Saturday, April 30, 2011

How to write an insight statement

I have written various posts about insights, definitions, how to know when you have one and what to do if you don't have one. If you would like to read them just type 'insight' into the search box at the top of this blog and see three pages of posts appear. And despite a handful of requests, what I have so far failed to write about is the way I believe an insight should be articulated or written out.

So here goes...

Let's start with an example of an observation I came up with for a book seller client who shall remain anonymous (their name starts with W and ends with H and has H-SMIT in the middle). The observation was this: People come into your book section to read books and not to buy books.

I don't care what you think. This was a profound observation which even I missed the significance of as I spluttered it out while showing a bunch of clips.

"Wait! wait! Say that again." said the head of merchandising (or was it books).

So I repeated what I had said.

There were six clients in the room. All paused and looked at one another. I could see their minds whirring over what the implication of such an observation could be. This was 1997, just before Borders were planning to invade their/our shores. And very importantly, this was a potential insight.

It was an observation which had been sitting there right under their noses all along yet it taken everyone completely by surprise. Very importantly, it made instant sense to each and every one of them. There was no convincing to be done. I didn't even need to show them too many clips.

Here is exactly what I said, again: "People come into your book section to read books and not to buy books."

The challenge now was to convert this observation in an insight statement. And an insight statement has two key ingredients: 1) Because: explanation and 2) But: tension.

Here is an example I made up earlier:
I like to keep updated on a broad range of topics because by learning, I grow. But I don't have enough time to go in-depth into topics, so I browse for headlines.

The tension in an insight statement is critical because it tempers, grounds and reality checks the statement from within. It forces you to think precisely and not blindly ingest the insight. And if there is no obvious tension, coming up with one is a fantastically rewarding exercise which will force you to thoroughly deconstruct and understand your insight. Oh and don't get hung up on trying to embed an action into the insight statement. Implications and actions need to be sprung from rather than explicitly captured in the statement.

Now back to the book department observation which I am going to try and turn into an isight statement:
I like to take my time when buying books because I enjoy reading at least a few pages from each to help me bench mark and make a choice. However, I feel guilty about the time I spend looking and not buying.

It is simple enough to read but took me 45 minutes to set out the obervation as you see here. And I'm not even sure it will be the final version. More tweaks are needed with the code.

Now over to you. How would you set out an insight statement? What do you think of the above? Please share.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

New business holiday

It's very odd. And I have tried to put it down to my selective memory/imagination. But this latest incident - one of many hundreds - has confirmed a simple reality. That over 90% of new business enquiries occur when I am on holiday, in an airport or on a train. In other words traveling. And let me define new business. I don't mean conversations that started somewhere else. I mean brand new enquiries out of the blue. Unexpected and unconnected.

Most clients/enquirers are happy to wait for me to return from holiday. In rare instances, they need a proposal fast because they need to approve the project in a few days. This happened to me last week. I arrived in Abu Dhabi with family on Sunday night.

Yes, that's a picture of my family and random fat guy in the world's biggest mosque - wife and I are spiritual rather than practitioners of any religion. Didn't stop her having to veil up to go inside though. And I think she looked kinda cute all covered up.

Anyway, on Wednesday morning I received an email requesting a conference call (in the US). I suggested a time that same evening at 2115. Then, to my absolute horror I proceeded to FORGET about it. Got back to hotel room and felt faint as I realised I had missed the call. Went to send an email to the prospect but he had beaten me to it saying I was probably held up and could I suggest a new time - phew! We eventually connected and a proposal was sent (I worked on it with two colleagues in LA and and Copenhagen) the following Tuesday. On Wednesday we heard the project was ours and on Thursday I was back from our holiday. This, let me assure you, is very typical. Although lead times can sometimes take up to 3 months.

Wondering how we tackle new business? We don't. I have never called anyone or pitched to anyone. Yes, I blog and I do conferences here and there. But those of you who have heard me speak will know I love talking about cock-ups more than successful case studies. I'm that fearless reality guy who confesses all with brutal honesty. Want to know about the parents who called the police? Come listen to my talk. Want to know how we left a terrified client with a drunk couple as part of a 360? Come to my talk. Want to know how we had to persuade same client not to drive home intoxicated? Come to my talk. Want to know about the kids who decided they were going to figure out what I was there to observe and proceeded to eat and drink everything to see how I would react? Come to my talk.

And when we are asked for a proposal, 9/10 times we are not competing with any other agency. If we are competing, it's with an agency offering a different technique.

Do you think I'm bragging?

Well, I don't travel that much...