“We’ll never make it to market in time! Quick, take the shortcut through the Insights Desert!”
Business value is no longer differentiating. Recent CEB research shows that personal value has twice the impact on business decisions as business value. So why don’t we see more humanly relevant B-to-B marketing?
It’s the lack of humanly relevant insight resulting from relying on the wrong kinds of analyst reports and desk research. Too many marketers and their agencies take the shortcut through the Insights Desert, and their marketing arrives on the other side as a thin and parched refugee barely distinguishable from the work of competitors and too weak to carry the full weight of its go-to-market ambitions.
The Insights Desert is a barren, rocky place where the light of rational analysis is harsh and bright, and the market landscape blindingly clear. But there’s no water or shade to sustain human emotion, so it’s unable to support living, breathing human insights.
B-to-B companies in general (and technology companies in particular) are susceptible to taking the expedient but perilous shortcut through the Insights Desert. It’s partly a response to the intense competitive pressure that drives aggressive timelines. But it’s mostly because of the power of search engines, the success of analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester, and ready access to more free and cheap information than a marketer could have dreamed of just a few years ago. Combine this with a highly rational, often engineering-driven business culture, and the result is a lot of trips through the desert.
In this context, spending a few weeks and a few tens of thousands of dollars on insight-driven research can feel like a nice-to-have, the first luxury discarded along the winding road to market, rather than an absolute necessity for success. This is especially true when you’re staring at a great Magic Quadrant report and an awesome deck you just found on SlideShare. Besides, the product marketing team has assured you that the customer wants “simplicity, visibility, control, agility and rapid time to value.”*
The problem with limiting your insights to the (mostly rational) research you already have is that it may not provide the (mostly emotional) insights you truly need to establish meaningful value for your offering. Just as important, you’re relying on the same insights your competitors are using—and everyone else who’s trying to reach the same audience. The result is same-same marketing as far as the eye can see.
This isn’t a “blame the shortsighted client” rant. The problem is endemic, agencies are at a minimum complicit, and there’s more than enough blame to go around. But as busy marketers in highly competitive environments, we don’t have time for the blame game. We have products that must get to market, so we need to chart a fast, smart course around the Insights Desert.
This approach requires more than an aspirational commitment to thoughtful qualitative research that delivers unique emotional insights. To be practical in the real world, it requires two things:
- Rapid research techniques that generate humanly relevant insights
- A strategic process that reliably turns those insights into great communications quickly
We’ll look at of each of these in future articles. In the meantime, stay out of the desert.
*Here’s a good reality check. Ask yourself if there’s anyone looking for the opposite of the things you’re promising. If the answer is no to all, there’s a good chance you’re standing in the middle of the Insights Desert. Just once I’d love to meet a CIO who wants to be blindfolded and hogtied by a complicated, expensive software platform that never quite pays off.
AJ Herrera is vice president of account planning at gyro San Francisco.
Follow AJ @aj_herrera