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28th March 2018

Five ways customer insights will improve your marketing campaigns (and everything else)

What is an insight?

Insight is a word that is bandied around in marketing departments a lot and yet nailing one – and especially a really good one – is often a rare event.

An insight is not research and it’s not data or information (contrary to popular belief), although these are sources of insights.

Insight is about understanding what makes your customers tick, what’s going on in their hearts and minds, how they spend their time, their money, what their values and beliefs are.

Successful businesses have customers at the heart of everything they do.  Customer insight is key to customer closeness. And it’s not just the Marketing department’s responsibility. Customer insight is something that the whole business should be interested and involved in.

Do you understand what makes your customers tick, what’s going on in their hearts and minds?

How to find insights

There is no right way to generate Insights. They can come from…

Consumer/customer research

By monitoring, analysing and interpreting your customers’ behaviour you can devise effective strategies to respond to it.  For example, insights from social listening can improve the effectiveness of social media strategies in real time. Insights from brand tracking are used to assess the longer term effects of brand building campaigns on customer perceptions.

Psychological insights might demonstrate how your product improves people’s lives – e.g. how it makes them feel about themselves. Or who else will notice the benefits of using the product?

What is the most important item/area/moment for which the product is used and why it is important?  Feeling totally confident for a night out?

Who will notice if you’ve got the benefit (or not got the benefit)? Your boyfriend/girlfriend?

Internal brainstorming

Informal contact with consumers, suppliers, distributors

Technical/R&D department

Does your product have standards of excellence for this benefit that alternative products cannot reach? E.g. completely treat the symptoms of a cold, 98% of wrinkles disappear.

What do competitive products fail to do? E.g. not all slimming products work.

Is the way the product works different from the way that consumers think it works? E.g. a deodorant that doesn’t just mask foot odour (like other sprays), it kills the bacteria that cause it.

Sometimes the most powerful insights are formed from a combination of different sources, say psychological and product.

[Guinness, the insight for a perfect pint]. Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.

One very good example of this comes from Guinness, famous for its multi-award winning creative campaigns. In the early days of the UK lager market, traditional bitter and stout were losing market share to the lighter, cooler continental brew. (‘Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’. Ring any bells?).

One of the issues identified by consumers was that a decent glass of Guinness took far, far longer to pour than a pint of the ‘amber nectar’. And this was a problem for thirsty pub goers. Guinness experimented with ways to achieve a faster pour, which all failed miserably. Eventually Guinness’s advertising agency was given the communications challenge of reframing customer attitudes, turning a product negative into a brand advantage. Combining the product insight (Guinness takes a while to pour) with a psychological customer insight (the anticipation of the perfect pint) lead to the classic advertising line – ‘Good things come to those who wait’ and, for a while at least, stemmed the ongoing lager tide.

Insights must be actionable

If an insight is to make a real impact on the business it must inspire action. I was once presented with a document that listed 52 ‘insights’. It’s astonishing how many so-called insights are actually ‘nice to knows’.

So how do you know which one is the ‘killer’ insight or the ‘golden nugget’?

A great insight should unearth a problem a customer is facing or a question to be answered. It should make you go ‘aha’ and start switching on light bulbs in the marketing department or maybe customer service, R&D or the merchandising team.

Ask yourself

  • Is it interesting or compelling enough to change/encourage people’s behaviour?

  • Does it make the brand’s benefit believable, distinctive and provocative versus the competition?

Generating actionable insights will deliver commercial benefits in the short term and will help anticipate the critical survival factors needed for the future.

How insights will help you improve your marketing campaigns:

1. You can determine the right message, for the right customer

Many marketeers still develop messaging from the inside-out, meaning they decide which messages they think will resonate with their customers. This is either arrogant or ignorant. Very few marketeers are their own target market.

So, talk to your customers or have an expert talk to them for you. There are plenty of ways to get the low down on your audience, your business and your brand. Whether that’s face to face interviews and focus groups, online forums, social listening, online analytics, accompanied shopping expeditions, database mining or telephone surveys – you must get close to your customer. It will be worth the investment.

2. You can develop your product or service – to increase sales

Someone has bought your product or service, and they are now using it in some form or fashion.  Job done? Definitely not.

Having spent their money, do they still think the product or service was/is packaged and priced in the right way? Are you assuming that because they haven’t cancelled their subscription or fired your firm that they are delighted with what they were sold and are coming back for more? Are they recommending you to friends and family? Have they written a positive online review or written a blog? Are they loyal?

The fundamental question is – do you know what’s really important to your customers and how well your product or service is delivering against that? Are you performing any better or worse than your competitors on the things that really matter to them? What should you be prioritising? Maybe you can make savings on the things that they don’t value to allow you to invest in the things they do.

By talking to the right customers and asking the right questions looking at the right information, ‘listening’ to the online conversation around your brand, examining analytics and investigating your findings properly, you will find out what they truly value about your product or service and — just as important — what they don’t.

Like messaging, the answers may not be the only factor in determining your product or service offering, but they ought to play a major part.


3. You can create a bespoke identity for yourself, standing out in the marketplace…for the right reasons

Customer insight will help you decide the types of content you need to produce for maximum impact and engagement through your content-driven marketing.

Do your audience read blog posts? Will they attend a webinar? Who are the most influential spokespeople or thought leaders? Are you more credible if you speak at a big industry trade event or run a local seminar? Are they active on Instagram or addicted to Snapchat?

How do they find out about new products? The latest industry regulations? Which blogs, industry publications, trade shows, or podcasts do they pay attention to?

When are they online, at what time and on what day do they read content or search topics relating to your business?  Do they share content or click through for further information?

These insights will give you a great understanding of where your earned and paid media opportunities lie. And where your spend will achieve the greatest impact.

4. It keeps you top of mind and builds loyalty

When conducting research groups on behalf of clients, it never ceases to amaze me how often I see customers leaning forward and getting excited at seeing something for the first time, despite it having been launched several years previously.


Companies often over estimate just how much customers actually know about their product or service offering. Focusing on educating the customers you have already can be an extremely cost-effective strategy. Research has shown that customers who feel they have been listened to by a brand (even if it’s through a complaint) are more likely to stay loyal to that brand; take a look at this study from the Harvard Business Review.

After all, the rule of thumb says it can cost seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

5. It’s great PR and reminds your customers why they love you

What’s more, when you conduct research, customers are often reminded of why they love your company or service and often regard it as a sign that you care.

So, are you ready to improve your marketing and your business?

By Adele Wilson, Head of Insight & Planning