Growth Marketing with CLX - Week 3

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Paul Boag explains why user-centric marketing can help improve conversion in your campaigns.

From The User to the Company

In my third week with CXL Institute, I moved on to a 2 hour and 45 minute lesson with Paul Boag, a user experience consultant who has worked with numerous companies to improve conversion. I was particularly excited about this lesson because in my career, users always throw you curveballs no matter how equipped you thought you were. I went into this lesson with a specific expectation of learning more about how to predict user actions and build your product for it. Instead, Paul taught his lesson from the user’s perspective opting to design his campaigns from the user’s perspective towards the company versus from the company’s vision of the user. This was refreshing but I have to admit, there were times I didn’t quite agree with Paul.

User-centric Marketing

Paul’s first lesson focused around what user-centric marketing meant and how it’s changed (or become easier) over time. Paul went into his past to explain how much easier it is to obtain information now versus when he was young, such as having to deal with going to college back in the 90s versus finding information on colleges in today’s age of Google.

As Paul goes on to explain, this is a double-edged sword for the marketing world. It’s incredibly easy to reach thousands, if not millions, of users easily with a single campaign. Any users you successfully impress goes on to market for you free-of-charge through word of mouth. However, it’s also incredibly easy to alienate and piss off thousands of users, who can then exponentially damage your company through their networks.

In an age where digital now makes it not only easy to quickly connect with your network and promote or destroy a company, it’s also an age where your competitor is just a click away. This makes it crucial to ensure that your product, whether it’s a website or app, is focused on the user. This is where user-centric marketing comes in. With most companies planning their campaigns around what they think their target audience is or how their audience thinks, a user-centric marketing campaign ensures that your campaign is focused on how the user actually thinks and would react.

This method is easy to adopt, per Paul. It mostly involves understanding your audience. This goes beyond knowing what your target audience is, i.e. locale, gender, age, and instead focuses more on who your audience actually is and what drives them, i.e. what are their objections, questions, motivations, or what they want to accomplish with your product. As Paul explained it, which really helped me to better understand, is that the better you know your user, the easier it’ll be to convince them to perform an action. To put it into perspective, it’s most likely easier to convince your family to do something than it is to convince a complete stranger to perform the same action. So, why not learn more about who your users really are?

In order to do this, Paul focused on Empathy Mapping, which is similar to creating personas but differs in that specific category where you’re focused on who the user is, what their tastes are, what questions they have, what tasks do they need to complete, what influences them, and what their goals are as well as what pain points they’re facing. I’ve built user journeys in the past and I have to admit, as much as I think about the user, I’ve never focused on why a user would want to do something with my product.

Understanding Your User

Of course, I still don’t really know where to start. Paul’s recommendation revolved around meeting with your team and meeting your users. I have definitely done the former, having worked across multiple disciplines in the videogames industry before. However, I’ve never met with any actual users. I have been a part of teams that ran user research groups before, but have never personally sat down with a user and asked them questions, which Paul has done. Though, I question how efficient this process really is as Paul mentioned sitting down with a user in her house, learning more about her, and then helping her perform an action on her personal computer. I doubt any company really has the time or budget to perform these types of research in today’s fast-paced markets. I could be wrong, though.

As far as meeting with teams, I found what Paul mentioned to be pretty basic. Pulling in teams that have personal data or contact with your users, such as the Sales team, Customer Support team, etc should be your first meeting. These teams would have the most up to date information about the type of actions your users take, what questions they most commonly have, and what problems your users currently face.

User Surveys

Another obvious way to learn more about your user, outside of in person meetings, are surveys. I’m sure everyone has had at least one survey thrown in their faces either before or after landing on a website. I know I always get surveys after making a purchase or even abandoning a cart. From a company’s perspective, I can see the value in these surveys. Obviously, they quickly tell you why someone performed an action. In my case, answering the survey either tells the company why I bought something or why I didn’t.

Paul suggests to keep your own surveys short and sweet, usually with a single question or a single objective. You should avoid trying to add anyone and everyone’s question(s) into the survey, lest you end up with a plethora of data that you cannot easily interpret to tell a story. Having sent out or been a part of the team sending out surveys in the past, I can attest to this. Survey data is amazing and a quick way to understand a subset of your users, but it can get out of hand fast. Even with a concentrated group, it can be difficult to try and build a plausible story from the data you obtain in order to apply that to future projects.

Top Task Analysis

One method to creating better usability and better understanding your users’ motives for performing actions is Top Task Analysis. I had never heard of this method prior to taking Paul’s course. I have never personally performed anything similar to this, so my naive mind questions whether or not this would be an efficient method.

This method was created by Gerry McGovern, who used it to identify which tasks a user most wanted to complete on a website in order for the company to prioritize their call to actions correctly. Obviously, this method is used to better understand the questions or concerns your user has before they will take an action.

Paul went over this method, and ultimately his entire lesson, from a website design perspective, so I tried my best to apply it to my own experiences and uses. In today’s digital age, we have less than 8 seconds to help a user before they move onto one of your competitors. Therefore, we must quickly address the most important questions. The question then is how?

Most companies, as should anyone who has a consumer facing product, would brainstorm every possible question and objection that a user might have, then prioritize that based off what they think a user might want to focus on. Or rather, what KPIs your company wants to drive. Let’s be honest, it usually comes down to what metrics you’re trying to drive.

However, sticking to what Paul taught, once you’ve prioritized your list of questions, you can start your user research as a foundation and start combining similar questions into similar categories, removing or simplifying specific questions. Once you’ve done that, you would end up with a list of categories that can be presented to users in a survey for them to rank. This would then give you a set of data on what matters to your users, giving you a handful of tasks that would be considered “top tasks” in order to inform your marketing and internal projects.

From what I understood, top task analysis is invaluable to understanding what users care about, but has its limitations. Obviously, it won’t answer all your questions of how to position your product or website and would mostly be focused on the proper messaging. However, coupled with the proper user journey, you’d have fantastic data on what your campaigns should be focused on.

User Focused or User Driven?

Most of Paul’s lesson was entirely focused on including users at several points in your process. I can definitely see Paul’s point and at times would agree that a user’s perspective would be invaluable in helping to direct internal discussion.

I don’t have as many years of experience as Paul does with user experience, but I have to admit that there were a few lessons where I’d have trouble putting into practice what he suggested, such as in-person meetings with your users. It may be the companies I’ve worked for or just the pace that I’ve moved, but it seems a bit inefficient to spend time sitting down with individual users. Aside from the time spent, it seems like it’d be inefficient to assume the views and decisions of 1-3 people per quarter can be extrapolated to your entire user base.

I get that this is similar to running an experiment on a small subset of your users and using that data to confirm or deny a change in your product. I guess I just don’t see how in-person meetings would be as helpful as larger tests, but I chalk that up to my lack of experience and exposure that Paul obviously has.

Though I question the effectiveness of certain elements of Paul’s lesson, overall I found it incredibly intriguing and informative. As much as I want to discuss some of his other methodologies in his lesson, I’ll have to save that for next week’s article. Otherwise, this article might end up being over an hour long. Stay tuned!

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