6 signs your customer insight needs a refresh

It is easy to do customer research. But it is really hard to do customer research well.
Adelynne Chao

The questions you ask customers matters.
The way you ask the questions matters.
How you came up with the questions matters.
How you interpret the data matters.

But if you can get it right, you can identify incredibly valuable and game-changing insights that have the power to transform your product and marketing strategies.

Doing it right can mean the difference between gaining an advantage vs. being edged out by competitors.

Many market research studies being commissioned with agency partners are achieving mediocre results.

Every year clients are reporting back the same struggles with market research studies in the industry forums. Many of these struggles relate to lack of actionability.

And that brings us to the first sign your customer insight needs a refresh:

1. You don’t know what to do next

The role of traditional market research services has always been to understand your customers.

But you don’t need to (and can’t possibly) understand everything about your customers. You only need to understand what inspires them to buy and use.

There is such a thing as information overload, and this can cause more harm than good - it can paralyse your teams and no one knows what action to take next.

Another issue is when the research model lacks a consulting framework, or are not clearly linked to how this impacts real world buying behaviour.

Common problems clients experience with strategic market research agency partners:

  1. It feels like there is too much information and also not enough
  2. There is no narrative or storytelling
  3. It’s like research for researchers
  4. Teams find it interesting but then never use it again
  5. There is a lack of clear actionable direction

If this mirrors your experience then it’s one big sign your customer insight approach could use a refresh.

In our opinion, these issues are much less likely to surface when you’re working within a customer-led consulting framework. We use our own proprietary approach supported by Jobs to Be Done theory.

To find out more about our approach click here.

2. You’re focused only on asking customers for feedback

In our experience, game-changing insights emerge when you stop asking for feedback.

The problem with feedback is that it’s the wrong way around.

It assumes that we are building products and customers are feeding back to us what they like or don’t like about those products.

But truly customer-led organisations understand that customers are living their lives, and our products are the way we feed into their process. We are actually feeding back to them.

If you’re asking for too much feedback you’re not starting with the customer.

Of course, sometimes straightforward feedback on something specific is a good thing. But the majority of customer insights should be about the customer (not about your product / brand / campaign).

The other problem with customer feedback is customers don’t know how to respond.

The mind of your customer is filled with 99% of things that are nothing to do with your product or brand. It is filled with personal concerns and pressing todos.

Putting a new product idea in front of a customer and asking them if they’d buy it will produce terribly misleading results: “Sure yeah I’d buy it!”. But when coming across it in the real world, they don’t take a second look.

Customers do not live and breathe your brand or products. They aren’t marketers, storytellers or category experts. They don’t need to know which design, or ad, or idea is better than another. We need to understand how customers behave, what they really need and design solutions that fit into their lives.

If this sounds like your organisation, it would be the perfect time to introduce them to Jobs to Be Done theory, which will help teams think in terms of the customer first.

If you want to understand more about Jobs to Be Done read our post:

3. Your primary source of strategic insight is a Brand Tracker

The brand funnel which we all know well: essentially - Awareness, Consideration, Conversion - has tons of value today, but it is not the be all and end all of how people make buying decisions in today’s digital world.

It is a great idea to keep track of your brand awareness and how people feel about your brand, but this is not the kind of data that will help you derive strategic value.


Because brand tracking does not start with the customer. It starts with the brand and it asks customers for feedback on it.

If we want to build competitive products in a digital world, we must shift how we think about our brand and become truly customer-led we should be tracking customers and their Jobs to Be Done and how well our brand (and competitors) serves them.

To read more about how companies are modernising their brand tracking for a digital world read our post:

4. You have a segmentation that requires a long quiz to allocate customers into a segment

The next sign that your customer insight might need a refresh is the state of your segmentation.

Not every company has a segmentation, and contrary to what most agencies will tell you, not every company needs one.

A prevalent concern about segmentation today is that companies are leaning on it as the primary method to practice being customer-centric.

Traditional segmentation studies have been designed for a pre-digital customer landscape, as a way for big established brands to get closer to their customers.

Working with clients over the last decade we have gained a detailed understanding of how 50+ different companies have applied segmentation to their business. Some have found immense value and others incredible struggle.

As with everything, it comes down to the actionability of the insight.

If your segmentation is hard to use or apply, if it requires a long quiz to allocate customers into a segment and if you have a feeling it could better reflect modern buying behaviour - this is a sign you might want to update your approach.

Read more about segmentation in our post:

5. You don’t have a customer-led way of validating new product ideas and propositions

We know how it is.

Someone has a brilliant idea for a proposition and everyone starts to get overexcited about it, next thing you know the company is rolling with it and starts investing in development. Maybe there is a pause to get some feedback from customers but everyone’s already hoping that they say they like it. Some people have doubts but it goes ahead anyway and some point down the line the idea is scrapped. It wasn’t performing as expected.

There are now proven, iterative customer-led research methods that drastically increase the likelihood of launch success. They can help you to validate the ideas before you invest in full scale development and help you get predictive about demand.

If you’re interested in learning more read our post:

6. You do tons of internal customer research but are unsure of strategic market opportunities

Internal customer research is the most valuable starting point for any business. And it is ideal when companies have the internal resources available to keep this up on a regular basis.

For many companies looking to scale or pivot, there comes a time when strategic market insight is going to be really valuable for spotting and prioritising the opportunities they should go after. Outside of the current customer base.

In other words: taking a customer-led approach to growth. Avoiding the inefficiencies of endless trial and error by optimising your strategies with the right knowledge.

This is the stage where a lot of companies look for external vendors to support the process of sourcing research participants, and to provide their expertise on how to best identify the opportunities out there.

Appropriate vendor selection is critical to ensure you get the most out of your investment, and to ensure the study is going to meet your business objectives.

For more information about our process, drop us a message in the chat or get in touch at hello@untoldinsights.com.

Stay tuned for more content by following us on LinkedIn.


Untold is a marketing & growth consultancy specialising in customer-led growth strategies.

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