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The problem with systematic insight generation isn’t technological. It’s organizational.

Analytics are important and nobody disputes that. Marketers everywhere recognize the value of insights, but they haven’t figured out how to capture them in systematic ways. Way too many insight-driven successes still stem from happy accidents.

CMOs know this needs to change. Systematic insight generation was a hot topic at a recent American Marketing Association conference where much of the conversation centered on what to do differently. Marketing leaders agree: The problem isn’t technological. It’s organizational.

Disorganized Insights

Analytics aren’t inherently helpful. You need to know how to interpret and apply their insights for them to be of use. Seventy-four percent of firms interviewed for one recent Forrester study said they want to be data-driven, yet only 29 percent achieved that goal. Analytics firms are partly to blame for this, often promising insights but merely adding to the noise.

However, marketers must be able to distinguish actionable takeaways from intriguing anomalies. If you can’t connect data to your brand’s narrative or convey it to team members in meaningful ways, you’re doing a lot of interesting work for little practical benefit.

Organizational Challenges 

Marketing teams typically don’t have their own analytics departments. When they do, they’re focused on top-level goals such as optimizing channel performance to influence budget allocation. Meanwhile, the deeper and more challenging work of establishing omnichannel consistency, cross-device integration and a seamless customer experience gets pushed aside.

This is what CMOs mean when they say the challenge to systematic insight generation is organizational. Although they all fall under the marketing heading, the teams that work on the above issues are fractured. How can you pull regular insights when your team barely knows how to work together?

The Need for Speed

Time has always been precious for marketers, but speed is more important now than ever. The news cycle lasts hours rather than days, viral popularity wanes in an instant and the availability of A/B testing forces brands to make snap decisions constantly. 

If you can’t capitalize on a news event or respond to customer complaints before they spiral out of control on social media, you’ll lag behind your competition. Gone are the days when quarterly insight assessments would suffice. Now you need to update your strategies daily.

Episodic insights fail to provide a comprehensive view of your customers’ behaviors, preferences and purchase patterns. Their lives move too quickly to rely on data from six months ago. You need systematic insights to reach them on an ongoing basis.

Extracting Timely, Usable Insights 

Even if you do pull insights regularly, are you maximizing their potential? Companies that let insights languish for weeks while analysts compile PowerPoints and team members submit feedback are essentially signing their own death warrants. Communication is great, but not at the expense of speed. Insights demand action, especially once you’ve upgraded to a systematic approach.

There are countless data integration techniques that can extract usable insights in a timely manner. Here’s how to position your organization for systematic success:

  1. Establish a cross-departmental task force: Invite the members of this task force to become stakeholders in the data extraction process. Incorporate insight analysis into their job responsibilities to foster a sense of accountability and encourage them to share their knowledge with colleagues. The more invested everyone is in insight extraction and implementation, the more the systematic approach will become part of your organization’s DNA.
  2. Gather input from all departments: Find out which metrics and data points are vital to each department. You’ll likely see some overlap, which will indicate the areas in which you should invest most heavily. The core needs of different teams often link back to one another so take a holistic view when implementing systematic insight generation.
  3. Make sure information flows among all platforms: Integrate actionable insights into your entire marketing tech stack, including web optimization and backend tools that will streamline your processes. Allowing for broad distribution of this information enables teams to move quickly on new opportunities.

Putting the Pieces Together

For example, when I worked at a major fashion retailer, we knew there was a strong connection between online and offline behaviors. Our marketing team had to create a seamless process for extracting and integrating offline customer transactions into digital marketing programs. 

That enabled us to target online customers by promoting in-store promotions, optimize advertising based on detailed consumer data and update our strategies in real time rather than revisiting them once a quarter.

Systematic Versus Episodic

Remember, too, that the more frequently updates are expected, the more accountability exists for systematic insight integration. While this shouldn't mean your organization reacts to every single change within programs, it can help create the sense of urgency a systematic process entails.

Bottom line, systematic insights are within your organization's grasp. You may be collecting them already without realizing it because you're viewing them through an episodic lens. Structure your marketing department so you can capture real-time insights and maximize their values, instead of sitting on your hands until the next quarterly insight review.