal psychological factors.

A true insight will reveal a link between these two dimensions: causal psychological factors and behaviour. An actionable insight is one that can create change or reinforce an intended customer attitude, belief or feeling in a way that strengthens a brand. Powerful insights often reflect an unresolved tension in the mind of the customer and, as such, have the power and momentum, to drive action.

Insights are created not found

It is important to remember that powerful insights are not found, they are created through a strategic dialogue – fierce conversation – between the insight professional, who knows about how the putative insight was generated, and key stakeholders who can assess the practical application of this insight. It is this strategic dialogue that will help you differentiate interesting observations from highly actionable insights capable of changing behaviour.

How to test the power of your insight

Below are 21 questions that upon which you might want to reflect in testing the veracity, power and robustness of a putative insight. We have organised the questions into the following three categories.

What is the differentiating power of your insight?

  • Is this insight genuinely unique and differentiating?
  • Does the insight have the Wow factor and provide that Aha moment for the consumer and offer a totally new solution?
  • Is this an insight strong enough to change consumer behaviour?
  • What happens when the What-If principle is applied? If this insight were introduced and applied, how would behaviour change?
  • What emotional benefit does this idea provide and is there an aspirational nature to the insight?
  • Does this insight tell us something about what customers do not yet realise but, if they did realise it, then this would cause them to move to a new solution?
  • Does it help futureproof the organisation?

Questions to deep dive into the dynamics of how the insight works

  • Does this insight provide an improved way of what they are currently doing?
  • Is this an insight story based around a misperception that customers may have? Addressing this lies at the heart of the story
  • Is this an insight based around customer dissatisfaction with a current solution to a problem that could lead to an enhanced solution that would immediately transform customer behaviour?
  • Is this an insight that pivots around crystallising a different way of looking at the world – it opens up a hitherto unthought of radical solution for customers?
  • Does this insight pivot around what you have learnt about what the customer believes to be true but isn’t? Addressing this misconception would be the key part of your solution.
  • Does this insight allow us to crystallise something in the mind of customers that, when this has cascaded through their belief (thinking) and feeling (emotional system), would ultimately encourage them to realise that your solution is genuinely an innovative answer to their problem?
  • Does this insight provide us with a specific action that, if you told customers, would immediately produce the Aha moment for them: would they change their behaviour and buy into your solution?

Questions to test the commercial viability, practicalities and actionability of the insight

  • Will the insight create a sustainable competitive advantage?
  • Is it commercially viable?
  • Is there an organisational fit?
  • Is it actionable?
  • What critical assumptions have been made about how people might respond to this insight-based decision which – if proved to be incorrect – will have the most significant consequences for the way we are proposing to proceed?
  • Let’s assume the most significant and substantive piece of consumer evidence that is leading us to this insight is What are the consequences of pursuing our current course of action?
  • What are the remaining key unknowns? Work through the various What Ifs – different scenarios – and see where this takes the proposed plan of action.

A challenge to which you might want to respond

It may be helpful to check in with the above list of questions and identify the top seven questions that you can then plumb into the muscle memory and be ready to ask at critical sessions where insights are being created and road tested.

By developing your own personal set of killer questions, you will be able to determine whether or not you have a genuine authentic insight that is powerful enough to drive your story. Remember you are looking for a real insight, not just a piece of data that only provides a loose understanding of what is going on.

For more information on creating powerful insight-based presentations you might want to refer to my latest book The High Performance Customer Insight Professional: How to make sense of the evidence, build the story and turn insights into action is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US in paperback and Kindle formats.

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