Continuing my lesson with Paul Boag as he explains the importance of user-centric marketing.
Thanks again for joining me this week as I continued my lesson with Paul Boag. If you didn’t get a chance to read through my first article with his lesson, please feel free to do so here. If you’re new here, this article is week 4 of a series of 12 where I’ll be documenting my journey across CXL Institute’s Growth Marketing Specialist minidegree. You can check out the other articles I’ve written on my profile.
I’m incredibly excited to write about this particular topic. I love looking at maps of any kind, from discovering new cities and locations in my state to following Frodo’s journey across Middle Earth. As such, I love being able to map an entire user journey across a product. I realize that’s not really the same thing, but the excitement with visually mapping a user’s journey across your product or campaign is there nonetheless.
In this second half of Paul Boag’s lesson, he goes over the intricacies of user journeys. As anyone who’s used a product or released a product, you’re already aware that there are tons of directions a user can take when discovering, interacting, and leaving your product. As such, when designing user journeys, you have to consider all of these.
Of course, creating a complicated user journey isn’t going to help you, as Paul goes on to say. In fact, it’d be a lot more helpful to slot in the major milestones, then list out what data you should be gathering or analyzing at each step along with the touchpoints you’d have. Touchpoints, for anyone not already aware, are ways you can communicate with your user, such as push notifications, emails, or in-app messaging to name a few.
Successfully mapping a user journey can help you pinpoint any weak spots in your campaign or product lifecycle so that you can define areas of improvement, establish upcoming projects, or strengthen your campaigns to prevent users from dropping off. Of course, the question then becomes, how?
It should already be obvious that mapping out a user journey is beneficial. I’ve only done this a few times, but doing so with your team is even more worthwhile, per Paul. Planning out the user journey(s) with your team reduces the chances of making bad assumptions and getting your team, especially those who don’t normally interact with the user, to focus on the user is always a good thing. This also increases the chance that your team holders and cross-functional teams will make use of the final journey if they’ve had a hand in making it. Personally, I have to admit that there have been times where personally generated user journeys, or even those created solely with my team, were harder to push through to other teams. Though, I’ve yet to create a user journey cross-functionally. I’m sure it’d be a fun exercise.
Paul also goes on to recommend having your own users in the meeting where your team(s) are creating user journeys. However, it’s not always easy to do. I personally have never worked at a company where we could easily pull in users to our meetings. Even if we’ve planned ahead for them. That said, Paul recommends user input nonetheless, even if it was just showing the user journey to your users and asking for feedback.
As far as the internal attendees go, it’d be beneficial to pull in teams that work with users day to day. This would include your sales team, customer support, and perhaps even your social media team. These teams have direct contact with your users and would most likely have data on your users from purchase behaviors to personal preferences and complaints. Lastly, pulling in someone from senior management would be beneficial. As management gets more senior, they tend to have less contact with users so their customer perspective can be lacking. Inviting management exposes them to the user and gets them to think about the users. You’ll also be more likely to get their buy-in if they were part of the meeting to begin with.
Once you’ve created a user journey, you should review it from time to time to ensure it’s still valid. Your initial user journey most likely could change as your product grows. Keeping an existing user journey short will help you to reduce the amount of time it takes to review and optimize it.
In my experience, user research has been both good and bad. After watching Paul’s lesson regarding user research, I can definitely see areas where my past user research experiences could have been improved. In the past, we’ve ended up with tons of data and direct user input. However, we also end up with tons of useless data that ends up filed in a shared drive somewhere.
On the good side, hearing directly from our users was incredibly insightful. We immediately saw pain points that we’ve missed because we were too close to the product. Of course, we also saw feedback that felt a bit too high level and inapplicable to the product, since the users lacked internal information that we couldn’t share.
As Paul recommended, we definitely used what we learned daily. As our product grew, we kept trying to pull in more user research but that tends to get difficult as a project ramps up. Paul has good recommendations from keeping the data part of your daily process to considering the user when designing campaigns. This has been a struggle in the past, but definitely something I have to keep working at.
Including the User
This is where I tend to diverge from Paul’s recommendations. Mostly, as I’ve been mentioning, because I’ve worked at places where it’s not always easy to pull in a user. Therefore, I’ll focus this section mostly on Paul’s recommendations.
In order to get user data, Paul recommends directly including the user in your meetings and processes in order to get their perspective. Of course, having an external user come in to tell your team(s) what to do might come off as trying to undermine the team’s efforts. To offset this, it would behoove you to focus on using it as a tool to understand the user versus having the user design the journey. It’d still fall on the team to interpret the user’s inputs, so approaching the user’s design as such would allow your team to take the user’s feedback as feedback instead of direction.
Another process where Paul recommended user input was direct campaign design. Mocking up several designs and running them would quickly tell you which works best. Additionally, you could quickly ask users to look at each design and get similar results. Currently, there are services that would allow you to run visual tests with users immediately, without you having to go out and find these users. Once you’ve gathered enough data, you could generate a word cloud to determine if the design is communicating to your users what you had expected. This tends to lead to campaigns that are better targeted and saves time from holding endless meetings just to discuss designs that may or may not be impactful.
One of the most enjoyable responsibilities I’ve had in my professional career has been to review and analyze my marketing campaigns then re-release them after I’ve optimized them. Or, re-release them with modifications to test theories I or my team have.
What’s the benefit of refining campaigns post-launch? By not doing so, you’re wasting the opportunity to optimize your user acquisition and get the most out of your ad spend. Unless you’re a marketing genius, your marketing campaigns will never be perfect the first time around. Refining your campaigns off the data you’ve gathered gives you the opportunity to improve your campaigns in order to increase conversion.
In order to do this, Paul recommended two ways: analytics and screen recorders. I’ve personally only had experience with the first method. I’d say most companies are mostly or only utilizing the first method as well in order to identify drop-off points with their campaigns. With regards to screen recorders, Paul goes on to say they’re useful for identifying why users are dropping off by capturing their behaviors as they’re moving around. However, I’d have to ask where and how you’d start recording a user’s screen.
Once you’ve figured out how you want to optimize your campaigns, running them as A/B tests would be the most beneficial way to optimize your campaigns without wasting a ton of resources or time. Testing closer to the point of conversion would be the best option as it would give you the insight into the immediate step before converting. From there, you can continue to build further and further away in order to optimize the funnel for your users.
To increase efficiency with your work, it would be best to limit the number of variations. Reducing factors that could widely skew your results would help you pinpoint a winner but also allow you to see what is causing one test to perform better than the other. Focusing on big changes, as well, would make the biggest impact. This is especially true if you have a small team. That way, you can avoid putting valuable resources into little nuanced changes.
For small teams, you may not have the capacity to test so many things. Luckily, there are tools out there, such as Google Optimize, that can help declare the winner based on the level of difference in each test. Obviously, you should be running tests that are appropriate to the size of your company and budget. As a small startup, you probably should limit your tests to impactful changes versus testing which color looks best in dark mode.
At the end of the day, though, A/B tests won’t tell you everything because it is just data. Having a better understanding of usability in addition to your A/B test results and data will ultimately give you the bigger picture and a better perspective in order to improve both your marketing campaigns and your product.
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