As a marketer and someone who does social campaigns on a regular basis, I thought I’d have a pretty firm grasp of what marketing is and what it entails. Till such time that I stumbled upon CXL’s mini-degree on growth marketing that is a whopping 111 hours of pure knowledge from some of the brightest minds the industries have seen. Of course, we’ve spent umpteen amounts of time taking one course on Udemy after another, thinking (or rather dreaming) that is all we need to know and proclaim ourselves as the guru of digital marketing. The course is incredibly helpful and this article seeks out to explain what user-centric marketing really is and how one should approach the subject to better ourselves at the various marketing tasks that we do to further our business or our clients’.
In the times that we live in, digital has penetrated almost all aspects of our lives. Unless you’re living in a cave somewhere far removed from the urban-ness of our regular lives, you’ll notice the large impact digital has in our day to day lives. However as marketers, we see that many companies still hold dearly to the traditional routes of marketing. Think on the lines of running one campaign after another because “that’s what the management has called for” – even though the management is quite alienated to the target audience at hand. Or for instance, how digital marketing has provided a level playing fields for all companies, both big and small. Digital marketing has given a voice to consumers much like it has to companies to market their products and services with little investment at times. If a product goes viral, it goes without the company spending a dime on it. However, the same applies to consumer complaints and how it can turn it a PR nightmare for companies and damage their brand reputation. Take the case of 1-800-Flowers who in 2012 promised a slew of delivery guarantees and not live up to them. The result? Disgruntled customers who took to Twitter and bashed them up demanding refunds, complaints about orders that did not arrive or even posting photos of those that did arrive but in a horrible condition. Not before long, the company got a lot of bad press and turned out to be a major faux pas.
Honestly, digital marketing can turn out to be on the extreme and if you aren’t sure about your users and those ultimately using your products or services, you are treading a fine line with no actionable insights to grow further. Understanding your users is a crucial factor that many marketers don’t take into account (or at least not to the extent that they should). A user-centric approach starts by truly understanding who your users are – what do they want to do, what are their pain points, what tasks do they want to achieve, how do they feel and where in the buyer journey do they come across. As marketers, we tend to shove things on our potential customers while paying little attention to their actual wants and needs at that time. This is clearly unhelpful to marketers but even more so to the user as their needs could be diagonally different to what you’re offering, thus rending your efforts utterly void. User-centric approach to marketing helps us take a step back and really think about how our users feel in their journey and to provide them with incentives to move further down the funnel one step at a time – by seeking to understand their motive and helping them achieve their micro goals.
Consumer behavior is so rapidly evolving, making it imperative for any successful marketer to question the strategy chosen to reach the right audience. A great tool for doing so is empathy mapping. It is quite similar to drawing personas however it delves more into the customer’s wants, pain points, influences etc., to determine a more holistic understanding that just their demographics. This is vital information for any marketer as customer journey isn’t a static route. Customers differ based on their past experiences, their current feelings and how that encourages or holds them back from completing a purchase, signing up or whichever goal you wish them to commit to.
All of this takes time and extensive research but it doesn’t have to be expensive, if you are thinking so. There are a lot of ways to glean data freely before opening your wallet and paying for high-end pricey software solutions. You must already be having some sort of company research (that’s probably lying in a drawer, completely forgotten). Although it may not be up-to-date, but it serve a very useful purpose as an initial starting point. Another huge assets are frontline staff members who are actively talking to your customers on a daily basis. Think about all the sales staff that you have, the ones who are in customer support and even those who manage your social media accounts. They have a ton of information readily available on what the customers are actively seeking, what are their objections, what vision do they hold for the company and the products/services and many other snippets of information that you can easily overlook. Speaking with your staff will help unearth a lot of potential and relevant user information that you would otherwise end up paying a third party company.
Once you have the data with you regarding your users, you can then set out to use it as a stepping stone for further research by means of user testing, involving users in the design process, ensuring your website has a prototype that can be tested rather easily and to continually refine your campaigns post launch. While all of this may sound intimidating at first, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. There are many tools available at your disposal to run many such tests and to gather information.
For instance, when we mentioned about including users in your design process; it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t rely on web designers or copywriters. Instead, the idea is to involve users to understand their perspective and their expectations so as to take that information and design your website or campaigns to meet those expectations. An easy way to do this is to run a few simple exercises such as ‘The Famous Person’ exercise wherein you ask the user to describe your company as if it were some famous personality. Pay attention to the kind of words they’d use to describe the organization – they may say that it is a fun place, or it’s authoritative or minimal etc. Collecting these groups of keywords is a great place to start designing your website or campaign as you now know what your actual audience perceives your brand as.
When user-centric marketing becomes the highlight of any marketing efforts, it is bound to yield better results because of the amount of research that goes in truly understanding who your users are, where do they come from, what journey do they take to find you, what are their expectations, what are their objections, their feelings and what do they truly want from you. When you start investigating your users and align your marketing efforts to a more user-centric one, it is going to be incredibly helpful for your business to deliver on their expectations as well as for the users and make them appreciative of the efforts you took to understand them.