Insights managers: It’s time to stop hiding behind the numbers

Katie Sweet

Have you ever felt like you’re shouting uselessly into the void? Like no one’s listening?

As an insights manager, you spend all your time running the research, putting together presentations and then passing them off to marketers… but you have no idea if they’ll ever use that data for anything. 

This is a topic that Bianca Johnston, Integrated Campaigns Lead at Shopify, recently addressed on Inside Insights.

Bianca talked about how it doesn’t have to be this way. Shouldn’t be this way, in fact. 

You have all this value to deliver to your organization, but you can’t just hope they wake up and see it one day. You have to show them.

And to do that, you have to make your work more accessible.

🎙️ The power of researching early and often (and doing sh*t that scares you)

If you prefer to listen, check out Bianca's full podcast interview with us.

What's gone wrong?

In the past, insights teams have often been viewed as order takers — there to get whatever data the business requests. And in this world, researchers were encouraged to think linearly: Start with the brief, move on to the research, build the report, present the report, move on to the next project.

This world has also allowed researchers to hide behind the numbers, avoid taking a point of view or making the big decisions. 

But today’s world demands a different kind of researcher. One who can act as the champion of the consumer — who can tie together different data sources to tell a complete story and make consumer-centric recommendations to the business at the right time. 

This means that insights teams cannot just deliver a report. 

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Check our our article on the nine skills that will help you shift from simply working in insights to becoming a strategic partner – an insights legend.

How to make insights more accessible

Bianca offered a few different examples of how she does this at Shopify. A few of my favorites include: 

1. Understand marketers’ needs and develop your own point of view

The more context you have about what marketers are really dealing with, the better. 

“The more you understand what your marketing team is doing, the more impact you can have as a researcher.”

- Bianca Johnston, Integrated Campaigns Lead at Shopify

Bianca described how she worked to understand marketers better. What problems are they solving? What’s keeping them up at night? How can she help them with those things? What POV can she bring based on her understanding of the consumer?

And then, importantly, she gets feedback on her research so she can make it more useful for them, rather than just sending over the data and hoping they use it.

When you have this context, you can make sure your insights resonate with your stakeholders. You’re able to keep your audience in mind and pull out the information that will be most meaningful to them. 

2. Become an internal content creator

The most successful content creators know that to drive a message home, they need to break it into bite-sized pieces that get attention, and then keep hitting that message until it breaks through. 

Bianca suggested that insights teams need to have this approach internally. It’s not enough to pass off a 100-slide deck. You have to make it digestible. 

“You almost have to be a little bit of a content creator and push those narratives and push them more often.”

- Bianca Johnston, Integrated Campaigns Lead at Shopify

Once you understand marketers’ needs, you can pull out the TD;LR (too long; didn’t read) and highlight those few things that matter. And you can try multiple different formats and styles until you find something that works. 

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If you prefer to listen, check out our podcast interview with Grant Feller, award winning storyteller, journalist and Founder of Every Rung, who discusses the power of storytelling.

3. Build person-to-person relationships 

While many insights teams sit in organizations that have a “stay in your lane” culture, Bianca suggests that this can be overcome by simply building up your individual relationships with your stakeholders. If it doesn’t come from the top, you can start it at the individual level.

“We’re all just trying to create our best work.”

- Bianca Johnston, Integrated Campaigns Lead at Shopify

The more you partner with your stakeholders, make them look good, share extra value — the more you create what Bianca called “a compounding loop of impact” that will naturally produce a partnership, rather than a master-servant relationship.


To wrap up, here’s my own “too long, didn’t read”: 

The more value you bring to your stakeholders, the more you’ll be invited into the room as a partner.

You can’t sit back and hope your data speaks for itself. You have to give it a voice.

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