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Photo by Caspar Camille Rubin on Unsplash

Do customers want to be treated as users?

I’ve spent some time working for tech companies alongside c-levels and developers. As a marketing strategist and sometimes lone ranger, I noticed one constant struggle: the push and pull from marketing and devs and the intersection where they collided, often hard. I found that at times we were very harsh in our tone and voice, and only focused on data (which is very important) but when you forget to humanize the data, you miss the connection.

One of my favorite things in marketing & communications is taking a message and applying it to different audiences or stakeholders. Companies often want to have a one-size-fits all strategy for their product, but that is not the case — even for the smallest company. I’ve planned both B2B and B2C strategies — at times both for the same company, but even if my focus was only on one, there is likely a difference between who we market and who will use a service or product. It’s vital to know your different audiences and create the targeted messaging and pathway for them.

I once worked at a company where there was a clear divide between all departments, but especially between marketing, IT, and project management. One of my first tasks included improving numbers and enrollment. It was imperative that all three of those departments work together and because I was facing a very quick timeline, we had to gel and produce at an aggressive rate. With support of leadership, we were able to rewrite copy, design a website, and revamp an entire online application process in time. The result? In the first week applications opened, we saw double what they had seen in the first month during the last cycle. That’s not doubling what they saw in a month — it’s quadrupling what they saw in a week. The key? Knowing your audience and having a plan. The application was cumbersome and repetitive, there were many people who gave up and never came back. UX helped us consolidate and marketing was able to promote and deliver. In this case, the users and decision-makers were the same, but there were different applications and each had a different persona. While most companies would have pushed back on creating custom UX for each, leadership here was open to it, and it paid off.

In contrast, I was at another company that focused so intently on the UX but missed the marketing strategy. Like a pendulum, they swung from assuming users were idiots and making things so simple it was insulting, or being too advanced that it was confusing for users. They didn’t think about the user nor the decision-maker, which in this case was completely different audiences. They tried a one-size-fits all approach to conform c-levels and customers to what the company wanted. UX was not incorporated into a marketing strategy. If it were, the CEO would have known that their users and their customers were not the same. In the end, the CEO sided with tech— and the product was really awesome.

You can have developers burn the midnight oil and create a great product, but if you don’t have the right end-user or are disconnected from what decision-makers or customers want, you’ve wasted your time.

What I learned from these two experiences is the confirmation and importance of customized and personalized efforts in marketing. I know the opportunity cost for developers to create different experiences. What seems like a simple and easy solution from the front-end, is complicated and tedious from the back-end. But that effort and time will make itself up when a company can market to decision-makers and customers and deliver to both in a unique way. If you miss the mark with UX on your site or product, your customer service team will be answering many complaints and you will lose customers who just gave up and will never return to give you a try. If you fail to develop an experience that marketing promoted, you’ll also miss opportunities but gain complaints. But, if you can work together to incorporate UX as part of the marketing strategy and align with the identified audience(s), you may just find the data backs you up.

MarCom consultant. George Washington University alum. Pittsburgh raised. lorencribbs.com

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