The foundation of growth (and all) marketing
Week 2 of CXL Institute’s Growth Marketing Mini-Degree dove into user-centric marketing, growth channels, running growth experiments, and conversion research. Rather than outlining my learnings in class-notes style, I’ll focus on what I believe to be the most important part: how marketing helps customers. All the specifics on research and experimentation only make sense on top of the foundation of user-centric marketing.
(good) Marketing exists to help customers
I’m glad the course included a module on user-centric marketing early on. My “intro to marketing” class at Georgetown also introduced the concept in the first few lectures and then taught how the strategy specifics and case studies tied back the user-centric foundations of marketing: marketing only succeeds when customers are happy and stay happy.
Without marketing, products and how those products are sold would be detached from the customer. As one of my favorite professors said: “marketing is the only business function that champions the customer.” Here’s how.
Customer discovery and understanding
When most of us need something, we look to the internet for what we should buy. Let’s say you need a new mattress. You probably search Google for “best ____ mattresses” with some type of qualifier depending on what you’re looking for — price point, features, brands, sellers, etc. And you’ll be flooded with options. Way too many options.
Long story short, marketing helps match customers with the right offerings. But it doesn’t stop at the best existing option. A marketer’s job also includes finding how their company’s website and product can be improved to best satisfy customers’ needs; overall, mutual value creation, as I like to call it.
If something deeply alights with a customer’s ideals, they’ll be more likely to buy it and more satisfied when they do. To get there, marketers need to understand customers. Understanding what matters most is the starting point of all marketing efforts. What do customers want? An exercise that helps structure how to answer the question is empathy mapping.
Empathy mapping is a snapshot of questions, tasks, influences, goals, pain points, and feelings a customer may have. Basically, all the factors behind decision-making.
The evaluation helps companies cater products and messaging to customers’ needs.
Marketers fill out the information on an empathy map with:
Most companies keep old research studies (focus groups, user tests, surveys) which oftentimes were never used. Other sources of data include sales insights (what do customers talk about during sales calls? Who are the competitors they mention? What reasons do they list for not signing up/buying?), customer support insights (FAQs), social media, the analytics team, and any other customer-facing staff.
Once all these sources add their data to the pile, analytics come into play. Data shows behaviors, not motivations. So marketers need to look deeper into: search terms on Google and on their website’s navigation bar, pages that get the most visits and dwell time, performance of different social media content, what customers post (insight into what is important to them), and questions related to the product category.
After analyzing both internal and public data, marketers can leverage surveys to answer lingering questions. The top survey advice, both from the CXL course and my marketing intelligence class, is that surveys must have a clear purpose for 1) what they answer, and 2) what the answer enables you to do.
An example similar to the one provided in the CXL growth course is that an online event isn’t converting well. Lots of people visit the event page but few people purchase a ticket. So the event organizer set-up an on-page survey that popped up on the exit intent.
The survey asked a single question(“what stopped you from buying a ticket to the event?”) with five multiple choice answers (less effort to answer) and one open-ended “other” (in case a common reason was entirely unforeseeable and not included in the listed options).
The results helped the event organizer change the messaging, from the event description to the ad copy, which led to a 3x increase in conversion rate (tickets purchased). The survey had a specific, important question to answer (why aren’t more people buying) and actions to take based on the answer (messaging).
Ideally, customers are actively involved not only when identifying problems but also in crafting solutions. Some companies require marketers to meet with customers 1-on-1 at least once a month to ensure the customer connection remains strong. During these meetings, customers talk about and show the interaction with a company’s product and site, revealing all the details surveys and quantitative data miss.
Customers can get involved in prototyping, usability testing, campaign creation, and post-launch modifications, too. Digital marketing gives marketers the ability to hear and respond to real-time feedback after campaigns launch. Unlike a brochure or billboard, if the font isn’t legible, or if a message doesn’t resonate, marketers can (and should) modify and improve friction-points as the campaign runs. Optimizing for customers has become a continuous process during all stages of a product and campaign’s lifecycle.
Growth marketers meet you where you are at by leveraging channels (ways to reach and talk to you) such as search engine marketing (SEM — paid ad results at the top of a Google search, re-marketing ads that follow you around the internet), search engine optimization (SEO — the order of organic results in a Google search), social media, email, and content (blog posts, use cases, downloadable worksheets). Marketers use each channel to communicate with customers in different ways depending on their position in the marketing funnel.
Back to the mattress example. If someone searches for “best twin mattress” on Google and clicks on a mattress seller’s website, they’re probably looking to buy a mattress. But someone reading a blog post on the mattress company’s site about what factors lead to better sleep may or may not be thinking about upgrading their mattress. In the first case, customers and marketers would benefit from making it easy to purchase: talking about product benefits, price, shipping, etc. But the person reading about sleep will likely be confused and turned off by all the irrelevant details. A better conversion point would be providing their email address for a worksheet on how to evaluate their sleep quality.
The big picture
Collecting behavioral data, discovering underlying motivations, and communicating with customers accordingly leads to useful products, intuitively-structured information, and FAQ sections that actually contain the questions you need answers to; all because marketers make it their mission to optimize for the customer.