In some ways, a successful inbound marketing program boils down to understanding, planning, executing and optimizing: You need an acute understanding of your audience; a concrete plan for how to attract them with relevant, useful content; and holistic processes for continually managing and improving the entire buyer’s journey, from end to end.
It just so happens the tenets of inbound marketing overlap substantially with the core principles of effective user experience design. UX design is all about creating experiences that are optimally relevant, useful and enjoyable for real people. Let’s take a closer look at some key UX design principles that can help you become a more savvy inbound marketer.
Build From the Bottom to the Top
In “The Elements of User Experience,” Jesse James Garrett explains each of the five planes of experience design: strategy, scope, structure, skeleton and surface. He says the key is to build from bottom to top—strategy to surface—which applies as aptly to developing a website or app as it does to executing an inbound marketing program.
Too often in the content development process, marketers allow issues of format and design to dictate tactics and content. In the mad rush to start generating leads, it’s easy to jump ahead to the offer itself, as in, “We need to write an eBook.” In Garrett’s UX design model, this approach is akin to starting from the structure or skeleton plane instead of beginning at step one—strategy.
There’s no reason to think an eBook will be a successful tactic to meet your marketing goals unless you’ve taken the time to determine what exactly you’re trying to accomplish, who you’re trying to reach, what content they need at a particular phase of their buying journey and which content format is best suited to meet their needs.
Rather than starting with “We need to write an eBook,” start with your business objectives, your user needs and a strategy for bridging them.
Prioritize the User In Everything You Do
UX design differs from web design in that questions of technology are set aside to focus exclusively on user needs. Technology becomes a tool to help users accomplish their goals. “Not only do you want to know who they are, but you want to dive deeper into understanding their motivations, mentality and behavior,” writes Grace Ng for Hack Design.
User research, persona development, usability testing and measures of user satisfaction are pillars of UX design. The field draws on psychology, anthropology and sociology to get inside people’s heads and try to understand their goals and motivations. If this sounds familiar to the marketers out there, it’s because these pillars also infuse all areas of modern marketing, especially inbound, which emphasizes offering content that helps people solve their problems rather than interrupting them with brand-centric sales messages.
Becoming a successful inbound marketer requires you to tap into your empathy and try to experience your brand’s interactions from other perspectives. Conduct robust user research to anticipate the resources your potential buyer needs at each step of the buyer’s journey, and continually remind yourself that your reader isn’t necessarily like you.
Bear in mind the “curse of knowledge,” a cognitive bias that makes it harder for subject matter experts to explain their subjects to non-experts in understandable language. You can’t unlearn what you’ve learned, but you can have non-experts review your content before publication to check for comprehension.