Testing prototypes is an inherent part of finalizing designs. Nobody wants to wonder why users are not utilizing an app the way it should be utilized or why they can’t seem to complete a purchase on your website. And nobody wants to rework something that’s already been shipped.
The Online Marketing Arms RaceJanuary 29, 2013
Online marketing was pretty easy when I first started doing it in 1996. It wasn’t rocket science that you should test ads for response rates and measure conversions (the deeper the better). But surprisingly a lot of people weren’t following this process. Considering that there was less than $20 per year competing for the attention of each US Internet user, this little edge made it easy to profitably acquire lots of customers online.
Marketing is Getting Harder
But in the last few years, online marketing has gotten much harder. Marketers now pile in more than $140 per user in advertising each year. To compete, today’s online marketers must seek every possible advantage. The graph below highlights the problem, showing a trendline of the average dollars spent advertising to USA Internet users in each of the last 16 years. I calculated it based on IAB spend reports and several different data sources for USA Internet users over the years. Based on the trendline, it appears the problem will continue to get worse.
Before 2010, Process and Tools Were Nice-To-Haves
Until a few years ago, it was only the savviest marketers that spent a lot of time focusing on the post click user experience. This gave them a significant competitive edge in the channels. It certainly worked for me. For example, at one startup we had hit a wall scaling our marketing spend so we refocused efforts on funnel optimization for a few months. Afterwards, we went back and tested the same channels that had previously scaled to only $10,000/month in profitable spending and they now scaled to over $1,000,000/month in profitable spending.
And I was a bit of a laggard when it came to keeping up with marketing tools. Sure I had a few favorites to help with optimization but told myself I was too busy to keep up with all the tools. Fortunately, most really were “nice-to-haves” so I was still able to compete as an effective marketer.
One example of a category I missed in recent years was the emergence of marketing automation. I didn’t even know what it really meant until about six months ago. Now that I’ve explored marketing automation solutions like Marketo and Hubspot, it’s clear that they provide a tremendous advantage to B-to-B marketers that effectively integrate them into their marketing and sales process. These tools essentially push the marketing process deeper into the funnel, where sales people previously wasted a lot of time qualifying leads over email or ignored them altogether. By automating the lead qualification and nurturing process, marketing automation tools free the sales team to focus on prospects that are most ready to buy.
The net result is that more leads convert to sales, allowing the marketer to spend more money generating each lead. Of course this only exacerbates the “noise” problem in the paid channels.
And competition for people’s attention is no longer constrained to paid online marketing channels. Over the last few years, many online marketers have hacked growth in ways that didn’t require spending on online media. This ranges from incentivized user-get-user programs like the one at Dropbox, to content and social marketing, ecosystem integrations, search engine optimization and the list goes on…
Must-Haves for Marketers
We’ve reached a point where it’s increasingly difficult to consider leading edge processes and emerging marketing tools as “nice to haves.” Without the edge they provide, most marketers will fail.
Most enterprises realize this and are expected to dramatically increase their investments in marketing tools over the next few years. This Gartner study suggests that the marketing technology budget will soon be bigger than the CIO’s technology budget.
All of this investment by enterprises is accelerating innovation cycles in new marketing tools. More startups, including Qualaroo, are raising significant funding to pursue that next “break through marketing innovation.”
Staying on Top of It All
Of course there will be some duds in the emerging marketing tools. But that’s no excuse to not stay on top of things and give many of tools a good test drive. Finding the right tool is only half the battle. Being creative enough to leverage the tool to drive a result is where the best marketers will really shine.
If you’re not sure where to start with all the emerging tools, I tend to find that marketing consultants are the most knowledgeable. I expect over the next few years that marketing consultants will increasingly play “system integrator” roles that help companies select and leverage the right marketing tools to drive growth. I’ve already come across a handful of consultants and agencies that provide tremendous value with these types of services.
UX designers are under a lot of pressure to produce designs that add value to users’ lives. But without input from your users, it’s nearly impossible to design an experience that actually helps alleviate their pain points. If you’re pressed for time and/or don’t have the help of a researcher, getting the user input essential to design a great product can certainly be a challenge.
As a UX designer, getting your leadership to support your major projects can be as much about talking the talk as it is about walking the walk. As much value as your work may provide, you also have to know how to sell it in a world of competing priorities and looming deadlines.
Even as UX design and user research are becoming a more prominent focus in today’s leading companies, it can still be tough to get executive leadership onboard with user research-related initiatives. We know the struggle.
This post originally appeared on UsabilityGeek.
This post was written and contributed by Alex Birkett of Hubspot.
Understanding the steps users take as they interact with your brand and how they feel along the way is crucial to managing in today’s digital experience landscape. A customer journey mapping tool gives you the ability to put yourself in a customer’s shoes and see what the end-to-end experience is like. By visually representing this process, you can begin to understand which of your company’s touchpoints bring joy and which cause frustration for the customer.
We all know that user feedback is important, that goes without saying. It should be the primary source of information you look to if you’d like to improve your user’s experience and your product itself.
Sometimes it feels like apps, tools, and services we use are an extension of the work that we do. That’s especially true if you work in UX, product management, or any sort of design. UX tools do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to user research and design.
This post originally appeared on Design Thinking and was written by Paulina Wójciak and Sarah Cantu.