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How to identify insights from your data

By Aracely Martinez | August 2020

Table of contents

Learn how you can better identify insights from your data and the different ways you could use them to drive value to your business.

These days it is widely known that data is useful for business, and it's everywhere; in your website analytics, social media, CRM, etc. However, sometimes it can be hard to separate the noise from the pieces that really matter. Whenever this happens, it is useful to step back and look at the bare bones of what we need to look for and for what purpose. Data on its own does not often lead to an insight; that's why I'll show you how you can better identify insights and leverage them to help your business.

What is an insight?

First, let's cover the basics.

An insight in marketing can be defined as a piece of information that, combined with some human reasoning has the potential to generate a reaction that can impact your business.

Marketing is about putting customers at the centre of thinking and decision-making for business growth. To do this we need to be able to understand the wants, needs, and behaviours of customers; we need to gain insights to:

Identify and attract the right customers

Who is arriving at my website? How? What queries are they using to discover ourselves or our services?

Generate the best relationships

What are their top searches, and how do they relate? How can I participate in the conversation? How can I prove my authority in X topic?

Make them chose your business above competitors

How can my business help? How can I provide value? How can I stand out from the crowd?

These insights are highly important in defining our search strategy and making effective use of resources and marketing spend.

How do you recognise an insight?

Search is not just about keywords; it's a window to your customers' behaviour, problems, services demand, and the topics you should be leading.

Information like this on its own will usually require transformation to generate insight.

This means that beyond having access to what your customers are searching for, the most important thing is how you process that data and how you make it have meaning for your business.

To spot an insight, you could ask yourself:

  • Is this showing me any understanding of user motivation and behaviour?
  • Does this data reveal a problem to be solved or an opportunity to be built up?
  • Could this lead to a chain reaction in the business? Is there more to scratch for?

Where and how are insights generated?

It's possible to get insights from all sorts of data such as:

  • Qualitative market research
  • Ethnographic studies/immersion studies
  • Quantitative market research
  • Customer data & web analytics
  • Search engines data
  • Customer feedback
  • Social media
  • Published reports & market intelligence
  • Newspaper articles/TV news/Radio
  • Syndicated research

...etc...

However, generating insights from data is all about what you can really see in data and what you can do with it.

Research from HBR outlines seven insight channels that they have recognised based on their experiences and research from entrepreneurial ventures and product-development groups. I believe these can also be applied to improve your process to insights in SEO, overall marketing, or almost any data analysis.

Many great insights can arrive at us after hours of research, by accident, or even luck. Still, I believe it can help to approach the search of insights in a more systematic way at the beginning of the analysis process.

The HBR research found that the best insights tend to come from sources that can be categorised. When you get to constantly remember these categories, it can get easier to organise your thoughts, thinking, and creativity to find valuable insights for your business growth.

So, let's jump to those 7 insights categories:

Anomalies

Analysing deviations from the norm can help us get valuable insights and is usually one of the most widely used.

Example: Do you see unexpectedly high or low revenue or share in a market or segment? An unexpected growth or dip in performance from one of your key KPIs?

Any unusual increase/decrease in search queries for one of your key products?

Sudden traffic from a new keyword topic?

Confluence

This is about finding macro trend intersections; are there any major economic, technological, health (cough cough COVID) factors affecting my business, industry or market? And how these intersect? How are these combining to generate opportunity (or loss)?

Example: Are there any new user behaviours generated from COVID influencing my business? How? Is this reflected in my search demand or in customer feedback?

Frustrations

Analyse and question the deficiencies in the system. If you can find people's frustrations, you may find valuable opportunities.

Example: Your pages satisfy searcher intent? If so, how is this reflected in your site? Could you make your users' lives easier by improving old or outdated content? Is there any reason why potential customers get to your competitors' website but not yours?

Conventionalities

What about questioning conventional beliefs?

Is there anything that has always worked the same way and has the potential to improve?

It could be worth asking if there's an alternative to do it better.

Sometimes when conditions abruptly change, it can force businesses to abandon old assumptions and beliefs to adapt.

Example: Since the COVID outbreak, searches for webinar related topics and keywords were exploited, and businesses had to quickly adapt and prepare better content and new channels to be close to their customers and stakeholders.

Extremities

What can you learn from extreme or outlier behaviours? Some positive outliers can be those that will help you see upcoming trends or changes before they become mainstream.

Example: Are there any new search queries driving traffic to your site? Are users searching more for a specific service / topic in your site-search? Are there specific queries people are using on mobile only?

Voyages

Learning from immersion. Put yourself in your customer shoes. How does that feel? How would it be?

Example: Are customers searches, behaviour, or needs influenced by their location? Does this affect the way they relate to your business? Can we create any solutions to respond to these factors?

Analogies

This one is about looking at other industries, markets, or organisations.

Example: Is there any successful content format that you could adapt to your website and make it your own? Is there an innovative way other industries are standing out from the crowd on search?

Types of insights use

This brings us to the types of applications we can give to insights, the following paper outlines 3 types of insight use according to the purpose of the insight:

Instrumental

Applying insight in specific and direct ways to solve a particular matter relevant to an immediate opportunity.

Example: What about using search trend insights to level up your brand visibility for the next quarter?

Conceptual

Insight use for influencing choices and behaviours in more indirect ways without an immediate tangible action.

Example: The use of an anomaly insight to test for a new mobile page layout.

Symbolic

Applying insight to support previous actions or decisions.

Example: Using the insight from the intersection economic and social factors to generate an article relating client interests with the origin of the brand itself.

Questions you can ask yourself to discover insights

Now that we know how the types of insights and the different use we can give them, here are some examples you could ask yourself to speed up your analysis and insights search:

'What if?' 

'I wonder whether...?'

'Imagine that you could...' 

'I wonder what would happen if...'

'How do we know that...?'

'Why do we believe that...?'

I hope these insight types and usage categorisations can help you separate the noise from the information that matters. A better understanding of these concepts could help you uncover valuable insights from your business more simply and effectively.

And remember: Generating insights from data is all about what you can see in data and what you can really do with it.