Everyone agrees that insights are great. What’s less clear is what makes a great insight.

A growing number of companies are recognising that powerful insights are an indispensable element of provocative messaging and great campaigns.

Needless to say, the buzz around insights is real and growing. A survey of more than 400 B2B marketers and sales professionals, carried out by Corporate Visions, found that 81 percent of companies believe they use an insights-based approach as part of their selling strategy.

But for all their popularity and usage, a key question continues to linger: What actually constitutes a powerful insight?

In other words, what separates a great insight from a weaker one, or—worse—something that’s not an insight at all? How do you know whether you’re delivering insights that create action as opposed to just recycling information that’s already out there, already known, and unable to set you apart?

Defining the terms

To answer some of these questions, and to arrive at a more concrete definition of insights, I identified four different insights categories that tend to surface in B2B campaigns. I’ve also identified common drawbacks associated with them:

Anecdotal Insights –

Typically developed inside the company, insights in this category often focus on day-to-day issues such as best practices and lessons learned from customers. Examples run the gamut from customer testimonials and success stories to practical advice and guidance provided by long-time users of your solutions.

Drawback: They tend to be limited in terms of their ability to create action and get prospects and customers to see the need to do something different.

Authoritative Insights –

These insights incorporate the work of respected third parties such as industry analysts, leading consultants or other reputable poll-takers who gather information from research and highlight certain statistics or facts.

Drawback: Once these stats and facts are publicised, anybody in the industry can grab them, cite the source, and turn them into insights. Consequently, it can be a challenge to say something that’s truly unique and truly yours.

Current Insights –

This category includes insights harvested from original, company-generated market research and surveys. The idea is that you go out into the marketplace and pose questions to your prospect database, allowing you to generate enough responses to create a credible, statistically valid survey about the current state of your market. You then develop insights by providing commentary on the exclusive data points you generated.

Drawback: Although independently generated research and insights enhance your stature, you might injure your credibility if the findings continually skew in favour of your solutions.

Visionary Insights –

These insights take the foundation of current insights—unique, company-generated research and findings—but go a step further from an interpretation standpoint. Instead of featuring a point of view that reflects only the current realities of your research, these insights concentrate on the future implications of your findings—the emerging issues, challenges and trends your data support. In other words, you provide forward-looking content, conversation and perspective on the direction of your market, positioning you as an industry ‘sage.’

Drawbacks: The challenges are similar to those associated with ’current insights.’ Other difficulties stem from the inherent thought leadership challenges posed by developing compelling, well articulated, forward-looking interpretations of your data.

After providing these categories to our survey participants, we asked them to tell us how frequently these types of insights appear in their marketing collateral. It turned out that anecdotal insights were delivered the most, while visionary insights were delivered the least.

We then asked them how effective they believe each insight category is at generating more engaging conversations and driving sales. This time, anecdotal insights—the most used—finished last, while visionary insights—the least used—came out on top.

What this reveals is that companies appear to be applying an inverse logic to insights development and delivery, whereby they’re most often using the category that has the least impact on positive selling outcomes.

Our research strongly suggests that the market wants well-developed, forward-looking interpretations of their industry – a perspective that forces them to re-evaluate their prevailing mode of thought. So why not deliver those perspectives?

By doing so, you’ll galvanise your demand generation efforts, getting more prospects to seek out your content, value your appraisal of the market, and ultimately consider doing something different.

Insights function best when they’re able to expose an inconsistency or flaw in the way someone is thinking about their business or industry today. You’re more likely to achieve that effect by delivering insights of the less delivered but more provocative variety – in other words, those that fall into the ’visionary’ category.

 

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Corporate Visions. 


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