Today’s marketers have access to an endless stream of data sources, but being data-rich doesn’t mean you know what works.

The skill lies in turning this wealth of granular data into compelling consumer insights – transforming hard numbers into a concept that will resonate.

As previously outlined in our Smart Researcher’s Guide to Creating Consumer Insights, turning data into actionable insights is one of the most important skills for marketers today. Here’s how it’s done:

1. State a clear goal.

Ask yourself what your campaign is ultimately trying to achieve.

Knowing what you’re aiming for is the key to asking the right questions of the data.

In 2014, WeAreSocial devised a student campaign with HSBC. With the clear aim of appealing to new students just starting university, this goal led the team to the data that held the answers they needed.

The powerful campaign that inspired young people to build diverse connections at university was based on insights that revealed one of the biggest predictors of future success comes from the people you meet at university, not the degree you get.

The campaign won two awards at the Warc Prize for Social Strategy 2016.

2. Prioritize your data.

Which data sets are most pertinent to your goals?

Focus on the most interesting numbers and rank the data by relevance to avoid distraction.

Starting with the best ‘small’ data – or the more readily available information is often useful, such as sales figures, for example. This can then be enriched with additional behavioral, attitudinal and perceptions data.

As Ben Sharma, PR Executive at Engage by Bell Pottinger says, “I get my audience starting with demographics to find out who they are. Then I work my way through finding anything that’s insightful. The main one I rely on is their interests and attitudes – so if they’re massively over-indexing for something, that gives us a really good idea of what direction to take.”

3. Make it real.

Hard numbers can leave people cold.

To truly understand data and make it meaningful for your creative team, it needs to be brought to life.

Context is what matters here – A standalone figure highlighting the number of people using ad-blockers on their devices today is often meaningless without figures relating to previous months or years, illustrating how this market is changing and where the opportunities might lie.

In short, meaning is the key to transforming data into insight.

4. Map a day in the life.

Use the data you gather to map a typical day in the life of your target consumer.

This might rely on data relating to how, when and why these consumers purchase products or services, what their interests and perceptions are, as well as social data that sheds light on how these consumers spend their time online.

Digging into these seemingly mundane details can help you to put yourself in the shoes of your audience, identifying the ideal times, channels and mediums they would be most receptive to your message, or highlighting the common challenges they face to guide your content.

This is where your insights, or the fundamental truths about your audience that you can tap into, begin to take shape.

5. Take a bird’s eye view.

Don’t get bogged down in single data points or lose sight of your goals by going off at a tangent.

Instead, try to maintain a wider perspective: examine broad trends, and draw on comparable time frames to highlight the most important shifts and changes. This will help you to maintain focus on the insights that count.

To get to the heart of an insight also means analyzing data from at least two angles.

As Ben points out, some trends contradict one another, presenting a need to delve deeper. “In investments for example, that data shows that many consumers describe themselves as ‘risk-taking’ but don’t agree with borrowing money. So that’s two opposing stats that you need to link together and find out why that is.”

In a digital world, data is ubiquitous, but the power of this data lies in the creation of insights. As Jamie Robinson, Global Director of Research and Insights at WeAreSocial says, “If a campaign can tap into that insight, we believe it will work anywhere.”

Want to know more? Find out how the MediaCom team is using consumer data to create insights that count.

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