Use the 5 whys to turn research into insights when marketing to farmers

by Jeff Walter
May 10, 2017

Turn Research into Insights

The true value of research in marketing to farmers comes from looking beyond the numbers to see insights, which can be surprisingly easy to do once you know your subject.

Excitement can quickly turn to disappointment when you discover that insights promoted by researchers are often data points only. Don’t get me wrong, data is important, as is well-executed research. As an ag marketer, I pride myself on knowing farmers’ interests and opinions, and rely on data to keep current. And data can tell a story – to a point.

But the real value of research comes from the insights gleaned from the data. Insights provide context and meaning to what is observed, and help me truly understand the information. Some may say that insights are elusive, but I prefer to think of them as hidden in plain view. It’s a bit like training your eye to recognize 3D images in an art print. Once you learn, you can’t help but see them.

But First, What Is An Insight?

Insights are the backstory that complement facts – the insider’s perspective. Imagine for a moment, looking online for a list of nearby restaurants. The list will tell you location, cuisine and price range – all data points. While helpful, none will necessarily help you choose where to eat. Now imagine talking with someone who is familiar with all the restaurants on the list. This person can tell you which has the best atmosphere for a weekend night, who has the friendliest wait staff and how to get a table when reservations are full – all insights. Together with your original list, these insights ultimately help you make your decision.

If that seems too obvious, consider that it’s just as easy to find insights when marketing to farmers. For instance, a research study once found that Facebook is the most used social channel for farmers (i.e., data.) Good information, but does that tell you whether you should to try to engage with farmers there? Not necessarily. A more certain way to know is to also understand why farmers use Facebook (i.e., insight). Once you know their motivations for using Facebook, you can be more sure how to align your message to what they’re looking for when visiting that site.

Find Insights By Knowing Your Subject

Behind every insight is why. Why do farmers take precious time each day to connect with others on Facebook? Keep asking why and you are certain to discover the motivations (insights) of the behavior observed (data). One technique we use frequently is the 5 Whys. The idea is to interrogate information in order to reveal truths. Ask why, and keep asking why, to find these truths. Warning: this exercise requires a great deal of knowledge about your subject, and may even result in needing to do some additional research and learning. But it’s worth it! Interrogate the data with Whys, and you will uncover the insights you need.

So the next time you’re looking at market research ask yourself, is this data alone or insights? Am I searching for the underlying cause, or just stopping with the data?  If it’s data only, look deeper and ask why to discover those insights hiding in plain sight. And just like the 3D images on an art print, don’t give up until you see them!

Jeff Walter
About the Author – Jeff Walter

President/Chief Integration Officer. Jeff combines 20 years of client service experience with his deep knowledge and passion for agriculture, which stems from growing up on a corn and soybean farm in northern Illinois. He is a quick study of the brand, the customers and competitors, knows the right questions to ask, and with his oversight on planning and analytics, pushes the team to category-defining strategies and results-driven plans.


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Since 1978, the ag-marketing experts at Rhea + Kaiser have been helping brands connect with the farmer customer.

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