What’s an often-overlooked marketing principle?



It’s simple: mainly because it lacks tangibility.

Insight is about evolution, not evaluation.

We know it’s relatively easy to quantify innovation and brand identity strength. Things like new product revenues, market share, stock price, and statistical surveys can be evaluated.

Not so with insight: Deep, proprietary understanding may exist within the minds and file folders of the company, its leaders, and employees—but it doesn’t show up, at least explicitly – on a company’s balance sheet.

The true value of customer obsession and insight is the role it plays in brand and business model evolution. Think of insight as merely a means to an end – it only results in economic benefits when combined with identity and innovation.

Just because you can’t see or quantify insight, though, doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Our work with leading upstream marketers indicates that insight is the underlying, driving component of their success.

Along with defining the organization’s purpose and high-level growth strategy, insight is the first step. An outside-in perspective is required to counteract the bias of internal focus. Let’s go deeper into what insight is and how to obtain it.

How does a business define insight?

Insight is the ability to understand something in a very clear way by gaining an almost intuitive understanding of the situation. It goes beyond knowledge and understanding to uncover the whys and strategic implications.

It’s the “aha” or “eureka” moment when knowledge and understanding meet:

  • Knowledge and understanding provide the dots.
  • Insight connects those dots.

Here’s a simple chart that describes this relationship:

I love this memorable definition

  • Knowledge is measuring that a desert path is 12.4 miles long.
  • Understanding is packing enough water for the hike.
  • Insight is building a lemonade stand at mile six.

Know the 3 Different Types of Insight

We can extend the desert path/lemonade stand example to highlight three different types of insight:

  1. Customer
  2. Marketplace
  3. Technical

Each type is needed, and their intersection leads to growth. Here’s how an adept upstream marketer might gather insight on each type for a lemonade stand in the desert.

Customer Insight is about wants & needs

For customer insight, consider the wants and needs of end customers: in this case, hikers:

  • Interview or observe them.
  • Go deeper: conduct ethnographic research—hike along with them and immerse yourself in their situation.
  • Ask targeted questions: What might they seek in a refreshment stand offering, and why?

Asking why opens up broader opportunities. Is the need just lemonade, or is it really about quenching thirst and rehydration?

Build awareness with Marketplace Insight

For marketplace insight, study situational factors like the physical path, its environment, and other aspects surrounding the journey. Focus on macro-level issues, including:

  • Competitive assessment
  • Trend analysis
  • Desk research

Don’t be overly concerned with competitors, but be aware. For instance, if another company secures building rights for a retail outlet at mile-marker 5.8, that’s important to know.

Technological Insight: think innovation

Finally, invest in technological insight to define how to create innovative solutions in a new way. Technical insights might include food chemistry, logistics, cooling systems, solar energy, and drone delivery. How can technical solutions be combined to devise new offerings?

Now you’re ready to:

  • Analyze and synthesize the perspectives
  • Iteratively develop and optimize potential solutions

Experiment to learn! Maybe your first recipe for lemonade is too sweet for thirsty customers. So make a small batch of a low-sugar recipe and test how they like that instead. This process is the essence of insight applied to business decision-making.

The key to obtaining deep, proprietary insight?

Look closer and think deeper.

Let us help you learn more about insight and upstream marketing concepts!
We’re pleased to offer a free download of the second chapter of our book, Upstream Marketing.

Access your complimentary download here.