I recently participated in a discussion panel at a “marketing research” conference, and I’m not sure I made many new friends. The four other panelists were talking about the importance of insights and how it is “transforming our industry.” They then went on to describe all the amazing research tools enabling “better insights.”
When there was a pause, I spoke up.
“In my opinion, how you go about engaging with people has little correlation to the generation of insights. How exactly do the other panelists define an insight?”
I got some textbook answers, but no one (and I mean no one) really got it right. In my humble opinion, findings are useless. Research tools that allow us to collect more information are far less important than the brains that can put that information to good use. Insight, or the knowledge that drives an action or frames up a competitive advantage, is what matters.
Generating an insight requires an ability to listen to people, put yourself in their shoes, and reinterpret what is said into what is meant. It requires experience and an understanding of what motivates people.
McKinsey & Company recently released an article and the second leading correlator to new product launch success was the incorporation of market insights.
Note the operative word in the McKinsey study: the incorporation of market insights.
Incorporation requires four things.
- Your product launch team can clearly articulate the business objectives and the decisions the research needs to support.
- Your insights vendor has a business brain and a research brain. They demonstrate a comprehension of your business objectives and decisions at hand, and they articulate how their recommended study approach will meet these needs.
- Your insights vendor does responsible research but considers the insights far more important than the process. (Warning: this means they may not stick with the script and will pivot.)
- Your insights vendor shows you how to activate the research.
It is very satisfying how client conversations have changed over the past couple of years.
It used to be that we’d spend time debating the best methods. Today, our clients (at least) care very little about how we do things. They trust us to be precise and responsible. They are far more interested in the benefits of the investment and how the insights will align the cross-functional team.