Is the user really at the top of your marketing strategy? [Review]

There’s nothing more frustrating for learners than failing a test. And the course I recently took on User-centric Marketing on the CXL Institute e-learning platform has a 30-question quiz in which I achieve 87% correct answers but need 90% to pass. I’ve taken the test five times to date. And each time there is something I haven’t delved into enough. Now it’s not that I’m so bad at tests, in fact, usually, my intuition helps me. And I want to say that the quiz is very well done and doesn’t give room for false interpretations. The reality is that this course is so dense with content and insights that it takes experience to absorb them properly.

But what is the course about?

The instructor is Paul Boag a marketing consultant specializing in user-centric marketing topics. In two hours and forty-five minutes he not only manages to give a complete overview of the main techniques for investigating the behaviours, needs and resistance of their users but also to provide many practical tips and online tools to apply this research in the day to day, with an eye to the applicability of each method.

Because the real problem is always the same: how do I put into practice something that I know is right to do but is extremely difficult to achieve because it requires dedicated time and resources? How do I turn my analysis into action? He explains why doing at least some analysis on our current or potential user is better than not even trying during the lessons.

What is user-centric marketing?

It starts with a very simple concept:

You can persuade a person if you know them.

What they’re trying to achieve, what is the goal they have. (Paul Boag)

A customer-centric marketing strategy is nothing more than an approach that takes into account the needs, goals, aspirations and concerns of customers to build conversion paths validated by the user’s own experience.

How? Through techniques such as top task analysis, open card sorting, or survey methods such as 5-second analysis, the book cover exercise, and so on. Below I focus on top task analysis and customer journey mapping to give you an example of the potential and applicability of these techniques.

Top task analysis

Who is our customer? And what is he trying to accomplish?

Answering these two questions is the key to crafting better marketing campaigns.

While there are hundreds or thousands of things users can do on websites and software interfaces, few and very specific tasks drive users to visit a website or use the software. Ideally, there is only one. Gerry McGovern has proposed a unique way to test what are the main motivations of a user browsing our site. Once you have identified a list of possible tasks that a user can perform on a site, you have to group similar ones and create a list of up to 30 tasks to be submitted to the user so that he can prioritize the most important ones. Identifying the main task allows us to design, for example, web interfaces that respect the objectives of those who navigate.

Mailchimp buyer personas

Customer Journey Mapping

Just to give you a little anecdote on the importance of considering our user (or customer) at the centre of communication and marketing activities. Did you know that in Mail Chimp they hung pictures of personas on the wall? An effective reminder of who we’re addressing every time we write an email or create a campaign (even among the personas there’s the dreaded receptionist, enemy number one of every salesperson).

Mapping the customer ‘journey’ is always an extreme simplification. It’s neither useful nor possible to capture in a document all the complex steps involved in a business negotiation, but it’s best to focus on no more than 6 steps that define the process of buying or engaging a potential client. Even if we know well that purchasing processes, especially in B2B, are long and anything but linear: they foresee moments of standstill, second thoughts, analysis and much more punctual requests for information. Not for this, we must renounce to a passage.

Customer Journey Mapping Template

How does this analysis differ from the construction of a common buyer persona? Certainly, Customer Journey Mapping takes into account change and the different stages in the buying process.

What does it need to contain? Only the information we’re interested in really tracking: user goals, questions, touchpoints, feelings, influences. We are also interested in understanding what are the weak points in our conversion path, those moments when we lose the customer.

To make this map, we must resist the temptation to go it alone, even if we have good data, and involve all those figures that have to do with customers in the company and the customers themselves. Perhaps this is the most difficult step: taking the customer to a workshop to study their path to purchase may not be possible? Boag then suggests at least having some customers validate the map as soon as it’s ready.

Things to ‘keep in your pocket’ after this course

A lecturer I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in several business courses would always point out how the hardest part of the course happens afterwards when you have to turn the learnings into practical actions. And that’s why I tried to set some practical goals to pursue after this course.

Ask lots of questions… then select the most important ones based on the goals we need to achieve

Gather information from multiple sources before each campaign: site analytics, salesforce, customer care, IT

Think of the customer journey as a dynamic process where the user’s will and intent are constantly changing.

Always try to test a campaign before launching it, even if there are 2–3 beta testers, preferably not internal.

Hang my customer journey maps on the wall, as a necessary reminder of how and what I’m working towards.

Include a testing/survey phase for every marketing campaign

Okay, but how come out of the blue you’re telling me this?

This post is the result of a nice training opportunity that happened to me with a bit of luck. On Linkedin, I follow the marketing agency MOCA by Marco Ziero (because they have a nice newsletter, very useful and a way of perceiving marketing that convinces me). From there I saw that some accounts had obtained online certifications from a portal unknown to me. After visiting the site for a few minutes I was already suffering from that strong complex of “I’d like to but I can’t”. To my surprise, without believing it too much, I got a scholarship from CXL Institute, the Academy founded by Peep Laja. A reality that brings together many marketers that I have respected and followed for a long time, with very practical courses and without “shining fireworks”. There remains the challenge of being able to transform the practical knowledge developed by professionals who operate in an Anglo-Saxon context, a little different from ours, and apply it to the market.

There remains the challenge of transforming the practical knowledge developed by professionals working in an Anglo-Saxon context, a little different from ours, and applying it in the Italian context, which is rooted in very different assumptions.

I’ll keep you posted

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Copywriter, missed storyteller, almost…

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