The Art of Actionable Insights

Actionable insights are, no doubt, one of the most important aspects of any business that utilizes data. In fact, a Forrester report states that seventy four percent of business firms want to be data-driven, but only twenty nine percent of the firms are successful at connecting the missing link between analytics and action.

Actionable Insights

Actionable insights are, no doubt, one of the most important aspects of any business that utilizes data. In fact, a Forrester report states that seventy four percent of business firms want to be data-driven, but only twenty nine percent of the firms are successful at connecting the missing link between analytics and action. This shows how difficult it can be for a company to successfully analyze their data to make and act on decisions that would impact the future of the company or business. Therefore, for companies to be able to successfully push business outcomes from their data, they need to invest in actionable insights.

While it’s true that actionable insights can propel your business forward, you also need to know that many technology marketers aren’t exactly sure of what actionable insights are. Most marketers confuse data and information with insights. These three factors are very different from each other. Let’s break it down to help you understand the differences between the three.

  • Data – The process starts with the collation of data. Data is the unprocessed, raw facts that mostly come in form of texts or numbers. They can be either qualitative, such as verbatim from VOC, or quantitative, otherwise known as observed. Data is usually in computer-friendly formats, and they are often found in spreadsheets and databases.
  • Information – Information is data that has been prepared, processed, aggregated, and organized into a format that can be easily understood by humans. Information is often depicted in the form of reports, data visualizations, as well as dashboards.
  • Insights – Insights are usually gained through the analysis of both data and information. They help businesses to understand what is going on in a particular situation and why that particular process is happening.
  • Recommendation – This is the suggested action that comes after insights have been carefully analyzed.

Simply put, information and data lay the foundation on which insights are built. And when insights are fully discovered, they are used to drive change and influence decisions through recommendations. Let’s make this a lot easier by providing an example:


Data Information Insights Recommendations
Email list size grew from 300,000 in May to a total of nine million. List size has been increasing each month Acquisition Lead Gen sources have lower COI rates than average as leads are not as highly qualified. Track or value leads differently
  Q4 2017 saw biggest percentage increase   Invest in better lead sources
  Biggest increase was in acquisition Lead Gen sources   Incent vendors based on COI vs. leads.
  Although the size is growing, the percentage of usable emails decreased in Q4    

The table above shows what happened to the email list of a company. First is the data, which makes no sense. Data leaves us with questions like: what made the list grow? How did it grow? What did the company do that led to the rapid increase? What time did the growth reach the stage where it is now?

Information is a lot easier to understand than data as it takes us through the email increase process. Insights provides us with the reason why, while recommendations is a list of potential solutions.


When you can analyze data and information, and use them to make strategic and impactful decisions, then you have developed actionable insights. For an insight to be considered as actionable, the analysis should be able to tell us why we see the results we see, and also, what we need to do next to move on from there.

There is no one way to develop actionable insights as there are quite a number of factors to be considered for analysis. Let’s take a look at some of them, shall we?


In order to know how actionable your data insights are, you need to consider some very important factors including:

  • Audience – You need to thoroughly examine what you know about your audience. Features such as demographics, psychographics, user states, and behaviors should be carefully considered as this might help explain the results you are seeing or suggest other opportunities.
  • Offer – Sometimes, the offer is what drives the result. You need to examine your offer components, such as known receptivity to content, price, and offer by audience. Analyzing your offer can also help pinpoint why you are getting a specific result.
  • Context – This has to do with communication and interaction. Analyzing what is going on outside your own communication vehicle can help you determine why you are getting a specific response. You can take a look at your consumer experience elements, other channels where the consumer might have been exposed to the promotion, economic, political, and cultural factors, etc.
  • Creativity – Does your offer look creative enough? Maybe the way your offer is designed is what is making it effective or ineffective. Factors such as language and imagery should be considered. Additionally, working strategies/practices used by other businesses should also be considered.
  • Technicality – Are you getting the results you are getting because of technical issues? Outages, load time, link issues, and other technical factors should be carefully analyzed.


  • Alignment – Insights should be closely tied to your most important business goals and strategic objectives. This way, the chances of the insight driving action will increase. Your reaction to a particular metric matters. It would all be in vain if you are looking at a significantly decreasing or increasing metric and you don’t know what to do about it.
  • Context – Provide yourself with an ample background to understand and appreciate why the insight is important. Most times, you’ll need to make comparisons or review different benchmarks in order to provide your data with proper context.
  • Relevance – You need to consider the audience, as well as the decision-makers as they are the ones that will provide your insights with the right attention. You need to ensure that you deliver to the right people at the right time. A strong insight to you can be nothing but noise to another person. Ensure that your insights are timely as well in order for you not to lose your hold on stakeholders.
  • Specificity – Ensure that your insights are precise and clear. If your insights do not have enough information, make further researches and come up with concise insights that are straight to the point and backed up with adequate statistical information.
  • Novelty – Come up with new insights. Novel insights are bound to have more advantage over old insights. A new pattern is always more compelling than a pattern that has been experienced over ten, twenty times. There are some certain insights that may cause us to lose interest if they do not challenge or change our current knowledge.
  • Clarity – Clearly communicating your insight cannot be overemphasized. Good communication will ensure that your insights are not lost in the noise. Ensure that your insights are clearly understood and seen by utilizing the right messages and visualizations.


  • When analyzing you actionable insights, ensure that you put both consumer oriented data sets and the business oriented data sets into consideration.
  • Always ensure to make your insights reach the right set of people. The proper audience is very critical when it comes to actionable insights. And whenever you make recommendations, ensure that they are shared with the parties that influenced or own the solutions.
  • There are insights that can remain consistent over time. Read-outs on recommendations and insights can be slightly differentiated to reflect the status of related discussions.
  • Insights have more power when the bigger picture is shared and clearly understood. Ensure that your digital marketing team create opportunities that will enable collaboration across digital marketing groups in order to help understand and create this picture.

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