To be successful, companies and their marketing leaders need to leverage insights into customer and consumer preferences and behaviors to make strategic decisions that can give them a competitive edge. Successful marketers have been doing that for decades.
Today, though, they can do that faster, more accurately, and more precisely by implementing insight management technology. Insight management, an emerging technology, might prove to be a game changer for marketers, allowing them to better understand customer behavior, identify market trends, and stay ahead of the competition.
Insight management allows companies to turn to a single platform to collect, aggregate, and analyze customer feedback inputs across multiple platforms or silos and then gain broader and deeper insights into customer behaviors and preferences.
Traditional customer data platforms (CDPs) have historically been used to aggregate various types of customer data from multiple sources. But as companies recognize the importance of customer feedback, the need for a more specialized platform to focus only on feedback emerged.
Feedback, of course, can come from a wide range of sources and is generally stored in dispersed locations across most companies. The ability to identify and pull this information together into one place can help companies and their marketing organizations make better decisions to meet customer needs for everything from product development to service, support, sales, and marketing.
It’s a concept, though, that hasn’t fully taken hold quite yet, says Elizabeth Melbert, a senior strategist with Harte Hanks, a global customer experience company. “While insight management is the latest marketing buzzword, our experiences, gleaned from working with more than 20 global clients, is that most are not yet using an insight management platform at scale,” she says. “They are more likely to use the built-in [artificial intelligence] and campaign functionality within Salesforce, which continues to be the industry standard.”
Still, it’s a trend to follow.
“The rise of new insight management technologies is part of a wider global trend that provides the right tools for companies to become data-driven,” says Ray Fernandez, a self-employed content and communication specialist. “Breaking silos, centralization of all data, and visualization is key for companies to make better decisions, identify problems and risks, and drive performance.” That can be done with insight management, he says.
Insight management systems include the following features:
- Data aggregation, pulling data from a wide range of customer feedback sources, like surveys, social media, customer support tickets, and user testing to offer a comprehensive view.
- Advanced analyticsto identify patterns, trends, and potential areas of concern or opportunity.
- Visualization toolsthat make the data easier to understand through tools like dashboards, charts, and graphs.
- Integration capabilitieswith other marketing tools and platforms.
- Real-time analysisso companies can react promptly to customer feedback.
The applications are endless, and the potential for more is staggering.
Fernandez points out that companies have been using technology to run successful insight-based marketing campaigns for a long time, using vendors like IBM and its AI Watson for business, Microsoft Power BI, and others. The difference today, he says, “is that the new insight management software solutions are designed specifically for these tasks, saving companies the trouble of fine-tuning complex technologies.” This, he says, “makes them faster to deploy and easier to use and maintain.”
THE BENEFITS OF INSIGHT MANAGEMENT
There are a number of benefits and opportunities related to insight management, says Erik Pham, founder and CEO of Healthcanal, a health and wellness media company. He cites the following:
Personalization. Insights can be used to create highly personalized campaigns and offers, increasing customer engagement and loyalty.
Competitive advantage. Companies that effectively use insight management, Pham says, “gain a competitive edge by staying ahead of market trends and consumer preferences.”
Predictive analytics. Insights allow marketers to identify patterns and trends that can be used to predict future customer behaviors and market shifts.
“By identifying trends and patterns, insight management can enhance personalization efforts, ensuring tailored marketing strategies that resonate with the target audience,” says Suraj Nair, a digital marketer at SocialPilot, a B2B social media management tools provider.
Insight management, Pham says further, “empowers marketers to make informed decisions by collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources.” This leads, he says, to more effective strategies and campaigns.
Marketers, Pham says, “gain deeper insights into customer preferences, behaviors, and sentiments, enabling them to tailor their messaging and offering more precisely.”
Real-time monitoring means that marketers have timely insight into customer behaviors, actions, and interests. They can monitor trends and reactions in real time and respond quickly to market changes or changes in customer sentiment.
Despite the many benefits, though, there are challenges that companies need to address.
SOME DRAWBACKS OF INSIGHT MANAGEMENT
Insight management, at least the kind provided by one-size-fits-all solutions, Melbert says, “may not work in niche industries, especially those with regulations—alcohol, pharma, regulated B2B.” In addition, she cautions, “none of this works without the right human guidance. AI tools are helpful, but not without human insight.”
In addition, while gathering deep and extensive feedback from customers can be helpful, it does come with some risks. Data privacy, of course, is a paramount concern and an operational requirement. Failing to adequately protect customer data, including customer feedback, can lead to regulatory issues and fines.
Marketers also need to be cautious in terms of how they use the data, Pham says: “Using data for profit without considering ethical implications can result in backlash from consumers and stakeholders.”
Other potential concerns are the time, effort, and costs associated with what can be a major technology implementation.
“Implementing an insight management system can be complex and may require significant IT resources and investments,” Nair says.
Fernandez agrees, noting that none of this is an easy undertaking. “Insight management is not a magical technology that can be rapidly installed on your team’s computer to immediately drive incredible results,” Fernandez says. “It requires a lot more than that.”
Data quality is another key concern, Fernandez points out. It’s a major one, in fact. “Inaccurate, outdated, incomplete, or poorly formatted data leads to performance degradation and even risks.”
Melbert agrees. Continuous quality control is a must, she says. “Another challenge is investing in continuous quality control. These platforms are only as good as what is feeding them, so you must have processes to ensure data feeds are accurate and working correctly.”
Without quality data, customer trust can easily be eroded, Melbert cautions. “Customer trust is gained by taking the information that they provide and using it to deliver offers and information that is targeted and relevant,” she says. “Conversely, customer trust is damaged when companies don’t tailor points of interaction based on customer data and preferences.” She uses the example of sending dog food coupons to someone who only has cats.
Another important consideration is exactly how to best use and communicate the feedback that such systems can generate in ways that resonate and are easily understood by organizational leaders and others.
Fernandez recommends that leaders adopting insight management look into the idea of data storytelling. When presenting reports to decision makers, he says, data should be used to tell a story.
“C-suite executives and board members do not want to have an hour-long presentation on data, numbers, or algorithms. They do not want to see slides with complex, never-ending Excel sheets.”
Instead, he suggests marketing leaders should use the data “to create an engaging narrative that helps your audience understand the issue in depth, the challenges, and what is being achieved.” Complex information, he says further, “needs to be translated to a human and business language.”
A data story, like any story, Fernandez says, needs to have “a character, an environment, a scenario or setting, a pain point or a conflict, and a resolution.” And the narrative must be supported with data.
“Data stories also use high-impact visualizations, maps, graphs, charts, and visual dashboards,” Fernandez says. “Leaders should remember that it’s not about patronizing decision makers nor underestimating their ability to understand the data, but about doing the real work that comes with data management, which is data analytics.”
It’s important, he says, to intimately know the business targets, performance data, and challenges of the campaign. “But listening is also important. Those presenting reports should know what decision makers need and are interested in and deliver a data story that responds accordingly.”
OTHER BEST PRACTICES FOR MAKING INSIGHT MANAGEMENT WORK
“The benefits of insight management are well established, but these can only be leveraged with the right strategy and best practices in place,” Fernandez says.
At the outset, Pham adds, it’s important to “start with a clear understanding of what insights you seek to gain to avoid getting lost in data.”
Normand Chevrette, president and CEO of CME, a biomedical services firm, has spent some time exploring insight management systems. “A common challenge for marketers when implementing insight management is figuring out which benchmarks matter,” Chevrette says. “This can be tricky, especially in fast-changing industries where traditional standards may not fit,” he says. “As a solution, marketers can try a dynamic benchmarking approach. Instead of just following industry norms, they can create their own benchmarks tailored to their specific goals and audience.”
Chevrette recommends picking “key metrics that match your objectives and segment your audience to understand their unique needs.”
It’s also important to keep a close eye on customer feedback and sentiment, comparing current performance to past data, and even taking a look at related industries to draw additional useful insights. “Be open to experimenting with different benchmarks as the market evolves,” he suggests. “This way, you can have benchmarks that genuinely matter and help you make smart decisions to stand out.”
Because adopting insight management technology can be such a significant undertaking, especially on a large scale, Pham recommends starting with a small pilot to test the system’s effectiveness and build confidence among users.
Training, including upskilling and reskilling, will be important for organizations implementing insight management technology.
There is a talent gap, Fernandez says, that can challenge organizations to effectively implement new systems like insight management. “In sophisticated operations, we’re talking about needing data scientists, data engineers, and AI specialists,” he says.
Companies that face this challenge, Fernandez suggests, don’t necessarily need to bring new talent on board. Instead, he says, they can “embrace quiet hiring, a concept where companies skill and train the workers they already have.”
In addition to training, ongoing communication is important to ensure successful implementation and use of insight management technology.
“Implementing insight management may require a cultural shift within the organization,” Pham cautions. “Resistance to change can impede progress.”
Fernandez agrees. “Cultural change resistance is one of the biggest barriers when it comes to implementing new technologies and concepts like insight management,” he says.
“A leader trying to modernize the marketing team often finds resistance to change. Marketers are sometimes used to doing things a certain way and may feel threatened or insecure when something new and better comes along.” The solution, he says, is communication and including all parties in the transformation.
“Communication channels between all parties involved in an insight management program must be established and well defined,” Fernandez says. “Furthermore, everyone on the team should know what they are responsible for and who is accountable for what.”
Finally, have a firm grasp on what technology can and can’t do.
Yes, technology is important, and insight management technology holds the promise of helping marketers and the organizations for which they work make better, more informed decisions. But, Pham cautions, “relying solely on technology may lead to a disconnect from the human aspect of marketing, such as understanding emotions and contest.”
Nair agrees. “Relying solely on data may lead to a disconnect from human intuition, potentially missing out on creative marketing opportunities,” he says.
Technology of any kind should be viewed as an aid—something to augment, but not replace, the power of people.
Linda Pophal is a freelance business journalist and content marketer who writes for various business and trade publications. Pophal does content marketing for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and individuals on a wide range of subjects, from human resource management and employee relations to marketing, technology, healthcare industry trends, and more.