When it comes to success in business, what attributes do you think are most important? Product innovation and quality? Superior customer service? Lean operations and robust productivity? A superb competitive strategy?
While all of the above elements are necessary for a company’s long-term success, they are by no means sufficient to ensure it.
Your company can have the best products, the most effective customer service, the most cost-effective operations, and the most astute competitive strategy yet still fail to thrive.
In fact, unless you are taking pains to ensure the success of your marketing strategies, none of the above qualities will prevail. After all, you can’t very well sell your products and services if your target customers don’t know who you are, where to reach you, or what you have to offer.
However, even though marketing is essential to a company’s survival and growth, marketing teams face significant challenges in reaching their target audience.
The good news is that it is possible to overcome the obstacles marketers face regarding market reach, brand awareness, customer engagement, and conversion rates.
Perhaps the most effective of these performance improvement techniques is the use of design thinking in marketing.
What Is Design Thinking?
Design thinking typically refers to a process used by user experience (UX) designers to develop platforms that attract, engage, and retain the target audience.
The principal concern of a UX designer is to offer a superior experience for users by combining functionality and ease of use with appealing aesthetics and compelling content.
In this way, a UX designer’s core mission is quite similar to that of a marketer: both are motivated by the desire to best serve their target audience’s needs, interests, and expectations.
Design thinking provides a more systematic approach for accomplishing what is often a highly abstract and deeply subjective goal.
Developing Empathy and Defining the Problem
The first step in the design thinking process generally involves the effort to empathize with your target audience. For UX designers, this means empathizing with the needs of the end-user.
For marketers, it pertains to a deep understanding of the target consumer.
You simply can’t expect to reach your ideal audience if you don’t know what they want, what they value, and what their pain points are.
This is where the importance of robust research shines through. Customer, industry, and competitor data can be harnessed to develop deep insight into who your customers are and how you can engage them most effectively.
However, statistical analytics are only one element of the research model you should follow if you want to learn to empathize with your target audience.
You are also going to need to engage them directly, both as individuals and as members of the community of consumers.
Social media, for instance, can be a highly effective tool for interacting with your desired audience and developing a deep knowledge of them, their wants, and their needs.
Instagram can be especially beneficial for engaging and empathizing with your audience. User posts, comments, and responses will enable you to keep your finger on the pulse of your target market, helping you to pinpoint what satisfies them — as well as what doesn’t.
Ideate Potential Solutions and Develop a Prototype
Once you have developed a deep understanding of your target audience and used this empathic insight to define the problem your customers are facing, you can start getting creative.
This next phase of the design thinking process requires you to ideate potential solutions to the problem you defined in the previous stage.
One of the most important attributes of using your research and problem definition as the springboard for solutions ideation is that you’re all but guaranteeing the market relevance of whatever solutions generate.
This means that you can be more confident and more effective in moving on to the prototyping phase, assured that the campaigns you are designing are directly and demonstrably aligned with your target consumer’s expectations, goals, and requirements.
Testing Your Prototype
To be sure, the design thinking process requires you to do a significant amount of research at the outset, ensuring that any idea you develop or prototype will constitute a truly evidence-based, data-driven solution.
Nevertheless, even this level of prep work doesn’t guarantee success.
This is why the design thinking process requires an intermediate step between the research and launch phases. The prototype, or testing phase, involves a provisional product, subject to rigorous testing and often to substantial post-testing revision before the final rollout.
While undertaking a testing phase might initially seem to create an unnecessary delay in the project lifecycle, prototyping and testing can prevent substantial losses in time, money, and resources in the long term.
At the same time, this phase allows you to optimize the ultimate effectiveness of your marketing strategy or campaign.
Consumers, for example, increasingly expect businesses to be highly interactive and ultra-responsive to their needs and wants. Testing provides a unique opportunity for personalizing content before the campaign’s formal launch before a wider audience.
This is especially important for today’s digital marketers given the unique characteristics of online audiences.
Now, more than ever, consumers don’t want to simply be told about a company’s products or services. They don’t want a pitch, in other words. Instead, they want an experience.
This means that digital marketers may be required to invest in fairly sophisticated solutions to provide consumers with the kinds of experiences they expect in digital marketing content.
For instance, consumers may no longer be satisfied with product descriptions. They may want to be able to “test” the product using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) technologies.
Developing and testing prototypes before a complete rollout can help marketers identify aspects of the content that works well and areas that require improvement.
Marketing is, above all, a people-focused endeavour. That does not mean, however, that marketers can’t learn from other industries, including the field of UX design.
Indeed, the design thinking process can prove enormously effective in overcoming some of the most persistent and formidable challenges in marketing today.