Facts vs. Insights: How To Know You Have Truly Profound Customer Insights


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The edge.  When you have it, it is powerful.  It is what many B2B organizations are seeking today.  What is sought is an edge over competitors, which translates into more wins.  How to get the edge is what perplexes many marketing and sales leaders today in B2B organizations.

Gaining an edge usually involves uncovering a level of customer insights, which are so profound; it endears you to customers like no other competitor can.  The question many ask when helping marketing leaders recently is – how do we know we truly have profound insights?

The Difference From Facts Matters

Where many B2B organizations are struggling is in knowing the difference between finding facts and what truly represents profound insights.  It is a difference, which matters greatly.  Buying attributes, experiences, and behaviors are undergoing their biggest upheavals in decades.  Making the need for profound insights more important than ever before.

When it comes to allocating resources, the difference can be huge.  What marketing and sales leaders need to avoid is duplicating use of resources on finding facts alone.  The challenge here, however, is there is much confusion on what represents facts and what represents profound insights.

Buyer Insights Tell The Future

Understanding how buyers will make decisions in the future is a key aspect of buyer and customer insights.  Having insights into how future decisions will affect attitudes, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors can guide the direction of an organization’s own future strategies.  Thus, we have one of the main attributes of customer insights being defined as future-oriented.

This is a very important principle.  Many B2B organizations are engaged in finding facts about their buyer’s current or past processes.  Mainly, gathering facts on what buyers are doing now.  Where duplicity is occurring is when you have marketing and sales engaged in finding facts – and not talking to each other.  For example:

A B2B organization I helped adopted a specific sales methodology a few years ago.  Part of this consultative methodology was aimed at gathering sales intelligence data on their buyer’s buying criteria, key factors of success, pain points, buying process, and strategic initiatives.  At a different time, their global marketing team undertook an effort on finding similar facts, which existed unbeknownst to them in sales.  Duplicating spending of resources towards finding facts and not true buyer insights.  In the end, both marketing and sales had an exercise in finding facts as well as buyer profiling, which are helpful but offer neither truly profound insights nor true buyer personas. 

A Profound Buyer Insight

Within the context of insights being defined as future oriented, a B2B organization can gain an edge when it is able to discover deep and revealing insights, which helps them to shape their brand, marketing, sales, and product strategies in ways, which are truly meaningful to its’ customers.  What makes a true profound buyer insight?  Here is how I have answered this question for the past fifteen years or more:

A buyer insight is the discovery of a profound truth associated with an unarticulated and no-so-obvious set of behaviors and attitudes, which illuminate the why behind buying decisions and behaviors. 

A Comparison

In most cases, profound insights transition from the not-so-obvious to obvious when they have qualitative research lenses shined on them.  The skilled and experienced qualitative researcher pulls together patterns of insights on a canvas to paint the story of buyers.

What follows is a comparison between finding facts and uncovering profound insights:

 facts vs insights comparison.001

In this comparison, evident is finding facts deals with conventional thinking on roles, functions, processes, and in general on what buyers can say they do.  Profound insights go beyond this extensively and shed light on future behaviors and choices not easily articulated by buyers.  Uncovering the “why” takes skilled deep diving.

Changing Directions

A base of profound insights can help an organization change its’ course of direction in a positive way.  Guiding renewed positioning of strategies related to brand, communications, and products, which helps them distinguish themselves in the marketplace.  And, give them the edge over competitors.   For example:

A Fortune 500 firm I helped produced high quality video technologies used in sophisticated situations such as homeland security.  Much of their positioning and communications focused on the quality behind the technology.  Marketing and sales executing campaigns focused on demonstrating superior quality.  At some point, sales stagnated for this firm.  Undertaking buyer insights research to get a handle on what was happening in the marketplace, they uncovered a profound insight.  In certain OEM situations, while high quality was a basic buying “criteria” expectation, their technologies were viewed as “accelerators” in product development and engineering efforts.  Significantly reducing development time and making the build vs. buy decision economical.  This particular division shifted positioning to representing themselves as accelerators, which meant something to potential buyers.  Boosting sales with OEM’s and uncovering a new growth trajectory.

Getting The Edge

The approach an organization takes in deeply understanding its’ potential buyers and existing customers makes a big difference.  It has to take care to not duplicate resources expended on the basic profiling of buyers.  Instead, as in the example just mentioned, companies can focus on finding true insights with game-changing potential.

The ability to create insights-based and actionable strategies is helped when aligned with profound insights in the comparison chart above.  Helping companies to gain the edge they need in the marketplace.  The edge is what B2B organizations are after – this is one way to get it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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