What is a Buyer Insight?

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Tony Zambito

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English: Rackwick on Hoy. The sea was still & ...
English: Rackwick on Hoy. The sea was still & a profound green that changed with the light. Rackwick was almost deserted in spite of the warm day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What exactly is a buyer insight?”

I was asked this recently.  It made me think.  It is a term you hear and easy to quickly assume you know.  Turns out, there seems to be confusion given the rise in the use of the term “insight”.


A good place to start is with a brief answer to the question itself.  Here is my guiding answer:

A buyer insight is a profound, not-so-obvious, revelation as well as understanding of buyers, which leads to new innovations, value creation, marketing & sales capabilities, and business growth.

The basis of this definition is a buyer insight must be profound and it must alter an existing direction into one offering growth.

Do Not Confused Fact With Insight

One of the biggest areas of confusion I have noticed is misinterpreting a fact as an insight. One way of putting it is insight goes well beyond fact.  To be profound means an insight is an often unforeseen as well as unarticulated observation, which leads to a new deep understanding.  This new deep understanding then reshapes business growth strategies.

Uncovering facts of how buyers do things can result in improving effectiveness.  However, improving effectiveness is not a clear direct connection to a profound insight.  Mislabeling fact as insight can actually impede deep understanding and innovation.

Simply put, labeling as a buyer insight the “how” of buying processes can lead to a dead end.  How companies and buyers establish criteria for purchase decisions is a focus on process and even established policies.  While in B2B marketing, this knowledge may be new, for B2B sales it is not.  I often get this reaction from B2B sales reps when they see some of the information resulting from buyer personas – “wait, isn’t this the same as Miller Heiman” or the many other sales training methodologies.

Many a good sales leader expects their sales force to be effective at understanding how to mesh the sales process with the buying process.  Marketing effectiveness is enhanced when we also understand the early stages of the buying process involving digital research and evaluation.  Understanding “how” helps us be more effective but such facts may not necessarily be a profound game changer we can call a buyer insight.

The Softer Side of Why

A buyer insight is derived from what I call the softer side of why.  They stem from buyer goals, fears, motivations, perceptions, why buyers think as they do, why they desire, and why they value certain things over others.  As you can see, these are often very hard for buyers to articulate.   They are usually not so obvious as well.  It takes hard work, digging deeper, face time, and use of skilled techniques to reach a special understanding we can call a buyer insight.

An common illustration we can all relate to can help make the point:

My hunch is many readers are Starbuck’s lovers.  A well known fact is Starbuck’s gained a level of insight on how customers were becoming loyal to Starbuck’s not necessarily for the coffee itself but for the experience.  Starbuck’s took insight to a deeper level.  Uncovering the insight of music being the largest element of the experience.  It was not apparent at first (not so obvious).  This profound insight led to a new business growth strategy.  The Starbucks compilation CD’s.  Which has proven to be a way of enhancing customer loyalty and creating a new revenue category.

In my recent article, How Activity-Based Buyer Persona Development Generates Opportunities, I used an illustration of a B2B situation whereby the decision to choose logistics and transportation carriers were being made in loading centers versus the front office.  What was the reason why?

The motivation was a personal goal and desire to get home on time.  The archetypal buyer persona was in their 30’s and had family activities right after work.  One carrier’s system was perceived as taking longer than the other.  This perception resulted in the competitor system being chosen more often.  The profound insight led to a redesign of a new speedier ordering system.  A new marketing campaign was developed to subtly highlight you can get home on time.  This was not-so-obvious at first and something Directors of Logistics were reluctant to share with superiors – let alone the selling company’s sales or marketing reps.

These illustrations serve as examples of profound buyer insights, which led directly to business growth.

The takeaway here for B2B Marketing and Sales leaders is this: think of buyer research and buyer persona development as a gateway to profound buyer insights.  Challenge the presentation of facts as insights.  You are in need of game changing buyer insights to be a market leader – not mere facts.

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