The Value of Knowing What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know

Anosognosia is a curious condition in which a person who suffers from a certain disability is unaware of the existence of his or her disability. If you ask an anosognosic patient whose left arm is paralyzed to pick something up with their paralyzed left arm, they of course can’t do it. Yet, if you ask them why they won’t, they may say they just don’t feel like picking it up right now, completely unaware that they are in fact paralyzed.

Nobody knows the exact cause or cure for this condition, but reading about it made me think of how this concept applies to our awareness of our abilities as they relate to business and marketing. Particularly in this age of big data and big technology, game-changing insights and opportunities are often sitting on the table in front of us, but we not only fail to leverage them — we sometimes don’t acknowledge that we don’t have the ability or tools to pick them up. Umbel has a unique ability to help marketers see those opportunities for what they are, and further grab them and put them to use.

One of the most straight-forward benefits of using the Umbel platform is being able to leverage actual customer data to answer questions about your consumers — their interests, their behaviors, their professional expertise and more. However, what I find more valuable and fascinating than being able to find answers to the questions you have, is finding answers to the questions you never before had. To be truly innovative, you need to know what you don’t know AND what you don’t know you don’t know. In other words, break through the marketing anosognosia.

Digging in to Your Unknown Universe

Consider for a moment that you don’t know most things. Entrepreneur Skip Walter illustrates this simply with his Four Boxes of Knowing diagram.

Many companies have great analytics teams who can answer questions about an audience or pull reports that have been carefully designed to reveal important consumer behaviors (what you know and what you know you don’t know). But it isn’t all that often that we have a path to consistently and serendipitously discover insights that reveal something we would have never thought to ask about in the first place. This is where Umbel can shine.

Rather than putting together a survey to ask if my consumers like a particular brand of beer, I can pull up a real-time profile sheet revealing their favorite beverages and quickly identify all the types of alcohol they prefer — and cross reference that by demographics or behaviors. Maybe there is a beer enjoyed by my extremely loyal customers that is different than my occasional customers, or maybe it’s men and women, geography or household income that divide my audience’s beer preferences. I could find out that my local audience likes one beer, but my national audience is divided among another top two. Or perhaps my mobile audience has a different preference than my desktop audience and so on. Once I have access to this kind of information on the fly, things start to get really interesting because I quickly understand the kinds of questions I can now ask that I either couldn’t, or never thought of asking before. I can then set up scenarios and experiments to plan for and collect data that unlocks new opportunities.

For example, when I have an event around a new product launch, I can collect RSVP data and tie it to iBeacon data to show my marketing team, my sponsors, my event planners and my creative agencies the beer preferences of attendees (fully-segmentable), including the stage or tent at which they spent most of their time. Maybe I hadn’t thought to ask, but it turns out my customers who love beer X also like energy bar Y, music band Z and make larger than average online purchases through my mobile app. Knowing this and being able to share it across teams can greatly affect my future events, partnerships, sponsors, marketing content and more.

How Umbels Help You Know

In this “matrix of knowledge,” the four quadrants represent A) What you know that you know, B) What you don’t know that you know, C) What you know that you don’t know and D) What you don’t know that you don’t know. While you hopefully have quadrant A covered, Umbel can have a tangible impact on quadrants B, C, and especially D.

Here are some examples of the kind of data I’m talking about:

  1. This is knowledge that comes from data you are currently measuring and tracking and have access to. Ex: My brand’s Facebook page has 1.2M likes, my sales increase by 30% in the fall, or my product has 4 stars on a ratings platform.
  2. This is knowledge that comes from data that you technically collect, but is not attainable or accessible by those who need it. Sometimes this is a matter of not being able to connect the dots across two or more silos of consumer data, like drawing insights between CRM, POS and online behavioral data. Ex: When I launched a new product, my Facebook fans increased by 20% and my legacy product sales increased by 15%. The zip codes for online purchases show me where they live, but I can’t overlay that with the other data.
  3. This is knowledge that you know would be valuable, but you aren’t collecting the data you need to attain it. Ex: What other competitors do my customers like? What are the preferred media outlets of my best customers? What are the differences in demographics between my loyal customers and my one-time buyers? What are the email addresses of customers who attended my event or used my Wifi?
  4. This knowledge comes from new insights that you would have never thought to ask about. It requires accessing data in a way that sparks new questions that can then be answered and acted upon. Ex: The customers purchasing my top-of-the-line product read more of my online product reviews and overwhelmingly live in three major cities. I offered them a coupon for my newest product and since they spend 80% of their online time with my brand on my mobile app, I offered a digitally redeemable coupon. I also discovered they like some top restaurant chains and placed outdoor advertising near those establishments. Now I’m going to see what other retail establishments and media they frequent for my next media plan. It works more like an ongoing storyline of learning, acting upon, and collecting more relevant data.

When you realize that most game-changing knowledge lies in the realm of things you don’t know you don’t know, it is really exciting to think about all the possibilities you may not be aware of, but are just one question away from figuring out through leveraging your big data.

It is worth noting that companies who are strong at innovation are three times more likely to rely on big data analytics and data mining than their counterparts who are less adept at innovating (57% versus 19%). 67% of breakthrough innovators say their big data analytics and data mining efforts are paying off. These and many other findings are from the latest analysis of the world’s most innovative companies of 2014 published last month by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

What can you do to leverage consumer data and start seeking out your business’ pivotal questions that you don’t know yet to ask? To quote Confucius, “True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.”