The Lost Art of Insight Gathering

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First of all let me start by taking you back to the beginning of how Insightful ‘arose’ as this will help provide some context to this article. Having spent my whole career working within marketing departments or within agencies (marketing/digital), I found myself in November 2015 in an all too familiar position of being informed that the department I was heading up, was being re-structured and de-centralised. Now I say all too familiar, as 3 of the last 4 businesses I had worked for had gone through similar change consisting of either a restructure, acquisition or merger.

This sparked a desire within me to take greater control of my own destiny. This itself is probably not an unfamiliar feeling many of you who have set up a business on your own have felt. I was clear though that I wanted to do something that would add real value to the industry I love and the clients I would hopefully serve.

I naturally migrated to coming up with the concept of Insightful UX. The premise being that we would undertake deep dive analytics web audits to help businesses prioritise areas of their onsite journey to improve. Taking this one step further I wanted to illustrate, in monetary terms, how much more income they could be receiving if they improved the areas highlighted. The documents themselves would become a clear action plan and double as business cases to justify improving or developing a new website.

This for me was a great concept as it would help businesses make an informed decision based on insight and real data not purely based on making key business decisions on someone’s judgement alone. Since September our services have extended to include undertaking online competitor research, 1 on 1 interviews and independent digital marketing forecasts. All services that help arm our clients with a view of the landscape around them: competition, customers and prospects as well as a situational analysis of how effective their own website and digital activity is. The value here being that a business would understand the challenge ahead of them and what would be required in order to grow further or enter a new market. From this a clear strategy and plan of action could be formed.

So when I first thought of where we would generate business, my first port of call was to see if I could assist the many agencies in the area. It is here that I first started to see the truth of why our industry in some quarters was getting a bad reputation. I spent a vast amount of time trying to connect with and meet with various agency owners and senior management to illustrate how we were trying to provide a deeper level of insight to clients. Some just got it and have worked with us by building in our offering to their list of services or they offered similar services themselves. Now I’m not naive enough to think that in every situation that a client will want to gather insight. Yet our industry has a responsibility I believe to illustrate to clients the importance and value of gathering insight to help form a better and more effective strategy. If the client declines this approach, that’s ok as we can only educate and advise.

However, to my surprise it was clear that many agencies are skipping the whole insight and scoping process and jumping straight into wire-framing, design and digital asset creation stages based on their judgement alone. This if anything makes me feel frustrated as even a little bit of research can go a long way. In fairness, i’ve also come across some businesses that also seem to shy away from the concept of speaking to their own customers. I’ve literally heard the comment ‘speak to our customers why would we do that?!’.

We seem to have forgotten the ‘value of gathering insight and planning’.

My point therefore is that whether you are an agency or client we seem to have forgotten the ‘value of gathering insight and planning’ in this fast-moving world we seem to just want to get websites built, content posted and activity sent out in to the world. I feel that even just sometimes we need to take a step back and consider whether we have good grounds for knowing that our marketing activity is going to be effective, as opposed to taking a pure a hit and hope approach.

I’d therefore advocate for even the smallest of businesses to speak to your customers to find out why they chose you over another supplier. Spend a little bit of time looking at your competitor’s website to help spark some inspiration on how you may approach your website differently. Or even explore internally the key reasons why you fail at times to take on business from potential new customers. Another approach could be to a/b test your website pages, to help provide clarity on what does and does not work.

Gathering insight does not need to be hard and yes there are ways to go about collecting it in the right way, but I do feel that as an industry we have forgotten the general importance of speaking to our customers more and keeping an eye on the changes around us. As we all know the world is moving quickly and if we don’t constantly look up and evolve we will become irrelevant and this is when our businesses will die.

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