Iterative Marketing Podcast Episode 34: The Key To Discovering Actionable Insight

“Actionable insights” is a popular phrase that we, as marketers, have heard a lot lately — but what does it mean?  Actionable insights are vitally important to the Iterative Marketing methodology but also valuable to overall business success. Documenting and iterating are the keys to the process of discovering actionable marketing insights. “Actionable insights” means that we simplify large amounts of data, put it in a format from which we can interpret information, and formulate a plan for continuous improvement.

Episode Show Notes

Introduction to the Key to Discovering Actionable Insight

(0:00 – 3:49) Introduction to the Iterative Marketing Podcast: Welcome to the Iterative Marketing Podcast, where, each week, hosts Steve Robinson and Elizabeth Earin provide marketers and entrepreneurs with actionable ideas, techniques, and examples to improve marketing results. 

In this episode, we dive into the concept of ‘actionable insights’ and their role in the realm of iterative marketing. We stress the importance of not just identifying these insights but also meticulously documenting them for future reference and improvement. Subsequently, we also highlight the crucial role of iteration – the repetitive process of refining marketing strategies based on the insights derived.

In an effort to make these practices an integral part of your routine, we present a set of strategies that can streamline this process. We believe that by systematically documenting insights and carrying out iterative improvements, businesses can realize continuous growth and enhancement of their marketing tactics.

The resources discussed on the show can be found at, which includes a blog and a LinkedIn group for community interaction.

Understanding Actionable Insights

(3:49 – 8:57) Defining Actionable Insights: Actionable insights are an essential concept in business and analytics, often mentioned in the context of business intelligence software solutions. Insight serves as a connector between data or information and a business outcome, essentially linking the raw data or information to the end result.

Data, Information, and Insights: Data refers to raw information which is unstructured and not easily comprehensible in its base form. Examples of data include individual website clicks, records in contact databases, and specific survey responses. Given the large quantity of data points, they aren’t consumable or actionable in their raw form. We need software to aggregate and process this data into a form that’s consumable – referred to as information. However, even information isn’t necessarily an insight until it answers a specific question. The process of using data, and more importantly, the information derived from data to answer a question, creates insight.

Converting Data and Information into Insights: To put this into context, let’s consider a scenario where we want to determine the gender of our customers. If we have pre-compiled information at our disposal, answering this question could be straightforward – the information provides insight. However, if the necessary data isn’t readily available or hasn’t been processed into information, further analysis would be needed. For instance, we might need to analyze raw survey data or gather new data through a website poll or third-party data capture. In this case, we’re conducting our own data gathering to create the necessary information and, ultimately, the insight. Hence, insight is the answer to a question, regardless of whether we start with the question and gather data accordingly or if we already have the necessary data or information on hand.

What Makes Insights Actionable?

(8:57 – 15:31) Relevance: The first characteristic that makes an insight actionable is relevance. An insight becomes actionable only if it aligns with key business goals and is planned for. For instance, understanding the gender demographics of your customer base might not be relevant if your product is gender-neutral, such as office supplies or pens. Hence, it’s not an actionable insight if it doesn’t apply to your business and its goals.

Transferability: The second criterion for an insight to be actionable is its utility outside of the environment where it was derived. For example, insights derived from testing the effectiveness of button colors on a website may not be useful in billboard advertising or other customer experiences. Actionable insights should be transferable across different mediums. For example, understanding customer preferences, emotional triggers, and responses can be applied across various marketing platforms.

Adequate Supporting Information: For an insight to be actionable, it must be backed by sufficient supporting information. If there isn’t enough data to support an insight, it is not actionable but rather a hypothesis for a new experiment or something to verify.

Contextual Understanding of Insights: Understanding the context of an insight is crucial because knowing a piece of information is impactful doesn’t mean we understand its impact on our business. For instance, Dollar Shave Club realized many subscribers were women but couldn’t discern whether they were purchasing for themselves or for men in their lives. The context was revealed only when they discovered that these women were, indeed, buying for themselves.

Timeliness: The relevance of insights can change with time due to changes in the business climate, consumer habits, and media consumption patterns. Even seasonality can affect the relevancy of insights. What works pre-holiday season may not be applicable post-holiday season.

Communication: For insights to be actionable, they must be communicated with the right people within the organization. Otherwise, they cannot be applied effectively. Ensuring that actionable insights are shared throughout the organization, be it with the sales team, product development team, operations team, or within the marketing group, maximizes their potential. Documenting these insights in a permanent repository facilitates their effective communication and application.

Applying Actionable Insights in Iterative Marketing

(15:31 – 20:14) Emotional Triggers and Rational Justifications: Iterative marketing often uses actionable insights to pinpoint emotional triggers and rational justifications for customer behavior. Emotional triggers are deeply ingrained responses that lead to action. Examples include the fear of missing out, social proof, scarcity, reciprocity, cognitive congruence, authority, and a sense of belonging. However, these triggers can vary among audiences, with some resonating more than others or even backfiring. Understanding which triggers are most effective is a key aspect of developing insights in an iterative process. Rational justifications are the reasons we give ourselves to validate our decisions, such as saving time or money or improving an outcome in our lives. These justifications often fill in gaps when we decide we need something.

Application in B2C and B2B: While it might seem that emotional triggers and rational justifications apply more to B2C contexts, they are just as relevant in B2B settings. In B2B, the rational justification might involve persuading other stakeholders in the organization, akin to explaining a personal purchase to a spouse.

Psychographic Data: Other psychographic data can be useful for targeting and making messages more relevant. This includes social class, lifestyle, personality, opinions, attitudes, interests, hobbies, loyalties, and values. Documenting such details in customer personas and journeys is beneficial. These layers of detail may not seem actionable initially, but they help marketers empathize better with their audience and understand their perspective. This understanding, in turn, makes marketers more effective, thus making these details actionable.

Aligning Actionable Insights with Personas and Segments

(20:14 – 24:49) General Insights Versus Specific Segments: Broad, general insights can be valuable across an organization, but their applicability within marketing may be limited. If the insights are not tailored to the same segments that marketers are targeting, they may not fit with the personalized approach to media, creative content, and other outputs. The segments used for marketing should align with the ones that the business as a whole serves. For instance, using LinkedIn universally for all audiences is likely, not valid unless it’s been tested across all individual segments.

Applying Insights to Different Segments: Marketers must be cautious about extrapolating insights from a small test audience to a broader population. If LinkedIn works well for a specific persona (let’s call them Garys), it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work as well for a different persona (Julies). A new test would need to be conducted with Julies to compare their response. After conducting these tests across different personas, it’s crucial to update internal documentation to reflect what’s been learned about different audiences. This continuous testing and learning process reflects the essence of iterative marketing. Aligning actionable insights with specific customer personas and segments can provide more accurate and useful information for creating personalized marketing strategies.

Charity Outreach

(24:49 – 25:33) Charity Break: AmazonSmile 

Creating Continuity with Actionable Insights

(25:33 – 30:55)  The Need for Continuous Iteration: It’s essential to regularly test, document, and reevaluate insights. This could mean setting up monthly or quarterly meetings to discuss insights or just regularly scheduling insight-gathering activities.

Steps in an Insight-Gathering Loop:

  1. Document the Desired Outcome: Start by formulating a hypothesis and a question that you’re trying to answer.
  2. Check Existing Data: Before conducting new experiments or data gathering, make sure that you don’t already have the information you need.
  3. Execute Experiments or Data Gathering: Depending on the information required, this could involve running experiments, polls, surveys, or other fact-finding activities.
  4. Update Persona and Segmentation Documentation: It’s crucial to keep an updated record of the insights gleaned about various segments.
  5. Publish Insights: Make sure to communicate your findings to relevant stakeholders, either within your marketing team or across the entire organization.
  6. Document Additional Questions: Keep a record of any new questions that arise during the process. These can form the basis for future experiments and insights.

The Importance of a Loop: Setting up a regular loop or cadence for gathering insights can yield valuable results over time. Initially, it may be challenging to decide what insights to pursue, but over time, each insight will likely raise additional questions, providing a continuous stream of avenues for exploration. Keeping a shared document (like an Excel spreadsheet) can facilitate collaboration and ensure that all team members can contribute their insights and questions.

Maintaining Continuity: Making time to continuously improve is a crucial aspect of iterative marketing. Despite the day-to-day pressures of managing departments and meeting stakeholders’ needs, maintaining a focus on ongoing improvement can provide significant benefits over time.

Summary of Key Takeaways

(30:55 – 32:12) Definition: Actionable insights are the link between data and a business outcome. They’re derived from data and aimed at driving a specific business result.

Characteristics of Actionable Insights: 

  • They must address a specific business need.
  • They should be contextual, relevant, and applicable to the specific business situation.
  • They must be supported by solid data, not just anecdotal evidence or opinions.
  • They must be delivered in a timely manner to be effectively acted upon.

Making Actionable Insights Happen:

  • You need to intentionally set up and manage the process of deriving actionable insights.
  • Establish a continuous loop or cadence of insight gathering. This can involve regular meetings or milestones dedicated to discussing and pursuing insights.
  • Keep a running list of potential experiments or insights to investigate specific segments or audiences. This ensures a steady supply of ideas for further exploration and encourages continuous improvement.


  • This process makes your marketing strategy smarter and more efficient.
  • It helps to continuously improve and adapt your marketing efforts based on solid data.
  • It provides a clearer understanding of your audience’s behaviors and needs.

Join Us Next Time

(32:12 – 33:24Conclusion: In this episode, we discussed the concept of actionable insights in the context of marketing, particularly how they bridge the gap between raw data and business outcomes. We explored the characteristics that make insights actionable – they must address a business need and be contextual, data-backed, and timely. A key aspect of our discussion focused on setting up a continuous loop for insights gathering and documentation, emphasizing the importance of a regular cadence of evaluation. We also stressed the importance of keeping a list of potential experiments or questions to investigate further, enabling a continuous cycle of learning and improvement.

In our next episode, we will delve into a powerful yet under-utilized tool in the marketing toolbox: The PESO Model, a comprehensive approach to marketing that classifies channels into Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned components. It’s a tool often overlooked but can enhance promotional opportunities and optimize marketing strategies. Tune in to learn more about integrating this model into your marketing program.

Have a great week and we’ll see you next time. This concludes this week’s episode. For notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to the Brilliant Metrics newsletter.

Iterative Marketing is a part of the Brilliant Metrics organization. If you would like more information on the marketing services provided by the expert team at Brilliant Metrics, reach out today for a free discovery call.

The Iterative Marketing Podcast,  a production of Brilliant Metrics, ran from February 2016 to September 2017. Music by SeaStock Audio.

Learn more about Iterative Marketing and listen to other episodes on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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