Marketing Research – “Actionable Insights” – what’s all the fuss about?
One of the most sought-after prizes in research “The Actionable Insight”. Now, let’s think a bit about the “actionable” part of it.
There’s an understandable fascination with this concept – you get not just getting a whole raft of new information, a new perspective about an issue you’re facing with, but also a clear path of dealing with it – at least that’s how the theory goes.
But as there’s no fast and easy way in life, there’s no fast and easy way in marketing and in business.
In product development or product management, research results could often be as close to actionability as you can get – they will inform you what you can do, what you should do, what you should stop doing or what you shouldn’t start doing at all. Stopping something or not doing something is relatively clear. But while the results / insight can tell you what to do, they will not necessarily inform you HOW to do it – so even here the “actionable” part is not as straightforward as it might seem at first.
When moving to less tangible issues, thing get really complicated. What is an “actionable insight” when talking about brand / company image? When it’s just about some actions that you do, you might get a clear-cut answer – the research can tell you if a particular action it’s helping or it’s hurting the brand, so you could know what to do next.
More often than not, the research is about the brand image itself – the brand is / is not popular enough; it is / it isn’t aspirational; it is / it isn’t trusted and so on. Research can also provide hints on what could be done to improve / maintain the situation, but a clear path to action...? Good luck with that. It’s up to you how to mix the marketing magic and the customer experience; research can do only so much.
Speaking of Customer Experience, we have here another hot potato. Customer experience with actual products gets enough attention – simply because if customers don’t like your product, you might soon be out of business, unless you’re a monopoly or an oligopoly. When it’s about Customer Relations – direct interactions with your clients as part of day-to-day operations, in services industries, or support / troubleshooting issues (for any industry), things get muddier.
You do some research, the “insights” identifies the customers’ pain points with your Customer Relations, some of them having a significant impact on churn but.. The results are not telling you something new, they just confirm what you already knew – well known issues within the company, which were not dealt with because either of the lack of resources, the lack of will to act, or both. Any research, no matter how well executed, might change nothing if those in charge are comfortable with the status quo, case in which puff! any hope of actionability goes up in smoke.
In the end, it’s boiling down to the basics – make sure that the research objectives are well thought and are relevant to the business problem at hand and that there’s will to act upon the results – and the results / insights will be actionable, in one way or another, even if indirectly in many cases.
Just don’t expect miracles and you’ll be fine.