Most marketeers agree that a genuine insight into their customer can unlock disruptive innovation and infuse new life into their brands. It’s no surprise therefore that vast amounts of money are being spent to unveil these precious truths that have the ability to make your customer feel fully seen and understood, in ways that even they could not express themselves.
However, the return on insight generation research is typically not very good. Rather than walk away from the research with one or two heart opening insights, we typically end up with an overload of information that provides a new spin on something we already knew. Indeed, according to “The Future of Insights” project, less than a third of senior marketers are happy with Insights and almost a quarter are negative.
So if money cannot buy insights, what can we do to increase our chances of uncovering these hidden gems?
It is said that innovation happens at the fringe, or the intersection of different disciplines. As I continue to explore the coming together of my current work as a coach in human potential development and my experience in market research, I have come to the following conclusion:
Our ability to discover and harness an insight has more to do with the quality of the researcher’s presence than the “insightfulness” of the subject being researched. Even the root of the word (prefix “in” plus the word “sight”) suggests that an insight literally means “seeing inward”.
Here are three ways in which mindfulness increases our chances of landing a powerful insight and harnessing it as a source of innovation for the business:
Pay less attention to WHAT customers are saying and more to HOW they are saying it.
As coaches, we are trained to feel beyond the words and sense into the energy that clients bring into the session. For example, it’s not uncommon for somebody to come into a coaching call with the objective to work on their leadership so they can grow into a more expanded role in their organization. Often though, there is a deeper desire, not yet being expressed by the client, but subtly coming through in their body language or the energy of their words.
Good coaches can tune into this tension and bring more awareness to it. They might say something like: “I hear that it’s important for you to grow into the next level of your career, but I don’t feel a lot of excitement in your voice when you talk about it. I’m curious if there is something else going on that we might want to look at first.”
Usually, the intuition of the coach is spot on and the client will get in touch with other aspects that are triggering the need for change. For example, it might reconnect them with a passion that was put on hold many years ago when they entered the business world and create an opening to relook at it again.
Clearly, the quality of insight that is generated, and the impact it has on the client, is hugely different between a coach that simply addresses WHAT the client asks for in a transactional way and one that takes a more transformational approach to the conversation.
Isn’t this exactly the same in the consumer research context? Could it be that the really powerful insights, the ones with the capacity for breakthrough impact, are being left behind because we aren’t sufficiently trained to tune into the “unsaid” of the consumers we are interviewing? What if the biggest tensions (between WHAT is said and HOW it is said), also deliver the biggest insights!
Become aware of the current assumptions and beliefs you have about the customer so you can minimize the inevitable interference it has on your ability to pick up new information.
As coaches, we believe in the resourcefulness of our clients. When they feel safe, trusted and seen, it becomes easier to access deeper layers of knowing within themselves.
Therefore, as coaches we strive to show up for them with an innocent mind, leaving our own judgments about what is right or wrong / good or bad behind. This is not as easy as it sounds.
It’s much easier, and sometimes very tempting, to offer advice and suggestions based on our own life experiences. However, as soon as we enter into this dynamic, we lose the capacity to stay open, curious and present for the client to discover their own truth. In other words, our world view, beliefs and ego are coming in the way and preventing the client from accessing their own deeper knowing. They might leave the session with some valuable advice, but they won’t walk away with the breakthrough insight.
The more I grow as a coach, the more I realize the importance of “emptying my mind” before I work with a client. This might look like a 10-minute self-attunement practice before the session.
During this time, I will simply bring attention to my breath, become aware of the “baggage” I am carrying at the moment and consciously choose to set it aside. I might also bring to mind the client I will be working with and take a moment to visualize their brilliance and set an intention for our time together. These simple steps don’t take a lot of time, but the impact can be enormous.
Imagine a marketing team applying some of these basic principles before engaging in research with their customers? What more could we see and discover when observing our customers free from our own judgments and pre-conceived ideas?
Be prepared and open to embrace the change that comes with a good insight. You and your business will inevitably be invited to step into a new direction.
Aha moments will typically trigger a desire for change, or to create something new, and propel us into action. This might mean leaving a job or relationship, moving to a new country, starting a new business or reinventing ourselves within the current circumstances.
I can think of many of those moments in my own life over the past years. Each time it involved a transition from the known to the unknown. This would trigger doubts, fear and a longing for the status quo. However, when reconnecting with the insight that initiated the change, I would also discover a renewed capacity to imagine and dream; to experiment and play.
As coaches, we support our clients on this adventurous journey (from the known to the unknown to the new known). When they get stuck, we invite them into a creative space of exploration. When they fall back into old patterns, we reconnect them with the new possibilities that lie ahead. When they stop believing in themselves, we remind them of their brilliance.
The innovation process is no different. Finding a mind opening insight is only part of the journey. We must also find the courage to act on it and rebuild the business around it. As a marketing team, how much attention do you currently put on cultivating the new mindsets and putting in place the conditions that will allow an insight to flourish into a competitive advantage?
As coaches, we can help you navigate through this transformational process.
Over the course of the past 20 years, I have spent half of it perfecting the art of market research and the other half developing human potential through coaching. I am now grounded in the intersection of both and am available to help you and your business teams get breakthrough returns on your insight generation investments.