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OPINION28 February 2018

Actionable insights require greater understanding

B2B Opinion UK

Circle’s Andrew Dalglish looks at the trends and requirements for genuinely actionable insights.

Actionable insights – every client-side researcher wants them and every agency promises them.  But it’s become a cliché.  A worn-out phrase which has lost meaning because very few researchers generate real insights and even fewer drive action from them. 

If we focus on the action part of the promise, four core things need to happen to deliver on that: 

  • The brief needs to be challenged so that the issue explored, is the issue truly faced
  • Stakeholders who will be acting at the end of it all, need to be engaged early on. This will ensure the research gives them everything they need to act and the sense of ownership will motivate them to do so
  • Findings need to be creatively communicated so that they engage, persuade and inspire stakeholders. After all, nothing will happen if the message doesn’t get through and make a compelling case for action
  • Researchers need to stick around post-presentation and become catalysts for action. Working with stakeholders to form specific, detailed action plans means that the research won’t slip down the agenda as the day-to-day grind takes hold.

A common thread runs through all of these points – understanding. To challenge the brief, you need to understand the bigger picture. To effectively engage stakeholders, you need to understand their motivations and priorities. To communicate well, you need to understand the hot buttons to push. And to input into action plans, you need to understand the tools stakeholders have at their disposal.

So, if there’s a B2B aspect to your business, marketers are one of your key stakeholder groups and you’re on-board with the idea that you need to understand their world, then you might be interested in a recent study Circle Research conducted in partnership with B2B Marketing Magazine.  In Q4 2017 we surveyed 350 B2B marketers and asked them to indicate how focused they were on 14 different trends.

They did so using a sliding scale where 100 represented an all-consuming focus and zero indicated that it wasn’t even on their radar. This study reveals that five trends will become mainstream this year, with the majority of B2B marketers investing considerable time and money into them as we speak:

  1. Improving the customer experience: marketers are focused on baking excellence into every aspect of the customer experience, from the initial enquiry all the way through to the in-life experience
  2. Optimising marketing automation systems: automation systems allow marketers to effortlessly personalise marketing messages and nurture prospects through the buying journey. With the majority having now implemented a marketing automation system, their attention is turning to making the dream a reality
  3. Preparing for GDPR: researchers aren’t the only ones affected by the EU’s new data privacy regulations. Marketers are frantically reviewing their data capture policies, cleaning out CRMs and quietly weeping at all the data they’re having to discard
  4. Adopting Account Based Marketing (ABM): most B2B companies find that sales follow the 80:20 rule, where the majority of income (often around 80%) comes from a small proportion of customers (that’s the 20%). This being the case, marketers are focusing their efforts by creating separate marketing plans for each high value (or high potential) account
  5. Building emotional engagement: a business has never sold anything to another business. No, people in one business sell to people in another. This means that even in B2B markets, emotions play a role in driving brand preference and marketers have cottoned on to that fact

These are the burning issues for B2B marketers and they’re well worth remembering when the next brief crosses your desk.