TMI: How Embracing Insights Can Move the Marketing Needle


What do industry leaders like Amazon, CDW and Hewlett Packard share in common? They’ve created a dedicated Insights organization as a strategic growth engine to fuel their marketing plans. A previous TMI blog, “Marketing is all about the (Customer) Base,” discussed how putting the customer’s perspective first has a direct and positive impact on improving experience and engagement. As more companies adopt a customer-centric mindset, they must rewire traditional ways of capturing, analyzing and, most importantly – applying – customer knowledge to win, serve and retain business. Let’s look at how the Insights function can help shape your sales and marketing strategy, guide your idea creation and transform product, service and brand development with some of my favorite articles written on this topic.

Define Customer Insights: Some refer to Insights as data analytics, customer research or database marketing. Truth is, it’s all of the above…and more! Customer Insights is an all-encompassing discipline that is best defined as “a non-obvious understanding about your customers which, if acted upon, has the potential to change their behavior for mutual benefit.” It’s a holistic view of the customer derived from several sources (beyond one focus group or customer survey – although both focus groups and surveys can help inform) woven together to provide texture and meaning. Most importantly, Insights has no value unless this intelligence is used to motivate action or drive change.

Understand What Makes a “Good” Insight: A “good” insight reveals a deep truth about your customer’s behaviors, experiences, beliefs, needs and motivators on a direct and personal level. It answers three key questions:

  • What is your customer doing?
  • Why are they doing it?
  • Wow – nobody has ever noticed or talked in such detail about that issue before.

The most powerful insights also contain these three characteristics:

  • Targeted – narrowly focuses on a specific audience
  • True – solves a real problem (or else why would someone need your solution?)
  • Fresh – tackles a customer challenge or describes a problem in a new, non-generic way.

Build a Better Insights Capability: To become a respected and trusted source of customer and corporate intelligence, the Insights function must be integrated into core business processes and have strong leaders who set priorities, nurture partnerships with line of business owners and have decision-making authority. Budgets and size of the team do not determine Insights’ success. Instead, successful Insights teams generally evolve through four stages of maturity:

  • Stage 1 – traditional market research provider
  • Stage 2 – business contributor
  • Stage 3 – strategic Insight partner
  • Stage 4 – source of competitive advantage

Customer-centric companies also share several common characteristics outlined in this article.

Be an Extroverted Organization: Amazon is a best-practice example of external orientation where customers are the top priority throughout the organization starting with the CEO. As the Insights function continues to evolve and companies see its value as a strategic contributor to their business, we can expect to see a shift in corporate mindset toward customer-centricity. There are four steps to moving from introversion toward extroversion:

  • Capture external change signals by accessing granular, real-time underexploited data on customer trends and preferences.
  • Extract novel insights by looking beyond the obvious, and leveraging new techniques to mine data and detect subtle nuances.
  • Use Insights to derive key value-added processes such as innovation and resource allocation.
  • Commit to an external orientation with structure, systems, culture and leadership.

Does your organization have an Insights function, or are you creating one? How are you currently gathering Customer Insights? We’d love to learn more! Tell us in the comments section or connect via Twitter @OutlookMktg, LinkedIn or Facebook. To learn more about some of our latest Insights projects for clients, check out our most recent client project round-up or visit our Services page.






Author: Kristin Fayer, Senior Vice President and Healthcare Practice Leader for Outlook Marketing Services



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