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Data is Not an Insight

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I thought I'd continue my article from last week by clarifying another point of confusion when it comes to writing a business or marketing plan. Sure, we all sometimes get things like mission, vision and values turned around on each other, and we sometimes confuse them with brand positioning. But I think we sorted that all out last time.

Now I'd like to address a particular pet peeve of mine, a common mistake that I find many marketers make that could steer them to the wrong course of action. There is a frequent misbelief that data is an insight, and that often that "insight" can become a brand strategy.

No way, no how.

Related: How Data Can Help You to Personalize Marketing Events and Boost ROI

Data is just that -- data. It's information about your business, your target customer, your competitors or your industry. It can be numbers, stats, profiles, trends, historical reviews -- it can be any form of information. But it's not an insight.

Data casts light on a given topic, it informs and educates us, and it can guide our thinking. But data doesn't do our thinking.

A piece of data, or a collection of it, can certainly help uncover an insight, that's for sure. Without data, it's nearly impossible to find an insight. But the data isn't the insight.

For example, if you are in a travel-related business, it's helpful to know that a large and growing percentage of business travelers are women. That's good data, especially if you offer services to business travelers. But that's not an insight -- it's a data point.

However, an insight could be that these female business travelers secretly like getting away from the daily grind of the office and like to pamper themselves a little bit when they are away. These women generally have a little bit extra time when they are traveling, so they like to spend it on themselves, something they can't always do when they are home. But they don't really like to talk about it, so they just do it privately.

Now that's an insight.

Related: Marketers Now Need to Think Data First

As a marketer, I can't really do anything with a data point about the percentage of business travelers who are women -- at least not anything that will differentiate from all of the rest of my competitors.

But by understanding the psyche of those travelers, I can actually do something unique to market to them, based on the insight that they have a little extra time when they travel and they like to pamper themselves privately.

But that insight alone isn't a strategy. The strategy isn't the insight that women like to pamper themselves on business travel.

The strategy is what you do to leverage the insight. The strategy is how your business will take advantage of the phenomenon that these female business travelers secretly pamper themselves. The strategy should be about the products or services you will offer as a result of that insight, and how you intend to market to those customers.

This will help to differentiate you from your competitors. Now that's a strategy, and from there you can start to map out your tactical plan.

None of that would have been possible, at least not successfully, without that insight, and without that data point as a starting point.

What's the insight about your customers that will allow you to craft a differentiating strategy?

Related: The World of Big Data Is Now Open to Small Companies

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