Is data killing common sense?

We can now find out more about our customers than ever before. But sometimes all that data doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know already, or couldn’t have guessed at using a bit of common sense. Here are some thoughts on how we should be using data, rather than just amassing it…

Killer content comes from anecdotes as well as algorithms

The first thing to remember is that killer content can just as likely come from an offhand conversation or a piece of ingenious thinking from one of your team, as it can from extensive audience research.

A blog article which goes viral could be based on someone really empathising with their customers and thinking creatively, for example, rather than poring over search data for long-tail terms.

The crucial thing is that a piece of content is written with a specific audience in mind, with the aim of meeting that audience’s needs. How you decide on that audience is not always data-led.

Sometimes, we need to question the need for in-depth analysis

We’ve worked with clients that have commissioned extensive research into their key audiences. And the output is often incredibly obvious: first-time buyers are nervous! Car owners want cheaper insurance!

We always wonder why it wasn’t possible for creative people and product experts to come together and reach those conclusions themselves. 

Too much data can hamstring digital teams

Huge audience research projects usually lead to very detailed reports, with lots of data and insights which are impossible for busy people to read in full. 

In a creative environment, they get stuck on the wall and forgotten about. UX and designers rushing to complete work just aren’t going to refer to them.

Too much data can overwhelm senior stakeholders

The argument often used for amassing lots of data and insight decks to back up what we’re doing in digital is that it’s what senior stakeholders trust most.

And that’s certainly true to an extent. But the tide is turning against 400-slide PowerPoints and doorstop reports. Senior stakeholders don’t have time to read them, nor the executive summaries, and are not so easily swayed by heft alone. 

If you have a killer insight or stat to back up what you’re doing, it’ll go a long way. 

But saying you spent 6 months and hundreds of thousands of pounds researching customers for a 400-page report – well, that might impress them in the short-term but it won’t get you investment on its own. And more importantly, it won’t help you create content that will really impress your stakeholders.

Pain points of customers are worth knowing

At Sticky, we include pain points in any user personas, as we think it’s one of the most important things you should know about customers.

Knowing what ails your customers is often the best way of creating great content. In extensive audience research, this is the thing to pull out and make well-known among digital teams.

Data on its own is useless

It probably goes without saying that unfiltered data and analysis is really not much use. It needs to be partnered with a much truer understanding of your customers, their needs, their pain points and your own product offering. 

We’ve worked with data scientists on projects before, and while their knowledge is unparalleled, conclusions are often harder to find.

Common sense on its own is dangerous

Common sense can be read as just our own bias, or a set of collective biases. We can believe certain things about our customers based on nothing but a hunch – and that’s not the best way of building great content.

If an internal content team has become a bit institutionalised, it can be hard to actually empathise with customers. In which case, new analysis can shake things up and help us question some hardened beliefs.

We should use data to test assumptions

The best way of using data is to test out common sense or things we think about our customers. This way it’s more targeted and we start with a hypothesis.

It’s also the best marriage of ‘walking in our customers’ shoes’ and actually backing it up with facts and figures. 

So is data killing common sense? 

In some cases, yes. But in truth common sense and creative thinking can be bolstered by a better use of analytics and more focused outputs.

For further information on Sticky, please contact: Rajet Gamhiouen, Head of Marketing, +44 (0)207 963 7281

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